The Current Iranian System Rests on Obedience not Human Rights

• Mar 1st, 2010 • Category: Interviews

Interview with Abdulkarim Soroush

By: Nooshabeh Amiri  for Roozonline.com

This time, we spoke to Dr Abdulkarim Soroush about the separation of religion and the state, the disputes between the secularists and the religious modernizers, and the Green Movement’s prospects. Dr Soroush said that “with the political secularism of a non-theocratic state, pious individuals, too, will be reassured that their religion and their faith will be safeguarded, and that the state will not attack their beliefs and their deeds”. He said that “you can’t extract democracy from Islam”. He also said: “Believers must recognize that, nowadays, the implementation of justice, which religion also demands, is only possible through democracy; not through individual rule, not through guardianship.”

 

Political secularism versus philosophical secularism

Q. Dr Soroush, you’ve said that, politically speaking, you’re a secularist. And the crux of the dispute seems to be over the separation of religion and the state. So, what are our intellectuals quarrelling about?

 

A. In all truth, there is no quarrel. Maybe some people want to stir up a quarrel. In fact, this is why I raised the issue of ‘political secularism versus philosophical secularism’, so that, even if there seems to be a dispute, it can be resolved and clarified. This way, people can see clearly in what sense we are secularists and in what sense we are not secularists.

 

The problem that has arisen, especially among expatriate Iranians, is that many of the people who say they are secularists are also secularists in their beliefs. In other words, they don’t believe in spirituality and religion. Of course, they’re free to be this way. But when they speak in defence of secularism, secularism takes on a terrifying sense for Iranians back home. That is to say, they think that calling for secularism means abandoning their beliefs and religiosity. This mistake and illusion must be rectified.

 

Q. So you want to rectify this mistake?

 

A. Yes. This is what I did. I said, We have two types of secularism. Of course, I should add by way of a parenthesis that secularism is a very subtle and complicated issue. No matter how much we talk about it, we will not have said all that there is to say. I have worked on secularism as a specialist subject. I have discussed it with some of the big experts in this field. This is why I really find it difficult to talk about secularism and I believe that some of the simplistic things that some people say are very dangerous.

 

It was in the light of all these problems and ambiguities that I said that we can at least agree on one thing; namely, the division between political secularism and secularism in terms of beliefs. We don’t have any quarrel with anyone over secularism in terms of beliefs, although we disagree with them. Everyone is free to have their own beliefs. But what we can agree on is political secularism or, to use the term I coined for this purpose, ‘a post-theocratic state’ or ‘a non-theocratic state’, meaning a state that transcends the religious or, effectively, a state that transcends fiqh. This would be a moral state that regards all religions impartially. A state that would not give the followers of any religion any special privileges. A state that would officially recognize religious and political pluralism. A state that would apply the law equally to everyone and operate on the basis that everyone has equal rights. This is what political secularism means and I think we can all agree on it.

 

As I explained in the previous interview [entitled “We Must have a Referendum in Iran”], with the political secularism of a non-theocratic state, pious individuals, too, will be reassured that their religion and their faith will be safeguarded, and that the state will not attack their beliefs and their deeds.

 

Q. Why? Do democratic countries have a particular clause to this effect? In these countries, religion is separate from the state and, in keeping with the law, people’s faith hasn’t been harmed either. Why is there a need for such a reassurance?

 

A. The reassurance is needed because religious people in Iran may flee democracy and secularism on the assumption that they contravene and negate religiosity. So, it has to be explained to them that the establishment of political secularism and a religious democracy will not harm anyone’s religion or beliefs; it will not detract from anyone’s faith. I think this is a very important and necessary message.

 

In fact, I used the previous interview to convey a message to two groups of people. It was a good message that seems not to have been received. On the one hand, I conveyed the message to religious people that democracy and political secularism will not harm your religion and your religious deeds. On the other hand, I conveyed the message to non-religious people that, with the advent of democratic believers, your political creed will not be harmed either. In other words, we can have peaceful coexistence under a democratic system.

 

“Advent of democratic believers”

 

Q. How will this ‘advent of democratic believers’ occur and display itself in the new state?

 

A. The advent of democratic believers will occur via elections. If you establish a democracy and if religious people are in the majority—

 

Q. You mean like a Christian democratic party?

 

A. Yes, but you mustn’t judge Islam by Christianity.

 

Q. I was talking about the formal aspect.

 

A. Yes. Let’s imagine that, as a result of the revolution—which was not, in fact, a democratic development—democratic believers had come to power; say, Mr Mehdi Bazargan and the Freedom Movement. Then, the situation would have been different. Now, too, if this happens or if pious democrats win the majority of votes in a sound electoral system, then, non-religious people mustn’t fear that their rights will be trampled by the democratic believers or that they will approve laws that will turn non-religious people into a second-class minority.

