Iran’s leaders resist growing demands for constitutional referendum | Iran
Iran’s leadership is resisting growing calls from clerics and some reformist politicians for a new referendum on Iran’s constitution, as hardline parliamentarians insist the only answer to the country’s recent unrest is to execute violent protesters.
A power struggle between the country’s rulers appears to be causing the government to send mixed messages about its response to the protests, but in practice security forces have resorted to a brutal crackdown and arrested nearly 10,000 people. including 60 journalists.
But some senior members of Iran’s multi-faceted administration have taken to university campuses in recent days to try to engage in dialogue with protesting students or blame the country’s problems on the previous administration led by President Hassan Rouhani. The ministers demand the release of hundreds of students and teachers who are still detained.
The students were outraged when 220 hard-line Iranian lawmakers on Sunday called on the judiciary to deal decisively with the rioters, a formulation that has been taken to mean the death penalty. Facing a backlash, the parliament speaker said on Tuesday that the call had been misinterpreted by Western media and split between demonstrations and riots, adding that it was impossible to appease those who killed others.
The spokesman of Iran’s judicial system, Masoud Setayeshi, said at a press conference in Tehran that cases were filed against 1,024 protesters in Tehran.
In a largely leaderless revolution, clerics and some students are demanding that the regime try to resolve the crisis by holding an immediate referendum in front of international observers. The original Iranian revolution in 1979 was approved by a simple referendum in which all Iranians over the age of 16 were asked: “Should Iran be an Islamic Republic?”
The call for a new referendum was first voiced by Iran’s leading Sunni cleric Molavi Abdulhamid, who lives in the southeastern city of Zahedan. “Hold a referendum and see what changes people want and accept any wish of the people. The current policy has reached a dead end,” he said.
“This constitution itself was approved 43 years ago, and those who drafted it are all gone, and a generation has come. This law should also be changed and updated. Many points of this law are not up to date.
“It has been said many times that this law should be put to a referendum, but unfortunately nothing has been done, and even the same law from 43 years ago has not been properly implemented.
His call to restore the government’s legitimacy was supported by the Islamic People’s Union party headed by Azar Mansouri. “Lack of political legitimacy is the most obvious threat to the country’s national security,” he said. “Do you want to make legal changes?” Do not erase the problem, find out the reason for the people’s protest and ask yourself, is there any other way besides free elections and an independent civil society?
Hossein Noorani Nejad, a member of the reformist Mosshareqat party, writing in the Etemaad newspaper, said support for the referendum was growing by the day, adding that it could be the last chance to find a reform solution.
Parliamentary Affairs Vice President Mohammad Hosseini, however, said during a question-and-answer session with students that referendums are meant for individual issues and cannot be held to judge the principles of Iran’s governing system. He said that the protests have been going on for 50 days and there should be a red line.
Confronting the students’ exit and thinning, he continued. “Some are trying to create a fratricidal war in the country and turn us into Syria. Do you think Saudi Arabia, which is killing its young opponents, wants to teach Iran a moral lesson with the media it has organized against us?
A large group of students at Tehran’s Sharif University protested against threats, arrests and harassment of students on Tuesday. In a statement, the students say: “This is Sharif University. This is not a prison. This is Sharif University, not the Qasr prison of the country’s intelligence and security organization.”
The students demanded that the authorities end their repression and respect the autonomy of academic life. “Free our classmates, stop such ridiculous plans as banning students from entering the university, remove your uniformed forces from the university, provide a suitable space for academics to express their views,” the statement said.
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