Since I have been a vocal supporter of Rouhani, and for good reason, and because he needs to be known accurately among the westerners, many might think that I do not hold anything against him, but I do. Here are the fivethings that I hope Rouhani will change soon, and these are what he had failed to do the right thing about.
Bashar Assad is leading one of the most gruesome mass murders in history, proving to be one of the greatest criminals in history, basically destroying his own nation for the sake of a his own power and perserving his own tyranny. I believe this chapter will be a source of shame for everyone in the world, like Rwanda. Iran is Assad’s greatest supporter, led by Ghassem Suleimani as the commander of the Quds brigade of the Revolutionary Guards. All Iranian democrats and reformists have to face the shame of the fact that are regime causes much crimes to happen in countries like Syria and Lebanon.
Now anyone marginally familiar with Iranian politics doesn’t actually expects Rouhani to change policy about Syria, that is ten miles away from the farthest reaches of his abilities. But the fact is that Zarif and Rouhani as moderates and reformists have completely caved in to extremist elements on this issue, and this is unacceptable because of the moral and humanitarian aspects of this issue. I want to see them to at least try and do as little as they can, which I can see no sign of.
4. Closing Extremist Newspapers
There are two institutions in Islamic Republic who can close newspapers. One is the Ministry of Culture and the other the judiciary. During the 8 years of Khatami the Ministry didn’t close a single newspaper, although the judiciary closed down multiple reformist papers. During Ahmadinejad period the Ministry closed many papers. After Rouhani, it seems there has been a competition between the judiciary and the ministry, the judiciary closes a pro-democracy reformist paper (and they are all pro-Rouhani papers as well) and then the ministry retaliates by closing an extremist paper. Now, these papers do belong to the very vilest parts of the regime – they are so radical that even the Supreme Leader is not willing to defend them. But nevertheless, I respect Ali Jannati, Rouhani’s minister of Culture so much that I want him to close no paper, even if the law allows him too (these papers really do ask for violence and libel). Let this dirty job be done by the other side.
3) A Plan to Employ Clergy in Elementary Schools to Teach Children Theology
Seriously, what the fuck? He has to remind us he is a priest himself some way, I guess.
2) Too Much Accommodation towards the Parliament
The Iranian parliament is filled with conservative regime goons whom are not really elected by the people and their concern for sabotaging Rouhani’s reformist agenda is greater than their concern for what happens to Iranian people. They are, with few exceptions, only obedient to the Supreme Leader and they only plan to flatter and serve and please. Like the Supreme Leader himself, they work with Rouhani begrudgingly on issues like foreign policy and economy, but block him on issues like human rights and equality and freedoms. Rouhani is too complacent on these issues. Contrary to his campaign promises he introduced no women or minority ministers, because he knew they wouldn’t be approved by the parliament. His acting minister of science and higher education , Jafar Tofighi, drastically improved university status, returned dissident students and professors and decreassed sexism and removed oppressive anti-science deans, but wasn’t introduced to parliament because everyone knew he wouldn’t be approved. Now, why not introduce them and let them disapprove them and carry the blame?
The agenda of regime conservatives is to create the impression that Rouhani cannot do much so that people are disappointed and the voter turnout is low in the parliamentary elections next year again so that a reformist parliament does not come to power. Rouhani should counter that by keeping the spirit of the presidential elections alive. He wouldn’t manage that by concession after concession. Now of course it would be equally stupid to go on a revolutionary mode and act as the leader of opposition rather than a president – that would be political suicide as the Supreme Leader would step in.
But there has to be a balance, and this is not it.
1) Complete Silence in the Face of Human Rights Violations
When Rouhani came to power, I knew our human rights abuses would never change under him, and I predict that they will get worse in the near future. This is something beyond his control, and done against him as mych as the umbrella family of democrats. And sadly whenever a concession with the international community is reached, the internal oppression has gotten worse – the end of Iran-Iraq War brought with it the worst massacre and mass execution of political prisoners. If a final nuclear deal with the West is finally reached a sudden increase in the executions and oppression is all but guaranteed. And it is possible that one of the items being prepared is to make sure that Rouhani becomes completely ineffective. This is something that Iranians democrats are preparing for – our greatest wish is that the nuclear deal happens but we are preparing for the wave of oppression coming after it.
We have already seen examples. Last week political prisoners in Evin Prison were raided, beaten, and abused. Rouhani remained silent – until now he has, at least. Apart from the fact that he has a moral responsibility to speak up, it is unwise policy too. Agents of the Intelligence Ministry were involved – everyone knows that these agents are not commanded by the minister or the president, yet, this increases his responsibility even more, since they are nominally – although not actually – his jurisdiction.
The families of these prisoners protested outside presidential palace today, with a very sensible message for Rouhani. They didn’t ask for more than solidarity and did not blame Rouhani. Rouhani needs to speak up. We know that he utilitizes behind the screen methods, we know he is a diplomat at heart and prefers to solve things through negotiations, but he should continue to take a stand as well.
He needs to keep people motivated for parliamentary elections and he needs to make oppression difficult for the extremist elements. Khatami remained silent and he failed in many aspects, he spoke up and fought the chain murders of intellectual dissidents which was also rooted in the Intelligence Ministry and managed to stop the murders and to improve things a lot. Rouhani should know this – the man who ended these murders is now a minister in his own cabinet, and one of the most successful ones (Ali Rabi’i the minister of labor).
Again let me stress that I do not expect Rouhani to act like the leader of opposition rather than a president, but I do expect him to act more courageously. Unlike what some members of the opposition think, the interest of Rouhani and the democrats are the same.
I was hesistent to write this. Rouhani is indeed successful when you consider the obstacles, and a nuclear deal and normalization of relations with the international community are enough to forever make Iranian people thankful. And for the sake of my country and millions who might die in case of war, civil or foreign, and since misinformation about him, intended or not, is the overall tone in Western media, I was hesitant to say anything that is not positive about Rouhani. But in the name of the truth and fairness, here you go.
But if you use this to create a false image of Rouhani and to increase the risk of war and sabotage nuclear agreement, then fuck you.