Ekbatan Observer

Chronicling Iran's struggle towards political emancipation

8 July 2006

Goodbye to all that Iranian 'Opposition'

By: Reza Bayegan

As soon as the U.S. administration seems to be talking tough to the mullahs, these Iranians smell the aroma of their dream food coming from the Pentagon kitchen and begin salivating. They crawl out of their holes, bounce on their feet and jockey for the best seats on the gravy train. They want the choicest dishes of the banquet and there is no time to dally. In their headlong rush however, they end up trampling over each other and getting crushed in the stampede. When the smell from the kitchen subsides and their hopes wane, bloodied and exhausted they crawl back to their holes nursing their wounds and biding their time for the next opportunity.

I am talking about a sizable portion of the so-called Iranian opposition, especially those living outside the country. These people have as much self-reliance as a Guinea worm, and as much backbone as a jellyfish. The hearts and minds of the Iranian people are the last place on earth they venture to make any investment in. Iranian culture and literature are as alien and irrelevant to their sensibility as Javanese customs or Aztec civilization. Anyone trying to engage them in a rational discussion would be whistling in the wind. They are as blinkered in their views as are Islamic fanatics.

For them, Iranians are a nation of weathercocks who have no will of their own, no power of their own, and no spiritual values of their own. They think Iranians should be rehabilitated, re-educated and relocated. They should be cleansed of their savage foreign religion and psychologically (since it is impossible physically) transplanted into a purer and chichier cultural environment. They consider Iran as a country that is placed by historical, geographic aberration in the heart of a squalid and backward region. Do they see any discrepancy between this attitude and their professed devotion to their homeland and the future of its citizens? Not at all. Like all fanatics they forego concrete reality in favour of an abstract utopia. The Iranian mind for them is in need of being revamped and reconstructed before it can qualify to peacefully graze on the green pastures of freedom and democracy. Without this forcible overhaul, the total incompatibility of their ideals with the attitude and beliefs of the majority of the Iranian people can in no other manner be overcome.

For the past quarter of a century, these so-called opposition forces have fought the dictatorship of the Islamic Republic as effectively as water pistols would extinguish a blazing forest fire. They have been busy squabbling amongst themselves over a whole gamut of moot questions such as the merits and demerits of Prime Minister Mossadegh’s political legacy, or form and minutiae of the political system in the post-mullahs Iranian regime. The entrenched, well-tucked up mullahs on the other hand have not missed even a brief siesta worrying about such “opposition activities”.

Today, no self-respecting Iranian can fail to recognize that his or her country deserves something better than this distasteful travesty. The modern dynamic generation of Iranians have run out of patience with these bickering political bottom feeders who keep posing as opposition forces. They have squandered invaluable time and precious hope of our nation for an unconscionable time. Iranians can no longer afford to put up with the insatiable egos of those who are fighting their own puny turf wars in the name of defending the interests of the nation. Today Iranians are looking for an effective enlightened opposition. They are looking for the transformation of self-centred cynical politics into the positive politics of inclusion, real alternatives, hopes and concrete planning.

For the future of their country, Iranians are looking for politicians who are willing and able to represent the genuine aspirations and interests of Iranian citizens and not a clique of estranged snobs who could not care less what the Iranian people think, feel or believe. Iranians are not an arrogant people who consider themselves to be perfect. They are well aware that there is a great deal they need to learn from the rest of the world. They however distinguish between learning from other civilizations, and the obsequious surrendering of their national character and integrity. This has nothing to do with xenophobia and everything to do with human rights to dignity and individual freedom.

Today, the Iranian people are as opposed to the mullah’s regime as they are to this kind of self-destructive, philistine, decadent, out of touch opposition and believe them both to be the two sides of the same counterfeit coin. Today the Iranian people are looking for men and women, who in the words of the great Iranian physician and philosopher Avicenna are “fortified by the power of their own moral strength” and invest in the goodwill and approbation of their own people. Those who scoff at our nation’s customs, faith and way of life can only find themselves miserable within a culture that is unable to accommodate their taste and expectations. The Iranian nation can never bring itself to respect or trust those political lackeys whose fortunes are slaves to the ups and downs of this or that American administration or the allocated CIA budgets for covert operations in Iran. The Iranian people have said goodbye in their hearts to the mullahs, as well as to all that kind of outworn opposition.

