Democracy and Iran Collection
3 Crucial Articles on Democracy
February 16, 2008
Article 1. Democracy is Not People's Rule, It is People's Judgment
Article 2. Islamic Democracy is not Pluralism
Article 3. Checks and Balances in Iran
Democracy is Not People's Rule, It is People's Judgment
It is true that democracy is avoidance of a form of rule that is not the rule of law, namely avoidance of tyranny. But rule of law without the institutions of judgment by the people is not democracy either. Hitler came to power with the democratic majority vote, but from the moment the most important institution of German people's judgment, namely the Reichstag was closed down, the German democracy was ended. Although his regime was still the rule of law, i.e. the fascist law.
Karl Popper, the contemporary philosopher, in an interview during the last years of his life says that it is dangerous to teach people and particularly children that democracy was the rule of people, i.e. popular rule, which is not true, and he thought once they become aware of the truth, they will feel cheated and let down, and he thought they can get disappointed and this can even lead them to terrorism. Democracy has never been people's rule, nor can or should it be. [See Karl Popper's "Lesson of this Century", Publ. 1997]
People who elect the government are not able to make decisions about complex issues like nuclear polities or long term space projects or the likes. But after a while, people can see the results of the most complex policies, and in a system where the institutions of *judgment* by the people have power, in the next elections, those policies and the individuals responsible for those policies, can be elected again or rejected.
Many dictatorial regimes have called their rule that of workers state, or rule of the deprived, or the people's rule, to hide the reality of the state. As Popper notes, "Hitler came to power legitimately, and that the Enabling Law that made him a dictator was passed by a parliamentary majority", thus the issue of legitimacy of *who* should rule is not the issue, and as I have explained elsewhere, the difference is about *how* to rule.
In fact, people's *judgment* in all three areas of legislature, executive, and judicial, is the meaning of democracy, from the election of representatives of parliament and president, to election of judges, and participation in the juries. Continuous judgment by the people, at various levels, has been the main pillar of all modern democracies, and democratic constitutions should define, and support, the details of freedom of various institutions of judgment by the people.
Even unelected state organs such as the Supreme Court in the U.S. law is not part of judicial branch and is part of the legislative branch and its function has been assumed to be limited to the *interpretation* of the law, and it does not have executive authorities such as confirming the candidates of Congress, or approving the elected representatives. Nonetheless, many visionaries had thought such muscle bestowed to an unelected body could be problematic, and they thought "it was a very great deal for the political sagacity of Americans that this Constitution had only once led to armed conflict." [See Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Page 640]
Now if we take a look at the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), we will see that not only lack of secularism has turned the judgment in the society to apartheid against non-Muslims, but even ordinary Muslim people have no rights of judgment, and in that system, judge and prosecutor are one, and they are the Shi'a clergy, and even among them, a combination of the heads of judiciary and part of Guardian Council (GC) and other members of IRI elite forms Expediency Council (EC), which is Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches of the state put together, and this way the candidates for the parliamentary election are confirmed by GC, when half of its members are members of EC. This is not the first task of GC and will not be its last. If in this case they have a legislative and executive role, with regards to the chained murder case trial, they had a judicial role as well.
Expediency Council (EC) was formed following the 2nd of Khordad movement, to neutralize that development. If 2nd of Khordad was a movement where the people tried to use the little republicanism and parliamentarism that was present in IRI against it, EC in contrast, was an attempt to even the minute republican traits of the regime, by creating a semi-Islamic Supreme Soviet, in parallel to the Islamic Parliament, and the result was further removal of people's judgment from the IRI system. The system uses deceptive slogan of people's rule with a sham that Communist states exploited to deceive the people, when institutions of judgment by the people, such as the political parties, newspapers, and free elections were blocked or severely censored. In practice the conflicts of various organs of IRI, such as the animosity of parliament and Guardian Council, can end up in a civil war.
Slogans of rule of law by Khatami and the IRI reformists, as democracy, are to distract the people and to offer a wrong image of democracy, when the most important criteria of democracy, i.e. the institutions of judgment by the people, are hidden from the eyes. How can a regime be called a democracy and the issue of freedom of political parties to be treated with silence for so many years?