 

We must, at the same time, give the same assurance to religious people. We have to tell them that if democratic secularists—because there are also despotic secularists—come to power, they will respect a democratic system and religious people can rest assured that their religion, their beliefs and their values will not be harmed.

 

Q. Look, what usually happens is that, after this sort of change, a constitution is drawn up. This constitution must enshrine principles that, whilst being in keeping with our culture, comply with the rules of democracy. Is it the constitution that you’re talking about?

 

A. Let’s take the constitution. If democratic believers draw it up, it will turn out one way and if believers who abide by the velayat-e faqih [current Iranian system of rule by a cleric] draw it up, it will turn out another way.

 

Mr Khomeini was the leader of the revolution and the people were his followers. If he had had a different way of thinking, the revolution would inevitably have taken a different course. If he had had the slightest affinity and familiarity with the democratic ideas of the time, he would, of course, have acted differently.

 

Of course we don’t expect a revolutionary change to take a democratic course from day one. All revolutions generate some disorder at first and the emerging states do some inexcusable things. But they should gradually move in the direction of rationality. But Ayatollah Khomeini’s fiqh-based thinking basically did not allow the revolution to take a different course. It did not allow the constitution to be drawn up differently. Now, if democratic believers come to be in a position where they can draw up a new constitution, it will obviously be different from the current constitution and human rights, equality, tolerance, decency, a non-theocratic form of government, etc. will undoubtedly be respected within it.

 

Q. Where do the points that you say they’ll respect come from? From religion or from the general rules of democracy?

 

A. I’ve explained repeatedly in my writings that you can’t extract democracy from Islam.

 

Q. So, what will these democratic believers write in the constitution that is not part of the principles of democracy? What’s the source of the things they’ll write?

 

A. Look, democracy is a way of governing ‘rights-oriented people’ using a ‘low-error system of management’. These two principles are present and fixed in any democratic system; i.e., an orientation towards rights and a system of management that is designed to minimize errors. Despotic systems have a ‘high-error system of management’, because a single individual makes all the decisions and because the people are deemed to have duties, not rights.

 

Now, when you say, Where do these principles come from, what we’re saying is that these principles are not extracted from the tenets of religion, but they don’t contravene the tenets of religion either.

 

Q. For example, in France’s constitution, where do the democratic foundations come from? What do you find in it that contravenes religion?

 

A. First, France is not a good example because its secularism has more or less turned into a militant secularism, which isn’t very admirable. Secondly, some years ago, someone criticized me, saying: “Your religious government is very similar to the governments of other countries.” I said: “Yes, that’s true. If everyone is walking on their legs, should we be walking on our heads?”

 

If some people have discovered correct methods for managing a country and exercising power, what could be better than for us to learn from them and benefit from their experience, whilst recognizing that none of these things is cast in stone. This brings us to fiqh. There are a series of laws in fiqh which, as long as they do not explicitly contravene human rights, we, as Muslims, are bound to abide by. This is what eminent people, such as Iqbal of Lahore, have said.

 

Fiqh has always safeguarded the identity of Muslims. For example, we have particular laws in fiqh for buying and selling, for renting, for hunting and slaughtering animals, for food and clothing, etc.  There are different laws in France in these respects. There are different laws in Britain. But there is no reason why we should change our fiqh-based laws as long as they do not contravene human rights. There’s no reason why we should, for example, model ourselves on France. There’s no need for it. But you may find other rulings, such as the rulings relating to apostasy, that contravene human rights. Here, we must exercise ijtihad [reasoned formulation of new rulings based on the circumstances of time and place] and bring them into line with Islamic morality. Islam is not just fiqh; it is also a philosophy and a morality. We must also bear them in mind. In this way, an Islamic system, which Muslim people approve of, can be established, with rulers who are committed to a just and democratic Islam.

 

Justice can only be achieved through democracy

 

Q. Look, in our historical experience, whenever anything has been qualified with ‘but’ and ‘unless’—for example, when it’s been said that the people are free unless… —this has led to problems. So, we have to have defined rules. Of course, different officials may implement these rules slightly differently, but they are rules nevertheless. This is why the people on this side are, for their part, afraid of political believers. Why must we use these arguments to qualify democracy—which can muddy the waters?

