Hojjat-ol eslam Mohammad Khatemi, a purportedly "moderate"cleric, was elected by a landslide on May 23 and will take over the presidencyof the IRI in August, when Rafsanjani's second term is to expire. Khatemi's3-to-1 margin was a stunning defeat for Nateq-Nouri, who had been groomedfor the job as the Speaker of the Majlis and enjoyed the active supportof the much of the clerical establishment. Khatemi won despite consistentharassment and disruption of his campaign by Ansar-e Hezbollah, the latestof which were the closing down of his campaign headquarters in Tehran andthe cancellation of a rally in a sport stadium two days before the vote.Khatemi's headquarters were said to be in violation of election laws banningthe use of state funds and facilities for political campaigns, since thebuilding was owned by Tehran's municipality, which is headed by the capital'spro-Khatemi mayor. [Kayhan, 5/21] Both Nateq-Nouri and Khamene'i congratulatedthe winner and vowed cooperation once he takes office.
IRNA speculated that Nateq-Nouri himself had seen the writing on thewall when he told CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour that "the contestis very close and the outcome cannot be predicted." [IRNA, 5/23]
On election day Khamene'i made the limits on Khatemi's freedom of actionclear. "The nation expects all measures taken for their prosperityand well-being to be within the framework of Islamic laws and regulations."He also said that while none of the candidates will be able to fill Rafsanjani'sshoes, he hoped that "the future president will be a personality similarto him. [IRNA, 5/23]
Human Rights Watch/Middle East issued a report on the eve of the presidentialelection calling them "neither free nor fair." According to thereport, "the election is taking place in a repressive atmosphere."The report alluded to the closure of newspapers and magazines by the governmentand the intimidation of non-clerical groups and parties by vigilantes organizedby Ansar-e Hezbollah. The report also criticized the IRI for excludingwomen and minorities from serving as president.
The report concludes that "while there is a real contest over whowill succeed President Rafsanjani, the choice is between different factionswithin the closed circle of the clerical leadership." [HumanRights Watch, New York, 5/21]
Democratic opposition groups in exile hailed the elections as a clearrejection by the Iranian people of the repressive policies of the currentregime.
For the Constitutionalists Movement of Iran (CMI), the elections openeda "new chapter" in Iranian history. "Regardless of whetherKhatemi fulfills his promises to the Iranian people, the resounding rejectionof the regime's policies by Iranians has irrevocably changed the situationin Iran. Khatemi must either confront the regime's repressive leaders andorgans, in order to carry out his promises, or ignore the promises andcontinue the bankrupt policies of the regime. Either way, Iranians haveopened a new chapter in the campaign to achieve democracy and rule of law."[CMI statement 5/24]
The Democracy Network of Iran, a U.S.-based group of Iranians, has launcheda petition calling for the abolition of the Guardian Council's screeningrole in the elections, which it calls "undemocratic, and against theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights." It also objected to the automaticrejection of candidates who are secular, women, non-Muslims, or Sunni Muslims.
DNI noted that all secular opposition parties in exile, and the fewthat are still tolerated (but illegal) inside Iran had chosen to boycottthe elections because of their fundamentally undemocratic nature. [DNIstatement 5/23]
Mehrdad Irani, a CMI member whose statement we found on the websiteof the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance, NAMIR, waxed satiric."Obviously we have not tasted enough of the moderate medicines prescribedby yet another so-called reformer [Rafsanjani], for we are now categorizingthe election of Khatemi, who has successfully passed through the filterof the Guardian Council... as "a blow to the Islamic Republic"!!" Instead, the statement argued, the elections were a "showwhich the clerics have devised to prolong their rule." [MehrdadIrani statement 5/25]
The Flag of Freedom Organization, run by former Higher Education ministerDr. Manoucher Ganji, called the elections "a negative vote to thesystem of Velayat-e faghih."
"The people of Iran, particularly the younger generation and women,have taken a very bold step in rebuking the Islamic Republic system ofwhich Mr. Khatemi has also been a part," FFO said. The group alsowarned of false hopes, and noted that Khatemi "is straight-jacketedwithin the framework of the Velayat-e faghih system" and that realdemocracy under the current system "is in fact an oxymoron."[FFO statement 5/26]
The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) concurred that the electionswere essentially "a vote against the repressive policies of the establishment"and were "a set back especially for the Supreme Leader Khamene'i andthe ruling clergy." The elections gave "a measure of the desireof the Iranian people for democracy and freedom and their disenchantmentwith the Islamic regime. However, it is quite premature to consider thissingle event as a turning point in the policies of the regime," theparty warned, because of the limitations of the IRI constitution.