Both Pahlavi monarchy and IRI did not allow the flourishing of the institutions of judgment by the people, and they blocked and banned these institutions. From newspapers and magazines, to political parties, courts, and parliament, all have been under control of the monarchy and clergy. The ballot boxes in both systems were meaningless. In fact, any other political force that is silent in its ideals about the institutions of *judgment* by the people, when talking of democracy, has not really understood the meaning of democracy.
When for the first time, Iranian people in 2nd of Khordad used the levers of IRI against Islamic Republic itself, IRI was so panicked that it was afraid the next step to be the real reformists of Iran such as Forouhars, Mokhtaris, and Pouyandehs to come to the scene, and thus IRI committed the heinous chained murders. Today the problem of regime is not the people's use of the levers of IRI, and even some real reformists like Forouhars to come to the political scene is not IRI's main fear.
The real issue of the regime in Iran today is people's entry into realm of judgment, which is the real meaning of democracy and the actual fear of regime is from this development. It does not seem like that even to shoot the people in the streets will stop them from entering this real realm of democracy and this is how people have been playing with boycotting and participating in IRI elections showing their resolve to be the judges of the state.
People in 1979 came to the streets and gave blood but their demand was not to get increasing role in the judgment of the state. In contrast, today the best judges do not understand the Iranian people, and they want to judge for Iranian people, the same way monarchy and later the clergy had done for centuries, to decide for people and to announce it to them. Those days have long passed.
The organs of judgment by the people, from the scientific associations to student groups , are in contact with similar institutions aboard, and these relations are increasing every day.
From the chained murders to the fatwas of Ayatollah Jannati against the Internet, these attacks on Iranian people, are not able to stop the new roaring waves. Iranian people will judge all three branches of the state, legislative, executive, and judiciary. Whether Fayzieh of Qom and OMIR (Organization of Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution) take Iran to the border of a civil war, or if they get united to draw their sword against the people, every day the Iranian people are taking another step closer to a secular republic, a republic with real institutions of judgment by the people. This time contrary to 1979, we will not be exchanging one dictatorial regime with another whether by revolution or reform.
Hoping for a Futurist, Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
January 19, 2004
* * *
Islamic Democracy is not Pluralism
In October this year, I wrote about the good news that Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the bad news that IRI reformists were trying to use this occasion to portray themselves as the alternative for Iran. Nobel concert in honor of Ms. Ebadi this month was a wonderful event that was broadcasted worldwide, and helped to pass the era when Iranians were viewed as hostage-takers, and nobody knew that all these years, even under fascism of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), there were people inside Iran, who risked their lives, to speak for democracy, and against IRI violations of human rights in Iran and abroad. Nonetheless, the focus of the Noble Peace Prize Concert was to show the so-called "Islamic Democracy" as the alternative for Iran and the rest of Middle East. And this is another huge mistake the West is now making in the Middle East.
Islamic Democracy another Mistaken Strategy for Middle East
Islamic Democracy as a show on TV is a beautiful miracle, and it ends up with all being happy ever after, with no terrorists, no stoning, no killing of heretics, and no amputations. But the reality of Islamic Democracy is a nightmare and not a pleasant dream.
Not only Khatami, but even the likes of Aghajari, co-winner of Karski award this year, have no respect for pluralism, and have condoned or even supported the murder of non-Islamic personalities. Aghajari and his organization OMIR were supporters of Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie, and he still supported Khomeini's legacy when he himself was given a death verdict for blasphemy last year, and kept silence, while Khomeini's death fatwa against Salman Rushdie was supported by his OMIR organization in a press conference at the time.
When an Islamic political party subscribes to the laws of killing heretics, stoning, amputations, etc, isn't such a platform opposite to any real democratic constitution? Then how can this so-called Islamic Democracy of these Islamist forces be prescribed for Iran, and the rest of the Middle East, as if it is democracy and pluralism. I have extensively explained what real *pluralism* means and there is no need to repeat here.
In the Middle East, pluralism should be supported, and not the so-called "Islamic Democracy", which is actually an anti-pluralist ideology, and has been part of Islamism all these years, trying to eradicate non-Islamic ideologies and political views in the Middle East.
