The fissures that have opened up at the center of the Islamic Republic are again much on display.
Influential Iranian politician Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s appearance today as Tehran’s Friday Prayer leader was even more profound and stunning than billed. As I’ve posted here before, when Rafsanjani speaks, people listen. And today, he had much to say.
Officially, the former President, Parliamentary Speaker, and close aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, now heads both the Expediency Council, a body that often reconciles log-jams within “the system,” and the Assembly of Experts, the body entrusted with appointing and even supervising the Supreme Leader.
Yes, he’s controversial. Many of the same reformists and leftists who today count the “pragmatic” Rafsanjani as an ally four years ago could not bear to support him against current President Ahmadinejad. Times change. In one of the debates just prior to the election, Ahmadinejad threw mud at Rafsanjani, hoping to taint reformist candidate Mir Hossein Musavi with the corruption smear by extension.
Since the controversy over the June 12th Presidential elections, Rafsanjani has been largely silent, and skipped a turn or two as Friday Prayer Leader. But not today.
As there are several very “thin” instant translations circulating, I post to the extension below a complete translation of Rafsanjani’s second sermon, as provided by BBC/OSC.
Last night, I’d heard from friends in Tehran who were worried that Rafsanjani “would pull a Khatami” — and talk about unity and preserving the revolution, while selling short the ongoing disquiet over the elections..
Quite the contrary, Rafsanjani’s speech was remarkably bold and unprecedented (for him). Rafsanjani has set out markers about legitimacy, “the people” and Islamic governance that will be of interest not just for Iran’s system, but for Islamists everywhere to consider.
“Everything depends on people…. The title of Islamic Republic is not just a formality…. If it looses its Islamic aspect, we will go astray. If it looses its republican aspect, it [The Islamic Republic] will not be realized. Based on the reasons that I have offered, without people and their vote there would be no Islamic system.”
Rafsanjani goes on to emphasize the plausible presence of “doubt” in the minds of Iranians about the legitimacy of the recent elections. This “bitter” doubt, “the worst disaster” — “a plague” – was not put there by foreign media, but by shameful behavior from within, by Iran’s own supervising Guardian Council and its state controlled TV media.:
“We are independent… Do we not have 30-year experience of running the country? Do we not have ulema? Why should our Sources [of Emulation, meaning senior clerics], who always have been supportive, and our seminary schools, which have never had any expectations for their efforts, be upset today.”
This is a not so subtle challenge to the very legitimacy of Supreme Leader Khamenei — in referencing the fact that several of Iran’s most senior Grand Ayatollah’s have been letting their displeasure be known. (a fact woefully missed or ignored in a recent WINEP essay)
Rafsanjani’s suggestions for restoring “trust” in the system (something hardliners don’t admit is lacking) boil down to:
1. Act strictly within the law. (e.g., especially law enforcement)
2. Promote dialogue and foster climate for free thinking and reason to prevail.
3. Free all those arrested amid protests.
4. Compensate those harmed in the disturbances.
5. Ease up on the media.
Rafsanjani does reference the need for unity, and he hopes his words will be “a turning point for the future,” to resolve the present “crisis.” That may be optimistic.
Ball now back to Leader Khamenei’s court.
(Full text in extension below:)
Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring July 17, 2009 Friday (sub-headings by BBC)
Iran senior cleric calls for release of post-election unrest detainees
In the name of God the most compassionate the most merciful, May greetings be bestowed on the God, the creator of the universe. May greetings be bestowed on the messenger of God and his successor Imam Ali the knight of the believers and his son and progeny Hoseyn and Mohammad the son of Ali and Ja’far the son of Mohammad and Musa-ibn Ja’far and Ali the son of Musa and all the Khalifa in the line of Mahdi [Crowds send blessings]. I enjoin the servants of God to piety and obeying His orders.
On hardship endured by seventh Shi’i imam
As far as the occasions of the week are concerned, the most important occasion was the death anniversary Imam Kazem, our seventh [Shi’i] imam, who was one of our most oppressed imams who experienced much hardship. His Excellency became an imam when he was 20 years old and during his whole life he faced much hardship from the Abbasid dynasty. Throughout his life he was either isolated and under pressure and surveillance or in exile and in prison. He was finally martyred in prison. The Shi’i became to know his as Kazim and Sabir [the patient one]. Kazem means a person who hides his hardship and suffering and Sabir means a person who is always under hardship but is patient and resists. These are some of the title given exclusively to the seventh imam. A number of Caliphs gave him a hard time and finally Harun al-Rashid sent him to exile in Basra and then to Baghdad, where he was sent to and held in the dark and dim tunnels of Baghdad with chains. They chained his feet. But Imam Kazem was happy about this. He said that for his whole life he had asked God to give him time to worship him and now his prayer has been answered and he can spend all his time praying to God. His Excellency was martyred under these circumstances. [words indistinct] May God grant patience and his blessing to those who are oppressed.
