Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iran: Open Letter to UN General Secretary

To: Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki Moon

From: Akbar Ganji, journalist and political dissident

June 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Ban Ki Moon,

Evidence shows that in the Islamic Republic of Iran elections are not free, competitive or fair, and they never lead to a real transformation in the country’s political structure. Several reasons exist for this:

Article 110 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html) places most of the power in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and institutions that are directly under his control. Article 57 of the Constitution places all three branches of the government – namely the executive, legislative and the judicial branches – “under the purview of the absolute [divine] rule and [divine] leadership” of the Supreme Leader. The people of Iran only have a say in voting for the presidency, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majles), and local councils. Even if the people’s representatives were to be elected on fair and competitive grounds, they would be unable to bring about any real reforms in the affairs of the state. Non-elective institutions, such as the Guardian Council, the Exigency Assembly, and the High Council of Cultural Revolution, often thwart and nullify the action of elected institutions.

In practice, the real power in Iran lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and it goes beyond the letter of the law as written in the Constitution. According to Article 98 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and members of this Council are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader (rahbar). The Guardian Council holds that the power of the Supreme Leader is not limited by the letter of Constitution, rendering the powers of the rahbar of the Islamic Republic virtually limitless.

The recent Iranian elections were carried out under these same limiting circumstances. Moreover, political dissidents are excluded from the pool of candidates, and a pre-condition for being considered as a candidate is to express their belief in and adherence to Islam, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader. In the latest parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified some two thousand potential candidates and excluded them from the candidates’ pool. Again, in the most recent presidential elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified four-hundred-seventy-one applicants for candidacy and only allowed four candidates into the competition, all of whom had previously been top official positions in the Islamic Republic over the past three decades. During the Friday Prayer congregation on June 19th, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic publically divulged that the one candidate who came closest to his own personal views was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the election held on June 12th 2009 more than eighty percent of eligible voters participated under these very restrictive and pre-screened conditions. Sadly, their free choice was rejected even in this latest election, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner.

Most Iranians concur that their vote has not been truthfully accounted for. All across the country, the people have come out and held peaceful rallies to protest electoral violations that amount to a drastic violation of their right to shape their future. Sadly, the government of the Islamic Republic has faced off these peaceful and civil protests harshly, and several innocent people, including students in the nation’s universities have been barbarically assaulted by the state police. Numerous political and civil activists have been imprisoned without due process and, and at the same time, communication networks have been widely disrupted and severe restrictions have been placed on the activities of reporters and international observers.

We, intellectuals, political activists, and defenders of democratic rights and liberties beseech you to heed the widespread protests of the Iranian people and to take immediate and urgent action by:

1) Forming an international truth-finding commission to examine the electoral process, vote counting and the fraudulent manipulation of the people’s vote in Iran

2) Pressuring the government in Iran to annul fraudulent election results and hold democratic, competitive and fair elections under the auspices of the UN

3) Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to release all those detained in the course of recent protests

4) Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to free the media that have been banned in recent days and to recognize and respect the right of the people to free expression of ideas and the nonviolent protesting the results of the recent elections

5) Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to stop its harsh and barbaric treatment of the people of Iran

6) Refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate government that has staged an electoral coup, and curtailing any and all forms of cooperation with it from all nations and international organizations

Sincerely,

Akbar Ganji

Jurgen Habermas

Martha Nussbaum

Philip Pettit

Nasr Hamed Abu Zayd

Nader Hashemi

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