Islamic Democracy in Iran was advocated by Rafsanjani, when he was the president of IRI, and after him, Khatami has been using the same program. The real life of Iran and Iranians under the so-called "Islamic Democracy", has been the slaughter of Bakhtiar in Paris, murder of Kurdish leaders in Germany, and finally the butchering of Forouhars in Tehran. None of these cases were ever answered properly by IRI, when the promoters of Islamic Democracy themselves were at the helm in Iran, during and after these atrocities.
Islamic Democracy or Secular Pluralism?
Khatami tries to say that his hands are tied. Is it really the hardliners who are blocking the democracy that supposedly the promoters of Islamic Democracy want to usher in? Is Islamic Democracy the harbinger of pluralism? The answer is *no*. Islamic Democracy *itself* is anti-democratic, because it is anti-pluralist.
Allowing only the shades of Islamic thought to have freedom is *not* pluralism. It is apartheid.
Even in Europe after centuries of the Protestant challenge to Catholicism, it was only after the rise of secularism that finally a true pluralism ushered in.
Without secularism, there will be no democracy in Iran or in the rest of Middle East. Middle Eastern countries are *not* Islamic countries, contrary to the way Islamists like to depict the region to the world. They are countries on the road to secularism and pluralism, and they can use all the support the West can give them in their journey to pluralism.
All shades of human thought, religious or not religious, should be allowed to exist in the Middle East. Why do some in the West allow themselves to push Islamic Democracy on the Middle East, when they do not follow similar approach for Europe or America. Do they want Christian Democracy for Europe and America? Would they prefer Communist Democracy rather than full pluralism in Eastern Europe? Would they award advocates of Communist Democracy, who had been involved in Stalin's purges?
Why is all this Islamic Democracy prescribed for Middle East? And what is the illusion to see it as the remedy for the virus of Islamist terrorism?
Hasn't the West learned from the mistake of creating the Frankenstein monster of Taliban mimicking Iran's Revolution and today it is trying to create the failed path of Islamic Democracy of Iran in Afghanistan and Iraq which is again a step backwards following he IRI paradigm! Concessions to a faction of Islamists, the so-called leaders of Islamic Democracy, and sacrificing secularism in the Middle East, will not resolve the issue of terrorism. It will make it worse.
The secularists are the real pluralists who are working tirelessly in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. What is expected of the West is that the Western democracies to stay truthful to their own pluralist traditions, when dealing with the Middle East. It is so unfortunate that the same people who in Eastern Europe dealt with the so-called Communist Democracy, are advocating Islamic Democracy for Iran.
Western states should condemn Saudi Arabia, which discriminates against followers of other religions and women, and executes all kinds of Islamist cruel punishments, such as beheading which is commonplace in Saudi, in 21st Century. Why should a Jew be scared of his/her life to go to Saudi, and still Saudi Arabia to be a member of the UN and to be considered as a friend of the U.S.?
Islamism means exclusivity of Islam in the Middle East and it should be condemned in all its shades. Islamists have demonized secularists as Communists, Atheists, or infidels in the Middle East, to justify their suppression of free thought, and their oppression of free thinkers in that part of the world, which they consider as their launch pad to export their creed to dominate the world.
The attempts of the likes of IRI and Saudis to attack the secularists as infidel or Communist or anything else must be condemned. It is time to show the world that the Cold War is over, and that Islamists cannot use the slogans of that era, to deceive the Western democracies, to keep their backward regimes in power. The majority of secularists in all these countries are not Communists, nonetheless, why should anybody care what ideology anyone has? Why Islamism, albeit the so-called Islamic Democracy, allows itself to decide what way of thinking is legitimate for people, by strangling the freedom of thought in the Middle East?
Islamism is not any better than Communism, so why should the West support one and not the other? As far as I am concerned, Communism and Atheism are other religions like Islam, and as long as these religions are not forced on the people, in a pluralist state, anybody should be able to *think* as they wish and have freedom of conscience. It is time to reject Islamist regimes, including the so-called Islamic Democracy that have no respect for freedom of thought, and support full pluralism in the Middle East.
The West would be amazed to know how much latent support for secularism and pluralism exists in countries like Iran, where the Islamists try to use intimidation inside, and propaganda outside, to depict the people of Iran as Islamist. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Iranian people have been fighting Islamism long before the West saw this menace on Sept 11th. Even at the time of hostage-taking in Iran, there were many journalists inside Iran, such as myself, who were attacked by the Islamists, because of taking a stand against hostage-taking.
The Islamists' Death to America slogan has been to scare the West from supporting real pluralism in the Middle East, when Islamism has a hard time to keep dominance in the region. The West does not need these so-called proponents of Islamic Democracy in the Middle East. It is the other way, they need the West to save this last vestige of Islamism in the Middle East. WTC massacre proved that even the West cannot be immune, when making deals with the Islamists of different colors, and as long as pluralism is suppressed by Islamism, and as long as Islamism dominates the Middle East, all these deals are like the pacts of Chamberlain with Nazism.
Islamist Ideology and Terrorism
All these years, the Islamists raped the virgin girls before executing them, because they believe their God has asked in Koran not to execute women who are virgins, and the IRI Revolutionary Guard executioners shamelessly would go and pay the dowry of the virigin political prisoners they raped the previous night, to her parents, along with the lifeless body of the victim.
What is the root of this attitude of Islamism? Islamist ideology is a belief that Islam is entitled to exclusivity for the mind of the people of the Middle East, and kills anybody holding any other thought challenging Islamism. This is how Islamism stops pluralism wherever they get the upper hand anywhere in the Middle East, and their goal is to do the same at the global scale.
A simple look at the Islamic texts shows that everywhere the human being is referred to as the *slave* of God. True that one can see this view in all Abrahamic religions, as I have discussed elsewhere, but its literal meaning is lost even by Evangelists who see a herd and shepherd relation in the predominantly Christian countries. Whereas the extreme slave and Master, or created and Creator relation, builds the legitimacy of clerics under Islamism, speaking in the name of God Master, to incontestably order fatwa killings, rape of prisoners, and other atrocities.
Years ago I wrote a paper entitled "Intelligent Tools: The Cornerstone of a New Civilization", which was an in-depth look at slavery and artificial intelligence, In that paper I noted how tool making nearly made humans as we know them, and how slave society was the best example of a society where the humans were clearly used as *tools*. On one hand tool-making made human civilization possible, on the other hand it made the attitude of controlling nature, and even controlling of humans by humans, possible, as I noted in another work entitled "Dancing in the Air".
The fact is that tool-making made it possible for humans to create new things and thus be *creator* of their *created* objects, and humans extended this view to the universe and human society at large.
Thus they developed a view of the world as being the work of a "Creator" and regarded themselves as well as everything else in the universe, as the "created". The Gods were Creators and the humans were just the created objects, sometimes just to entertain the Gods, and the priesthood speaking for those Gods, needed little explanation to justify the demands of those Supreme Masters from their subjects. This view of God is present, in various degrees, in all Abrahamic religions. In contrast, one seldom sees such a view in religions like Zoroastrianism of Iran, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, where they do not look at the universe in such anthropocentric ways, and even some traditions within the Abrahamic religions have discarded such ontological views.
The anthropocentric Creator-vs-created view of the universe has been dominant in all societies the same way the material basis of using humans as tools had remained until intelligent tools could be artificially made. As I have noted elsewhere, the ending of many slave societies was not because of ending the material basis of slavery, and rather it was because the shameful treatment of our kind as a mere tool was no longer acceptable in the societies that discarded it, and it is noteworthy that even in the modern U.S., slavery revived centuries after it had been discarded, because the material basis of slavery had not been eradicated. So until the material basis of slavery which is using the humans as tools is ended, one could not say the slavery was totally over and done with. Also the basis of the view where everything in the universe and society is viewed in a Creator and created or in a slave and master relation.
Let me return to the topic of Islamism in the Middle East.