We extend our condolences to all people who love righteousness and to you dear people who follow those prominent, immaculate and oppressed figures.
Urging China to exercise patience
I will briefly speak about another issue, the killings in China. Muslims in China are experiencing some bitter days. I would like to mention a few points to the Chinese government. The Chinese government is expected to exercise patience in the face of aggressions that people are facing.
[At this point a number of people began chanting: “Down with China”. Rafsanjani continued with his sermons and told worshippers:]
Please allow me. Dear gentlemen! I, as the leader of the Friday prayers, pleaded with you not to chant any slogans. Considering the situation here [the venue of the Friday prayers], the adjacent streets and the entire area, I would like to ask you not to chant slogans. Please allow [me to continue] Thank you.
We would like to give a friendly word of advice to the Chinese government that we believe is a wise government working towards the progress of China. We would like to tell the Chinese government that what is going on is not in its interests. They [Chinese officials] are aware that there one billion and 600 million Muslims in the world. They live in around 60 independent countries. Muslims in all parts of the world enjoy their own identity and character and all their hearts are linked to those of Muslims in China who are experiencing acts of oppression today. China must be careful and consider its own interests and its relations with the world of Islam and the hearts of Muslims. And, God willing, from now on we would not witness such acts of oppression against Muslims in China or other parts of the world. Problems in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan are unfortunately the same as they have been in previous weeks and months, and bloodshed, corruption and clashes continue. Those problems will be solved one day, God willing.
On “completely free” election
And now to an issue which concerns us and the discussions to which I promised to dedicate the second and third part of my remarks.
As far as the [presidential] election which was held [on 12 June] is concerned, praise be to God we made a very good start. A sound competition took shape and good preparations were made. The four candidates who were approved by the Guardian Council competed against each other and demonstrated a good competition. The people became hopeful that the elections were completely free and they truly demonstrated an unprecedented participation. In these circumstances the conditions were set for the creation of a proud moment for the country. We have to present this glory to the people. It is their right. It was the people who demonstrated a good presence. The people broke a record as far as presence at the ballot boxes was concerned. We all have to thank the people who participated freely in the election at a time when no other country has seen such a level of participation. That was very valuable.
I wish those conditions could have continued until today, and today we would have been experiencing the most proud moments in the world regardless of the election results.
Stresses on people’s support
However, developments did not take shape as we wished them to, and I will explain them now.
The principle issue concerns what we want, as I mentioned earlier, and, secondly, to ask what is required by the revolution.
What you are hearing now is from a person who has been with the revolution second by second from the very beginning of the struggle which began by our leader the Imam [Khomeyni]. We are talking about 60 years ago up until today. I know what the Imam wanted and am familiar with the basis of the Imam’s thinking.
Even during the time of the struggles, the Imam would always say; all I am concerned about is the people when it came to a suggestion, for example to use arms, terror [preceding in English], this party [words indistinct]. He would say, you do as much as you can to solve the people’s problems and familiarize them with the struggle. He would tell us who were theology students, that our mission was to go to mosques, prayer houses and villages and explain what we were after.
We have everything if people are with us. [Words indistinct] The Islamic Revolution was based on what the Prophet [Muhammad] did, bringing people on board who themselves wished to take part on their own will and beliefs.
That was (?the secret) of the Imam’s victory.
It took less than 20 years for people to become alert. Obviously the price was also paid in terms of people who were martyred, people who were put in prisons, the Imam himself was sent to exile and many other things. However, our gains were much more. People became so alert that those whose ages allow have seen how in the final couple of years people poured into the streets.
People’s role according to the late Khomeyni
All the streets were full of Imam’s supporters. And, all the forces which were supporters and believers in the Imam were alongside Imam, all ranged against the very arrogant forces of the Pahlavi regime.
[Poor reception] The Shah whose coffers were filled to the brim from oil revenues could do anything it wanted. The people came to the fore and the demands of the people were such that they had to abandon everything and go.
[Loss of reception]… the Revolution, we worked round the clock for it and all on the basis of [loss of reception]… all his [presumably Imam Khomeyni] worry was that Islamic rule is not possible without the people.
Whatever the people will, will be done! And, I have a story to recount; one which I have heard from the era of Imam. I did not ask where the proof for that is. I then went and asked his eminence about this. It is a very interesting story. It formed the basis of Imam’s reasoning. Of course, it is far greater than that. His… [poor reception] the role that Imam accords to the people. I noted this from a book called Kashf ol-Mohajjam which belongs to Seyyed Ibn-Tavus who is one of our very erudite Ulema from seventh century. He is a great personality. Please listen to this story.
This is one of the [indistinct words].
