REFERENDUM, THE LEGITIMATE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE
Saturday, April 5, 2003
The Statement of the Islamic Association of Amir Kabir University of Technology on the Anniversary of the Referendum for the Islamic Republic, complete text:
On April 1, 1979, the Iranian nation went to the polls to determine its own fate and the fate of its newborn revolution. Almost all of the political groups and parties along with close to 100% majority of the people voted to establish the Islamic Republic. The interesting point is that this referendum only concerned the title of the system, and no information about the nature and constitution of such system was then available. However, as the leader of the Islamic Republic had promised, it was supposed to be a republic just like all the other republics of the world.
Today, 24 years since the ratification of the constitution, the true nature of this system has become apparent to everyone. Attention to the social distribution of power in the legal and civil infrastructures of the Islamic Republic should make the different aspects of this system more visible. The constitution of the Islamic Republic, according to its introduction, is an ideological text based on the teachings of Islam and the Koran. The core of power structure and governance in this system is velayat faqih (Guardianship of the Theologian), which is meant to ensure that no organization or institution deviates from its genuine Islamic responsibilities. The main job of the executive power is to enforce Islamic laws and regulations, and according to the second, forth, and fifth articles of the constitution, the right to governance is made exclusive to the Islamic law. With the supervision of a faqih (supremely qualified theologian), every law in the country is to comply with Islamic law. The three branches of power, the Executive, the Judiciary, and the Legislative, must all be supervised by the faqih. Article 57: "The Council of Guardians of the Constitution, assigned by the Supreme Leader, is to decipher the constitution; examine the bills passed by the parliament for their compliance with Islamic law and the constitution; confirm the qualification of parliament candidates, the president, and the khobregan ('The Council of the Elites'); and supervise the elections. The parliament elected by the people is not legitimate unless the Guardian Council approves of it."
According to Article 110 of the constitution, functions and authorities of the Supreme Leader include: to determine the general policies of the system and to supervise over their reinforcement; to appoint, dismiss, or accept resignations of many of the State and Military officials, including the Faqihs of the Guardian Council, the head of the Judiciary, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the Chief of Joint Staffs, the Commander in Chief of the Sepah (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), and the Chief Commanders of the Armed Forces and the Police; to decree referendums; to declare war or peace and mobilize the armed forces; to resolve disputes and coordinate relations between the three powers of the Judiciary, Executive, and Legislature; to resolve intricate questions of the System that cannot be settled through ordinary means through the Majma'-e Tashkhis-e Maslehat-e Nezam (the Expediency discernment Council of the System); to sign the order of appointment of the president after he is elected by the people and of the presidential candidates before they can take part in the elections; to dismiss the president of the Republic by taking into account the interests of the country; and to pardon or mitigate the sentences of condemned persons within the scope of Islamic precepts. Majma'-e Tashkhis-e Maslehat-e Nezam is a council appointed by the Supreme Leader that discerns the interests of the System and not those of the people. Therefore, the complicated structure of the constitution and the main role of the Vali Faqih (the Superior Theologian) and his appointees, the Guardian Council and the Judiciary Power, in governing the country leaves no space for the will of the people.
With the above-mentioned issues, we present the following points:
1. If 24 years ago people had the right to determine their own fate without the supervision of a guardian, this right shall not be confiscated today either. If the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic and its constitution had to be approved by the people 24 years ago, today, too, the only source of legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the Islamic Republic must be the people. To want or not to want is the right of the people. Therefore, to demand a referendum for the Islamic Republic today, just like 24 years ago, should not be considered an absurd expectation and an illegitimate demand.
2. Today, we commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Revolution while our neighbor to the West is at war for having a blood-thirsty and despotic dictator such as Saddam Husain at the head of its government. What is ironic is the comments of Iran's high-ranking officials about defending the Iraqi people's right to determine their regime and their prescribing a referendum for that country. It is ironic to hear them talk about every human being's right to determine his/her own fate and to have a say in the future of the nation, while they have proved their disloyalty to the idea of democracy and the opinion of the people.
Those who prescribe a referendum in Iraq should first cast a glance at Iran. Doubtlessly, the social and cultural conditions in Iran are much more suitable for the establishment of democracy than they are in Iraq right now. The Iranian people's mental growth and level of maturity is much higher than that of the Iraqi people when it comes to taking charge of their own fate. So if a referendum is prescribed for Iraq, it should definitely be held in Iran, too. Iranian authorities' prescription of referendum for Iraq seems just like a political caricature with no credibility, since virtually the same issues, with more suitable conditions for referendum, exist in Iran.
3. To learn from history prevents one from falling into the same pitfalls of decadence and disintegration, but manipulation and distortion of history, or the forgetting of it, by the Fundamentalists and ideological systems is an obstacle in the way of learning it. However, the events of Afghanistan and their simultaneity with the Iraq war are too close, both temporally and spatially, even for a forgetful and negligent Fundamentalist and ideological system not to contemplate on. How wonderful it would be if those who occupy the positions of power in Iran learned from Iraq and Afghanistan before it is too late so that they would not endanger the fate of a nation.
We, as part of the Student Movement of Iran, consider a referendum as the only way to prevent crisis in Iran, because we would not like to see a day come when our neighbors to the West and to the East, Iraq and Afghanistan, talk about a referendum in Iran that is held by a foreign government.