Islamism is even the most extreme attitude among the Islamic traditions, let alone within the Abrahamic traditions. It basically allows an Ayatollah to issue a fatwa to kill an innocent writer like Salman Rushdie, for no reason but the unhappiness of Islamist God for the man's blasphemy, and the servants (slaves or soldiers) of God from Pakistan to Iran to Saudi Arabia think it is their duty to go and kill, rape, and murder whoever they consider an infidel and the object of the wrath of their Islamist God, which speaks thru their Ayatollahs.
This is the oracle of death which the *created* have to succumb to, when the oracle speaks for their *Creator*. Thus the IRI executioner who rapes the virgin girl, is doing a service for his God, the same way those who beheaded their victims of human sacrifice in the Inca civilization, considered their action as serving their God and people.
Now the question is what can one do with this reality of Islamism in the Middle East? Is this much different from the Christian Medievalism, burning of witches and killing of thinkers like Giordano Bruno at the stakes, for his ideas that were ironically more similar to Islamic anti-Trinity ideas of Jesus?
Is it so different from similar ruthless treatment of heretics by the atheistic systems like Communism or Nazism? Frankly I do not see much of a difference between all these forms of ideological regimes, and Europe in Middle Ages and in the eras of Nazism and Communism hese kinds of atrocities of ideological systems and is better aware that ideological democracy is meaningless, and the best antidote to this virus is the acceptance of *secular pluralism* as the basis in society.
It is unfortunate that the Western world that has had similar experiences of ideological despotic states, but has continuously undermined secular pluralism in the Middle East ,and in one way or other, under tags like the so-called "Islamic Democracy", and they have supported Islam's dominance in the Middle East, and have not supported the pluralist aspirations of the Middle Eastern people. Especially during the Cold War, the Western states viewed Islamism as a way to block Communism and supported states like Saudi Arabia that basically murdered anyone questioning Islam as infidel or communist. Saudis war is with *pluralism* and their goal is dominance of Islam in the Middle East and they received the full support of the West.
The reality is that IRI reformists of Iran are planning a transformation of IRI to their version of an Islamist state, to save Islamic state in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, and they have no intention of helping the formation of full secularism in Iran. They want to turn Iran into another China when Teng Hsiao-Ping preserved the Communist state with the reformist tag.
This is not what Iranian people hope for Iran, another China without Western pluralism and secularism, but with Western trade!
People like Shirin Ebadi try to work within the framework of IRI, to be able to be of service to Iranian people inside Iran, and they are sincere and want to do something within the system as much as possible. But those IRI lobbyists who try to make the self-censored framework that such activists use, as the ideal framework for Iran's future state, are underestimating the aspirations of Iranian people, by equating it with the reactionary desires of IRI refromists, and they are trying to use the occasion to justify their calls for US. support of IRI, as if it is a "democracy"! Islamism inside and outside Iran has actually been more promoted by the misguided non-religious people as I have noted elsewhere in Postmodernism
It was just six months ago that Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian journalist was murdered by IRI, and as usual President Khatami has only issued a complain about IRI letting the murderers free. This is the same as what happened in the case of Forouhars chain murder before that. President Khatami writes his protests as if he is a an activist protesting, whereas he is at the head of IRI executive power. How long more do the IRI reformists think, by the slogan of "Islamic Democracy," they can deceive the Iranian people about their opposition to real pluralism.
Iranian people do not want the U.S. invasion of Iran, but that does not mean Iranian people do not want to be supported in our pro-Democracy struggle for real pluralism which requires a *regime change* of Iran to a *secular republic*.
IRI lobbyists are using the same tactics today that they have used in the last 20 years, always trying to show anybody who wants a regime change in Iran, as MojAhedin or monarchist. They use the occasion of Nobel Prize for Shirin Ebadi, to make the illusion that genuine Iranian activists want reform of IRI and the so-called "Islamic Democracy" and not that Iranian pro-democracy movement wants discarding of all shades of Islamism to establish a real pluralism and secular republic in Iran.
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
Dec 28, 2003
* * *
Checks and Balances in Iran
(Religious Apartheid or so-called Islamic Democracy)
Once I wrote about some issues with regards to the liberal doctrine that the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government should be kept separate, and I noted that some political theorists of our times, such as the Futurist French author Bertrand De Jouvenel, had tried to address these issues.
