January 1, 2010
In the name of God
Let us not forget our historic experiences
I greet my compatriots abroad and wish them health and success. If only circumstances were such that you, our country’s human capital, could spend your energy and your financial and intellectual resources for this country and its long suffering people. But the fact that many of you, although you emigrated more or less long ago, are still longing for your home country and its people and follow the fate and disasters of Iran, is very laudable. What makes your old brother write these lines are the special circumstances we are living through and the fact that you, compatriots abroad, in a situation where internal media are under pressure and censure, play an important role in the spreading of information. Your analyses may well be reflected in foreign media.
In this respect, I have to mention two important points without further preamble. Believe me that if I speak, as I said to Mr Khatami as well, my first priority is “Iran”, not the question of the system or current government. In the last years or maybe months of my life, keeping in power or serving my own interests are no longer important for me. But these two points:
a) Our country is in a very special condition, and after the disputed elections a protest movement of the people and dissatisfied elite has taken shape in order to protest against the result of the election (and also the state of the nation and behaviour and policies of the government, especially in the last few years). Now fears and hopes are tied to this movement. One of them is that this civil and peaceful movement might develop towards extremism and violence. Concerning this, many experienced and patriotic people have issued warnings and expressed their worries. From you, the same is expected. I have said many times that in this matter the government and ruling faction are the main aggressors, and in the course of history it has always been the tyrannical governments which provoked popular and civil movements to become extremist and radical. This phenomenon can be observed all over the world. Now unfortunately the gentlemen in power are standing firm, they refuse to acknowledge this popular movement or think of an expedient reaction to it, and if their heart does not beat for Iran it will at least beat for the survival of their own government. Therefore, for the moment, we may abandon hope that they will listen to sensible and peaceful words. But on our side, we may expect that good counsel and warnings will be heard. Should the current movement evolve towards violence, it would be to the detriment of Iran, its people and the green movement itself. Because if the movement turns violent, the ruling faction and the powers that be will gain the upper hand, and they will win the game of violence. In addition, it will give them excuses and pretexts to denigrate the people’s movement, while at the same time their own disordered ranks (be it between the clerics and marja’s or between critical and dissatisfied fundamentalists and some religious, traditional people) will be united. Such a development will cause the other side to unite and create discord in the movement, most of whose supporters are opposed to extremism. But more importantly: even supposing that violence will lead to victory, the experience of world history and Iranian history shows that violence never ends well and those who win with violence will themselves start to suppress opponents and critics with violence. The vicious circle will continue.
Let’s add this point that at present, the fundamentalist persons and factions in power themselves want the protests to turn violent so they can suppress them more easily. With their simplifying analysis, they think that most people are neutral, that one minority supports the government and a smaller minority is against it and fights it. And by using violence, they have to prevent the neutral majority from joining those fighters. Dear friends, don’t step into the violence trap of the oppressive fundamentalists! Some of the establishment are like surgeons, used to finding a surgical solution to every illness. They are now preparing the same recipe to deal with the protesting people.
b) The second point is that we should on no account start to compare the current events with the time of the revolution. Experienced people and observers know well that now is not the year 42, when the government could suppress and eradicate a peaceful protest movement, nor the year 56, when the people and society were placed on one side and state and government on the other side of a revolutionary set-up. Therefore, dear friends, accept your old brother’s good counsel and warning: beware of adding fuel to the flames with aggressive, exaggerated and emotional analyses, and do not encourage unfounded words and deeds.
The radicalization of demands and slogans by incorrect comparison with the time of the revolution is my second worry. My dears, a revolution in present day Iran cannot happen and would not be right. The experience of the lawful and constructive positions of Dr. Mosaddeq during the nationalist movement and even in the corrupt courts that tried him, the views and experience of Mr. Engineer Bazargan at the time of the revolution, and all our experience in the last thirty years have shown that a movement focused on gradual, sensible and equitable demands and methods will yield better and longer lasting results. But in the time of Dr. Mosaddeq, some extremists succeeded in uniting and solidifying the opposite faction with their republican slogans, their destroying statues of the Shah in some squares and other such activities; and political activists did not take heed of Mr Bazargan’s advice at the time of the revolution. In both instances, we have paid a heavy price for ignoring sensible and logical experiences and for giving in to our own emotions.
On the other hand, any supposed revolution is dependent on a society being bipolar. Dear friends, we all agree that Iranian society is a fragmented society, from religious and very traditional people to atheists, from right wing conservatives to protesting leftists. Dear friends, be careful, this same administration that has taken the chair again in doubtful circumstances still commands a couple of million votes in Iran. The radicalization of slogans and demands is an incorrect move which will make Iranian society, other dependent forces and the marja’s bipolar. Today, we should beware of pushing clerics, marja’s, critical fundamentalists and parts of traditional society towards the ruling establishment by radicalizing our slogans. We all know that the green movement is a fragmented movement in which extreme slogans and demands will create doubts and discord while uniting the opposite side.
Compatriots abroad are in more danger in this respect. As a result of living abroad, sometimes they create their own images of the inner conditions of the country. From the psychological point of view, many patriotic Iranians who miss their homeland are keen to return, and this makes them more hasty. Also, unfortunately, some are opportunists and looking for their own position, and their keenness to return increases this. . Some harbour hatred and anger about the revolution or the Islamic republic because of their royalist or other past. The combination of these factors (creating their own image, hastiness, position-seeking, hatred and anger…) tends to make events more extreme and reactions emotional and illogical, radicalizing slogans and demands. This is particularly true for the comparison of the present events with the time of the revolution in the year 57.