The KDPI was the only group that called openly on the democratic oppositionto increase pressure on the regime. "It is absolutely essential toforce the regime to abandon its repressive policies toward women, youth,ethnic and religious groups, to respect political freedom and put an endto the monopoly of the media and censorship." [KDPI statement 5/25]
At his initial post-victory press conference, on May 27, Khatemi promisedgreater individual freedom for Iranians, while towing the line of his fellowclerics on foreign relations and security issues.
During the election campaign, he repeatedly emphasized his loyalty tothe Islamic Revolution and the notion of clerical rule, and one of hisfirst gestures after the vote was to pay fealty at the tomb of AyatollahKhomeini.
In his May 27 press conference - his first with foreign reporters, carriedlive by CNN - Khatemi reiterated the regime's rejection of ties with theUnited States and with Israel, and reasserted Iran's claim on three disputedislands in the Strait of Hormuz. At the same time, just as Rafsanjani hasdone before him, he rejected accusations that Iran was involved in terrorismand weapons of mass destruction, or that it would in any way interferewith the Middle East peace process - denials which convince few outsideof the regime's direct supporters.
On the "so-called" Arab-Israeli peace process, Khatemi soundedlike Rafsanjani bis. "Of course, we are not going to have any interventionin this matter and we are going to leave it to the people of Palestineand the governments and the people of the region," he said. "Butwe do keep the right to express our views regarding the matter...and witha scientific, realistic approach we do think that the current process willnot come to any conclusion." Khatemi called Israel "an illegitimateracist state... We do not recognize Israel (let alone) to negotiate orestablish ties with it. [...] [W]e believe that there can be no peace untilall the legitimate demands of the Palestinians are met," he said.
Khatemi placed the blame for the current state of Iranian-U.S. relationssquarely on Washington, and called on the U.S. to make the first gesturestoward reconciliation. "As long as the U.S. is after harming Iran'sinterests and independence, Iran will have no relations with the U.S,"he said. [CNN 5/27; The Iran Brief 6/2]
The publisher of "Aftabgardan" magazine, Gholam Hussein Kabaschi,was fined 20 million rials by the public court of Tehran on May 19 andhis publishing license revoked. The magazine had published a satiric seriescalled "firm and full support of an informant for performance of IslamicRepublic of Iran Broadcasting."
Meanwhile, another Tehran court found two writers, Najafqoli Habibiand Sediqeh Vamaqi, guilty of publishing articles offending Majlis deputyMohammad Javad Larijani. Habibi and Vasmaqi are both teachers at TehranUniversity. The verdict charged them with having gone "beyond thelimits in their critiques and analyses of the minutes of Larijani's talkswith British deputy foreign secretary in London. The court fined each ofthem one million rials for defamation. They have also been given a two-monthjail sentence for publishing "false reports." [IRNA, 5/21]
During the campaign, conservative cleric Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri toldat an assembly of public education teachers in Tehran it was not true thathe would impose full-length one-piece chador as the official attire forwomen if he won the elections. Nateq Nouri further said: "Some peoplehave compared us with the Taleban and quoted me as saying that if I becomepresident, I will make the wearing of the chador compulsory. I categoricallydeny such misquotations and false allegations. In my opinion, althoughthe chador is the most commendable form of Hijab (Islamic attire for women),I hold that any form of dress covering the woman's body is sufficient."[Tehran Times, 5/6]
He said public education system is the main bulwark against culturalinvasion. While approving the need for cultural exchange, he counseledvigilance. Otherwise, "the people will unintentionally put the yokeof cultural invasion on their own shoulders."
