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Constitutionalism (Mashrootiat) a Wrong Model for Future
Constitutionalism (Mashrootiat) a Wrong Model for Future
Sam Ghandchi

The model of mashrootiat (Iran's Constitutional Revolution) for viewing the future transformation in Iran had been the reason that the political and intellectual movement of Iran in the recent years has dismissed the most important social movements of ethnic and religious minorities and women or has reduced their demands to those of people asking for end to discrimination in societies where their government is a modern state and have still had discrimination, such as U.S. and South Africa, and thus not only has not understood the importance of these social movements for the fundamental change in the state structure but has even looked at these movements with mistrust and has blamed them of connections with this and that foreign power and this way has had the same voice as the Islamic Republic. The recent movement in Iran's Azerbaijan is the latest of such uprisings. Why is mashrootiat a wrong model for looking at the future development in Iran?

Iran's mashrootiat movement has had great achievements but the goals of the movement of the last 20 years in Iran are fundamentally different from those of the constitutional movement. mashrootiat was the struggle in continuation of the demand for edalatkhaneh (house of justice) at the time of Nasser-oldin Shah Qajar which was a movment to *democratize* the existing institutions in Iran and especially the institutions of power. If this struggle at the time of Nasser-oldin Shah, were basically done by reformists like Amir Kabir, during the mashrootiat era the same goals were pursued by revolutionary means. The goals of the movement both at the time of Amir Kabir and at the time of mashrootiat were *progressive*, although in the first instance were followed by reformist methods and in the latter case by revolutionary means. Nonetheless in both cases basically the goals of the movement were limited to the democratization of the existing form of governance in Iran.

The reality that the goals of mashrootiat were democratization of the existing form of governance in Iran was not only in accepting the monarchy and yet to adjust it by basing it in a constitution but it was also in accepting the presence of the clergy in power albeit in a new form of the veto of five mojteheds (Shi'a leaders) as stated in the 1906 Constitution where Shi'a Islam is also called the official religion of Iran. Even the new majles shorayeh melli (parliament) which was a new institution for governance in Iran did not break the confines of the edalatkhaneh (house of justice) of Nasser-oldin Shah and had only democratized it more and in the scope of the whole society in order to counter centuries of authoritarianism of the central government in Iran, the state and local councils were proposed with the goal of democratizing the state while upholding the existing centralized state. Or for example, accepting Shi'a as the official religion of the country simply meant that a man could have four wives but a women could not have four husbands and therefore democratizing the rights of women in this model clearly was not within a modern structure but the democratization was within the old structure and its meaning was not creating a modern secular structure.

For this reason, people at that time who wanted a transformation beyond the existing way of governance in Iran, and for example wanted a republic, called themselves radical or revolutionary. Although being a reformist or revolutionary, as I have explained related to the method of change and in reality the reformist Amir Kabir and the revolutionary Sattar Khan both pursued the same progressive goals and that was democratizing the existing way of governance in Iran. Of course, to go beyond the existing form of state and to try to fundamentally changing it, meaning futurism for Iran beyond the existing way of governance, whether among the reformists or among the revolutionaries, it did exists in the thoughts of some of the thinkers of that era, although it did not find much significance in the realm of politics. In fact, the central political issue was between the progress and retrogression within the existing way of governance in Iran, and the political lineups were that way, meaning democratization of institutions of power and the existing political system by constitutionalists in face of those who wanted to keep the despotism of the political system, and finally this lineup was chiseled in the political thought of Iran with the bombardment of parliament by Mohammad Ali Shah.

Islamist political forces in the 1979 Revolution as I have thoroughly discussed before had the goal of Islamizing the Iranian society, and this acted opposite to the progressive goals of Constitutional Revolution and the reformists before them such as Amir Kabir, and thus they caused a retrogression of Iranian society. Nonetheless, these Islamists also did not change the existing form of governance in Iran, although contrary to the Constitutionalists they were not after progress for the state, but were pulling it back to the past, and the constitution of Islamic Republic whether in the realm of executive branch, or judicial, or legislative is against modernism.

During the past twenty some years after the rising of Islamic Republic to power, the majority of Iran's intellectual and political movement who have rightfully seen how progressiveness has been sacrificed in the 1979 Revolution, and to oppose this historical reversal, have returned to the ideals of the constitutional movement. But today those idelas not only are not enough but have cause them to think of the most important social uprisings that are forming in present Iran, and are direct result of the growth of globalization, as if these are the conspiracies of the foreign powers.

