This morning Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded an end to the massive and forceful demonstrations protesting the controversial result of last week's election. He argued that to make concessions to popular demands and 'illegal' pressure would amount to a form of 'dictatorship', and he warned the protestors that they, rather than the police, would be held responsible for any further violence.
Khamenei's argument sounds familiar to anyone interested in the politics of collective action, since it appears to draw on the logic used by state authorities to oppose most of the great popular mobilisations of modern times, from 1789 in France to 1979 in Iran itself. These mobilisations took shape through a struggle to assert the principle that sovereignty rests with the people themselves, rather than with the state or its representatives. 'No government can justly claim authority', as South Africa's ANC militants put it in their Freedom Charter of 1955, 'unless it is based on the will of all the people.'
Needless to say it is up to the people of Iran to determine their own political course. Foreign observers inspired by the courage of those demonstrating in Iran this past week are nevertheless entitled to point out that a government which claims to represent the will of its people can only do so if it respects the most basic preconditions for the determination of such a will: the freedom of the people to assemble, unhindered, as an inclusive collective force; the capacity of the people, without restrictions on debate or access to information, to deliberate, decide and implement a shared course of action.
Years of foreign-sponsored 'democracy promotion' in various parts of the world have helped to spread a well-founded scepticism about civic movements which claim some sort of direct democratic legitimacy. But the principle itself remains as clear as ever: only the people themselves can determine the value of such claims. We the undersigned call on the government of Iran to take no action that might discourage such determination.
Middlesex University, UK.
Goldsmiths College, UK.
This letter is also signed by:
Alenka Zupancic, Institute of Philosophy of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Alexander Garcia Duttmann, Goldsmiths College
Eyal Weizman, Director, Centre for Research Architecture, Dept. of Visual Cultures
Goldsmiths, University of London
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (retired), MIT, Cambridge MA USA
Philip Pettit, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University
Rada Ivekovic, Prof., Collège international de philosophie, Paris.
Also signed by the following academics:
Adam Bieniek, PhD, Jagiellonian University, Chair of Arab Studies, Institute of Oriental Philology , Cracow, Poland
Agnieszka Zuk, University of Nancy
Aleksander Glogowski, PhD, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland
Ali Banuazizi, Professor of Political Science and Director, Program in Islamic Civilization and Societies, Boston College
Ali Rezaei, Dept. of Sociology, University of Calgary, Canada
Nader Hashemi,Assistant Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics
Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University
Asia Bochenska, Department of Kurdish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland
Beata Kowalska, Jagiellonian University, Poland
Dan Sperber, Institut Jean Nicod, CRNS, Paris
Eric B. Ross, Visiting Professor of Anthropology and International Development Studies, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Farideh Farhi, Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Farifteh Tavakoli-Borazjani, Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Iranistik
Farzin Vahdat, Vassar College, New York
Hossein Ziai, Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, Director of Iranian Studies, UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Los Angeles, CA
Isabelle Dolezalek, Freie Universität Berlin
Jadwiga Pstrusińska, Head of Department of Interdisciplinary Eurasiatic Research, Institute of Oriental Philology, Jagiellonian University, Cracow
Jean-Paul Martinon, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths College, UK
Jolan Bogdan, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths College, UK
Juan R. I. Cole, Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan
Kazem Alamdari, California State University, Los Angeles
Nayereh Tohidi, Professor, California State University, Northridge
Linda Herrera, Institute of Social Studies (The Hague)
Asef Bayat, University of Leiden
Lynn Schibeci, Dept of History, the University of New Mexico (retired), Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mark Gasiorowski, Political Science and International Studies, Louisiana State University
Martin Steinseifer, Universität Giessen
Martin van Bruinessen, Chair of Comparative Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Utrecht University
Martina Tissberger, Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Educational Sciences and Psychology
Michael McIntyre, International Studies, DePaul University, Chicago
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto
Norma Claire Moruzzi, University of Illinois at Chicago, Political Science, History, Gender and Women's Studies
Scott Hibbard, DePaul University, Chicago
Seyla Benhabib, Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University, New Haven
Jesse Lemisch, Professor Emeritus, History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, USA
Stephen Engelmann, University of Illinois at Chicago
Talal Asad, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Van Bluemel, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, MA
Vera Beyer, Kunsthistorisches Institut der Freien Universität Berlin
Dr Riaz Ahmed,Department of Applied Chemistry,University of Karachi, Karachi