I have to affirm a particular point for our Iranian compatriots abroad who are patriotically minded, who, because of historical experience, regard the policies, intentions and behaviours of foreigners with doubt and suspicion, who wish for dignity, independence, freedom, prosperity, development and justice for Iran and Iranians: dear friends, practical political matters must not only be judged based on “truth” but also based on “success”. “Truth” is a criterion from the domain of thought and theoretical reason, whereas a “successful” act is a criterion from the domain of action and strategy. The protesting people and especially the young people in Iran have and are “right” to be dissatisfied and angry with the difficulties, suppression, insult and humiliation concerning their wishes and peaceful civil movement experienced at the hands of the authorities and state media, they have a right to look for solutions for the problems and obstacles with their truth-seeking minds. However, many words might be right and “truth”, but the political and strategic act is not necessarily based on truth but on power, expediency and proportions of social forces. Therefore, in this respect believe me: even if a revolution were of use for Iran and Iranians (which is very doubtful), in present-day Iran conditions for a revolutions do not apply, even if we didn’t react in an emotional and exaggerated manner. The most important thing is the Iranian nation’s wellbeing and that the green movement’s methods and demands be of a kind to open up a space for all Iranians, without any reproach or polarization. Demands and slogans must signify national solidarity and serve to strengthen the unity of the green front. They also have to prevent the growth of power and unity of the opposite faction (and their activities, which are every day destroying the national resources and political, cultural and economical institutions) – in short, they have to be in line with the capacities and endurance of the people and the active forces within the movement. Dear Friends, every reaction of “do this..do that”, especially from far away, carries us into a direction whose smoke will go into every one’s eyes. I repeat: the policies of the government will cause the slogans and demands to radicalize, but I have to tell all friends and especially young Iranians what I have recently said in interviews: making a sacrifice does not always mean that a person is ready to be beaten or shot for freedom or independence etc.; this is sometimes necessary, but everyone has to know that sometimes enduring a slow, gradual movement is harder than being shot. Sometimes a person is shot at one moment and is happy with it. But if he wants to bear several years of hardship so he can be steady and logical in his political struggle and endure insults, slander, suppression and imprisonment, this is also a kind of sacrifice. Maybe it is even harder. Dear friends, we have witnessed the great and main share of the ruling faction and the extremists in the government confronting the reforms (and now the green movement) and paralyzing them. If many of you criticize the reformists for having wasted an opportunity and being ineffectual or, to use the right wing expression, for having tried to implement the reforms “from above”: a left wing movement “from below” can also remain incomplete and founder half way through the struggle. Political and strategic mistakes, personal or collective, above or below, right wing or left wing: the final reckoning will take place in every person’s conscience and higher up before God.
Therefore, sisters and brothers, accept my wish and, for the sake of God and the people, overcome your personal feelings, issues and states of mind and control them, in order to allow a logical, gradual movement. Especially the dear young people of my homeland, with all the right they have to be angry and emotional considering the pressure and lies and insults they live under, should control their pure reactions and feeling for the good of their own generation and the future of their people and country. They must keep in mind the lessons of Iran’s history with its glories, declines, pain and suffering – otherwise their praiseworthy honesty and courage will not suffice to win freedom and justice.
To finish, I have to point out another matter. Dear friends, we have to abstain from any kind of polarization. One of these is the distinction between religious and not religious. The green movement is like Iranian society a fragmented phenomenon and it is made up of strongly religious and strongly antireligious people. In the domain of discussion and opinion, each one may have his opinion, but in the domain of political action they have to acknowledge each other’s existence and respect each other’s opinion. On the occasion of the death of Ayatollah Montazeri and the discussions that arose around it, this polarization was visible. Dear friends, Ayatollah Montazeri’s greatness is in “honesty” and “bravery”, in theory as well as in action. He is a religious who lived in Iran’s most traditional city. His views and judgments have to be seen in this context. The honesty and bravery of his thinking, in any of the phases of his life you might think of, was and is legendary. From the review he wrote on the book of the late Martyr Salehi Najafabadi in those closed conditions in Qom to his last fatvas on the Baha’is’ civil rights (which brought opinion-based feqh close to humanity-based feqh), his theoretical bravery and courage within the circle of the seminary clerics was evident. He also had the same honesty and bravery in the domain of action and passed the great “moral exams” of history proudly. Because of his opinions and moral values, he relinquished power and public office. It is possible that many religious or other intellectuals and innovators were ahead of Mr. Montazeri in mind and language, but they had neither the role of Ayatollah Montazeri among the seminaries, clerics, traditional people and ruling religious-juristic circles, nor, more important than this, passed the historical personal and moral exam that Ayatollah Montazeri had to pass. This also gives Ayatollah Montazeri a special role with respect to the defence of human rights in Iran.
Finally, I apologize for having taken up your time. I am aware as well as sure that the great majority of active Iranians abroad are patriots and strive for the good of the country, avoiding dubious positions and situations. Considering the works and articles published by them, I am pleased to see many experienced persons, sensible and logical and far thinking who are hopefully taking a leading role. I hope that the good counsel of this old brother will create an impression on some emotional and short sighted positions of others and will encourage them to patience. Be proud and victorious.
1 January 2010
Translated by: Narges Safavi