Iranian Paper Pleads for Secularism Before Being Shut Down

The new daily, Sobh-e-Emruz, This Morning, directed by Said Hajjarian, the former political advisor to Khatami, defends the policy of openness and pluralism. Pro-Khatami, it is not afraid of confronting the conservatives in the country or discussing the hot subjects of the day. Sobh-e-Emruz, before it was closed down on order of the Iranian government made the following analysis of recent events.

The attempted assassination of Said Hajjarian (director of the journal) had as its principal aim to demoralize those who have supported the project of reforms. The recent manipulation of results of the parliamentary elections (of 18 February), the delay taken to settle the date of the second round of the legislative elections (in principle 5th May) and the invalidation of the results of certain polling stations are all a sign of the refusal to accept the results of the popular vote. The ratification of the new law on the press is an attempt to reduce to silence the media which reflects a part of the revendications of society. The banning of daily newspapers and journals is illegal and which only serves certain political interests.

All these measures aim at nullifying the reforms that were made totally legally. It seems to us that at this stage the voice of reason has little chance of being heard by those who are looking for a crisis. But can we really talk about the end of the project of reforms? This project rests on two principles. The first is to finally resolve the question of the legitimacy of the regime, in reinforcing its republican character. A republic bases its legitimacy on the will of the majority of the people. This form of power acts by means of laws and is carried out by institutions elected by the people. The fate reserved for the actual reformers is finally secondary compared to this established principle.

The second principle is to renounce the "holiness" of earthly power [the supremacy of the religious over the political by means of the concept of the Religious Guide]. The institutions are created by human beings living on earth, and their acts can be criticized and reformed. The religious act ought not to intervene in the mechanisms of political institutions. More than the evolution of the reformers, it is the reforms which should remain in force. In Iran the reforms are only starting and we cannot consign them to oblivion. Reformist thinking is rooted among the youngest, even if the actual reformers are not in a position to overcome their own contradictions. The young will find new means to realize this thought and transform it into effective strategies. The reformers are paying for the backlash to the wave of revendications to which the actual structures of power are incapable of replying. One cannot sweep away these revendications from the present scene in this country. The reformers propose legal and peaceful means of evolution of these structures in order to render them efficacious. Those who think they can eliminate the reformers will be responsible for the heavy toll that "other methods" will take of the people.

[Source Courrier International No 496, 4-10 Mai, 2000]