Iran: Characteristics of an Alternative to the Islamic Republic in Iran


by Diba

Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD International Law

The Islamic revolution in Iran proved once again that mixture of politics and Islam in a world that is divided into nation-states and the governments designed to follow the national interests does not work. For a long time in Iran (hundreds of years), religious people had claimed that all problems in society came from non-observance of Islamic rules and if religious Islamic leaders become political masters in society, everything would be in order and justice would prevail all over the state. More than two decades of Islamic government in Iran has shown clearly that the idea is not working.

There is no doubt that the people of Iran are less religious and more under-developed now, compared to thirty years ago. The Iranian experience had a great deal of impact on many Muslim countries. The tide of Islamic revolutions in all these countries has died. The Islamic revolution should have happened in countries like Egypt and Algeria much sooner than Iran because their people were more prone to accepting Islamic tenets. Now, the experience of the Iranian revolution has discouraged them from moving in the same line. At the moment, no great Islamic revolution is in the making.

On the other hand, many people in all Islamic societies are trying to separate religion from politics. What is happening in Iran at the present juncture is a clear struggle by the people of Iran to separate religion from politics. There is no other way. Anyone, including all Muslims and any government, especially the U.S. which wish a better life for the people of Islamic countries and similar states, and also seek international peace and development should help the cause of separating religion from politics. At the same time, one of the most important points that have helped the present regime of Iran, with all its incompetence and unskillful management, to remain in power is the discussion about the alternative. As soon as the discussion begins about the shortages and problems of the present regime, the question comes to mind as to what is the alternative to the present regime of Iran? Who are the forces that are or claim to be the opposition? Which of them is proper for popular support? I do not have a clear response to that question. But here are the characteristics of the future government of Iran. The future regime of Iran (whatever it is called) must have the following characteristics:

(1) Secularism. This means that the people are sick and tired of religious extremism. Religion is a personal thing and it should not be run by the government. Imposing ideas is against the freedom of expression and a violation of the people’s basic rights. Religion should be separated from the state. A special organization should be established to look for and discard religious notions that find their way into state affairs.

(2) The revival of the Iranian identity- the present religious government of Iran has been trying to disconnect Iranians from their glorious past. Although Iranians have received Islam through Arabs, this is not something the Iranians appreciate or welcome. Many Iranians still feel the humiliation of an imposed religion. Some Iranians believe that Islam was planted by the Iranians in the Arabia, which was part of the lands ruled by Sasanid and other Iranian dynasties. Also a number of Iranians believe that what we hear about great Islamic civilization is in fact the Iranian rich heritage captured and redistributed by Arabs who lived in nomadic tribes of Arabia at the advent of Islam. Therefore, Iran needs some kind of "De-Arabization". Contrary to what may Westerners think, Iran is not an Arab country and it is not a deeply Islamic country. The people of Iran are not serious Muslims and they do not intend to be so. Unfortunately, the present Government of Iran that does not represent the people of Iran has taken positions that are against the Iranian ideas and interests. The Government of Iran, which has taken the power through a creeping coup and it is called "the Second invasion of Iran by the Arabs", has been killing itself during the last 30 years to make the people more Islamic but all of those efforts are in vain. The people of Iran at the moment are less Islamic than the time of the previous regime. The regime has taken many steps visibly and invisibly to impose, attract, lure, deviate, or push the people toward Islam and it has failed.

(3) Respecting human rights as mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The new government of Iran should observe the Universal Declaration of Human rights and should respect the obligations accepted by the state of Iran regarding the United Nations Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights and also the UN Covenant on the Economic Rights.

(4) Equality of women in all aspects with men as a principle. Islamic rules, as interpreted by many Islamic experts are against the equality of men and women. There are many points that differ in Islam and the UN Convention on Eradication of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It goes without saying that women as equals have all of the rights that men enjoy. The nomadic norms of the ancient Arabs cannot be the basis of law in a modern nation-state. The Islamic rules about women should be discarded totally as they are against the human rights and human dignity.

(5) The government must be elected. The people of Iran like almost all peoples in the world are seeking a democracy for their country. They have been struggling for this purpose during the last hundred years. Iranian people reached the conclusion of the need for democracy far earlier than many other nations. Unfortunately, the efforts of Iranian people for getting to democracy have been undermined by various internal and external elements. The 1979 Revolution in Iran was one of the latest efforts of this nation to get democracy but again it has been deviated by a minority of religiously narrow-minded persons.

(6) Changing the Iranian calendar to an Iranian form. It is meaningless for Iranians to choose something in the Arab history as the basis of Iranian history. The Iranians had a great civilization before the developments in the Arab regions and something like the date of the first universal declaration of human rights issued by Cyrus the Great must be the basis for the Iranian calendar. This is a necessary goal for the new regime.

(7) Free economy based on the market and governmental supervision. Centralized economy is a bad idea. Iran has suffered a lot due to the economic policies of the religious zealots who have tried to impose the Marxist economy under Islamic disguise. The new regime of Iran must stay away from centralized economy.

(8) No interest in the issues of Arabs and the Palestine. Iranians do not care what the issue of Palestine is. The Arabs for their part have had many negative approaches toward Iran. Apart from the fact that the Arabs called the Iranian Muslims Ajam (aliens) or Majous (Zoroastrians), the Arabs held Iranians responsible for the biggest division in Islam. Sometimes Iranians are called Rafezi (meaning those who are far from the religion of Islam or they have left the religion). Even today, some groups, like the followers of various factions in Iraq constantly call the Shiites of Iran as Rafezi. Many of the Arabs do not consider Iranians as Muslims. Syria, headed by the Hafiz Assad, after being paid in free Iranian oil, was the only Arab country that supported Iran in international forums and some Arab gatherings; but even Syria preferred the Arabic sentiments towards Iran. She never supported Iran on the issue of three Iranian islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Mousa in the Persian Gulf. The General position of Arabs is that Iran, just like Israel, is occupier of Arab lands. The Arab problems should be left to the Arabs. The future Iranian government must think of new points of interest. The relations with Israel should be one of these new points of interest.

(9) Good relations with the West especially the USA. Iran and the USA have many common interests. Iran can get its proper position in the region and the world through cooperation with the USA. Just imagine what will happen in the case of Iranian rights in the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf if the USA is on the Iranian side.

(10) National reconciliation. Many of the people who work with the present regime of Iran are forced to do so for survival. The new regime or the alternative to the Islamic regime must have enough capacity for a national reconciliation in order to avoid bloodshed and use all forces for the development of the country. Also, a merit system must be established. The Islamic Republic of Iran has introduced the system of blind obedience and has imposed it in all levels. Illiteracy and ignorance are top qualities for the managers of the Islamic government in Iran. This must give way to a merit system.


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Reaction to your ideas.

by BaronAvak on

(1) Secularism. - Fine, but we should be careful to prevent a knee-jerk reaction against all things religious or Muslim.  As we saw during the fervor of mob rule after the 1979 Revolution against all things Shah and un-Islamic, it is important to temper the built-up anger and frustration and not use secularism as a device for dividing the nation between those who are religious and those who are not.  In fact, religious parties should be able to participate in elections, as they do in Lebanon, as a part of a pluralistic society.

(2) The revival of the Iranian identity- Agreed, but again, the question is who defines Iranian identity?  Iranian identity is definitely not as Islamic as the Islamic Republic regime feels compelled to make it. However, there is a duality at play, where Iranians throughout history (and even now) do follow the faith of Shi'a Islam, and even assume a leadership role within the Islamic world.  At the same time, Iranians show signs of opposition to Islam in so much as it becomes a vehicle for Arabizing Persian culture. That said - remember - even Hafez the great Iranian poet, despite his famed shots at Arabs, was named so (Hafez) for memorizing (hefz kardan) the Koran, and Reza Shah, despite banning the hejab by force, still named all of his sons after Arab Shi'a Imams.

(3) Respecting human rights as mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. -  Yes, when it comes to domestic civil liberties, such as the right to not wear the hejab or eat and drink or wear whatever you want.  But no when it comes to make the West or outsiders the arbitors of what is and isn't proper "human rights" in Iran, especially given the unique threat faced by Iran, as the nation is surrounded by hostile troops on all sides, and there are terrorist and seperatist groups funded by foreigners active in the country.  

(4) Equality of women in all aspects with men as a principle. - Agreed.

(5) The government must be elected. - Agreed.  However, measures should be put in place to prevent foreign powers which are much richer than Iran from interfering in elections and funding/aiding their own agents in elections.  Without such protections, the democracy itself will be compromised.

(6) Changing the Iranian calendar to an Iranian form. - Agreed.

(7) Free economy based on the market and governmental supervision.- Agreed, but social programs such as universal housing and universal medical coverage should be a goal.  

(8) No interest in the issues of Arabs and the Palestine. - COMPLETELY DISAGREE.  Not because I have a special love for Arabs, but because what happens in Iran's region and to our neighbors, most assuredly affects Iranian national security.  To suggest that Iran must turn a blind eye to any injustice or aggression in its own backyard, which may come and attack the Persians when they're done with the Arabs, is completely against Iranian national interests and will weaken Iran.

(9) Good relations with the West especially the USA. - Agreed, but I will add to that having good relations with the entire word, including Russia and China, and thereby diversifying Iran's friends and allies.  The Shah made the mistake of putting all his eggs in the Anglo-American basket, and he was betrayed.  Iran should have an independent foreign policy, as it has the potential to be a regional superpower in its own right, but without any complexes against having good relations with the US or the West.

(10) National reconciliation. - Agreed.  If there is any change in regime, the new regime should be pluralistic, and anyone not backed by foreign powers/agents should be able to participate, whether it be the Iranian Hezbollah Principalist party, or the Rastakhiz party.   All of these people are Iranians and should be able to participate in Iranian national elections and Iranian governnance in proportion to their support among the people.

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