Sunday, August 23, 2009

Iranian Moderates Gaining Moral Vision

A broad coalition is emerging in Iran favoring moderation and the strengthening of democracy within the system of the Islamic Republic that goes from senior revolutionary clerics and the opposition through Rafsanjani to, perhaps, the Larijani brothers. It may lack guns, but it possesses moral clarity and is spreading.

The combination of unrestrained inhumanity and moral leadership, with the press reporting both sides, in Iran today is simply astounding. What is one to think of a society that has never experienced true democracy (except for a few moments in 1979) where leaders murder and torture without restraint or penalty while people put their lives on the line and old revolutionaries provide a level of moral guidance that Americans can only dream of in an age when our officials think nothing of discussing nuclear aggression as though it were a rational policy option for sane and decent human conversation?

Grand Ayatollah Sanei said a few days ago:

No one is allowed to torture prisoners. Even if by law, a criminal is condemned to a certain punishment, we are not allowed to punish him if he is sick. Read the words of Imam Ali. Imam Ali said that any prisoner who is being held captive, is tortured or hurt, and who has no access to the outside world, can not be forced into confession. Torture is not allowed.

Qom Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini said on August 21:

You, as the elite, must sit down and talk. If injustice has really been done to people, deal with it. If an innocent has been incarcerated, release him. And if someone has been shamed [publicly], apologize to him, and properly deal with those who are really guilty.

The 84-year-old Amini, prayer leader in Qom, has been deputy head of the Assembly of Experts and a member of the Expediency Council. In 2002, he asserted that "The regime cannot maintain itself in power by force. Society is on the verge of an explosion."

I see no contradiction between Amini’s remarks and those of Rafsanjani the day after:

To deal with the current situation in the country, everyone must follow the Supreme Leader’s guidelines, abide by the Constitution, and obey the law, lawbreakers must be dealt with properly, the current emotional atmosphere must be replaced with a rational atmosphere, freedom of speech must be allowed, and suitable responses must be made to constructive criticism.

Rafsanjani is trying very hard to steer a middle course, but then, everyone in Iran aside from the extremists behind Ahmadinejad is doing the same, judging from media reports. () No one is calling for revolution (unless you consider advocating a regime that follows the laws of the country, upholds the constitution, and forces its officials to take responsibility for their actions to be revolutionary).

An excellent review of his full speech sees him as standing firm in support of free media, if not actually trying to box Khamenei into such support as well. Press TV concurs, summarizing Rafsanjani as having:

said the current situation needs everyone to observe the Leader's decrees and guidelines and the Constitution and to create a free atmosphere for giving legal responses to fair criticism.

Mehr News reported Rafsanjani saying that “officials and citizens must maintain unity,” and “also” saying that people should heed Khamenei’s guidelines. While the phrase about maintaining unity could conceivably be read two different ways (either “don’t be divisive by protesting” or “don’t be divisive by arresting protestors), it is hard to see how it leaves room for the “gouging out of eyes” favored by some IRGC spokesmen or the rape of jailed protestors or the accusations that opposition leaders are traitors. Moreover, in the context of veliyat e-faqih, placing the heeding of Khamenei’s guidelines second to maintaining unity sounds to me like a slap in his face.

So, Khomenei can continue to represent the will of Allah…as long as he does not violate the constitution or inhibit a free atmosphere. What a beautiful merging of legitimacy from God and from the people. Cheney would have had a fit if he had ever been held to such a high standard of democracy; just imagine how the poor representative of Allah must feel!

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