What could Iran's leadership learn from the Pope?
On the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran's leadership was keen to stress that it is more united than ever
The Iranian news agency Khabaronline this week published a series of statements from influential Iranian politicians and clerics, on the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
We can learn much from the public offerings of Iran’s elite, not least of the internal relations between Iran’s leadership. And it is interesting therefore that, despite the existing power struggles between Ahmadinejad and the Larijani clan, these politicians took the opportunity to promote unity in the name of Islamic Revolution. It will come as a surprise to no-one that this was also seized as a chance to demonstrate hostility towards the United States.
Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, Minister of the Interior of Iran, was keen to promote a culture submissive to the command of ‘the great leader’:
"When the great leader says that this year is the year of production, then we must not waste our time on unimportant issues. We then have to solve the problems of production. When the great leader, says this year is the year of employment, we have to think all together how to solve the problems of employment. The solution of many problems facing the country is to obey the commands of the leader."
A rhetorical display of loyalty, or a disturbing pledge of unquestioned obedience? Consider the crucial fact omitted by Khabaronline – that Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi is responsible for mass executions of political prisoners in Iran, as Deputy Minister of Intelligence in 1988 and again between 2005 and April 2008 – and make your own minds up.
Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a board member of the Assembly of the Experts, commented on the failure of the policy of sanctions against Iran, saying, "Enemies have not achieved their goals, and therefore they have to stop sanctions."
He warned not only his external enemies but his internal victims too. He warned against further uprisings, as happened during presidential elections of June 2009. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami regrets that the leaders of the uprising of 2009 have not yet expressed "repentances".
The General of the Revolutionary Guards, Seyyed Yahya Rahim Safavi, is one of the closest consultants of revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei. "Islamic power is one of the new world powers in the current century. The center and the axis of this new power is the Islamic Iran. Historical events may originate from a country or a nation, but they will have regional and global impact," the General said.
No doubt Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution of 1979 have influenced history. But one should not forget that even many Muslims and Iranians are, after 34 years, aware that the Islamic revolution was the beginning of a tragic and catastrophic period for Iran. The Arab world should learn from this historic disaster, but it seems it won’t.
Khabaronline unsurprisingly eschewed the opportunity to report about the crimes that were committed in the name of the Islamic Revolution. There is no mention, for example, of the crimes of August 1979 in Kurdistan, when the notorious and infamous Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali gave the order to execute dozens of Kurdish activists.
The suppression of the Kurds is just one example of the systematic persecution of secular forces, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities in Iran. Not to mention the execution of over 200 innocent Bahai in the first years of the Islamic revolution and the continued persecution through to the present.
But it is not only in relation to the Islamic Revolution itself that historical revisionism is employed by Iran’s leadership. Mohammadreza Naqdi, commander of the Basij paramilitary force, spoke of the United States, and asserted: "The Iranian nation has trampled America."
Naqdi added: "We want to tell America that we will not only resist, but we are also making progress." It is probable that he is talking of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Here, again, unconditional dedication to Iran’s great leader is urged, in the face of ‘external enemies’. Former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, "Obedience to the leader is the religious duty of the whole Ummat." Mottaki continued: "We will never allow the enemy to misuse our differences."
Meanwhile, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, director of a department of the Iranian judiciary, referred to the conflicts existing within the Islamist leadership, comparing them with conflicts within a family but reassuring that Iran "will resist against the enemies with one voice."
Not to be outdone, Hamidreza Moqaddamfar, secretary of the Cultural Department of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (also known as Revolutionary Guards) criticized that the Arab revolutions have had "no leader". Yet, in the "Islamic Republic of Iran", he argues, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would, with "divine help", protect the Islamic revolution against "miscreants” – by which he means all the forces that could guarantee a secular parliamentarian democracy in Iran.
Also in the news this week, Pope Benedict XVI made, despite all religious traditions, a wise decision. He resigned because he was unsure that he could continue in his role as the Pope with the dignity he felt the position required.
Ali Khamenei and the political establishment of Iran would be wise to take Pope Benedict XVI as a role model and disband the totalitarian dictatorship in Iran voluntarily. But, of course, their totalitarian will to reign will not allow it.
Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is a Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) in Brussels
We are wholly dependent on the kindness of our readers for our continued work. We thank you in advance for any support you can offer.