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Mostafa Naderi

Iranians opt out of 'electing' their next prison warden

Supporters of Maryam Rajavi, calling for total regime change, Paris [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 May, 2017

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Comment: Iran's sham elections make sure that only candidates supporting the current system will make it onto the ballot paper. Total regime change is the only option, writes Mostafa Naderi.

As a human rights activist who spent 11 years in the prisons of the Iranian regime - five-and-a-half of which were in solitary confinement - and as one of the few survivors of Iran's 1988 massacre of political prisoners, I view the masquerade elections being held in Iran in a different light.

The 1988 massacre is one of the darkest chapters of Iran's modern history and has been brought up frequently in the recent so-called presidential election campaign. As ironic as it may seem, the hanging judge that played a prominent role in those massacres is running for the top job in the regime's executive branch.

In the almost three decades since July 1988, the regime that violently stole our revolution against the monarchy in 1979 and robbed Iran of a democratic future, has enforced a strictly backward rule, belonging to the middle ages under the guise of religion, while demagogically organising so-called elections.

But elections are a curious show in Iran. The country has immunised itself from political democracy by establishing an undemocratic state authority called the Guardian Council of the Islamic Revolution that looms large over elections.

The octogenarian turbaned mullahs and their allies in this Council, twelve in all, keep a strict watch on all would-be candidates, and routinely disqualify anyone who does not meet their criteria for loyalty to the regime's supreme leader or its principles of a fanatical and recalcitrant religious rule.

The country has immunised itself from political democracy by establishing an undemocratic state authority called the Guardian Council of the Islamic Revolution

So if the criteria is loyalty to the status quo, then what is the importance of elections? Where does the principle of popular sovereignty and government for the people, by the people, and of the people come into play? Do the people truly elect a platform and leader for their future? Or are elections in Iran a ploy for legitimacy where none exists?

For the ruling mullahs, there is no room for such "corrupt" ideas of "democracy" in today's political system. The mullahs sell their dictatorship as "Islamic democracy," their brutal reign as "God's gift to man," their corruption as "divine will," and their backward and inhumane laws as "Islamic human rights".

It is no surprise then to watch the key figure in the 1988 massacre, a black turbaned mullah named Ebrahim Raisi, dubbed "Ayatollah Massacre," compete against the present prison warden of Iran, a white turbaned mullah, Hassan Rouhani, dubbed "King of Executions" and a demagogue.

The competition between the "Executioner" and the "Charlatan" is a rather boring and feckless spectacle of demagoguery. They squabble over who has done the most damage to Iran, who has plundered the people's wealth more, who is more responsible for social constraints, the high unemployment rate, especially among the young, Iran's isolation abroad, and a host of other ills.

The octogenarian turbaned mullahs and their allies in this Council keep a strict watch on all would-be candidates

In fact, the accentuated infighting demonstrates why the whole regime is rotten to the core, and must go.

One message of emerging from the Iranian people in the face of this corrupt and brutal regime, is boycott of the so-called elections, and to stake an independent position. This is precisely the picture being projected from numerous Iranian cities and districts, where walls are plastered every night with posters proclaiming "My vote is regime change".

The alternative for Iran is quite clear, and is embodied in the principles articulated in the platform of the Iranian opposition coalition - the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Thousands of Iranian freedom-lovers have fought on its behalf, and many have also made the ultimate sacrifice over the last 38 years.

The rise of social media networks such as Telegram, and the expansion of internet access and satellite television in Iran, has meant that despite the regime's efforts to filter or block voices of the opposition, Iranians are learning they can stand against the regime and create democratic change.

The campaign launched by the principal opposition group - People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) has precisely this aim. Thousands of activists are organising groups inside Iran to spread the message of the coming change.

The regime's response has been to create documentaries about the PMOI to twist the narrative about this force for change and its charismatic leader, Maryam Rajavi, a woman who has become the nemesis of the mullahs' regime.

Iranians are learning they can stand against the regime and create democratic change

Rather than the creating the intended distrust and fear, one documentary broadcast on state television recently piqued curiosity around the subject among the inquisitive minds of Iran's youth, who have been walled-off from any and all opposition voices.

Iranians have been inspired by Rajavi's courage in opposing Khomeini's reactionary project from the start. Realising now the significance of the PMOI forces' "No" vote against the Khomeinist constitution in 1979, which institutionalised the anti-democratic rule of the mullahs, they now seek to learn more about the principles and views of this movement.

They are curious to learn more about the thousands of young Iranian men and women who joined the fight against this brutal regime. They question why 30,000 supporters of the Iranian opposition were mercilessly killed. They question what this may imply for their future.

There can only be one answer to all these thoughts and questions: "My vote is regime change, and the establishment of democracy in Iran." The open expression of this message is gaining traction in Iran and the days ahead in these sham elections will prove critical in Iranian history, as Iranians boycott and vote "No" to the whole regime.

Iranians do not want to choose between an executioner and a charlatan as the new prison warden of Iran, but rather to begin a new chapter in the quest for democratic rule which they have been fighting for over a century.


Mostafa Naderi is a former Iranian political prisoner who spent 11 years in the prisons of the Iranian regime. He is one of the few survivors of Iran's 1988 massacre of political prisoners.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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