 

A. No, there’s no muddying of waters. As it happens, the currently existing democracies have these kinds of ambiguities and it is, in fact, in the light of this that I want to propose something for our country that is free of these ambiguities.

 

Look, schoolgirls have been banned from wearing the hijab in state schools in France. Building mosque minarets has been questioned in Switzerland. Elsewhere, in the United States, for example, pharmacies that don’t believe in abortion refuse to sell medicines that are related to abortion, although the law tells them they’re not allowed to do this. So, you see, democracy is not as straightforward as you might think; there are many subtleties. Taken as a whole, it might seem straightforward, but when it comes to details, it’s not at all straightforward. It depends on a society’s sensitivities. It may be that in the United States people aren’t sensitive to alcoholic drinks but they are sensitive to abortion. And the religious Americans who have this sensitivity may disobey the law or protest, etc.

 

Q. Do you think you can make provisions for these details through legislation and prevent these things from happening? You should also bear in mind that the hijab was not an issue in France in the past and what you see happening today is a reaction to a particular situation. It’s the same in Switzerland or the Netherlands or elsewhere.

 

A. Yes.

 

Q. Be that as it may, you think that provisions can be made in the law for all these things?

 

A. No, you can’t make provisions for everything because you don’t know what might happen in the future. I just want to show how complicated democracy is. When a democratic system is established somewhere, it’s not as if everyone gets what they want in absolute freedom. There is give and take. In a democracy of believers, these things have to be clear at least. Here, too, there must be give and take. When I said in that interview that we will establish a democracy based on our religious duty, I was making an important point and I did it advisedly. Believers must recognize that, nowadays, the implementation of justice, which religion also demands, is only possible through democracy; not through individual rule, not through guardianship.

 

Intellectual leadership versus political leadership

 

Q. I agree with you that Iran has a religious society, but there are different religions there. So, its constitution should be drawn up by a group of people who represent its different strands.

 

A. Yes, of course.

 

Q. If our society wants to move in a direction in which it wants to look further into the future, shouldn’t we go towards establishing think-tanks that include all the different strands of thinking?

 

A. Absolutely. In fact, intellectual leadership and political leadership are two separate things. This is something that has become confused in our society. Even the theory of the velayat-e faqih has been misinterpreted. I mean, even if we accept the theory of the velayat-e faqih and assume that there’s nothing wrong with it politically, religiously and morally—

 

Q. Assuming the impossible—

 

A. Nevertheless, if we assume that this is the case, still, being a political leader is different from being an intellectual leader. In other words, the theory of the velayat-e faqih is at most a validation of a particular type of political leadership. It does not give Mr Khamenei, or whoever else is in the post, the right to make pronouncements on the social sciences or philosophy or medical science. It only gives him the right to make pronouncements on political matters. I mean, this is what the theory of the velayat-e faqih authorizes him to do; only this and nothing more. This is a very big mistake that has occurred in our society. In fact, it’s sophistry, not a mistake. They’ve resorted to sophistry to confuse and combine two things that aren’t combinable.

 

Now, what I’m saying is that society should be guided by truthful people from the realm of thought and culture. And this entails a very grave responsibility. You can think of it as think-tanks if you want.

 

Q. Sometimes it’s as if we’re all saying the same thing, but each in a different language. It’s as if one of us is speaking French; one, English; one, Persian. But everyone is saying the same thing. What can we do to minimize the quarrels?

 

A. This is one of the bad side-effects of despotism. It prevents people from hearing and understanding each other properly. Once, Mr Hashemi[-Rafsanjani] said that Iran is the freest country—

 

Q. Ahmadinejad said it—

 

A. Hashemi[-Rafsanjani] said it too, a few years ago. Ahmadinejad said it too. When you hear them say this, you can assume either that they’re lying knowingly or that they basically have a different understanding of what freedom is and, so, they think Iran is free; not just free, but the freest country in the world. In fact, I think the second one is the tragedy. If they’re lying knowingly, that’s good, because they realize that Iran isn’t free. But if they really misunderstand freedom and have a twisted conception of it, then, they’ll lead us to ruin and call it progress.

