Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Where the Referendum Appeal Lost its Way

I was one of the first signatories of the Referendum Appeal on the 60000000.com. The originators of the appeal, in my view, were serious Iranian opposition figures who could be trusted by the people of Iran. They had all passed their test of courage and resolution by having suffered in Islamic Republic prisons. An important factor in the Iranian psychology, in my view.
These originators were not the comical figures of the LA based self appointed TV presenters come opposition politicians, and it was no surprise to me that the LA based TV stations were so vehemently opposed to the appeal. To me that was a plus point for the referendum appeal.

I considered the appeal as a vehicle which could have snowballed and acted as a leaver to unite a sizeable bulk of the Iranian opposition to put the clerics under pressure to give concessions.
Internationally the Appeal also had the potential of becoming a credible body with a sizeable support amongst the Iranian population with whom the heads of state and the international media could talk to.

I still think the appeal has those potentials, but sadly many things have gone badly wrong.

The first thing that went wrong was the 60000000.com site itself. There were no provisions for what should have been expected, i.e. the site being filtered in Iran. Those behind the technical aspects of the site had not even catered for how to enter signatures sent in groups. I remember how one of the site administrators at the time told me she had spent all day entering 700 signatures sent in bulk in one email with many more like that which she had no time to enter.

There were no provisions to check the accuracy of the signatures. All of a sudden names like Mickey Mouse and Ali Khamenei appeared too often in the list of signatories, which reduced the credibility of the list. For some strange reason, the site adminstrators also divided the list into "Famous Personalities" and the pleb. You can imagine the arguments which erupted amongst the narcissist old guard as to who should be considered famous and who not. :))

The site also lost the plot when like so many other Iranian websites, it became a news copy and paste website. Worse still for a while, a group used the site to score points against a political prisoner, with whom they had personal problems with. Totally irrelevant to the original purpose of the appeal. I am glad to say that after a lot of time and effort, I personally managed to convince the site adminstrators not to get the site involved in scoring points against an Iranian political prisoner and remove the harmful articles.

The points above are just a fraction of how the site turned into a tool of self destruction for the appeal. The sad thing is those who started the appeal did not even think of any other mechanisms for registering signatures, the 60000000.com website was the only gateway they had ever considered!

Forget about inside Iran, where I am not in a position to say what should be done, but I know of only one opposition personality outside Iran who left the comfort of his internet connection to go and explain the referendum appeal to a group of Iranian refugees. Thousands of other Iranian refugees stuck in camps and hostels around Europe alone were not consideed worthy of being solicited for their support. The refugees are Iranians who have risked their lives and limbs, their honour and their possessions to escape Iran, yet none of these exiled opposition cyber activists saw it fit to solicit their support for the appeal!

The referendum appeal became a cyber activity amongst the self-styled "elite" of the Iranian exiled opposition. What I always refer to as the "closed circuit TV" opposition, once again took over, supported by their network of cliques in the Iranian media, like the Voice of America(Persian Service), the numerous websites, the weekly journals etc.

As I have said time and time again, all this "closed circuit television" is capable of doing is writing articles alone. Articles which only they themselves read, and take seriously and once again the great mass of ordinary Iranians are left unaccounted for.

The "closed circuit exiled Iranian opposition" is just not able to break out of its own circle. It is unable to make contact with the Iranian public even outside Iran. Not just because it lacks the charisma, but because it lacks the will as well. Somehow the "closed circuit exiled Iranian opposition" does not consider ordinary Iranians worthwhile and is also incapable of recognising that without the support of ordinary Iranians it can never organise any mass action and if it can never do that, it will never have any credibility nor power.

Of all these "Referendum Committees" which sprouted all over European cities, none of them can I recall who actually organised any action which gained much publicity in the international public opinion or within the Iranian community.

In December, the "closed circuit opposition" held a conference in Brussels. To them it was a great achievement. I however, have seen many of such events. I can summarise them in one sentence:
"They came, they sat, they talked, they made a declaration and they left". This one seems to be no different.

Apart from Eli Lake of the New York Sun, the international media gave the event no coverage at all. What seemed to the organisers as a great achievement, in the eyes of the international community was a zero event.

I have approached many of these self-styled opposition "elites" and aksed them to join our pickets and actions. The usual answer is "I approve of what you do and am willing to act as an advisor but it is beneath me to stand with the rest of you in the streets handing out leaflets!".

By refusing to embrace the ordinary Iranian public inside and outside Iran, the Iranian opposition will never be able to break out of its own closed circle. It will remain what it has been since the end of the 1980s, a bunch of cyber activists and article writers unknown to the vast majority of Iranians, unable to mobilise any significant organised movement.


Winston said...

i linked to your blog on my own!

I believe our views are close!

Anonymous said...

"They had all passed their test of courage and resolution by having suffered in Islamic Republic prisons."

Or, they could all just be common criminals.

Anonymous said...

free iran

Azarmehr said...

common criminals?

Don't just make an accusation and stop. You know who the originators of the appeal are, let us know what their crime was?

To idiots like you who support the IRI, speaking for freedom and against injustice is the same as being a common criminal.

Anonymous said...

I bet this is all because we ignored you! Well you are not what you think you are..

Azarmehr said...

Well, whatever I am is not important. You on the other hand are anonymous and what matters is that the Iranian people inside and outside Iran have ignored you. When you can tell me one incident in which you have managed to mobilise any people into any action, I will eat my words.

Anonymous said...

you will soon :)

Azarmehr said...

I doubt it! Because if you dont have the courage to say who you are on this weblog you will also not have the courage needed to mobilise the people.

Anonymous said...

Remains to be seen ;)