In fact, during the recent years the view that is pursuing the democratization of the existing form of governance in Iran has not been limited to the religious reformists and has encompassed all shades of the political spectrum from monarchists to Jebhe Melli nationalists to leftists and former leftists. For example for years all these forces opposed the plan for full secularism in Iran. I do not mean just the religious reformists who wanted to democratize the Islamic Republic, but I mean the rest of these forces who said apartheid and religious discrimination should be removed, and opposed secularism and wanted to replace it with struggle against apartheid as if in Iran we are facing a modern state with modern structure and law and as if the only issue is the continuation of discrimination in that society which should be corrected and not that the who system of government in Iran is Medieval. For example, the fact that Islam allows a man to have four wives but for woman allows one husband, is not like the stoning issue something depending on interpretation, and eliminating gender discrimination means opposing fully with Islam in the state, whether in the mashrootiat legal framework or in the Islamic Republic legal forms, and means to accept full secularism. Finally after years of struggle in this arena, the majority of Iranian political forces today support full secularism.

A problem that has clearly shown itself for years is the centralized system of government in Iran. Again democratizing such as the plans of provincial and local councils have been proposed by various political forces, from religious reformists to monarchists to Jebhe Melli to leftists and former leftists. Again the basic system of central government where the final decision of who the judge or governor of a city to be is in the hands of the central government, remain intact.

Again talking of state governments is looked at as heresy and anyone saying that is labeled as separatist and agent of foreign powers to intimidate and to shut up.

Have the foreign powers supported the separatists in Iran? In different time periods some foreign powers supported the central state in Iran and at other times and some other powers supported decentralization. But this reality does not make a decision by a national force to be right or wrong. For example, before the success of the October Revolution in Russia, United Kingdom basically did not want a powerful cental state in Iran. But after the success of the October Revolution till the time of World War II, United Kingdom supported a strong state in Iran to block the Soviet Union, and exactly at the time of WWII when UK and Soviet Union were allies against Germany, UK no longer wanted a strong central government in Iran, but with the end of the War, again UK supported a strong central state against the Soviets which showed its peak at the CIA coup of 1953, and even with the success of Islamic Revolution in Iran, UK did not change this policy till the fall of the Soviet Union, and since then a strong central state in Iran has not been the goal of UK in the region. But whether at the time when the UK a strong powerful state in Iran or at the time when it did not, the political forces that supported a centralized state during the times of first UK policy and those who supported decentralized state at the times of second UK policy would not become lackeys of UK because of their support, the same way that the support of UK for Constitutional Revolutionaries did not make them agents of the British.

The same way the policies of Russia, Germany, U.S. and other powers during various times with regards to Iran has been different. If the people of part of Iran, for example Khorasan, Gilan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, or Baloochestan in different periods have raised the flag of state government and have gained the support of various countries should not mislead us to call such movements as agents of foreign powers. On the contrary, we should see if the demands and programs of those movements for progress of Iran *beyond existing system of governance* has been right or not. If these movements have fallen on the lap of foreign powers the responsibility is not with the spies of foreign powers but those political forces are responsible that are not able to see beyond the existing system of governance in Iran. In fact, not only the likes of Ghavamol Saltaneh conspired against the rightful inspirations for state governments in Iran who made the most of dealing wheeling with the foreign powers to suppress these movements, but also that group of Iran's nationalist forces who because of lack of understanding those who were thinking beyond the existing system of governance and wanted fundamental change to that system, damaged those movements, and are responsible for pushing them towards the foreign powers. Let's remember that the support of France for the American Revolution did not mean make the American Revolutionaries agents of France, of course except in the eyes of the British government!

In today's world it is very importance to understand this issue, a lot more than what we have witnessed at the time of 21-Azar. In the world of globalization of today, there is the possibility for various minorities to create transnational alliances for themselves. From the women's movement which has gotten help from international organizations and does not care of being considered heretic for supporting feminism, to the religious minorities like Baha'is, Jews, Christians, and Sunni's of Iran, they all have benefited from the support of their co-religionists internationally. The Iranian ethnic groups will do likewise and this will not make anybody agents of foreign powers. Those who are still stuck in the model of mashrootiat of hundred years ago and the most they see is discrimination, as if we are having a modern way of governance in Iran which only has discrimination, have not understood the fundamental issue of the Medieval system of state in Iran, and as I wrote n all shades of spectrum of Iranian opposition this outlook is not views the rightful movements of Iranian various ethnic groups for fundamental change in Iran's existing system of governance as instigations of foreign powers. This approach is not limited to religious reformists and this is an outlook that has to be challenged within all shades of Iranian political spectrum, otherwise this viewpoint will end in continuation of the Medieval system of governance in Iran and not to end it, a system of state which is the root of all discriminations. In other words, we do not have a modern system like the U.S. or South Africa that we would need just to fix its discriminatory tendencies, and the whole system of governance has to be overhauled.

Proposal for a federal government for the system of governance in is to go beyond the past system of governance in Iran and is the most important demand for progress of Iran, just like the demand for full secularism, and these two are the necessary foundation for modern state in Iran and those who call such plans as the programs of foreign powers and the influence of the agents of outside powers are themselves the barrier to the progress of Iran and by keeping Iran in the boundaries of the past system of governance, they are disarming Iran in front of the foreign powers and are showing the best allies of progress and change in Iran as enemies of freedom of Iran.

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

Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
IRANSCOPE
Original Version
May 28, 2006
Republished: January 6, 2007

 
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