 

Who has to make them realize that they have an incorrect understanding of freedom? A free people and a free press. But when there is no press freedom, pronouncements like this are not criticized, they’re not analysed, and the rulers remain ignorant of their ignorance, and ignorance of ignorance ultimately leads to—

 

Q. It’s the old problem of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. As long as they think like this, there won’t be a free press—

 

A. Yes, but reality sometimes has a way of opening people’s eyes by force.

 

Q. You spoke of twisted thinking. Does Mr Khamenei fall into the first category or the second? I mean, does he know that it’s not true or does he think that it’s true?

 

A. It’s hard to judge, but it seems to me that the things he says about the social sciences, for example, point to a lack of knowledge. But on political matters, he doesn’t approve of freedom. That is to say, he thinks that the freedoms that people want are inimical to human decency and that an Islamic system cannot and should not grant people these freedoms.

 

“Freedom as method”

 

Q. You mean Mr Khamenei is opposed to freedom?

 

A. Yes, he’s opposed to freedom. He is truly opposed to freedom. He believes that freedom means depravity, sexual permissiveness, Westoxication, and so on and so forth. So, he thinks he has the right to oppose these freedoms and to suppress anyone who opposes him. As simple as that.

 

Q. So, if someone is opposed to freedom in this way, he gets to the point where, in order to preserve the situation he’s created, he pretends not to notice even when the principles of religion are being transgressed—

 

A. Like what?

 

Q. Like everything that has happened during this time—which Mr Khamenei has not spoken out against. The lies. The raping of detained teenagers. The blatant looting of public assets. I mean, has he been pushed into this situation because he opposes freedom? Does he have a religious justification for these actions?

 

A. I’m not in Mr Khamenei’s mind. But even if we assume that Mr Khamenei doesn’t know about some of these things, his lack of knowledge, too, is a product of the system that he’s created—a system that gives him wrong and twisted information, and has trapped him in a circle of spies and sycophants. This is one of the characteristics of dictatorial systems. All dictators are uninformed about how things stand.

 

In the early days of Mr Khatami’s presidency, I wrote an article entitled “Freedom as Method”. There, I said for Mr Khamenei’s benefit: In order to have a correct picture of things, give people freedom. This freedom is a correct method for obtaining information. The people themselves will tell you in a hundred and one ways what they want and what they don’t want. You don’t need to marshal spies to bring you information, which will undoubtedly be incomplete anyway.

 

On this basis, we can assume that the information that Mr Khamenei receives is twisted and incomplete. But, in all truth, what difference does it make whether he knows all the details of what’s happening in the country’s prisons or not? He is fully and absolutely responsible anyway.

 

Q. Yes, Mohsen Ruholamini’s father spoke to Mr Khamenei and appealed for justice.[1]  Other people spoke to Mr Khamenei and said what needed to be said.

 

A. Look, Mr Khamenei sees this sort of thing as the system’s accidentals, not as its essentials. This is where we disagree with him. I believe that torturing and mistreating prisoners, cheating in elections and systematically abusing human rights have become essential and necessary to this system, and people like Mesbah-Yazdi have provided the underlying theories for this kind of behaviour. Moreover, clerics and statesmen have, unfortunately, lost their sensitivity to injustice. Dreams of serving the leader and paranoia about various enemies have become so entrenched in their minds that they’ve forgotten the people and, consequently, morality.

 

At the same time, Mr Khamenei has chosen bad teachers and associates. The more I think about it the more I can see that Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s approach is closer to that of Mr Khomeini than Khamenei’s. Hashemi[-Rafsanjani] is more rational than Khamenei and less superstitious. Ayatollah Khomeini would never have allowed individuals like Nuri-Hamadani, who is mentally disturbed, or Mesbah-Yazdi, who is deranged, to come out of the woodwork and stir up trouble. This is all a product of Mr Khamenei’s lack of judgement.

 

Human rights versus obedience

 

Q. Of course, someone who had great influence on Mr Khamenei or served as his political guide was Navvab-Safavi.[2] Also, Mr Khamenei has translated Sayyid Qutb’s book. In other words, he follows Sayyid Qutb’s line of thinking.

 

A. Yes, Mr Khamenei has translated Sayyid Qutb’s book. And he met Navvab-Safavi. Mr Khamenei likes to tell a story about Navvab-Safavi. When Yasir Arafat was a student at Cairo University, Navvab-Safavi told him: “What are you Palestinians doing in Egypt? Go to your land and raise the banner of struggle.”

