Sunday, June 21, 2009

Khatami asks for a commission to investigate the election

As President of Iran from 1997-2005, Mohammed Khatami presided over an experiment in reform-within-the-system that generated considerable hope and excitement but was effectively blocked, increasingly undermined, and eventually crushed and reversed by the hard-liners. (For some discussion of the Khatami experiment and its failure, see here & here & here.) Khatami remains one of the major figures in the broad coalition opposing the Khamenei/Republican Guard/Ahmadinejad bloc.

So it may be significant that today Khatami issued a public statement calling for an impartial commission to investigate last week's presidential election. Andrew Sullivan just posted a translation
His statement is out today. For more on Khatami, see here. A reader translated it:
This looks to me like an attempt to find some grounds for a possible compromise. That would make sense, since Khatami's inclination toward compromise has always been a characteristic feature of his political style (for good and for ill). It may also be a signal that at least some tendencies within the opposition camp are searching for ways to avoid a bloody showdown with the government. In that respect, one intriguing line from Moussavi's speech on Saturday may (or may not) be relevant:
I continue to strongly believe that the request for annulling the vote and repeating the election is a definite right that has to be considered by impartial and nationally trusted delegation. [emphasis added]
My guess is that the possibilities for any genuine compromise--as opposed to capitulation by one side or another--are not there. So in the end Khatami's statement may not be very significant after all. On the other hand, I suppose it's possible that it's a sign of intra-elite negotiations and maneuvering behind the scenes. For the moment we can only speculate.

At all events, Khatami is a sufficiently important figure that this gambit deserves attention. And the strongly pro-democratic thrust of Khatami's statement is also worth noting. The three opening paragraphs, for example, are admirably firm, straightforward, and substantively cogent. At moments they approach eloquence (even in this apparently hasty translation).

--Jeff Weintraub

In the name of god, [etc.?]

Public participation and engagement is a great accomplishment of the Islamic Revolution that should be admired and promoted. This glorious participation of people of all ages and walks of life sends the clear message that the people are the true owners of the country and the revolution. This message should be observed today as well; the silent protest and civil behavior of people in the demonstrations show the public's maturity and alertness, but is also a reminder of the undeniable fact that people have clear and constitutional right which every regime and government is obligated to observe.

The provocative and insulting portrayal of our people who have been acting independently, and accusing their healthy civil protest to be an act of foreign influence is an example of the wrong policies that further distance people from our government.

Elections were held in Iran and a massive number of our great people do not believe the results that were announced and are protesting them. Public trust has been damaged and closing the door to civil protests means opening a dangerous path and god knows where that will lead.

People's rights must be respected.

Insecurity and tension must be avoided and reactions such as violence and military confrontation which can bear great expense and detriment for the regime and the people must be kept at bay. We should all take action towards reparation of public trust as it is the principle foundation of our country and government.

Violence and harassment, the like of which we unfortunately witnessed on Saturday, along with the arrest of men and women and our great cultural and political minds from the earliest hours of the announcement of election results and banning peaceful and dignified gathering of people that serves to demonstrate their civility, only adds to the problems.

Opportunities are quickly lost and give their place to threats, while I believe that there is still an exit from this situation and no need to create an atmosphere of security and military rule.

Referring the issue to sources or officials who should be protecting people's rights and executing a free and healthy election and monitoring it, but are themselves the target of criticism and protest, is not the solution.

In resolving this problem why not look to the approach and methods of our dear Imam [Khomeini] who was faced with similar situations and should be held as an example for us.

Appointing a fair, competent and brave commission that is critically trusted by the protesting public and accepting the fair verdict of this commission is a path out of this stage and a positive step in the strengthening of the Islamic Republic and reparation of public trust. It would also show critical and crucial decision-making in favor of the people and in line with the principles of the revolution in a sensitive time.

The quick release of those who have been detained and arrested, which has caused grave concern for their families and much of the public, along with opening the lines of information and communication, all of which have unfortunately been shut down, can help calm down the atmosphere.

On the other hand, we should all respect civil criticism and protest (that is void of riots and violence), as it is an obvious right of the people.

The primary objective should be to denounce violence and to replace the current environment of animosity, spite and accusations in favor of a new atmosphere based on truth and honesty with kindness, friendship and cooperation.

It is then that no matter what the price, the Islamic Republic and all its values will be safe and immune.

The public is present and still waiting, this presence should be respected.

[Arabic verse of prayer in closing]

Seyyed Mohammad Khatami
June 21, 2009