Asked whether secular tendencies - commonly referred to as "liberalism"in the official language of the IRI - had a real foothold in Iran, as hadbeen the case after the triumph of the 1906 constitutional revolution,he conceded that the Islamic Republic had suffered a secular assault shortlyafter 1979 and during Banisadr's term of office but that the wave had sincesomewhat subsided. [IRNA, 5/16]
In a scathing editorial, Tehran Times accused Turkey's Defense Ministerof intending to "surrender his country to Washington and Tel Aviv"for having voiced concern over Iran's efforts to develop its chemical warfareand ballistic missile capabilities, and warned that the country could becomeanother Algeria.
The editorial reassured Turkey of Iran's good neighborliness but wenton to say that the general seemed to have been either "bribed or brainwashedby Israel. In either case, Turkey's sovereignty and independence are atstake."
"The generals in Ankara must realize that playing in the handsof Israel is not in their country's interests. The Turkish people, absolutemajority of whom are Muslims, will not tolerate subservience to Tel Avivand Washington. The generals may be able to temporarily suppress the people,but in the long run what happened in Algeria may be repeated in Turkey.Instead of turning their country into a hell, Turkey's generals had betterlisten to the voice of conscience and respect the people's aspirations",the editorial concluded. [5/4]
Tehran Times conducted interviews with a group of bazaaris to learntheir expectations from the president.
"Currently there is no profitable balance between investment andcapital return," one said. "Any sudden fluctuation of priceswipes out real income gained through investment".
"One of the main problems of businessmen is the unstable laws andregulations," said another. "One day a law prohibits the importationof certain goods. Later, the law is reversed permitting businessmen toimport the same goods".
"Sometimes the sudden increase in prices is artificial," saida third. "For example, this year's inflation of 30 per cent allegedlycaused by the increase in prices of petrol and its finished products maybe said to be artificial inflation".
Mohammad Taqi Khaki, a newcomer who started his career in the bazaarsix months ago, said: "I earn 200,000 rials per month. It is not enoughfor a family that lives in Tehran. A man should earn at least 600,000 rialsper month to run a family (here). The next president should remove the(salary) obstacle". [Tehran Times 5/6]
The Committee for the Investigation of Presidential Elections' Publicityhas referred the daily Hamshahri to the judicial authorities for prosecution,for alleged violations of the election law. The committee was set up ostensiblyto prevent one-sided and unbalanced publicity for candidates who use publicfunds for their campaign, but in fact was used by Nateq-Nouri in a brazenattempt to stifle pro-Khatemi publications.
In its May 5 session, the committee said it had reviewed reports fromthe Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and from the provinces ofGilan, Mazandaran, and Khorasan, and concluded that Hamshahri had violatingelection regulations by publishing regional supplements to its newspaper.Hamshahri is published by the Municipality of Tehran and therefore, issubsidized by taxpayers. It is unclear what will happen to the investigationnow that Khatemi has won the election...
A new daily published by the Islamic Republic News Agency, "IranDaily", hit the newsstands on May 21. The main mission of the newspaper,according to IRNA, is to "offer a correct picture of Iran to outsiders"- some comment on existing English-language dailies such as Iran News andTehran Times. "Iran Daily" will emphasize "economic affairsin the domestic and regional domain," IRNA said.
In its first editorial, the paper lamented the sorry state of the Iranianeconomy and expressed hope that Rafsanjani's successor would do somethingabout "high inflation, a collapsing banking system undermined by heavygovernment borrowings, flourishing corruption, a disappearing middle classand an uneven distribution of wealth, and flight of capital, one of thelowest rates of economic growth among the developing nations, and stagnatingindustrial production and stumbling exports." [IRNA, May 23]
The public relations office of Tehran's Water Company has warned Tehranresident recently that a severe water shortage was imminent this summer.If the temperature rises above 38 degrees Celsius, he reportedly said,water in some areas will be cut off, due to shortage of rainfall this spring.Tehran's water consumption has reached 2.3 million cubic meters per day,an 8 percent increase compared to last year. [5/13]
Presidential candidate Mohammad Reyshari said he believes that SalmanRushdie, the author of the book The Satanic Verses, remains an apostateand that Khomeini's death edict against him is therefore still in force.Questioned on the issue during the campaign, Reyshari said he believedthat Khomeini's order was "obligatory" for "for anyone whois capable of carrying it out." [Jomhouri-e Eslami, 5/7]
Note: readers may find other statements not yet posted at the timewe posted this Newswire by visiting the web sites of the various oppositiongroups linked on our "Opposition" page
May 24, 1997
Washington, D.C. -- Iranians have exploited the opportunity to choosebetween bad or worse, to strike a blow against the Islamic Republic andshow their rejection of the clerical regime's repressive policies by rejectingKhamenei's hand-picked candidate, Nateq-Nouri. Iranians used the occasionto show their strong disapproval of the leaders of the regime and theirpolicies that have repressed Iranian youth and women and caused poverty,unemployment and misery in Iran.