 

Yes, Mr Khamenei was very much influenced by Sayyid Qutb in particular. And I’m assuming that he is acting on his beliefs. Of course, I’m suggesting this as an optimistic analysis; otherwise, if we assume that he is wicked, we will arrive at a different analysis. I’m not bringing in that kind of factor for the moment. I’m saying: Let’s assume that he has good intentions and is acting on his beliefs.

 

Q. Now, if we assume that he’s wicked, what would your analysis be then?

 

A. The answer to that is clear. But we’re assuming that that is not the case. Be that as it may, Mr Khamenei’s beliefs and twisted ideas are dangerous and can destroy Iran. Moreover, the boundary between wickedness and normality is not all that definite and clear. Do you think a dictator considers himself to be a dictator or a wicked person? Things can become so entangled and human beings have such a capacity for self-deception that they can see injustice as justice and hell as heaven.

 

I remember Mr Khamenei used to say: “These foreigners that you see—with their seemingly kind and smiling faces, clean, scented hands and well-groomed hair—can kill people without batting an eyelid.” Now, I’m sad to say that our clerics, too—except for a small minority—have shown that they’re not very different. They’re prepared to commit any injustice in the name of religion without losing any sleep over it.

 

But, at the outset, you asked me what the quarrel is about. I spoke about the quarrel between intellectuals. Now, let me say that the quarrel between the nation and the government is over tyranny. Our problem for the past 105 years, since the constitutional revolution, has been tyranny. We removed the monarchical tyranny and we replaced it with religious tyranny. Unfortunately, our people are still grappling with this problem and struggling against tyranny. Of course, the gentlemen use sophistry to accuse people of being opposed to religion. No, we’re not opposed to religion; we’re opposed to religious tyranny. And we believe that political secularism and a non-theocratic state will benefit religion.

 

Q. Opposed to any kind of tyranny.

 

A. Any kind, whether religious or monarchical. But the one that we’re experiencing now is very novel indeed. People are saying: “Release us from the evil grip of tyranny. Don’t try to drag us to heaven by force. Let us go to hell of our own free will.” Of course, the gentlemen must relinquish many things before they can take off the garb of tyranny and start behaving justly and democratically.

 

Q. But they’ve done so many wrong things—

 

A. Yes, they’ve done so many wrong things that repenting has become impossible. As Popper put it, people repent after small wrongdoings; but after big wrongdoings, far from repenting, they rationalize them and, therefore, persist in committing them. This is because big wrongdoings crush the conscience so badly as to rob people of the courage to repent. This is one reason. The second reason is their thinking-system. The gentlemen who are at the helm of power, Mr Khamenei, even Mr Hashemi[-Rafsanjani]—all our clerics in fact—are unfamiliar with the idea of human rights. They haven’t come across it in their studies. What do you expect from them? They’re like barren clouds. You can’t expect rain from a barren cloud.

 

In all their studies on fiqh, you won’t find a single sentence about human rights. So, what do you expect from them? Mr Khamenei said in his most recent speech: “Our system is based on the verse in the Koran that says: ‘O believers, obey God, and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.’” (Al-Nisa, 59) In other words, obey God. Obey the Prophet. And obey the rulers. Mr Khamenei believes that the current Iranian system is based on obedience, not a social contract, not human rights. He said it plainly. Could he have said it more plainly than this? At the moment, neither God nor the Prophet is among us. So, who are we meant to obey? The ruler. And the ruler and guardian has been instated by God. And Khamenei is the ruler. So, the basis of the state is obedience to the supreme ruler.

 

Of course, another person might have cited another verse from the Koran. There is a verse in which God says: “[We sent the prophets] so that mankind might have no argument against God after the Messengers.” (Al-Nisa, 165) In other words, God acknowledges that people can argue with him. If you can argue with God, you can argue all the more with the ruler, with the ruling cleric.

 

These are two different verses from the Koran, but—

 

Q. But it’s interesting that it contains both these verses.

 

A. Yes, it’s very interesting. But, as Foucault put it, power and knowledge are enmeshed. Political powers highlighted one of these verses and said that the state is based on obedience. But if democrats come to power, they will highlight the other verse and say: “If you can argue with God, you can argue all the more with our humble selves.” This is a very important point. But Mr Khamenei and his circle don’t mention this verse. And you saw how the Assembly of Experts conducted itself. Everyone sat quietly and no one dared say a word. They all just listened to Khamenei and nodded their heads. Why? Because they’re all from the same school of thought as Mr Khamenei.

