Sam GhandchiNew Constitution-Referendum of Progress and Petrifaction

Sam Ghandchi


Persian Version



On Nov 25, 2004, I learned about the news of the site of 60000000 and five days late, I saw the news that a great number of people had signed the 7-person national appeal for writing the new in support of staging a referendum in Iran.  It was later called the 8-person appeal.  [Please note that the English translation of the appeal is incorrect and it has dropped the call for formation of a founding congress following the referendum].


What was written in the appeal was not anything new.  In fact, some of the points in the appeal were more ambiguous than similar texts of the past.  For example, the demand for separation of religion and state, which is now the public demand of great majority of Iranian people, has been noted as the demand for removal of religious dictatorship, rather than rejecting any religious state and accepting full secularism.  It is interesting that some of the secularist opponents of this Appeal, have not seen the absence of the call for secularism as important, and have assumed that as the task of the founding congress, which is a big error, and in practice this position is echoing the part of so-called national-religious (melli-mazhabi) spectrum who oppose secularism, and are against this appeal because of that.  I have written about this previously in "Shi'a Clergy and Iranian State" and there is no need to repeat here.  Also in the first part of the Appeal, referendum for the choice of monarchy versus republic could be understood, which has been discussed so many times and is not my issue of discussion here.


Thus what has been the central issue of the Appeal, namely the invitation to a referendum to choose between the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and a new constitution based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is clear for everyone.  In other words, the demand for a progressive constitution, versus the retrogressive Medieval constitution of the Islamic Republic, and the call to end the IRI regime, are understood as the central issue of this movement.  In this Appeal, it is clear that the IRI constitution is not like the constitution of South Africa that one could just remove the apartheid, and take the rest of it to create a progressive and democratic state.  In short, the whole of IRI constitution is retrogressive and needs to be overhauled.


Some have written that the constitution of mashrooti'at also had progressive elements and have noted that when they are not practiced what importance does it have, and this way have tried to downplay the importance of efforts to write a progressive and democratic constitution.  Although it is true that a regime can act in extra-judiciary ways and to disregard the best laws of the land, but the worst situation for a nation, is when the regime's law itself is anti-progress and anti-democratic.  In fact, before Islamic Republic, in Iran's Constitution, the veto of five mojteheds, and Shi'a Islam as the official state religion, and the hereditary principle  for the head of state, were the anti-democratic laws of that constitution, and attempts to change such laws, were as important as the attempts at creating the institutions of judgment of the people, to resist the extra-judiciary repression of freedoms by the the regime of the time.  In short, today after the experience of the Islamic Republic and the legalization of stoning, amputations, and the execution of heretics, it is obvious to all the importance of having a progressive law of the land in Iran, and there is no need to argue much for it.


Some others also try to connect the current Appeal to the conspiracies of the foreign powers or to the conspiracies of the Islamic Republic itslef.  In my opinion, the significance of this Appeal is no longer in its text, nor is it in the ones who made the original call, and to whom they were connected or not connected, and its importance is not even in the 60000000 website.  In my opinion, the importance of this event is what has already happened, namely in making the discourse of new constitution the central discussion of the Iranian people's movement.  There are times in history of a nation when an event causes the people to focus, correctly (or incorrectly), on an issue, and in my opinion fortunately the event of this Appeal, is one of those moments that regardless of the particulars of its formation, has found a historical importance and has focused the public opinion of Iranian people on a fundamental issue, which is focusing on writing a progressive constitution for Iran.  It is interesting that the majority of the signatories of this Appeal, are from the spectrum of Islamic intellectuals of Iran, and the Islamic reformists of Iran are not united in separating from the 2nd Khordad current (e.g. Khatami), but this Appeal will end in the growth of secularism in Iran.


Just today, 255 Islamic reformist personalities of Iran, have again issued a communiqué with regards to the upcoming presidential elections in Iran, a statement which is not much different from what they wrote before Khatami's election 8 years ago, and at best if the result of their current endeavors be the election of their candidate, like Khatami, the question is that they still are not saying a word about the lack of non-religious candidates, the same way that in the 6th parliament they never thought of the rights of non-Islamic political forces and at the end they were eliminated themselves.  In fact, as I had noted before, the progressive reformism of the likes of Amir Kabir is different from the retrogressive reformism.  


These people from Ebrahim Yazdi and Nehzat Azadi to the rest, in the last 50 years, have thought that reformism means the presence of them in power, and in painting the state with Islamic colors, and they have not understood that progressive reformism means to have a progressive and democratic constitution, and still many of them have not stopped opposing secularism, even though Islamic Republic proved it, that even they themselves can have real political freedom only in a secular regime.  Also some others in the melli-mazhabi spectrum, consider the Appeal as a conspiracy of foreign powers and monarchists and have written of the hands of the U.S. in this course of events.  I have already written my view about these in "One Mistake-From Constitutional Movement to Today" and there is no need to repeat here.


I think this Appeal, just like the event of Tehran Poetry nights of Carter's era, or the article of Etellaat newspaper about Khomini before the 1979 Revolution, or the communiqué of Students' of Imam line during hostage-taking, or similar international events such as the terror of the crown prince of Austria-Hungary by the assassins hired by Serbia in World War I, can be a subject of discussion by historians for years.  But the importance of this just like other similar events is not in the particulars of the event itself.  The significance of this event is the fact that fortunately contrary to the desire of some of the so-called melli-mazhabi forces, this Appeal has made the writing of a progressive *secular* constitution for Iran, as the central issue of Iranian people's movement, instead of the movement to be a game toy for the melli-mahabis to use the pains and sacrifices of Iranian people to gain state position within this system of Islamic Republic, and still not to defend the right of nonreligious forces to be a presidential candidate or candidates for parliament.


Today the issue is not about whether one should sign or not sign the Appeal at the 60000000 web site or not, to support this movement.  In fact, the evolution of this site depends on the individuals who are in charge of that site, and their political views, and the organizational form they have in mind for that site.  But this movement is now beyond that site, and hundreds of internet sites and other news and political sources are following this movement, and in various parts of the world the next stage of this movement, which is the proposing of various models for Iran's constitution of the future, have already started, which a year ago, I called Going Towards Constitutional Congresses for Iran.


The main issue of this movement is the new constitution, and to propose various models of future constitution, and it is the discussion of its proposed laws with every Iranian, that will guarantee that we will not end up in the chains of another retrogressive constitution like the one of IRI.  In reality, this new constitution, means the referendum between progress and petrifaction.  This is the discourse that has started among a number of Iranian intellectuals for some time, and it has now become a public discourse of our society, and one should welcome it and instead of trying to find out who was behind what, it is better to see that now here is the ball and there is the field, and whatever we have to offer about the future constitution of Iran, we better offer it to our people, so that the people this time to decide consciously for the new constitution of Iran, and now is the time both inside and abroad, for this huge decision-making, to form the gatherings to discuss and document the constitution, whether on the Internet, or in other places and other publications.


To study source, and to refer to some of the current discussions about the constitution, you can check the link below:


I, in my part, would like to congratulate to Iranian people, the start of this progressive movement for writing the new future constitution of Iran, and from the bottom of my heart I am happy to see that this movement is becoming widespread, and I hope the results of all the efforts and sacrifices of Iranian people this time, not to end up in another retrogressive and anti-democratic regime, and this people's movement to bring us a progressive and democratic regime on the foundations of a progressive and democratic constitution. 



Hoping for a Federal, Democratic, and Secular Futurist Republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher


January 11, 2005


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