- Posted by Maryam Namazie
- On May 22, 2005
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International TV interview with Hamid Taqvaee
May 22, 2005
Maryam Namazie: There is a debate on the open democracy website entitled ‘Iran between democracy and revolution’. The debate has been started by Mohsen Sazegara who was part of Khomeini’s inner sanctum. He had a key role in creating the notorious Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Pasdaran, as well as in establishing the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this article he has said he is disillusioned with Islamism and the regime and now believes in a pluralist and tolerant democracy! For somebody who’s been part and parcel of a regime that has slaughtered an entire generation in Iran and killed over a hundred thousand people – why this sudden change?
Hamid Taqvaee: It’s not only Mr. Sazegara. There are many, many high ranking bureaucrats and officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran who these days speak of some sort of change, or ‘reform’. The reason is obvious. It is because of a strong mass movement against the whole of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and actually against political Islam which has been ruling Iran for some years. This sort of so to speak ‘reformism’ that we are witnessing in Iran is a direct result of the people’s movement. Mr. Sazegara and the likes of him are attempting to save the system from within and neutralise this mass movement.
Maryam Namazie: In his article, he portrays himself as wanting fundamental change – that is he links all problems to the regime’s constitution and states that a change in the constitution will change everything.
Hamid Taqvaee: There is nothing fundamental about changing the constitution alone. If you look at history, every time a constitution is written or changes fundamentally, it is the direct result of a revolution or radical political change in society. That sort of change comes from the streets, not from parliaments. You cannot change the constitution without addressing the economic, political, and social system. If you want to maintain everything as it is and just change the constitution in minor ways, you are actually looking at things in reverse. For real change, you have to first go for a radical change; you have to have a movement against the whole system. Then only will a change in the constitution change everything else.
Mr. Sazegara and people like him don’t want radical change. They want to keep the system. They want to somehow keep their positions as well. They speak of radical change but they only mean a changing of the constitution. No regime, no government, no authority in any country will agree to approve changes in a constitution without having a very strong radical movement in society against the whole system. We have this movement in Iran already. He is reacting to this movement.
Maryam Namazie: Sazegara has stated that the Iranian presidency has no real power and that power is all in the hands of the supreme spiritual leader, Khamenei. If the constitution is changed to give more power to the presidency, then it will be a democracy where people can vote for a president and that role will then have actual power.
Hamid Taqvaee: By saying this, he proves my point. The problem of the people in Iran is not the president. The president is somebody like others in the government. Even in areas he has power, and has practiced his authority, nothing has improved for the people. It is still the same system with the same laws. Executions are a daily occurrence in Iran; innumerable people are in prison for no reason. We have all sorts of atrocities occurring in Iran. The president knows this. He is the head of the government. Giving him more power will not change anything. This is because the election in Iran is not an election. There are no political freedoms, no rights for anybody to organise or associate freely and so on – things that are essential in a fair election.
The whole system has to change not just the constitution. From top to bottom, the entire government must be overthrown. Then people can actually radically change the laws and everything else. As I said before, Sazegara and people like him see everything in reverse. They start from the laws and from the constitution in order to change the system. In reality, there has to be a real force in society in order to change the system; only then will a change in the constitution have any meaning.
Maryam Namazie: He is calling for a referendum in order to bring about a change in the constitution. He says more than 35 thousand people have signed up to it. You talk about changes in the constitution coming through revolution and the streets. Why not through referendum?
Hamid Taqvaee: What sort of government will allow you to do this? If you are not in power, you cannot convince a government to organise a free referendum in order for people to make changes. That will never happen in any country, let alone in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s just propaganda to prevent people from taking the revolutionary route. That’s the whole point of these calls. By saying that they are changing and reforming the system via a referendum, they hope to prevent people from going for radical changes against the entirety of the system.
These days, there have been a number of so-called velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe or regime changes by the USA. These are international models for changing regimes from above. Those who speak about referendum or changing the constitution actually want to rely to those sorts of international trends to keep the system as it is and make some superficial changes. Again, this is not going to happen. This is because we have in Iran a very strong, popular movement against the government.
Iran is not Iraq, Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia. Iran is very different politically and socially. We have had an Islamic regime in Iran for 25 years that is despised. The people don’t want superficial changes. They want to overthrow the government entirely.
Such manoeuvres by people like Sazegara, and talk of changing the constitution, ‘reforming’ the system or having some sort of improved Islam just means that they want a better Islamic Republic. All of these are merely reactions to the radical movement in Iran.
Maryam Namazie: Sazegara mentions the velvet revolution as well as the Satyagraya movement in India. But, he says that civil resistance and civil disobedience is the key to gaining a referendum. He says non-violent action is needed, not revolution.
Hamid Taqvaee: The very fact that he and people like him oppose a revolution and want to define themselves and their political identity as those against a revolution that they label as violent, is evidence that they are not opponents of the system. You have never heard anyone from the so-called reformist movement speak about the roots of the problems of people, or against the daily executions in Iran, or gender apartheid. We have not heard a word on these from them but we have heard a lot against the revolution, against the people’s independent movement for the overthrow of the regime. They call this violence. Their position verifies the points I am making.
Maryam Namazie: There are a lot of people who say that revolutions are violent.
Hamid Taqvaee: Revolution is violent because it is opposed by violence. The regime you want to revolt against shoots at you, uses all its police, army and guards against you. If somebody goes to the streets calling for free elections, they are shot at. Who is violent? Revolution is violent because the authorities attack it; because they oppose it. They resist the wants and desires of the majority of society. That is the reason you have revolution in the first place.
Maryam Namazie: Sazegara is quite clear that he is motivated by Islam.
Hamid Taqvaee: Even when he is talking about changing the constitution, he still wants to maintain Islam and some sort of Islamic society.
Maryam Namazie: He actually says he wants minimal Islam as opposed to the maximum theory of the Islamic Republic.
Hamid Taqvaee: Minimum or maximum, it does not matter. We don’t need Islam – not in the government, not in the schools, not in the culture, not in any aspect of society. Islam has to be relegated to the personal beliefs of individuals. Islam should not have anything to do with the social, political, and economic life of people in Iran. People like Sazegara and his friends in the government don’t think so. They want to somehow save Islam.
Maryam Namazie: Then how can he say he is a secularist. Isn’t there is a contradiction?
Hamid Taqvaee: We have different types of secularisms these days, unfortunately. We believe secularism means that religion has nothing to do with society or any social aspect of people’s lives. No-one cares whether one believes in god or not. We believe Iran is not an Islamic society. We don’t refer to societies as Christian, Islamic or Jewish. Mr. Sazegara on the other hand calls himself secular but would claim that Iran is an Islamic society.
How have the founders of the Islamic Republic now come to call themselves secularist? It is because people are going further than even secularism. They don’t want Islam in their social lives, their cultural lives, in the laws, in schools, in the government; they don’t want Islam anywhere. We don’t refer to people as Muslim, Christian, or Jew. We want to refer to people as citizens. That’s what people in Iran want as well.
The above is an edited interview, transcribed by Özgür Yalcin, which was broadcast on TV International English on May 22, 2005. The interview can be seen on www.anternasional.tv.