Mohammad Khatemi's upset victory over Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri in the IslamicRepublic's presidential election is especially significant since he wassupported by the clerical regime's leader Ali Khamene'i.
During the campaign, Khatemi made many promises to gain the supportof Iranian youth, women and others who object to the regime's oppressivebehavior. Khatemi pledged to increase social freedom, respect civil liberties,and solve the problems of rampant inflation and high unemployment. Khamenei'ssupporters have attacked Khatemi for embracing "anti-revolutionaryideas."
Regardless of whether Khatemi fulfills his promises to the Iranian people,the resounding rejection of the regime's policies by Iranians has irrevocablychanged the situation in Iran. Khatemi must either confront the regime'srepressive leaders and organs, in order to carry out his promises, or ignorethe promises and continue the bankrupt policies of the regime. Either way,Iranians have opened a new chapter in the campaign to achieve democracyand rule of law.
"In the past, many leaders of the Islamic Republic have made promisesto respect the rights of the Iranian people, but they have never deliveredon those promise. Therefore, until the Islamic Republic ceases to repressIranians, the promises by the leaders of the regime are viewed with doubtand skepticism by the Iranian people," said Dr. Khosrow Akmal , CMI'sSecretary General. "Iranians demand freedom for prominent journalistFaraj Sarkuhi, and all other political prisoners, and freedom of speechand the press," he added.
The Constitutionalists Movement of Iran is a political organization,striving to bring freedom, democracy, and the rule of law to Iran.
May 23 is the Presidential election day in Iran. The fundamental rightof the Iranian people to elect their President is violated by the GuardianCouncil.
The Guardian Council is acting as the Guardian of the People not theconstitution.
Take a small step in defending everyone's right to freely cast theirvote and elect their favorite President rather than Guardian council'sfavorite President.
Please sign this letter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org andfilling the following form:
On May 8, 1997, the Guardian Council of Iran, rejected candidacy of234 out of 238 Presidential candidates in Iran based on some discriminatorycriteria. This act violates Artilces 2 and 21 of the UDHR. The IslamicRepublic of Iran is a signatory of this Declaration.
We, the undersigned, are calling for Free Elections in Iran. We stronglyobject to the Guardian Council's screening role in the election processin Iran. We find this role undemocratic, and against the Universal Declarationof Human Rights which states: "The will of the people shall be thebasis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodicand genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage andshall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures"."Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country,directly or through freely chosen representatives". [Article 21].
Furthermore, we believe that the Election laws are discriminatory andflawed. We strongly believe that revision of these laws such as article115 is a strong pre-requisite for Free Elections in Iran. Article 115 ofthe Islamic Republic constitution states: "The President must be electedfrom among religious and political personalities [rijal], possessing thefollowing qualifications: Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrativecapacity and resourcefulness; a good past-record; trustworthiness and piety;convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republicof Iran and the official madhhab of the country." A Free Electionwill require revision of this law which is discriminatory against: non-religiousMoslems [secular], Women, non-Moslems, atheists, non-believers in the fundamentalprinciples of the Islamic Republic of Iran [clerical rule and VelayateFaghih] and non-Shia' Moslems. IRI is a signatory to UDHR which states:"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth inthis Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour,sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or socialorigin, property, birth or other status" [Article 2]. Removal of [May8, 1997] Azam Taleghani, a woman candidate, Sahabi, Dr. Yazdi, Dr. Payman,non-governmental religious-political and "liberal" Personalitiesand other religious non-governmental candidates such as Rajaee Khorassaneeand H. Tabarzadi from the upcoming Presidential Elections by the GuardianCouncil is evidence of such discriminatory behaviour. It is the removalof 234 out of 238 Presidential candidates that amplifies and highlightsthe severity of the undemocratic nature of Guardian Council's role in theelection process.