On Islamic legitimacy
Ali Ibn-Abi-Talib himself says that when the prophet [Mohammad] was [indistinct words] rather worried in the last year of his life. He said this to Abi-Talib; [reads a short verse from Koran] This is after Eid-e Ghadir. He said that you are the Guardian of this Ummah [nation] this is a Guardianship that belongs to you and is something that God has given you.
[reads a passage from Koran] if you felt that this people are satisfied [with you] and they accept you and felt that you are a worthy person [ruler] and there was consensus, of course consensus is always relative it can never be absolute, if the majority coalesced around you then have to accept it. You will become the Guardian and see to their day to day affairs and resolve their problems.
[reads another passage] If you saw that they opposed you and that they do not come along with you then you have to leave them, Let them do what they want to; they know themselves what they need to do with their lives.
[reads another passage] God will find a way for you to realise your goals. This chronicle is one from authoritative sources. It is using these authoritative sources that Seyyed Ibn-Tavus uses; not that we just have this chronicle we have many others. We have books on this. This was just a one off chronicle that I read.
This test was what formed the basis of later rule. It was the basis of the rule of the prophet and we in the Islamic Republic set ourselves the mission of practicing exactly this.
On Islamic, republican nature of system
We have to be with the people; this people acted very wisely. The same thought of the Imam [the late Ayatollah Khomeyni] can be witnessed when he appointed Mr Bazargan as the head of the interim government. The power had not been handed over to us and Bakhtiar [the last prime minister of the shah] was still in power in Tehran at that time. The Imam was in a hurry to handover the power to the people. As you know, in his decree to Bazargan, which I also read it, the Imam said that the Revolution Council should keep on working for a short term, the Majlis should be established as soon as possible, the constitution should be drafted so that the people can live under the new [word indistinct] constitution. When we were preparing the draft of the constitution, before it was handed to the Assembly of Experts, the Imam gave his advices on that and stressed and strengthened the principles which related to the people. The issue of the councils [presumably the municipality councils] had been actually proposed by other individuals but the Imam strengthened them and assigned the tasks to the people. Later on, when we had meetings with the leaders of other countries, they were surprised about that. The Algerian leaders said that it took them 20 years, after their revolution, before they could draw up their constitution. They asked: How could you do so in a hasty manner. We said that since we achieved the victory by people’s power [word indistinct] and since the people support their revolution and religion we are not worried. That was a fact.
As you are aware, according to the constitution, everything in the country is determined by people’s vote. People elect the members of the Assembly of Expert and then they elect leader, that is, leader is [indirectly] elected by people’s vote. Presidents, MPs, members of the councils are elected by direct votes of people. Other officials are also appointed [indirectly] through people’s vote. Everything depends on people. This is the religious system. The title of Islamic Republic is not used as a formality. It includes both the republican and Islamic nature.
[People chant in support]
I asked you not to chant slogans so that I can finish sooner. Thank you very much.
The title of Islamic Republic is not just a formality. This is a reality passed on to us on the basis of Koran, as well as the religious sayings of the [Shi’i] Imams and prophet. We believe in them. We should have them at the same time. Rest assured if one of those two aspects are damaged we will loose our revolution. If it looses its Islamic aspect, we will go astray. If it looses its republican aspect, it [The Islamic Republic] will not be realized. Based on the reasons that I have offered, without people and their vote there would be no Islamic system. Ali bin Abi-Talib [the Shi’i first Imam] stayed at home for 19 years for the same reason. When the people came forward [word indistinct], Ali bin Abi-Talib accepted to come to power after people’s insistence, despite the difficulties he faced.
On current election, return of trust to people
This was our path. We should reach the destination. We should strengthen it day by day. If the problems after the [presidential] election had not emerged, we would have had taken the best largest step towards realizing the Islamic [aspect of the establishment] at the 30th anniversary of the revolution. I am not going to say that we have not taken the step. I want to explain why this happened.
What I understand is that towards the end of the election campaign we were taken over by doubt. In other words, people started to have doubts and the seeds of doubt were sown, for whatever reason. Whether it was unfavourable publicity or the Voice and Vision’s inappropriate actions or other things, seeds of doubt were planted in the minds of the people. We consider doubt as the worst disaster. [Talking to some people in the audience] Please allow me, I am saying it much better than you would. Your slogan and approval is enough. Leave it.
Doubt came down on our nation like the plague. Of course, there are two separate currents. There is a group of people who have no doubts, they [word indistinct] and mind their own business. But there is also another group, whose numbers are not few and include a great section of our erudite and knowledgeable people, who say: ” We doubt”. We should take measures to remove this doubt. This period, after the results of the elections , is a bitter era. I do not believe anyone from any faction wanted this to happen. We have all lost in this event. We have all lost and now ask ourselves: why did it happen. We need unity today, more than ever.
