Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Green Movement, Hejab and Ending the Death Penalty 

By Asal Akhavan

In the months following the June 12 coup, Iran has been engulfed in a massive movement and while this real people’s movement has become known as the green movement, it is in fact a kaleidoscope of colors portraying all political and social movements in it, which under normal and stable political conditions would probably have been opposing each other rather than standing side by side.

The goal of this movement, as its leaders and spokespeople inside and outside Iran have said is the establishment of the democratic rights of the people, such as freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of parties, syndicates, and associations, freedom in elections, press freedom, and freedom of association.
It is clear that these democratic rights are the minimum requirements for a civil life for all political and social groups which is why they can constitute the basis of an effective political coalition, which may only be temporary. The most recent movement of the Iranian people, while different from the 1979 revolution, carries with it three decades of bitter experience from that revolution.
In the last three decades, the death penalty has been one of the most common words in the political literature of the country and the Islamic Republic has created a new record in the number of political executions not only in the history of Iran but of the whole Middle East. “Must be Executed” was one of the main slogans of the 1979 revolution, something that in time gradually came to include those who had supported. This is something that the Green Movement is aware of and has experienced. But how does a movement that has been created to build the future disassociate from its bitter past and damage? There is no doubt that this movement must succeed. But as we currently focus on winning, we must also be conscious and sensitive to possible future deviations and harm. The very fact that “must be executed” has been eliminated from the slogans of people is a hopeful sign but we need greater guarantees about the future ahead of us.
For example, the views of many individuals and groups in the movement regarding two important issues are still unclear: the death penalty, and forced Hejab . One cannot use the battle against Ahmadinejad’s administration as an excuse to ignore these two and other important issues that concern fundamental human rights. It appears that the manner by which intellectual and political groups look at these two issues is a good criterion to see their practical commitment to human rights. The groups in the Green movement, ranging from right to left, from new religious and liberal thinkers to national-religious groups and the Marxists must expressly respond to the question of their views regarding banning the death penalty. They must also specify their position regarding forced Hejab. Specifically, does the government have the right to impose and dictate what women must wear? The groups that dominate this movement have a greater duty to clarify their views, and specifically Mr Moussavi and Mr Karoubi, and those who inside and outside Iran act as their spokespeople and have specific views in this regard, must express their views categorically so that we may gain reassurance and become more trustful, in view of past experience and events.


Anonymous said...

As much as I'd like to see the mullah's and their cohorts hanging from every tree and light post in Iran, I think it is time Iranian society considers an end to the death penalty. My consolation is that nothing tortures a mullah more than work; so I hope they'll be put in labor camps in the near future :-)

Now calling for an outright abolition of death penalty is hard to do in one fell swoop in Iran; there's too much support for it, at least amongst older generations. A good compromise may be a call for a temporary moratorium starting as soon as possible and extending, say
5 years into any new post-IRI government (hopefully soon) so that it can be openly debated in a democratic society.

While I have never been against death penalty in some murder cases, to spare the lives of political prisoners and petty criminals I am willing
to step down from my position. I hope others will too.

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