5 July 2006

Spelling Zionism in Tehran

June 30, 2006
American Jewish Committee
Reza Bayegan

In the late 1990s, walking one day in a poor district of southern Tehran, I noticed a slogan on a tumbledown wall in Persian script: "Marg bar Zionism” or "Death to Zionism." There is of course nothing unusual in seeing such a slogan on the wall of the capital of the Islamic Republic. What attracted my attention however was that the word Zionism was misspelled. The inescapable irony here is that anti-Israeli sentiments in Iran go hand in hand with poor education and underdevelopment.

The animosity of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, towards Israel was part and parcel of his hatred of what the Pahlavi dynasty stood for, that is modernization and advancement. Initially he did not oppose the democratic shortcomings of the political system under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, but did attack the Shah's plans of equal opportunity for women, land reform and also Iran's close relationship with Israel, a country he used to refer to as "a cancerous tumor." By declaring the last Friday of Ramadan as "Al Quds Day," he also aimed to stifle unique Iranian nationalistic values and bring Iranians—who had no common aspirations with Arabs—under the broad umbrella of the Islamic "Omah" or nation. Proud of their rich culture and language, for the past 1,400 years Iranians have vigorously resisted assimilation into the larger Arab-Islamic community.

Located in a turbulent region and threatened by the encroachment of hostile cultures, both Iran and Israel have many areas of common interest. For historical, geographic and political reasons, Iran's most natural ally in the whole Middle East is the state of Israel. Beyond Israel, Iran holds the world's oldest Jewish community. Even after the mass migration of Jews from Iran after the Islamic Revolution, Iran is still home to the largest Jewish population in any Islamic country. Iranian Jews who have migrated to Israel have prospered and hold key positions in the government. Moshe Katsav, the President of Israel, was born in the Iranian city of Yazd, and Shaul Mofaz, Israel's Minister of Defense, was born in Tehran. One proof of the irrepressible strength and deep roots of the Jews within Iranian society is that the chairman of Iran's Jewish Council, Haroun Yashayaei—albeit under extreme political pressure—feels confident enough to take to task president Mahmud Ahmadinejad for saying the Holocaust was a myth, and calls him ignorant and politically prejudiced.16

Yet in spite of all these strong ties and affinities between the two nations, the Israeli government and Iranian opposition so far have not been able to form a fruitful alliance. One important factor contributing to this failure is a lingering hostility towards Israel harbored by some backward forces within the Iranian opposition.

Many members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), who conducted a violent fight against the Shah in the years leading to the Islamic Revolution and now are bitterly opposed to the rulers of the Islamic Republic, were trained in Libya and Lebanon and were brothers in arms with the PLO and other anti-Israel terrorist organizations. Their ideology, an amalgamation of fanatical Islam and Marxism—regardless of tactical shifts and strategic alliances that they are capable of making from time to time—is inimical to Israel and the democratic values of modern Western civilization.17 The Mujahideen's classmates in terrorist training camps of the PLO and PFLP were the Marxist members of Iranian People's Fedayeen Guerrillas. Up to this day they pride themselves in having had the opportunity to fight the "Zionist enemy"alongside their Palestinian brothers.18

An opposition to the monopoly of the hardliners has emerged in the past decade from within the Iranian ruling establishment in the form of the reform movement. The spiritual leader of this movement is Mohammad Khatami, the former president. This political force that at one point seemed quite promising turned out to be a flash in the pan. In the June 2005 pseudo-democratic presidential election, people voted for Ahmadinejad not because they knew him or trusted him, but because they were totally disgusted with the hypocrisy and incompetence of Khatami and his political descendents. The attitude of the reformers towards Israel is not very different from that of the hardliners.

In a recent interview reprinted by Kayhan London (23 February), Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri, Iran's most prominent dissident cleric and a darling to many reformers, sharply criticized the Islamic Republic and Mahmud Ahmadinejad on the regime's human rights record and suppression of freedom of speech, but went on to say that he agrees with Ahmadinejad's stance on the Holocaust. "I have expressed these viewpoints myself many years ago. Even if we assume that the Nazis slaughtered the Jews, why should Palestinians pay the price? The state of Israel was created by brute force and is illegitimate." Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the so-called moderate former president, has expressed similar views. What is obvious is that the future of Iranian politics does notbbelong to the so-called reformist movement. Reformists lack the credibility to galvanize public opinion for major democratic change or offer any cogent plan for a modern pluralistic society.

