( RFE/ RL) – For months, antiestablishment protesters have called for the overthrow of Iran’s clerical regime and demanded greater social and political freedoms.
Now, opposition figures and civil society groups inside Iran have shared proposals that would transform or even replace the current theocratic system with a democracy.
The proposals for a post-Islamic-republic system come amid growing calls for political change in Iran, which has been ruled by the clerical establishment since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The nationwide protests, which erupted in September but have waned in recent weeks, are the biggest challenge to the authorities in decades. The establishment has responded by waging a brutal crackdown in which hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested.
On February 14, around 20 labor unions, student organizations, and civil society groups inside Iran published a joint charter in which they laid out their vision for a “new, modern, and humane society.”
The charter demands gender equality, the right to free speech, the release of all political prisoners, the abolition of the death penalty, and the protection of ethnic and religious minorities.
The document was released after opposition figure Mir Hossein Musavi called for the “fundamental transformation” of Iran’s political system.
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In a statement issued on February 4, the 80-year-old called for a “free” referendum and the drafting of a new constitution that would pave the way for a democratic system in Iran.
The proposal by Musavi, a former prime minister who has been under house arrest since 2011, has received support from prominent figures inside and outside the country.
Iran’s top Sunni cleric, Molavi Abdolhamid, has also called for a referendum on the protesters’ demands. A key dissenting voice inside the Islamic republic, the outspoken cleric has used his sermons to denounce the state’s human rights abuses.
A group of Islamic scholars in Iran’s western Kurdistan region, which was the epicenter of the protests, recently called for a referendum that would be overseen by international observers and the trial of those involved in state repression.
Meanwhile, a group of exiled Iranian opposition figures met at Georgetown University in Washington on February 10, including the former crown prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, and rights activist Masih Alinejad.
The group said it was working on establishing a charter for a transition to a new, secular democratic system that would be followed by free elections. It is unclear if the group of eight exiled opposition figures and their proposals would receive support inside Iran.
Washington-based political analyst Ali Afshari said a “revolutionary process” inspired by “Woman, life, freedom” — the main slogan of the anti-regime protests — has taken shape in Iran.
Afshari, a former student leader who was jailed in Iran for his activism, said calls for a referendum and the publication of a charter by local civil society groups had created a “promising outlook” for the protest movement.
Peyman Jafari, a historian and assistant professor at the College of William & Mary, a public research university in Virginia, said the charter drafted by grassroots organizations in Iran was a “potent reminder that radical change will come from inside and from below.”
“It provides a set of demands that are concrete and can unite millions of Iranians around achievable goals,” he said.
Via RFE/ RL
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