Journals of a Disqualified Citizen

May 18, 2004

Reza Bayegan

The following was the latest entry found in the journals of "A disqualified Citizen":

It is 3 May, and what better a way to start the day than by reading a long etter written by Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has called it "A Letter for Tomorrow" meaning that today's electorate and the current population of Iran lack the qualifications to fathom the depth of meaning stashed way in its luminous pages. It will have to wait for the people of tomorrow to catch up with the President's intellectual depth and realize that his apparent failures were veritable triumphs in disguise.

This letter has no relevance whatsoever for life as it is lived in the Iran of today. It points to an unspecified time in 'tomorrow', when its real significance will shine forth and replenish the earth with its blessings of

'religious democracy', 'dialogue of civilizations' and 'civil society'. Accordingly Khatami was elected by the people of yesterday to serve the people of tomorrow, and as far as the people of today are concerned, well, they don't need a president. They have a supreme leader, the Guardian Council, the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Council, an Islamic army of thugs (armed with knives and clubs) and Evin and many other correctional facilities to provide them with leadership and ensure law and order.

In his letter Khatami writes:

"Initiating and embracing the slogan of reform should be welcomed from all sides, but it should be demanded from those who propose these reforms to express their intentions clearly and leave no room for misunderstanding amongst the population."

Are we supposed not to remember that this worthy invitation to clarity is coming from a man whose greatest knack is to speak vaguely and ambiguously? The President of the Republic has conveniently forgotten that thousands of Iranians are imprisoned for exactly what he urges them to do: Expressing

their political views clearly and unequivocally. If by speaking clearly the President means not leaving any doubt about the probity and morality of their character, one should remind him that Mr. Aghajari and Batebi et al. are not in jail for promoting loose behavior. In any case 'unethical conduct' in Iran is a phrase with a wide range of applications. If the President himself one day forgets to speak from both side of his mouth, no doubt he will end up in the same cell with a multitude of other Iranians who lack the magical talent of Mohammad Khatami for having their cake, or should I say 'baghlava' and eating it too.