Conversely, many enlightened members of the Iranian opposition, whose attitude represents the aspirations of the modern, forward-looking portion of the Iranian population, show no hesitation in categorically condemning the clerical regime's antisemitic stance. Fighting to reclaim their homeland as a country capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century, they are well aware of the great potential for future cooperation with Israel as the most progressive and democratic country in the region.

In preparation to this article, I managed to ask Dariush Homayoun—the veteran journalist and politician who plays a key role in the most influential Iranian party in exile, The Constitutional Party of Iran19 — about Ahmadinejad's wild declarations on wiping out the state of Israel. He responded by saying:

Once another mad demagogue declared his ‚final solution' and got on with most of his plan. This shows that the world should not shrug off IRI's president as just propaganda for receptive Arab masses. He and his regime would wipe out Israel if they could. It also should make the world more determined to prevent the Islamic Regime from acquiring atomic weapons. Ahmadinejad, by denying the Holocaust, is preparing the ground for something of his own. The Iranian people, as the longest standing friends of Israel, are outraged by such criminal statements.

In an article called "Revealing Errors,"20 Abbas Milani, the Iranian scholar and director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, provides ample evidence to support his argument that throughout history Iranians spared no efforts to protect the Jews and particularly assisted them in fleeing from Nazi persecution. Strongly condemning antisemitic statements made by Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Milani concludes his article by saying that although the nation has been taken hostage by a cruel dictatorship, Iranians should not be made responsible for the conduct of their hostage takers.

In an article published in Kayhan London (23 February 2006), Abdolkarim Lahidji, an Iranian human rights lawyer who runs the Paris-based Iranian League for Human Rights,21 refers to the Islamic regime's antisemitism as part of the hate campaign of the clerical regime against everyone and everything that does not fit within its narrow-minded ideology and world view.

One of the strong voices amongst the Iranian opposition speaking for modernity, democracy and universal values of human rights is that of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran.22 He advocates a total separation of religion and government and a political system that considers no one as a second-class citizen. In an interview with Fox News in January 2006, Reza Pahlavi referred to Ahmadinejad's comments as "disgraceful" and "abhorrent" to the vast majority of the Iranian people. It is quite significant that in the same interview Reza Pahlavi goes on to say that "what Iranians desire is nothing less than modernity, freedom and economic opportunity."23

An Iran that is economically prosperous and politically democratic would no longer be a natural breeding ground for fascism and fanaticism. Through a campaign of hate-mongering and xenophobia, the regime intends to deflect attention from its own decadence and incompetence. The majority of Iranians however are intelligent enough not to swallow what the state–controlled media is telling them, and in spite of many restrictions, turn to the Internet and to the Farsi service of Radio Israel and other international media for reliable information.

Like the rest of the world, Iran is not immune to the disease of antisemitism. But today antisemitism as well as anti-Americanism, are state policy on the part of the clerical government. Falsification, fear and fanaticism are essential to the survival of the Islamic Republic. To bring freedom to Iran, one needs to make a greater effort to reach the ears and intellect of its citizens and prepare them for the final moment when they can cast aside the manacles of backwardness and tyranny. On that day of enlightenment, Zionism will not be a misspelled ugly word on a tumbledown wall in a depressed district in Tehran, but understood in all its dimensions by a prosperous nation that begrudges a prosperous homeland for no other nation and generously embraces a pluralistic and peaceful world.

16 BBC News, Feb. 11, 2006, Iran Jews express Holocaust shock:
17 http://www.mojahedin.org/ The MEK - also known as People´s Modjaheddin -
rightfully is on the US and EU list of terrorist organizations.
18 www.fadai.org/ and www.geocities.com/~fedaian/
19 www.irancpisd.com/
20 www.iranian.com/AbbasMilani/2006/February/Black/index.html
21 www.ldh-france.org/
22 www.rezapahlavi.org/
23 www.rezapahlavi.org/audiovideo/fox10706.html