Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif’s latest interview with Charlie Rose will be remembered mostly for Zarif’s ludicrous statement that “Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinion“, a blatant lie which denies the existence of all the activists and political prisoners who have suffered or are still suffering in Iranian prisons.
But within this same interview is another blatant lie which is far more encompassing: At one point, Zarif alluded to the fact that the hatred for the US (“the Great Satan”) is based on the general feelings of the Iranian people and not on the feelings of the leaders of the regime in Tehran (specifically Khamenei). He also alluded to the fact that the increase in centrifuges from 2,000 to 20,000 wasn’t fuelled by Khamenei/Ahmadinejad but by the feeling of oppression by the Iranian people from the sanctions. And finally, that Khamenei has “always” supported the choices of the Iranian people. Zarif summed this thought up by stating that “the government of Iran follows the people, not the other way around”.
Once again, the slick Zarif has managed to lie, with a straight face, while trying to make us believe that the regime in Tehran is actually following the path of Lincoln’s famous “government of the people, by the people and for the people” at Gettysburg.
But the spirit of Lincoln is as far from Tehran as is the prophet Muhammad’s spirit from the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
So, what does this make Khamenei?
Zarif seems to conveniently forget that Iran is led by a religious theocracy that overrules its democratically elected government. Khamenei is called the Supreme Leader because he has the supreme powers, for life, to steer his regime in whichever direction he seems fit. The “will of the Iranian people” may have some influence, but denying Khamenei his own hate and distrust towards the US is preposterous.
- Were this true, Khamenei would listen to the millions of women in Iran who find the Hijab laws oppressive and allow women the freedom to choose between wearing a hijab or not.
- Were this true, Khamenei would put a stop to the imprisonment, torture and executions of political, human rights and religious activists whose only crime was to voice opinions which criticized the regime.
- Were this true, Khamenei would allow the Iranian people, through its politicians, journalists and artists to enjoy the freedom of speech without fear of being thrown in jail or worse.
- Were this true, Khamenei would not place the rule of Islam above the beliefs, wishes and aspirations of the Iranian people, allowing the Iranian people the choice to live by the laws of Islam or not.
- Were this true, Khamenei would reduce the power of the mullahs in the “assembly of experts” who will be choosing the next Supreme Leader after his death, and increase the power of Iran’s democratically elected parliament.
No, the regime doesn’t follow the people but instead the Iranian people are forced to follow one man and one man only: Supreme Leader Khamenei.
So, what is the will of the Iranian people?
Apart from the democratic processes that are evident in Iran through general elections (candidates for government and parliament are pre-screened and selected), the will of the people can paradoxically be identified by what the regime is trying to oppress or suppress.
- The Iranian people want more freedom of speech and the regime reacts by closing down newspapers critical of the regime, by imprisoning journalists and bloggers and by blocking information available on the internet.
- The Iranian youth want more freedom to decide the level of religion they want their children to grow up into and the regime reacts by placing 2,000 child-care centers under the control of the Basij organizations which sees itself as the defender of Islam.
- The Iranian people want to live their lives in peace and prosperity while the regime in Tehran continues to lead them into ever-growing sanctions and wars, effectively leading them into lives of poverty and suffering.
- The Iranian people (specially Iranian women) want to be able to choose without fear whether to accept the hijab laws or not while the regime continues to push for harsher enforcement by “vice groups” manned by Hezbollah and Basij militia.
The will of the Iranian people can be found in the leaders that they chose and judging from Rouhani’s promises on the election trail, they are far from the will of the regime/Khamenei: he promised a rapprochement to the West (Khamenei’s hate for the US is well documented), he promised easing problems of human rights (Khamenei is striving to keep the status quo) and he promised eradicating corruption (Khamenei’s ties to the IRGC make him the head of corruption).
“Of the people, by the people and for the people”, Mr. Zarif? No – “Of the mullahs, by Khamenei and for his supporters” is much more reflective of the situation in Iran.