Saturday, 18 July 2015
29 September 2023
Koocheh Mahtabi-in an interview with "Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari" was discussed,

“constitutionalist or Republican?”

2010 August 31

Ardavan Taheri/Radio Koocheh

Translated from Persian by Avideh Motmaen-Far

”A few months ago when “Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari” came to Vienna, Austria to give a speech in a gathering of Iranians, the opportunity came up to have an interview with him about his conflict with “Akbar Ganji” and this contrasting ideas about “Constitutionalism” and “Republicanism”. Our discussion encircled conflicts between “Constitutionalism” and “Republicanism” in the context of the rule of the Islamic Republic, thus addressing the historical roots of the word “constitutional” or the difference between these two concepts in the Islamic Republic, brought up other questions and answers that follow.”

In the beginning of our dialogue, “Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari” refers to the historical roots of “constitutional” and explains:

“You know, if you go back to the time of the ”constitutional” literature and culture, for us this concept would be somewhat brighter. Hundred and four or hundred and five years ago, the word “constitutional” was introduced almost very abruptly; I mean it was not heard long before. Now , if it was introduced in the garden of the British Embassy, or shrine of Imam Abdolazim or in “Seyed Mohammad Tabatabaei”‘s speech, I would like to say that in terms of historical narrative, we can not find a specific day, a week, or even a month that we can say that was the first time this has been suggested. Narratives are different in Iranian history and in other places histories. Even for example “Seyed Mohammad Tabatabaei,” said after the constitutionalist movement, that he has been thinking about it since 1933, almost ten or twelve years before the constitutionalist movement, but he did not find the situation favourable.”

Eshkevari says about the constitutionalists reformists:’So when we say Constitutional; it means yes to the Islamic Republic , yes to supreme leader, yes to the same constitution, but no to absolute supreme leader rule.”

Eshkevari says about the constitutionalists reformists: So when we say Constitutional; it means yes to the Islamic Republic , yes to supreme leader, yes to the same constitution, but no to absolute supreme leader rule.

Mr. “Eshkevari” terminologically describes the word, “constitutional” as opposed to “absolute” and explains his point of view:

“Terminologically, the word “constitutional”, what it means and where it comes from is still not clear. Mr. ” Taghizadeh, and many others say that ”constitutional”, the concept as is known today is not Arabic but a French word; This is what they have said. But what today –  almost every one- understand and agree with that it comes from an Arabic word, ”Constitutional” versus ”Absolute”. At that time there was a monarchy, the constitutionalists Iranians of that time are the democrats of today who wanted to condition the absolute power of the king and make him law-abiding. So they were saying that they wanted the law. The Constitutionalist Movement is a law-abiding movement!”

Mr. “Yousefi Eshkevari” considers that the main purpose of the constitutionalist movement in the constitutional history was to condition the monarchy to abide the law, and says:

”Hundred and four years ago, they wanted to change the absolute monarchy to the constitutional monarchy; bound to the law, the law as a covenant between the government and people. What was called ”law”, the secular sense of the word, was a concept that was introduced in the West. Otherwise, we neither did have this meaning of law in Iran before the constitutionalist movement, nor in Islam and Shi’ism. The sentences were juridical and did not have the meaning of law as today; even if it was called law, it did not have the same meaning as today.””Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari” who is a religious man himself, after attending the Berlin conference in 2000 has been sentenced to bedefrock and excommunication ,  by the Special Court for Clergy. He discussed the difference between “Constitutionalist” and”Republican”, considering the time and all aspects of social conditions during the presidency of “Mohammad Khatami” and said:”Now let us return to these concepts that have been considered these past seven, eight years ago whether we are constitutional or republican. So it is natural that in the Islamic Republic – after the revolution – we have no monarchy. The absolute monarchy is over; we have a republic. Here is a speculation ”we only want an absolute Republic”. And there is also another conjecture ”we want Constitutional Republic”. This is perhaps a paradox, because a Republic means being a Constitutional Republic! Any additional adjective to the republic is an absurdity because a Republic is not a Republic without being constitutional. Let us consider the context and what was going on at the time when Mr.”Khatami” was President that these words became trendy – the verbal paradox apart- Mr. ”Ganji”, for the first time raised the issue of ”absolute republic” and Mr. ”Hajarian” who was the front wing’s spokesman said that they wanted a ”constitutional republic”. Republicans wanted to say that they want a Republic, the Republic needs no adjective, for example, not an Islamic Republic, just an absolute Republic. The absolute Republic means of course a secular Republic. Well, this was a view. And it meant  the rejection of the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic had to go and they wanted to bring a new system, another system without any adjective , no Islam, no supreme leader. Not only without a supreme leader, but even without Islam. Not that Islam is denied, but in this sense that Islam has no legitimacy in the legislative power. A laic system, a secular system to quote today’s trend.”

Mr. “Eshkevari” describes the “constitutionalists” views in the context of Islamic Republic and the presidency mandate of “Mohammad Khatami” as such:

“Considering the facts and circumstances, they said they can not deny the supreme leader. Just like the time of constitutional monarchy they could not say slogans rejecting the monarchy. The only thing that they could do after the era of reform] is [to change the absolute supreme leader to a constitutional supreme leader. So when we say Constitutional; it means yes to the Islamic Republic, yes to supreme leader, yes to the same constitution, but no to  absolute supreme leader rule.”

Mr. “Eshkevari” considering the realities of Iranian society and political structure of the Islamic Republic, believes in the “constitutionalist” view as the only way to save the situation and explains for Radio Koocheh’s audience:

”I still believe that- strategically, not ideologically- the Constitution is our salvation. As Mr. Mousavi believes, respecting the constitution! If some say that there are some contradictions in the Constitution is true. Besides I have always said and I repeat again that I am a Republican. So to say my personal opinion for you, I say what is ultimately good for me, is a republic. This is an ideal, but in the reality of Iranian society – particularly the last seven, eight, ten months that we have seen the Green movement, given that the leadership of this movement is within the country; Considering that this movement has turned out of the elections and its early slogan was “where is my vote?” And today, Mr. “Mousavi” and “Karroubi” who want to run the constitution are consider themselves loyal to the Islamic Republic and believe that they are genuine followers of “Imam’s Line”, and others, are out of “Imam’s Line”; if you consider all these, and the reality of Iranian society, in my opinion, the slogan of abolition of the constitution, means to destroy everything.

Eshkevari:’ I still believe that- strategically, not ideologically- the Constitution is our salvation. As Mr. Mousavi believes, respecting the constitution

Eshkevari:” I still believe that- strategically, not ideologically- the Constitution is our salvation. As Mr. Mousavi believes, respecting the constitution

Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari” finds it mandatory to accept the constitution as a common denominator of civil movement and the rulers for those who have emphasized the need to dialogue and explains:

“If the rejection of the constitution is considered, it means that in the framework on Islamic Republic you may not do any activity and this is the best excuse for repression. And there would be no way you can dialogue with the rulers. Because the civil rights movement finally – should be able to stand up and have a dialogue with the leadership and the current rulers. If you repeal the constitution, what excuse you might have, what common denominator between you and the government still there is to have a dialogue? As the opposition abroad has no way to dialogue with the Islamic Republic. If your strategy is ”revolution”, and the Islamic republic must be toppled, this is another story. The dialogue has no more meaning. You should stumble the Islamic Republic by all means. But if you want to talk, so does Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karoubi for the moment. There should exist something between you and the government and there can not be anything else but the Constitution.”

Mr. “Eshkevari” talks about practical solutions – not ideal – for the civil movement and gives an example about the monitoring and approval process of Guardian Council:

“So we put our aspirations and ideals aside and look only at the available facts, and hope that the civil rights movement be able to put one step forward, that there would be no more excuse for repression and crack down and any leader in this country, can speak and breathe, and finally be able to talk from a position of power with the government and get advantages such as abolition of monitoring and approval process of the Guardian Council. Within the constitution this is defensible, because the approval and monitoring process of Guardian Council not only is against the Constitution but also does not exist in the Constitution; it has only been ratified by the forth Parliament! ”

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