 

Q. Of course, there are also cases against some of them. Mr Yazdi, for example.

 

A. Yes. It was only Mr Montazeri who, towards the end of his life, became interested in human rights and the fact that people have rights, that there is something called a citizen, that there is something called pluralism. We mustn’t tar them all with the same brush. But the rest of the gentlemen—

 

Q. So, it’s impossible to negotiate with these gentlemen?

 

A. How do you negotiate? Mr Khamenei isn’t saying that the system is based on a contract. He isn’t saying that the system is based on dialogue. He isn’t saying that the system is based on rights. He’s saying that the system is based on obedience. This is a very telling assertion. This is what Mesbah-Yazdi has taught them to say. They will carry on like this until they hit a rock.

 

Negotiating change

 

Q. So, who are the leaders of the Green Movement supposed to negotiate with eventually?

 

A. The underlying tenets are nonnegotiable. But the leaders of the Green Movement must first eliminate some of the problems that are practical impediments, in order to be able to take the bigger, subsequent steps. They have to resolve the problem of elections. They have to resolve the problem of the prisoners. In my view, they have to solve the problem of the judiciary. At present, I think that the Green Movement should be trying to bring about an independent judiciary.

 

Q. But the power of Mr Khamenei’s clique is based on exactly these things—on the judiciary in its present form, on the present electoral system, on the currently existing prisons. You can’t expect anything else from them. So, negotiations are effectively impossible?

 

A. Look, everything depends on the Green Movement’s power. In fact, politics is the dialogue of powers, the confrontation of powers. If the Green Movement achieves more power, which I think it will—you can’t by any means say that the Green Movement has caved in—then, it can take the negotiations forward based on its power.

 

Q. You mean the rulers will be forced to negotiate?

 

A. Absolutely.

 

Q. But when the other side finally agrees to sit at the negotiating table it will mean that—

 

A. It will mean that it is acknowledging that the Green Movement has power and that it has to be taken seriously. They will hold talks with this power and, based on their weight, they will or will not accept what the other side says.

 

Q. And you think this is achievable?

 

A. Yes. I’ve said it before, this is the only way. After all, we don’t want to bring about bloodshed. So, things have to reach a point where negotiations can take place. And in these negotiations, the force of the people must truly come onto the stage and be determining, so that the people can achieve their demands. Then, it’ll be time for the next round of the negotiations. I mean, in the first instance, it is enough for the state to agree to negotiations. Then, the next stages will naturally follow.

 

Q. Do you see the prospects for this?

 

A. Yes, I think it’s possible and very likely. I hope I’m not wrong. I’ve also conveyed this hope to others in the Green Movement and will continue to do so. I forbid them to lose hope, because hope is our entire asset.

 

Q. And it’s not idle hope? It’s real hope?

 

A. Yes, we’re talking about hope based on reality. I think that these demands, which are dispersed throughout society—although voices have been silenced—are determining and, God willing, they will bear fruit. As Forough Farrokhzad wrote in one of her poems, “I’ll plant my hands in the garden and green shoots will grow.”

 

Ten years ago, I gave two talks in London. They’ve now been published in Iran. There, I raised the idea of a green discourse. I said that, alongside the red discourse, which was the discourse of the left, and the black discourse, we also have a green discourse, which will rise up and make its presence felt. A discourse that is based on civil society and many other things. Today, I’m glad to see the green shoots of the green discourse growing. My hope was not misplaced. Now, too, I hope that my hopes are not misplaced.

 

Q. It stands to reason that they are not misplaced.

 

A. We will continue along this path and we will all turn green.

 

Sing, sweet nightingale, keeping singing and you’ll see

One day, green shoots will grow and the flowers bloom

Patience and victory have ever been friends

It is through patience that you’ll meet victory

 

Translated from the Persian by Nilou Mobasser


[1] Mohsen Ruholamini was one of several young people who died as a result of injuries sustained at Kahrizak detention centre. They had been detained in the course of the protests that followed the disputed presidential election of June 2009. Mohsen Ruholamini’s father is an adviser to Mohsen Rezaie, who is the secretary of the Expediency Council and was a conservative presidential candidate in June 2009.

[2] As a young, radical cleric, Mojtaba Navvab-Safavi founded the Fada’ian-e Eslam in 1945. He advocated combating secularization and foreign influence in Iran. Members of the Fada’ian-e Eslam carried out several assassinations, including that of Ahmad Kasravi, a writer, and General Ali Razmara, the then prime minister. Navvab-Safavi was executed in 1956.

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