The new mechanisms of checks and balances in countries like the United States, that have been pioneers of adhering to the doctrine of separation of power, show that this doctrine has a lot of room to evolve, to respond to the needs of 21st Century. In fact direct voting for ballot initiatives, in states such as California in the U.S., is a good example of such new mechanism for checks and balances.
Nonetheless, let me emphatically note that all this discussion was for advancement of this theory of separation of power, and by no means, would I repudiate this great theory. In fact, I think this theory is one of the most important advancements of political theory in history, as the result of political movement in England of 17th Century, and which was later clearly formulated by John Locke, to prevent abuse of power.
Here are the issues that have been raised:
1. The party affiliation of members of different branches of government. For example, in the U.S., a legislature, who is affiliated with the Democratic Party, feels closer to a President who is affiliated with the same party, than with another member of Congress.
2. There are more and more new institutions needed in modern governments, such as Federal Reserve Board, with its authority over interest rates, that are tough to group with a specific branch of government. The same way, the Supreme Court was hard to be classed with legislator in early days of the republic in the U.S., when one can hardly deny its judicial function as well.
3. The interaction of the various branches is still problematic. For example, the appointment of justices in the Supreme Court of the U.S. by the president, although the function of this body is more legislative and judicial.
But the story of Islamic Republic is a whole different story.
Islamic Republic started by placing the close associates of clergy, wearing civil suits, at the top of the *executive branch* of government, because Iran’s executive branch of government hardly had any clergy in it at the time of the revolution, but as time passed, the clergy itself, not only took the President’s office, it more and more was put in various ministries of the executive branch, such as the ministry of Foreign Affairs. And all along, Vali-e Faghih, a clergy at the top of all the branches of government, has had extraordinary executive power of assigning many major executive posts, such as chiefs of police and intelligence and military.
On the other hand, since the inception of Islamic Republic, the legislative branch of power in Iran, has become basically a parliament of clergy and their close associates. Even another parliament, majles-e khobregAn, is a fully-clerical parliament, tasked with election of the Vali-e Faghih. And there is a Guardian Council (GC), and nothing is a law, if this body says it is not. In a way, Supreme Court of the U.S., has the same status, being a branch of legislature. But the difference is that Islamic Republic’s GC is again fully made of the clergy.
There is hardly a unified executive, or a unified legislative branch of government in Iran. But this has hardly stopped the Islamic Republic from being a dictatorship, albeit a chaotic dictatorship.
One branch of government that has always been full of the clergy in its make-up, long before there was an Islamic Republic, has been the judicial function of Iranian government. The clergy and the laws of Islam have had a powerful strength in that function, and from first days of executions ordered by revolutionary courts, in unfair trials with hardly any attorney presence, the new judiciary of Islamic Republic, showed its enhanced injustice to the Iranian people and to the world.
One thing that has now been proven over and over again, in Iran’s experience, is that separation of power, even if it has three independent consolidated or distributed executive, legislative, and judicial functions, does not mean democracy. The issue is not so much about independence of various functions of the government, as it is about the make-up of the government, in all its functional areas. In other words, regardless of how good this theory is applied, by itself, it cannot bring democracy to a state based on religious apartheid.
The advancements of the Lockean theory, and even its best forms today, cannot change a state of religious apartheid to a democracy. But such advancements are great mechanism to use, for running the state in the next government, after the Islamic Religious apartheid has been abolished.
* The above article was first posted on Jebhe BB on Aug 11, 2001
P.S. An interesting point about the Supreme Court by Bertrand Russell:
"The country where Locke's principle of the division of powers has found its fullest application is the United States, where the President and Congress are wholly independent of each other, and the Supreme Court is independent of both. Inadvertently, the Constitution made the Supreme Court a branch of the legislature, since nothing is a law if the Supreme Court says it is not. The fact that its powers are nominally only interpretative in reality increases those powers, since it makes it difficult to criticize what are supposed to be purely legal decisions. It says a very great deal for the political sagacity of Americans that this Constitution has only once led to armed conflict."
Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy" Page 640
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher
Aug 11, 2001
Republished as a collection (3 articles): February 16, 2008