Last but not least, most of the existing [banned or tolerated] secularOpposition parties have boycotted the elections on the grounds that pre-requisitesfor Free and Fair Elections are not satisfied. National Front of Iran,The Union of National Forces [Nation's Party, People's Party, Movementfor Freedom in Iran, Nation's Toilers Party of Iran] which operate insideof Iran have boycotted the elections. The Exile Opposition forces havealso boycotted the elections. The secular groups are barred by the constitution[article 115] to compete for the Presidential Office.
We, as Iranian professionals and intellectuals in exile are deeply concernedabout continuos violation of Human Rights by the Islamic Republic of Iranand specially non-conformances with Articles 2 and 21 which are relatedto free and genuine Elections. We have identified the following steps aspre-requisites for Free Elections in Iran and would like to bring it tothe Iranian people and international human rights organization's attention:
1. Provision of Freedom of Expression, Press, Assembly, formation andactivity of all political Parties [including the secular and non-religiousones]. 2. Elimination of the Guardian Council's screening role in the electionsprocess in Iran. 3. Revision of laws that promote discrimination basedon religion, political belief, ideology, ethnicity and gender. 4. Fairand equitable access to government owned media in the Election Process.
1. Zard Sarty, M.Arch., M.C.D., Researcher, Canada 2. Dr. Kourosh Parsa,Electrical Engineer, New York, USA 3. Dr. Asghar Abdi, Physician, UK 4.Dr. L.R. Barlett, Physician, UK 5. Behdad Forghani, Electrical Engineer,Montreal, Canada 6. Ali Shahidi, MIS Director, Los Angeles, USA 7. BaharKhorram, Electrical Engineer, USA 8. Dr. Ghavam Shahidi, New York, USA9. Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood, Epidemiologist, New Haven, Connecticut, USA 10.Mehran Sam, Ph.D. Student, Toronto, Canada 11. Dr. Morteza Abdollahi, ComputerScientist, New Jersey,USA 12. Behzad Sadeghi, Electrical Engineer, CA,USA 13. Steven Samimi, Student, Hobart, Australia 14. Dr. Mansour Farhang,Political Scientist, VT, USA 15. Dariush Anooshfar, Mathematician, CA,USA Trita Parsi, student, Uppsala, Sweden 16. Farhad Abdolian, HW DesignEngineer, Stockholm, Sweden 17. Alberto xxx, informatica, Vic, Catalonia18. Sam Shahoveisi, dentistry student, Willow Grove, PA, USA 19. Dr. SaiedKazemiNejad, Electrical Engineer, TX, USA 20. Dr. Amir Hossein GanjBakhsh,Physicist, Washington DC, USA
I support the above signature drive and want to add my name to the listof signatures.
25th May, 1997 - By Mehrdad Irani : Once again the misery and short-sightednessof certain Iranian circles is showing its face. The "good cop - badcop" machination of the clerics in creating a false sense of hopein the Iranian community has succeeded to such a large degree wherein someare labeling the election of Khatemi as a "blow against the IslamicRepublic".
Obviously we have not tasted enough of the moderate medicines prescribedby yet another so-called reformer [Rafsanjani], for we are now categorizingthe election of Khatemi, who has successfully passed through the filterof the Guardian Council, (where incidentally its members are hand pickedby the Supreme Theologian), as "a blow to the Islamic Republic"!!
This 18 year old oven has burned the very fiber of the Iranian soul,yet some among us are childishly hoping that this time around, albeit stillglowing hot, it would not burn our hands as bad!
The advocacy of this non-rational hope, in fact the use of words like:"...Iranians have opened a new chapter in the campaign to achievedemocracy and rule of law..." plays into the hands of those who workeffortlessly to disguise the true nature of the regime of the VelayateFagih who would not hesitate to deceive the world community & its opponentsby merely changing its shameless tactics.
In short, I cannot help but feel sorry for those who interpret thiscock & bull story as anything but another chapter in the show whichthe clerics have devised to prolong their rule.
The second "Amir Kabir" of Iran as Hashemi Rafsanjani wasreferred to, is stepping down, after 8 years in office, having wreckedthe Iranian economy with three digit inflationary figures. God only knowswhat this "new chapter" has cooked up for the naive, simple-mindedIranians.