The Gathering Winds of Change in Iran

Reza Bayegan

The Islamic Republic has been in a political coma for quite some time. Now
this coma has become irreversible. The political system that came to power
with a bang is whimpering towards the twilight. Many combinations needed to
effectuate the disintegration of the clerical dictatorship are rapidly
falling into place and setting the stage for the enforcement of the kind of
people's power the world witnessed in Georgia in 2003 and currently in

Hopeful signs have created a sense of urgency amongst opposition groups, and
those preparing to present Iranians with a viable political option in the
post-mortem of the Islamic Republic. The listlessness and despair of the
past few years, or even few months, has given way to a heightened sense of
readiness and vitality. The end of last week witnessed a significant move by
prominent Iranian dissidents and human rights activists. They called for the
organization of a nationwide referendum to convene a constituent assembly
and draft a new constitution(

Underlining the impossibility of reforming the present political system, the
signatories to this appeal champion the principle of democratic governance
based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They argue that a truly
democratic constitution will interalia be able to foster a badly needed
trust environment with the international community. For the first time, this
move has brought together leading Iranian figures of various political
persuasions, as well as Iranian citizens from all walks of life. The number
of people joining this national movement from within Iran and outside is
absolutely unprecedented.

The creativity and vibrancy of the opposition at the moment stands in sharp
contrast with the low morale and ineptitude of the Islamic regime whose each
and every vital organ is quickly disintegrating. It has fallen apart
politically, economically, socially, ideologically and morally. The country
is infected by poverty, crime, drug addiction, prostitution and human rights
abuse in the hands of rulers who have based their raison d'?tre and
legitimacy on the claim that they are the best spiritual healers the world
over. In the huge gulf between the ethical high ground from which the regime
has talked down to the people, and the dire reality faced everyday by
ordinary Iranians, lies the ship of the Islamic state, wrecked and

The discrepancy between rhetoric and reality has become evident even to the
diehard band of fanatics and anti-western fundamentalists who form the
backbone of the regime. They feel humiliated on account of what many of them
consider to be a giving-in to the Europeans on the nuclear issue. Their
disillusion was echoed last week by Ali Larijani, member of the Supreme
Security Council of the Islamic Republic who referring to nuclear agreement
in Paris said: "In that agreement we gave rare pearl and received a bon-bon
instead". For a regime that thrives on political bravado and was
particularly using the issue of reaching nuclear capability to boost its
internal prestige, that is quite a hard blow. This, and many similar
disillusionments will make it much more difficult for the theocratic
dictatorship to count on the support of its spiritless followers when people
pour into the streets to call for fundamental political change.

That process actually began in May 1997 - the day people turned out on a
massive scale to vote against the status quo by electing a President who ran
on the putative platform of supplanting it with a civilized democracy.
Instead of doing that however, Mohammad Khatami kept the clerical
dictatorship artificially alive on the life-support machine of illusory
reform, and proved that the political system of the Islamic Republic is
incapable of accommodating any real change.

Today, the presence of the signature of many prominent reformists on the
appeal for a national referendum is a clear sign that Iranians have gained
valuable lessons from the political experience of the past seven years. They
have learned that the only way they can achieve their democratic aspirations
and political freedom is by moving beyond the present system. There are
hopeful signs that what no military strike on selected targets by any
outside power could ever accomplish in Iran, can be realized by a broad
national consensus of all those Iranians who put their country ahead of
their particular political leaning. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair
was the first Western leader who reacted positively to this initiative when
he was asked yesterday (29 November 2004) by Radio VOA about the National
Appeal for Referendum in Iran. He replied ‘We support those who would like
the same democratic rights as we have here'.

The momentum is building up for peaceful political change in Iran, let's
pray it moves in the right direction by those who will emerge as its