Our county should be united against all the dangers that threaten us. They have now upped their ransom demands and are coming forward to take away our achievements in the fields of hi-tech and particularly nuclear technology. Of course, God will not give them the opportunity to do so, but they are greedy. My brothers and sisters, first of all, you all know me, I have never wanted to abuse this platform in favour of a particular faction and my remarks have always concerned issues beyond factionalism. I am talking in the same manner today. I am not interested in any factions. In my view, we should all think and find a way that will unite us to take our country forward and save ourselves from these dangerous and bad effects, and the emerging grudges. We should disappoint our enemies so that they would not covet our country. What should we do? I have a few suggestions. Of course I have discussed these suggestions with a few jurists and members of the Expediency Council, with whom I can intellectually connect. We have decided, and I will read them out as solutions and maybe others will accept them and God willing, put them into force with sincerity.
Our important issue is that the trust that brought so many people to the polls and is now harmed, will be restored. This should be our holy objective, that this trust is returned. Whether [words indistinct], I will tell you later.
One, we should all, the system, government, Majlis, security forces, police and the people, i.e. the protestors, move in line with the law. If we violate the law, then there will be no boundaries left. We should raise our issues in the context of the law and find solutions for them within the framework of the law. We should accept whatever the law says and if there are some people who have problems with some laws, they should wait until those laws are corrected. God willing, all these problems that we have seen, will be resolved one day. But everything should be within the framework of the law.
Two, we must act in a way that the trust of the people is restored. Of course this cannot be achieved in one day. This is a relatively long process.
We have to create an atmosphere that all sides can come and express their views. And all sides must act rationally and without quarrel. Logic should rule. Of course the main task here falls on the Voice and Vision [of the Islamic Republic, meaning state broadcaster] as it has greater audience. And all other media outlets must do the same. [Sentence indistinct]. They should sit down and talk to each other in a brotherly and sisterly manner and point out their reasons. Eventually the people will find out the truth and we can ask the people too. We have to provide the ground to return this trust to the people. Unfortunately, a good use was not made of the opportunity that the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamene’i] gave the Guardian Council in which an extra five days was given to them to talk to the ulema. I do not of course want to blame anyone for this lost opportunity, but, nonetheless, it did not happen. [Crowd chanting] We have passed that stage. We are going through another stage now. I believe that for the sake of the future and our unity and for preventing the danger facing the system and for safeguarding the values created by the Revolution and for the sake of the martyrs and the efforts of those who struggled on this path whose achievements are now passed on to us and in order for these achievement to be passed on to the third and forth and following generation, at this juncture we can move along this path. If we accept the above two points that we move in line with the law and leave the door to debate, negotiations and reasoning open, perhaps in a short while we will be satisfied.
Hoping to resolve current “crisis”
Meanwhile, we have to do other things. Under current circumstances, there is no need for us to have people in prisons. Allow them to return to their families. [Chants of indistinct slogans from the masses in support of the cleric’s comment]. Let’s not allow our enemies to reprimand and laugh at us and hatch plots against us just because a few certain people are in prison. We should be brave and patient enough to tolerate one another. Sympathy should be shown to the victims of the recent incidents which took place. We should offer condolences to those who are mourning and bring their hearts closer to the establishment. And this is possible. Those who are faithful to the Revolution and know that the system needs them, can cooperate with us with their heart and soul. We have to do this, be tolerant and show them sympathy.
There is no need to make haste here and put ourselves into trouble. We should not limit our media, which have got legal permission for their activities. They should be able to work within the framework of the laws. As I mentioned before, the law is the criteria. Neither the media should expect to have activities beyond the legal framework, nor should the establishment expect them to ignore their legal rights. All should let to create a calm, open, critical, or even confirming atmosphere. I think that our officials, Law Enforcement Force, military and security forces should help to create that atmosphere.
We are all members of a family. All of us have endured hardship in the path of the revolution. All of us have invested in this long holy jihad and given martyrs. All of us [word indistinct]. We have our own idea. Why should others from long distance come and make up a prescription for us [give advice to us]. We are independent. [Word indistinct]. Do we not have 30-year experience of running the country? Do we not have ulema? Why should our Sources [of Emulation, meaning senior clerics], who always have been supportive, and our seminary schools, which have never had any expectations for their efforts, be upset today. We should keep their support and rely on them. If we preserve the unity, God willing, I hope that this Friday prayer sermon will be a turning point for the future and we will be able to successfully resolve this problem, which unfortunately can be described as a crisis. I hope that unity, fraternity, and fair competition [in elections] will again prevail, so that people can elect whoever they like.
[People chant in support]
May God bless you. May God support all of you. May God protect you and help you [word indistinct] to be present at the scene. Thank you very much.
[Reading a surah from the Holy Koran meaning: Surely We have given you Kausar, Therefore to thy Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice, Surely your enemy is the one who shall be without posterity]
Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian 0919 gmt 17 Jul 09