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June 22nd, 2009
10:02 AM ET

Expert: Protesters want civil rights, not revolution

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Hamid Dabashi tells CNN Iranian protesters want civil rights not revolution."]

More election protests are expected today in Iran. Some say the massive show of support for the opposition candidate signals a revolution in the making.

Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University, doesn’t quite see it that way. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.

John Roberts: Let me ask you first of all, the declaration from the Guardian Council that yes it appears there were some voting irregularities; some three-million more votes were cast than people eligible to vote, but at the same time they say it wouldn't affect the overall outcome of the election. What effect do you think that will have on the demonstrators today?

Dabashi: Well it simply acknowledges that there are certain irregularities as Mr. Moussavi and other opposition candidates have indicated. To what degree this will satisfy Moussavi’s camp and other oppositional figures remains to be seen. In his Friday sermon, Mr. Khamenei in effect prejudiced the decision of the Guardian Council by siding completely with Ahmadinejad and saying that his position is very close to me. So I don't believe whatever the conclusion of this particular round of calculations by the Guardian Council might be is going to have much effect on the demonstrations…

These scenes you're seeing coming from Iran…it is important for your audience to know the reason you see these scenes of confusion and chaos is these people have been denied their constitutional right for peaceful protest. Under Article 27 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, Iranians are entitled to peaceful protests and not even under the condition of so-called national security are they to be denied their constitutional rights. So it is really the custodians of the Islamic Republic who are in violation of their constitutional right rather than the other way around.

Roberts: The street actions as you see them, are they a revolution in the making as many people think they might be, or do you see them as something else?

Dabashi: No. On the surface of them, on the look of them, they are very similar to the events that were happening in 1979, the commencement of the Islamic Revolution. But in my judgment this is not a revolution. This is the closest thing that we have had in Iran to the Civil Rights Movement of the United States. So you have to zoom back and look at it - pull yourself back to 1955, Montgomery bus boycott and have a larger frame of reference. These people are not after regime change. All their protests are within the boundaries of law. Repeatedly, the leader Moussavi has emphasized they are only after their constitutional rights and they simply have lost trust in the way their elected officials or unelected officials are tabulating these numbers.

Roberts: On Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei seemed to come down firmly on the side of Ahmadinejad. Ali Larajani, the parliamentary speaker, seems to have disagreed somewhat with Khamenei, saying he doesn't think the Guardian Council should be coming down on the side of one candidate. Now Larajani has had his disagreements with Ahmadinejad, but he has been an ally of Khamenei. Is this a significant split that we’re seeing now between Larajani and Khamenei?

Dabashi: Excellent point. But I don't believe so. The way that the upper-echelon of the Islamic Republic operates, the speaker of the house Larajani, is in fact an ally of Khamenei. So what we are witnessing, Khamenei has in fact planted a voice inside the opposition so he has everything under control. One of the three oppositional candidates also, Mr. Rezaie, has a mild contestation so far as the result of the election is concerned.

…We’re beginning to tap into the way the upper-echelon of the Islamic Republic operates. Khamenei himself comes out Friday morning and gives a very belligerent speech and says blood will be shed and it is on the hands of the opposition, particularly Moussavi. But then a close ally of him, namely Mr. Larajani the speaker of the house, comes and sides slightly, ever so moderately with the opposition.

Roberts: So you think it's a case of “good cop, bad cop”?

Dabashi: Exactly.

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. RGarcia

    Don't listen to the "so-called" expert who says that this is not revolution being demanded. Listen instead to the voices on the ground in Tehran...the voices of those young brave men and women, the voices of those interviewed over the phone by cnn, like the young man pleading with the international community for support by vehemently pointing out that Ahmadenijad's rule is now illegal and that a new "structure" of government is needed and that the structure of government with Ayatollahs has got to go; When we hear chants of "death to Khamenei " [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei], and when we hear others like the son of the former late Shah of Iran who says that he sees now the biggest threat to the current regime since 1979....when we listen to all of these people, the result is quite clear – the people of Iran want nothing less than a revolution, which ovbviously INCLUDES civil rights for its people. Yes, the current Iran constitution provides for civil rights for its citizens, but the current system of government in which there is a 'supreme leader' is very loudly being opposed. So, please pay little attention to this 'expert' (Hamid Dabashi). The people of Iran very obviously are showing that they want nothing less than a revolution which includes a system of government by the people and for the people (and this includes civil rights).....Revolution and Civil Rights are not mutually exclusive....Rene from Dallas.

    June 23, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  2. Hassan Azadi

    After all that happend do you still think its only about the elections and civil rights? The current government showed its real face. The people of Iran is tired of 30 years of permanent depression. The members of the current goverment will never be trusted again by the Iranian people. They missed the chance. Now its more than civil rights they demand for.

    June 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm |