United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

President Rouhani’s New Rights Charter

Hadi Ghaemi
            On November 26, 2013, President Rouhani’s government published a draft Citizens’ Rights Charter and solicited public reaction. The publication of this draft within the first 100 days of his presidency was widely seen as a major step by his administration to address his promises to improve the state of human rights in Iran.
            The draft Charter is viewed as a welcome step by Iranian and international rights groups, but they also pointed out major deficiencies.
      The main strength of Rouhani’s proposed Charter is that it recognizes the current “security environment” has degraded people’s fundamental rights. Simply proposing the Charter facilitates public dialogue on this pressing issue. It has created limited space for the Iranian media to discuss the human rights situation—for years an off-limit subject—and the need for improvements. It has also helped identify the state institutions that are chiefly responsible for rights violations and the arbitrary implementation of the rule of the law by the judiciary, intelligence organizations, and the Revolutionary Guards, a necessary prerequisite for accountability.
            The Charter ostensibly addresses a wide range of rights, including access to information and online content; freedom of opinion, expression and the press; due process and the rule of law; and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.
            Finally, the Charter’s range of concerns is enhanced by its references to social and economic rights, albeit including some seemingly irrelevant clauses.
            Despite its ambitious list of rights to address, the draft Charter suffers from serious shortcomings, both in terms of its unclear legal status within the Iranian legal system and in the actual content of the Charter itself.
            Iran is a signatory to major international human rights treaties and its own constitution contains many clauses guaranteeing basic rights, so it is not clear why the president felt a charter is needed. Rouhani opted to create a new standard rather than focus on full implementation of existing rights in the constitution, domestic laws or international treaties to which Iran is a signatory. The new charter fails to do several things. It does not create effective mechanisms for the protection and promotion of these rights. It does not clarify ambiguities or close loopholes in existing law. It does not address security laws routinely used by the courts to circumvent protections and stifle dissent, imprison critics, and violate the fundamental rights of Iranian citizens. Specifically:
• Under the “Right to Life” section, the Charter fails to address the fact that Iran is a leading state in implementing capital punishment. The judiciary routinely executes people for crimes that do not meet international standards for capital punishment. The charter fails to propose any specific ways to guarantee fair trials, implement internationally accepted safeguards, or adopt internationally accepted standards regarding capital punishment.
• Regarding the exercise of fundamental rights, the Charter contains language that reinforces existing security laws used to restrict freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The draft Charter reiterates vague and open-ended conditions and disclaimers, restricting freedoms with phrases such as “within the framework of the law,” or “with due consideration to Islam.”
• On women’s rights, the draft Charter contains few details and completely avoids the most glaring shortcoming of Iran’s existing legal codes that explicitly discriminate against women on personal status matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, travel, and legal testimony.
• The draft Charter fails to explicitly define who is considered “a citizen” and therefore entitled to rights. For example, it makes no reference to at least 3 million Afghan and Iraqi refugees and migrants who live and work in Iran.
• The draft Charter is silent on cruel and inhuman punishments routinely employed under existing law, such as stoning, hanging, amputation, and flogging.
• On religious minority rights, the draft Charter fails to recognize Baha’is, one of the largest religious minorities in Iran, as citizens who should enjoy equal rights.
Hadi Ghaemi is the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Click here to read Hadi Ghaemi’s chapter on Iran’s judiciary from The Iran Primer.
Rouhani's Draft Charter on Citizens' Rights
            The following is a full English text of the draft citizenship rights charter provided by the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed and the Human Rights in Iran Unit at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College. Click here for a pdf version.
First Chapter – General Guidelines
Article 1 – General Guidelines governing this Charter are:
1-1 All Iranian citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, wealth, social class, race, etc. enjoy citizenship rights and the foreseen guarantees in rules and regulations. This Charter will have no effect on the other rights of Iranian citizens and citizens of other countries as determined in other rights and regulations or international conventions (to which Iran has joined according to regulations).
1-2 This Charter has been organized with the aim to integrate, identify, and state citizenship rights, and its provisions shall be interpreted and enforced compatible and in harmony with each other and with the other laws and regulations, in a way that they would not limit any of the other identified and recognized citizenship rights, and human integrity and dignity must be consistently respected and supported at the highest possible levels.
1-3 According to the teachings of Islam, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the foundations of this nation’s national, religious [deeni], and history of civilization, to identify, develop, implement, and ensure the people’s citizenship rights and to utilize the available tools for promotion of the laws, regulations, and policies for achieving these rights, is the duty of the Government.
1-4 Failure to observe the citizenship rights stipulated in the laws and regulations will realize the legal guarantees set forth for the violation of those laws and officials who have violated or neglected to enforce these rules or regulations will be treated according to the general rules and regulations, and especially laws related to administrative violations and criminal codes.
1-5 This Charter attempts to recognize the duties of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in achieving the goals related to the realization of the rights of the citizens and as such all executive agencies are required to observe this resolution to provide the environment to implement, monitor, and develop these instances within the framework of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Islam Sharia Law, and other laws and regulations (using the existing capacities or proposed legislation or adopted regulations).
1-6 The provisions of this charter aim to state citizenship rights and the Government’s intended goals and indicators in order to propose reforms in the laws within related bills, or to carry out other necessary actions. This Charter is the Government’s “plan and policy” and does not intend to create new rights or duties or to develop or restrict them. It is merely a statement of a collection of the most important citizenship rights, which have either been identified in the existing laws with specific limitations and a statement of their guarantees, or that considering the provisions of this Charter, the Government will pursue the policy and reforms plan and development of the legal system, and will formulate and pursue the adoption of legislation, in order to achieve a practical, serious, and extensive effort through cooperation from the other branches of Government and the related officials.
Second Chapter – The Most Important Citizenship Rights
Article 2 – The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has stated the following as the most important citizenship rights and will place their implementation and guarantees as a top priority and will employ a serious and multi-faceted effort to realize, enforce, and guarantee them.
Article 3 – The Government is obligated to enforce the necessary measures and actions, particularly through developing and implementing a comprehensive program of reforms and development of the legal system, in order to implement and enforce the public rights and liberties foreseen in the Constitution, common laws, and this resolution.
Life, Health, and Decent Living
3-1 Citizens have the right to life. No citizen can be deprived of the right to life, except in accordance with rulings issued by competent courts that are convened according to legal standards that observe the principles of fair trials.
3-2 Enjoying a decent life, including suitable food, clothing, housing, education, hygiene, and medical care are among the rights of the citizens.
3-3 Within rules and regulations, executive organizations are obligated to take necessary actions to increase public health levels, protect the basic rights to life, suitable living conditions, health and hygiene, reducing child mortality rate and increasing longevity among citizens, easy, cheap, and extensive access to medical care, medicine, and medical, treatment, and hygiene equipment, goods and services, according to national standards, and provision and promotion of health, healthy and suitable living conditions for continuation of life among individuals. The Government is required to oversee medical treatment centers to ensure better treatment conditions.
3-4 Citizens have the right to enjoy physical and spiritual health.
3-5 Citizens have the right to enjoy a safe living and working environment, free of physical and psychological harm.
3-6 The Government is obligated to provide the basis for all citizens to enjoy all aspects of social security and financial and credit-related support and services in cases of illness, disability, unemployment, old age, absence of a guardian, abandonment, accidents and calamities, and need for health services and medical care in the shape of insurance as a public right as provided by the law.
3-7 Citizens enjoy the right to have access to suitable medical care and treatment.
3-8 Citizens must enjoy a happy life accompanied with hope for a better future from birth and within all social environments.
3-9 The Government is obligated to implement necessary policies to ensure that citizens have sufficient circumstances to enjoy conditions and facilities to hold ceremonies and fun programs, hold national and religious [mazhab] celebrations, carry out recreational, travel, and tourism programs, stay at natural habitats, have access to cheap travel, reading opportunities, hobbies, and literary, artistic, and entertainment activities.
3-10 Citizens enjoy the right to freedom, individual security, psychological, employment, cultural, social, investment, stable life, and discipline freedoms, and all the other legal and practical manifestations of security. This right is not revocable and its restriction will only be possible by law.
Freedom of Opinion, Expression, and Press
3-11 Citizens have the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to express, promote and disseminate ideas and opinions in verbal, written, and electronic forms or through any other means by the citizen’s own choosing in compliance with the law.
3-12 Inquisition is prohibited. No one can be forced to accept or hold a particular opinion or to prevent anyone from it.
3-13 Every real and legal person is free to express their opinions and feelings about any issue and in any kind of intellectual, literary, and artistic creative form and in any media format and content, within the framework of announced legal criteria.
3-14 All elements of the Government have the duty to support, protect and respect all political, social and cultural variations in order to preserve the freedom of the press, so the Government should provide grounds for the formation and activity of free and independent media.
3-15 All people have the right to free access to all media and information sources within the laws.
3-16 The Government respects freedom of the press and the media, be it paper or electronic, and all audio-visual media (including websites, blogs, television networks, the Internet, etc.) so long as they do not violate the principles of Islam or public rights, within the framework of the law.
3-17 Journalists and media should not face threats or punishment while collecting and disseminating information and contents. State-owned or state-controlled entities, within the framework of laws and regulations, must not prevent media’s free access to the information they need.
3-18 The Government is responsible to provide the legal grounds to reasonably, fairly, equally, and in a non-discriminatory way provide occupational standards for media workers, including welfare measures, insurance coverage, job security, and supportive coverage against undue pressures. Economic livelihoods of media workers must not be threatened by the Government and state-controlled organizations.
Access to Information
3-19 Iranian citizens must have free access to all laws and regulations or decisions made by public organizations within the Executive Branch and related to their dignity in life, within the laws and so long as it is not against national security, and no one can limit their information, awareness, and access to laws and regulations that create rights and responsibilities for them.
3-20 Every citizen has the right, in the broadest form and exclusively limited by legal exceptions, to have access to information or records compiled on him in public, governmental, and non-governmental organizations that directly or indirectly use public resources and funds or which have public functions, by merely requesting to access the information and to be informed of decisions public organizations make related to him. All citizens have the right to have facsimiles of the aforementioned information, records and decisions about themselves.


Cultural Identity, Media Expression, and Artistic Creation
3-21 All Iranian citizens have the right for their cultural, ethnic, religious [mazhabi], and linguistic identities to be recognized and they should be afforded legal protection without any discrimination.
3-22 The Government is obligated to facilitate free use of regional and ethnic languages and dialects in addition to the Persian language with cooperation from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), keeping the national unity and the totality of the Iranian identity intact.
3-23 All Iranian citizens have the right to the necessary tools for their full participation in all aspects of their specific group’s cultural life, including the establishment of institutions, organizations, and associations, holding meetings, observing religious [deen] and ethnic rituals, and cultural customs and traditions, within the framework of laws and regulations.
3-24 The Government is obligated to preserve all historical and cultural monuments and heritages throughout the country, regardless of to which different ethnic, cultural and religious [mazhabi] groups they belong.
3-25 All citizens are entitled to benefit from intellectual and moral excellence, and the Government is obligated to facilitate the necessary background to provide citizens the opportunity for worship, self-improvement, and spiritual enlightenment.
3-26 The Government is obligated to remove barriers to the development of morality and spirituality. These barriers facilitate issues such as poverty, fear, and ignorance that lead to human bondage vis a vis wealth, power, and disillusionment.
3-27 The Government is required to respect the rights of the children’s parents and legal guardians in providing religious [mazhabi] and moral education to their children according to their own beliefs.
3-28 Arts, as an expression of creativity and prosperity of the human character, as in other shapes of expression in all its forms, including music, theater, cinema, literature, caricatures, paintings, visual arts, and literary works is free and all citizens have the right to freely produce and present their artistic and literary works within the framework of law.
3-29 The Government is obliged to guarantee the freedom of creation, education, and presentation of arts, and to support its citizens against violations of it, according to rules and regulations. Any material and spiritual support by the Government of the arts, in all its shapes and forms, shall be done without discrimination and according to regulations.
3-30 The Government is obligated to provide the mechanism for the private sector’s participation in all stages of production and presentation of all kinds of arts. The activists in each of the artistic fields have the right to freely establish trade unions and professional organizations within the framework of the laws and regulations.
Private Domain
3-31 The citizens’ private domain and life, residence, vehicles, and personal items is protected from arbitrary interference, search, and review without legal permission and violating personal information and data of citizens, searching, collecting, processing, using, and revealing citizens’ correspondence, whether electronic or non-electronic, or their postal packages is not allowed. Illegal inspection, confiscation, searching, reviewing, reading, banning, or destroying of letters and long-distance communications such as telephone communications, telegraph, facsimile, wireless, and personal Internet communications of citizens and their eavesdropping, tapping, and censorship without legal permission is illegal.
3-32 Collecting personal information by private or public entities must be used through legal means and based on the individual’s consent or through legal authorization. Individuals have the right to have access to the information collected on them and in case of errors, they have the right to request correction to the information.
3-33 Private information pertaining to individuals may not be released to others, unless according to law or with the individual’s consent.
3-34 The media must observe the individuals’ private domain and if they insult, slander, or cause material or non-material loss, they must be accountable.


Administrative Health, Proper Governance, and Rule of Law
3-35 Proper management of the society and its observation by administrative and operational officials in order to bring fairness to administrative decisions, observe the requirements for proper governance, protect personal dignity, strengthen citizen participation, strengthen justification of administrative decisions, and improve the quality of administrative decision-making results are stated as policies of the Government. Additionally, to protect the rights, qualifications, and advantages of the citizens vis-à-vis arbitrary actions of administrative officials and to ensure optimal, law-abiding, appropriate, effective, flexible, efficient, accountable, transparent, free-of-any-corruption, -discrimination and -prejudice practices in administrative structures, should be placed on top of the Government’s agenda.
3-36 Any decision-making or administrative actions that affect the rights, interests, and freedoms of the citizens must be based on public interest and within the law.
3-37 The Government is obligated to develop necessary policies and measures for the implementation of public rights foreseen in the Constitution.
3-38 The Government is obligated to provide for presentation of public services in an equal and fair way and in the shortest time possible, by public organizations and institutions.
3-39 In their relations with citizens, public officials must be accountable, polite, careful, honest, trustworthy, open, and accessible servants; and in replying to correspondence and conversations must strive to assist as much as possible within their qualifications, and to provide answers to the queries in a favorable and suitable way, and in writing upon request.
3-40 Administrative officials are obligated to meet the expectations they have created themselves. These expectations could be results of announcements, regulations, procedures, behaviors, and even promises they have made to the public, to the point where people have trusted and relied upon them and have organized their personal or business lives based on them. An administrative official cannot suddenly deviate from the procedures he created himself. Should he wish to change the procedures, he is obligated to make prior announcement of policies, allowing a “transition period” for the implementation of new procedures and policies.
3-41 Citizens have the right to criticize, monitor, and be informed of the performance of executive organizations within the law. The Government is obligated to institutionalize acceptance of criticism within executive organizations and to foresee informing and clarifying their performance for the public in their regulations and procedures.
Transparency and Competition
3-42 The Government is obligated to ensure healthy and lawful market competition among all individuals and economy actors in the society through regulating and approving competitive and anti-monopoly laws and regulations and full implementation of the existing laws.
3-43 The Government is obligated to make information about the economy transparently available to everyone. All economic decisions of the Government, including contracts and particularly auctions and tenders, must be carried out transparently and without any privileged access to information for specific individuals or groups, and should aim to create competition among all people.
3-44 The Government is obligated to put on top of its agenda stability in its economic decisions and to prevent frequent changes in the laws and regulations related to production; eliminate the complex processes facing investment and manufacturing; direct banking resources and provide the necessary liquidity for productive economic activities; expand regional relations and connections and active presence in global markets aiming to develop economic and trade relations; support renovation and outfitting of manufacturing units with modern technical knowhow aiming to increase productivity and competition; and direct oil revenues toward productive and stable investments in a planned way.
3-45 Identifying trade bottlenecks that disrupt the economy and effective planning for eliminating them; preventing indiscriminate imports of foreign goods and adopting correct measures and policies for imports and support for domestic production measures and policies; and serious confrontation with smuggling of goods and foreign currency are among the Government’s responsibilities and the rights of manufacturers and those active in the economy.
3-46 Every citizen has the right to have access to standard goods and services. The received goods or services must be free of defects, scraps, shortcomings, or conditions that would disrupt optimal utilization. All providers of goods and services are responsible for the health and safety of their offered goods and services in accordance with the rules and conditions set forth in the laws or their related contracts, or trade practices. False advertising and misrepresentation of information leading to deception of or mistakes by the consumers through mass communication, mass media, and advertising literature is prohibited.
3-47 The Government is obligated, within the framework of rules and regulations and using its maximum ability and capabilities, to provide security for investments and freedom of capital circulation.
3-48 The decision-making processes based upon which the regulator makes its decisions must be open at all levels and all citizens have the right to inform the regulating organization of their opinions throughout all decision-making stages. After decision-making and to observe the principle of transparency, citizens have the right to be informed of all decisions in writing through the publication of a public announcement. Citizens also have the right to be informed of a summary of the viewpoints presented during the decision-making process.
Citizens’ Right to Participate in Social Destiny
3-49 Citizens equally enjoy the right to determine their destiny and where legal conditions exist, can use this right freely and without discrimination to participate in the management of the country’s affairs directly or through representatives they have elected in free and legal elections with their votes.
3-50 The country’s public programs must be organized in such a way that in addition to his job-related activities, every citizen has sufficient opportunities and capabilities to actively participate in managing the country’s affairs.
3-51 Every citizen has the right to participate in the country’s very important economic, political, social, and cultural decisions according the law.
3-52 Citizens enjoy the right to membership and activities in parties, societies, political and professional associations, and legal organizations established by the people. Membership or lack thereof must not cause deprivation or restriction of citizenship rights or result in special privileges.
3-53 The Government is obligated to increase public awareness levels in all areas in order to encourage the citizens to participate in determining their social destiny.



Economic and Property Rights
3-54 The citizens’ property rights are respected. Any property owner is entitled to all types of occupancy and utilization of his own property. No individual or authority, other than in cases stipulated in the law, can deny the property rights of another individual, or to confiscate or seize his property. Restrictions on property rights, occupancy and utilization are only allowed according to law, and only after immediate and fair payments of damages.
3-55 Intellectual property and its related rights are subject to legal protections.
3-56 All citizens are equal in their access to opportunities, facilities, and public and government services. Privatization and granting government contracts and treaties must comply with all related laws and regulations and provide competition chances for access to opportunities and government facilities for all individuals and citizens.


Employment and Decent Work
3-57 All Iranian citizens have the right to seek and have employment in jobs they like, so long as the job is not against the law and does not violate other people’s rights.
3-58 The Government must take the necessary measures towards full employment and access to work tools for all those who are able to work but who lack the necessary tools, in compliance with the requirements governing the general economic planning of the country, such as the formation of cooperatives or through partnership with the private sector.
3-59 All citizens have the right to work, equal opportunities to employment, and free choice of their desired profession in accordance with legal standards, so as to be able to earn a fair and decent living. The Government is obligated to adopt necessary measures to ensure proper enforcement of this right.
3-60 Citizens enjoy equal pay for equal work. Wages and benefits of workers or employees must be fair and sufficient to provide a decent life for them. A disability that does not prevent work should not be the reason for denial of expected rights.
3-61 Every citizen is entitled to good compensation for his work, such that he does not need to work overtime in order to pay for normal living expenses.
3-62 Every citizen should be protected from any discrimination at work based on illegal and unjustified reasons.
3-63 Employed citizens must enjoy maximum legal protections against unjustified dismissal from work.
3-64 In order to reach fair working conditions, every citizen is entitled to take action to form associations and trade and professional unions with other citizens in compliance with the law.
3-65 Every citizen has the right to enjoy social security rights and maximum legal protections against work-related accidents.
3-66 Every citizen has the right to enjoy necessary work-related training.
3-67 Every citizen has the right to unemployment insurance benefits in case of involuntary unemployment.
3-68 Women have the right to have leave during pregnancy, child birth, and breast-feeding, and disabled citizens have the right to have jobs that are appropriate for their disabilities, and young citizens have the right to enjoy work conditions that are appropriate to their physical abilities, and are prohibited from having harsh and hazardous employment.
3-69 In cases of violations of labor laws and regulations, every citizen has the right to seek justice before independent and impartial judicial bodies.
Comfort, Welfare, Protection, and Social Security
3-70 The Government must plan appropriately and strengthen the private sector and non-governmental organizations through granting necessary assistance and facilities to lay the foundation for eliminating poverty and to provide suitable living conditions, especially suitable housing, as a right for the citizens.
3-71 Citizens have a right to have housing that suits their needs and those of their families’. It is the right of every Iranian individual and family to have housing that suits their needs. The Government is obligated to provide the grounds for the realization of this right, giving priority to those who are needier, especially village residents, workers, and office workers.
3-72 Having access to social security vis-a-vis social risks such as disability and retirement, unemployment, illness, and old age is the right of every Iranian. Through development and improvement of the comprehensive welfare and social security plan, aiming to strengthen and develop insurance funds, organize state protective agencies, and create suitable grounds for the activities of protective agencies, the Government is obligated to take steps to provide social security coverage to citizens.
3-73 Citizens have the right to benefit from social security as a public right in cases of illness, disability, retirement, unemployment, old age, incapacity, loss of custodian, abandonment, accidents, and calamities when they need welfare, medical treatment and care through insurance. Protecting patients and vulnerable groups and rehabilitating them and creating hope for life and happiness for them and providing for their basic needs, and implementing policies to protect, compensate, and provide for these groups while maintaining their honor and dignity are some of their rights. Comprehensive insurance coverage and benefitting from additional health services are some of the other rights of patients and vulnerable groups.
3-74 The Government is obligated to provide the necessary measures and legal bases for providing insurance coverage for families whose heads are uninsured.
3-75 In addition to providing sweeping social security insurance, the Government is obligated to facilitate the legal bases for the citizens’ access to elective insurance plans through development of commercial insurance in all fields and against insurable risks, and to provide the grounds for competition of insurance companies and to prohibit monopoly by government insurance.
3-76 Accessing insurance information is a public right. This information must include all types of insurance and related services, such that citizens are able to compare services provided by various insurance companies.
3-77 In all its decisions and actions, the Government must refrain from any decision or action that would exacerbate economic class gap and inequality, or that may cause discrimination and unfair deprivation of the citizens.
3-78 Citizens enjoy economic social, and cultural rights in conformity with the criteria of Islam and the law. The Government is obligated to identify any undue discrimination and differences that [compromise] the citizens’ rights under equal circumstances, and to resolve them through and according to the laws.
3-79 Any deprivation, restriction, or preference among the citizens in their access to public services, government services, health services, and education based on factors such as color, gender, language, religion [mazhab], faith [deen], etc. is prohibited.
3-80 The Government is obligated to adopt immediate operational measures to eliminate all forms of undue discrimination. Implementing programs and adopting special protective measures for groups that suffer from undue discrimination, if it does not lead to deprivation of other groups, is allowed. All citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination.
3-81 All citizens are entitled to be offered public services equally, fairly, and in the shortest time possible, by public organizations and institutions.
3-82 Every citizen has the right to easy access to education and development, cultural centers such as libraries and art galleries, cinema and theater, parks, recreation and sports centers, emergency and health care centers, firefighting, and police services. Citizens should also have easy access to shopping centers where they can purchase essential supplies, and have access to fuel stations, and public urban and inter-urban transportation.
3-83 The Government is obligated to adopt necessary measures to empower individuals and groups, especially people with disabilities, in order to meet their needs. All regulations must be adopted in a cognizant way about the situation of the disabled, including their social life, employment conditions, livelihood, education and welfare.
3-84 All schedules for movement of fleets by roadway, railway, sea, and air transportation must be organized in such a way that passengers are delivered to their destinations without delay. If, for any reason, without the fault of the passengers, movement is delayed, the Government must use existing legal capacities, or act to provide the basis for approval of needed laws and regulations, to provide the passengers with reparation.
Judicial Justice
3-85 All citizens have the right to ask for justice and to this end can petition a competent court.
3-86 All citizens are entitled to have access to all courts and quasi-judicial authorities and regulatory bodies, and no one may be denied access to a court to which he has the right of recourse under the law.
3-87 All citizens have the right to defend themselves in courts and before administrative and police authorities and they have the right to freely choose a defense lawyer and to benefit from his services during all phases of the process. When citizens do not have the ability or means to take advantage of this right, the Government is obligated to provide the necessary facilities for the citizens to have a lawyer.
3-88 Everyone is presumed innocent and no one is considered a criminal, unless his crime is proven in a competent court.
3-89 Defamation and compromising the dignity of an individual who by order of the law has been arrested, detained, imprisoned, or exiled in any way, is prohibited and can be prosecuted.
3-90 Exercising one’s right cannot harm others or violate public interests.
3-91 The citizens’ dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation is inviolable within the laws.
3-92 Any type of torture for extracting confessions or acquiring information is prohibited. Forcing an individual to testify, confess, or take an oath is not permitted and such testimony, confession, or oath lacks value and credibility.
3-93 The Government is obligated to provide the necessary legal groundwork to protect citizens who are victims of crimes and quasi-crimes.
Education and Training
3-94 It is the right of all Iranian citizens to enjoy free education and development through the end of their high school studies, and to enjoy the amenities and facilities of higher education.
3-95 Benefitting from education is among the rights of every citizen. The Government is obligated to provide all citizens suitable access to training and education in order to preserve human capital.
Family, Women, Children and the Elderly
3-96 The family is the fundamental and primary unit of society and all citizens have the right to marry and start a family. The Government is obligated to strengthen and solidify the foundation of the family.
3-97 Every citizen has the right to free and fully consensual marriage.
3-98 The Government is obligated to take all necessary measures to respect and uphold the rights of the elderly, including their access to social security resources needed for enjoying an independent and dignified life.
3-99 The Government is obligated to respect the rights of women in every aspect according to the law and in all forms, including in having access to appropriate grounds for character development and revitalization of material and intellectual rights, in protecting mothers, specifically during pregnancy and custody of children, protecting orphans, in appropriate judicial protection in competent courts with the aim of protecting and preserving the family, in providing special insurance to widows and elderly women and women without guardians, and in granting custody of children to competent mothers towards their best interest in the absence of legal guardians.
3-100 Women have the right to have access to social insurance, health and medical facilities specific to women, access to social welfare services, and physical and psychological rehabilitation of abused girls and women, within the laws and regulations. Where legal grounds for realization of this right do not exist, the Government is responsible to provide it through presenting appropriate bills.
3-101 Access to dedicated cultural centers, according to women’s psychological and physical characteristics with priority to disadvantaged areas; the right for the abused to have access to appropriate protections to improve their and the society’s cultural situation; the right for higher education to the highest academic levels without any discrimination or gender quotas, the right to gain the highest levels of skills and professional training both quantitatively and qualitatively; the right to participate in policy-making, decision-making, management, and active presence in cultural and academic associations nationally and internationally, are some of the women’s rights.
3-102 The Government is obligated to protect women who are heads of households, in the form of insurance and other social services according to laws and regulations.
3-103 Protecting orphaned or vulnerable children directly or through helping relevant non-governmental organizations, in order to maintain them, and creating the necessary facilities for this purpose is one of the Government’s plans.
3-104 Children must have access to social protection according to their specific needs, health services including healthy nutrition and water, favorable living environment both at home and at school, quality health and medical care, recreation, creative and entertaining activities, appropriate educational facilities, and specialized and competent educators. Children of working parents must have access to suitable conditions and facilities where they are easily maintained, cared for, and provided a normal childhood social life.
3-105 Children have the right to have access to age-appropriate information. A child’s exposure to information that could cause mental violence, fearfulness, and physical or mental apprehension is not permissible and is considered a violation of the child’s right to health.
3-106 It is a natural right for children to have competent parents and guardians. Parents and guardians of a child are obligated to carry out the guardianship and maintenance duties for the child, aiming to realize the child’s best interest and they are held accountable for any physical, psychological and mental violence and abuse, carelessness and negligence, abuse and failure to perform their legal and humane responsibilities related to the child.
3-107 Women must have access to all possibilities to enjoy the right to choose appropriate covering based on the Islamic-Iranian standards. The Government is obligated to provide the necessary measures to promote the proper covering.
3-108 Children and the youth must receive special protections. These individuals’ opinions must be noted in issues related to their lives, with consideration of their age and level of growth.
3-109 Children and the youth must have equal access to their parents’ abilities and capacities in issues related to the child, regardless of the parents’ marital status. In all cases, the interests of the children and the youth shall be paramount.
3-110 As the biggest and most celebrated national asset of the country, in addition to other citizenship rights, the youth also have access to the following;
1 – Complete participation in determining their political, economic, social, and cultural destiny, using legal mechanisms;
2 – Active participation in the national development process;
3 – Participation in promoting, supporting, and advancement of peace in Iran and in the world;
4 – Forming unions, trade associations, non-governmental organizations and political parties and free membership in them;
5 – Economic participation and intervening in the management of scientific, technical, economic, etc. areas;
6 – Social participation and efforts to realize inclusive social justice;
7 – Direct or indirect participation in the country’s general affairs.


Elites, Teachers, and Students
3-111 The Government is obligated to provide a setting to benefit teachers and the elites from the current knowledge, freedom of expression, research, and scientific development. Academics should be able to, without worries about earning a living and in a secure environment, follow the path of knowledge and scientific production and distribution.
3-112 No student should be humiliated or denied education due to lack of finances to pay tuition fees, and universities that are dependent on a system of tuition fees must grant adequate financial facilities to enable payment of tuition for students. The Government is required to spare no effort towards quantitative and qualitative upgrade of university facilities for the welfare of the students.
3-113 The country’s elites are respected and they must participate in the development of the country according to their abilities and they shall enjoy the privileges of their efforts for the advancement of the country. Strengthening the spirit of innovation and research, as well as helping the youth and scientific elites to shine in the global scientific arena and science-based approaches in development, identifying bright talents, and guidance and intellectual and material support, attracting and using the elites in promoting science and technology and balanced development of the country based on the ultimate goal of civilization-making universities are the rights of the elites and the academics, which must be identified and guaranteed by the Government.
3-114 The universities must be a safe place for all students, therefore the university authorities must do their utmost to promote physical and mental safety and security of the students in the universities.
Veterans, Disabled Veterans, and Martyrs’ Families
3-115 Individual and collective empowerment of veterans , disabled veterans and the esteemed families of martyrs for their effective presence in different cultural, social, and political arenas; effectively meeting their real needs in different material and spiritual dimensions while respecting their dignity, justice and a spirit of self-reliance; removal of impediments and facilitating their presence on different scenes and fields and institution-building; foreseeing the necessary mechanisms in the scientific and research fields to provide equipment, training, care, treatment and reducing personal and social damages caused by the war and threats and to protect the domain of self-sacrifice; veterans and their families and the esteemed families of martyrs, and preservation of historical remains, values, and epics through creating museums, monuments , symbols and signs of jihad , resistance, sacrifice and especially organizing and maintaining the martyrs cemeteries as cultural centers, should be considered by the Government as a public right for those citizens.
Minorities and Ethnic Groups
3-116 The Government is obligated to trust the citizenry’s cultural, religious [mazhabi], linguistic, and ethnic diversity.
3-117 Holding and attending religious [mazhabi] ceremonies of those religions [adiani] identified in the Constitution is permitted.
Village Residents and Nomads
3-118 Citizens who live in villages and nomads must have access to sufficient income, suitable quality of life based on maximum available amenities, the right to access water, the right to utilize farming land, the right to implement, use and be employed in manufacturing handicrafts and providing tourism services, the right to farm on a piece of land, and the right to improve, modernize, reconstruct, and make secure their villages.
3-119 The Government is obligated to make necessary provisions for nomads and village residents to play responsible roles and to use their capabilities and capacities in an optimal way.
Environment and Sustainable Development
3-120 The Government is obligated to protect, support, improve, and beautify the environment and to develop a suitable culture for it in all its programs, decisions, and development, economic, social, cultural, and military decisions for the country, and to confront any pollution and irreparable destruction of the environment by all individuals, public and private organizations, and to support activities of the private sectors and non-governmental organizations in this area.
3-121 Every citizen of the current and future generation has the right to access a healthy environment, clean and free of pollution, including the right to access healthy air and water.
3-122 Public policy, including on capacity building in the field of environment and education for citizens and officials must be considered in a way that sustainable development is promoted and that there is coordination among economic policies, social progress, and protection and improvement of the environment.
3-123 Civil rights activities in the field of environment are recognized and every natural or legal person, including environmental non-governmental organizations whose rights are ignored or violated, have the right of address and access to a competent court according to regulations.
3-124 Access to clean air is the right of every Iranian citizen. In areas of the country facing air pollution, the Government is obligated to collect information about air quality and the degree of pollution effects, and simultaneous with taking effective operational steps, to reduce the pollution and its effects. Side-by-side of people, operational organizations are obligated to adopt policies for controlling the air pollutants, especially in large cities.
3-125 Citizens have the right to enjoy the view of forests, seas, rivers, lagoons, and historical and religious [mazhabi] monuments.
3-126 Any construction and obstruction in the citizens’ right to enjoy the view in the vicinity of the seas, historical and religious [mazhabi] monuments, rivers, and public lands is not permissible. Using legal capacities, the Government is obligated to prevent construction of buildings that face historical and natural monuments, ruining the skyline and its historical and cultural view.
3-127 All policies related to development must take note of the possibility of wide-scale participation of citizens in the development process and the possibility of public access to effects of development.
3-128 Every citizen has the right to all-around intellectual and material development. This right is one of the best examples of citizenship rights and its realization is dependent on the fair access of individuals to all material and intellectual resources and facilities the society employs and includes suitable nutrition, education, health, housing, arts, communications, freedom, security and pre-requisites of continuing human life.
3-129 As a right for the citizens, the Government must guarantee equal access by all individuals, whether male or female, of advantages of development within a fair legal system with respect for local, ethnic, religious [mazhabi] and cultural considerations.
3-130 In order to achieve sustainable development, the Government is responsible for providing legislative, executive, and judicial policies necessary for all-around material and intellectual development of the country next to other rights of the citizens, including the right to equality, the right to a healthy environment, and the right to human dignity.
3-131 Citizens have the right to benefit from political, economic, cultural, military and similar development in their society and no one can limit the Iranian citizens’ rights to advancement and achievement of the highest levels of development.
3-132 The citizens have the right to enjoy the advantages and benefits of peaceful nuclear technology in the areas of modern technologies, energy, health, medical, medicine, nutrition, welfare, economy and trade.
Combating Narcotics
3-133 The Government is obligated to provide a setting for its citizens in which they would benefit from living in a drug-free environment, where it would not be possible to access narcotics. Also by providing this setting, the Government must take fundamental measures towards control and blockade of the borders, and act to expand international cooperation and utilization of diplomatic capabilities to protect the country from entry of narcotics. The Government must provide a setup for citizens who are harmed by narcotics to have access to proper drug treatment facilities, and rehabilitation and insurance resources including social support after treatment, employment, recreation, medical consultation services, and legal, social, and family support.
Iranian Nationality, Residency, and Iranians Abroad
3-134 Iranian citizens have the right to benefit from Iranian nationality and its effects, and the Government cannot withdraw citizenship from any Iranians or prevent them from their full rights, except where foreseen by law.
3-135 Every citizen has the right to have his identity information and details, such as information pertaining to themselves and their relatives, such as a spouse, children, father, and mother whose information is contained in their identification documents, be safeguarded by the relevant institutions. Disclosure of identifying information about individuals is forbidden and is only provided when necessary and by request from relevant judicial bodies and administrative agencies in a confidential manner. No official has the right to give to others or disclose any person’s identity without expressed legal permission.
3-136 At the time of birth, the infant’s parents have the right to choose their agreed upon name for their child freely and according to the regulations.
3-137 All Iranian citizens have the right to freely enter or leave Iran and no citizen can be deprived from entering or leaving the country, except in cases expressed by the law.
3-138 Every Iranian citizen anywhere in the world has the right to enjoy the Iranian government’s full legal and political support, and extradition of Iranian citizens to other countries is prohibited, except in legal cases.
3-139 All Iranian citizens have the right to stay and reside in any location they choose within the territory of Iran, so long as they do not cause harm to the rights of the public and other individuals’ rights.
3-140 Every Iranian individual, whether inside or outside the country, has the right to have Iranian identity documents.
3-141 No one can be exiled from his place of residence, or be prohibited to stay in his favorite location, or be forced to stay in other locations, except where specified in the law.
Third Chapter-Task Organization, Development and Supervision of Implementation of the Charter and Provisions of Citizenship Rights
Articles 4-15
Article 4 – The National Center for Citizenship Rights, which will be formed under the office of Vice President-Legal Affairs, is required to bring to fruition in the laws and regulations the instances of the citizens’ rights as outlined in this Charter, and propose necessary suggestions for reform of laws and regulations related to the realization of the citizens’ rights, and in accordance with legal procedures propose them to the Cabinet of Ministers and to other relevant authorities for decision making.

Note: The offices of Vice President-Legal Affairs is required to prepare and submit the bill for the formation of “The Citizenship Rights Organization” and “The Supreme Council of Citizenship Rights” as the highest element of the organization, to the Cabinet of Ministers.
Article 5 – In case of infringement of the laws, regulations, and provisions of this Act, in addition to efforts being made to reform the methods and coordinating them with the regulations, the National Center for Civil Rights is required to report the violators to competent authorities using the Government’s and the Executive Branch’s full legal capacities, and, through the office of Vice President-Legal Affairs, report the results of the actions to the President.
Article 6 – During the review of all proposed bills and drafts discussed in governmental committees or in the Cabinet, and decisions made by Members of the Parliament who are pursuing the subjects of Articles 127 and 138 of the Constitution, and other decision making bodies of the Executive Branch, the office of Vice President-Legal Affairs is required to scrutinize observance of the Citizenship Rights Charter, and in case of finding violations or ambiguities about its implementation, or disagreements about its interpretation, report the findings to the aforementioned commission or to the Cabinet, or to the highest relevant authority. In case of disagreement between relevant authorities in the Executive Branch, considering the priority of civil rights considerations over other considerations, the views of the Vice President-Legal Affairs shall prevail.
Article 7 – Supervision over observance of the Citizenship Rights will occur on three levels: individual, public and general, and governmental. On the first level, by creating awareness and sensitivity in the civil society and the nation and citizens; on the second level, through the civil and trade organizations; and on the third level it is done by the National Center for Citizenship Rights with cooperation from regulatory bodies and other branches.
Article 8 – The Vice President-Legal Affairs is obligated to prepare the necessary procedures for making requisite provisions by the committees responsible for reviewing administrative violations and trade and professional organizations for expedient and effective review of cases of violation or negligence in citizenship rights by individuals under its coverage, and if necessary, to identify the existing shortcomings in the laws and regulations in the area of observation of citizenship rights and to take action for resolving them through legal means.
Article 9 – Through coordination and cooperation from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, as well as Ministry of Education and Development, and with the help of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Broadcasting Organization, the Vice President-Legal Affairs is obligated to prepare necessary proposals regarding “the operational mechanisms for preparing packages for citizenship rights public awareness, institutionalizing, and respecting citizenship rights and public education of the citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” and to present them to the Cabinet.
Article 10 – Within six months from the time of approval of this Charter, the Vice President-Legal Affairs is obligated to prepare and distribute the quantitative and qualitative indices for the evaluation of improvements in the conditions and implementation of the citizenship rights which is the subject of this resolution and the other laws and regulations with the cooperation of all ministries and relevant operational organizations and non-governmental organizations active in the area of citizenship rights. Subsequently, based on these indices, necessary reports will be prepared at specific time intervals and will be sent to the President.
Article 11 – The Vice President-Legal Affairs is obligated to continuously review the strategies for improvement and promotion of citizenship rights and identification of the existing shortcomings, through formation of specialized committees in different areas of citizenship rights, and to inform the Cabinet through presenting resolutions or bills while observing other laws and regulations.
Article 12 – The responsibility for proper implementation of this resolution remains with the office of Vice President-Legal Affairs and all executive units, institutions, organizations, and public non-governmental organizations, and organizations under the oversight of the President and centers affiliated with the President’s Office are obligated to cooperate with this Vice President’s office.
Article 12 [repeated] – All organizations and ministries are obligated to prepare a “Citizenship Rights Attachment” for all their plans and proposed programs, according to procedures that will be developed and distributed by the Vice President-Legal Affairs Office.
Article 13 – The Ministerial Cabinet’s authorities, the subject of Article 138 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran about the approval of the necessary regulations for execution of this Charter and also for regulating bills and the necessary suggestions for legal procedures to a commission called the Commission of Citizens’ Rights, comprised of Ministers of Justice; Culture and Islamic Guidance; Science, Research and Technology; Health and Medical Education; Education; Intelligence; and Interior, is hereby delegated. The issues of the commission shall be decided by the majority vote and shall be notified in compliance with Article 19 of the Internal Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Note – The office of Vice President- Legal Affairs will be a member and secretary of this Commission.
Article 14 – The Legal Vice President is appointed as the special representative on the matter of Article 127 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran for implementation of the presidential and ministerial authorities in the executive affairs related to declaration, identification, pursuit, and execution of the content of this resolution.
Article 15 – The office of Vice President-Legal Affairs is obligated to report on measures taken to implement this resolution to the President every three months.


Iran’s Tumultuous Revolution: 35 Years Later

            The following article was originally published as Viewpoints No. 52 by the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Shaul Bakhash
      The Iranian revolution, resulting in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the Islamic Republic 35 years ago, underwent a long gestation. The first major protests began in January 1978 and continued for an entire year until the collapse of the monarchy in January 1979. The contrast with Egypt during the Arab Spring is striking. A mere 18 days passed between the first large-scale Egyptian protests and the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Iran witnessed an entire year of almost uninterrupted protests and demonstrations, strikes, pamphleteering, and sermonizing. Moreover, in Iran the protests were not confined to Tehran. They were a multi-urban phenomenon. By the late summer and early fall of 1978, almost all Iran’s major cities and dozens of smaller towns were in upheaval. This translated into an extraordinarily wide mobilization as more and more elements of the population and from all social strata were drawn into the opposition movement. This lengthy struggle also allowed the opposition, especially the men around Ayatollah Khomeini (left), to sharpen their message, to expand their networks, and to create—here I use the term with caution—the embryos of a parallel state. Moreover, this lengthy struggle radicalized and hardened the opposition, particularly the men around Khomeini. It inculcated in them habits of violence and a desire to inflict vengeance on those who had oppressed them. Once they seized power, these men were fierce in their determination to completely do away with the old order. To hold on to power they were willing to purge, imprison, and execute large numbers if necessary. They proved prime exemplars of Mao’s reminder that revolution is not a dinner party.  
            Equally important, this continuous, day-after-day confrontation between the state and the people during the year of protests in 1978 gradually wore down the regime itself. Months of daily clashes between the protesters and the army led to widespread desertions among the ordinary rank and file. By the fall of 1978, except at the senior levels, the civil service itself had joined the ranks of the opposition. Much of the civil service went on strike. The mail was not being delivered; goods could not be released from customs; the garbage was not being collected; the banking system was paralyzed; industry was at a standstill; oil production was reduced to a trickle. In brief, the state administration had been brought down to its knees; and the very will of the ruling elites to retain power had been gravely eroded.
      Equally important was the role of the army. In Egypt, army commanders fairly quickly withdrew any loyalty they believed they owed to Mubarak. In Iran, the officer corps remained loyal to the Shah to the very end. True, after the departure of the Shah (left) from Iran on January 16, 1979 and a couple of days before the final collapse of the old regime, the senior military commanders, in desperation as to how to deal with the continuing demonstrations, announced they would adopt a position of “neutrality” between the people and the regime—an announcement that led to the general uprising that brought the monarchy to an end. Still, in their hearts the senior commanders remained loyal to the king. So loyal that, according to a knowledgeable source, when the Shah was in exile in Morocco just after his departure from Iran, the senior military commanders telephoned him to secure his permission to stage a coup. The Shah refused to take their call.
            In the eyes of the opposition, the army was deeply identified with the Shah. It was the army that had sought to suppress the anti-Shah protests and was held responsible for the deaths of demonstrators. Once the monarchy was overthrown, fear of a counter-revolution was pervasive. As a consequence, dozens of senior military commanders were executed. Very widespread purges of the officer class took place. Unlike the Arab Spring in Egypt, where the Egyptian army remained intact, ready to seize the opportunity offered by the anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests, to take power again, in Iran the army was denuded of its officer corps; it was disarmed and defanged. The revolutionaries succeeded in ensuring the army would be in no position to stage a counter-coup. Ironically, they also left Iran virtually defenseless, opening the door open for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in September 1980; but that is another story.
            Khomeini’s leadership was also important, even crucial. The protests in Egypt and other countries of the Arab Spring produced leaders, of course. But Khomeini in Iran stands in a class by himself. I think one could argue that, the widespread protests in Iran notwithstanding, without Khomeini, there might have been change but there would not have been a revolution. He enjoyed enormous prestige because of his religious office, reputation for incorruptibility and long resistance to the Shah’s rule. He was a very powerful speaker; he had great charisma. His millions of devoted followers attributed to him legendary status, touched even by divinity. At the height of the revolutionary turmoil, it was put about and widely believed that his face had miraculously appeared on the moon. He remained steadfast in refusing any form of compromise and in his insistence that the Shah must go.
            Khomeini also had a central idea—of Islamic government—that captured the imagination of a large swath of the Iranian protest movement. On examination, Khomeini’s treatise on Islamic government suggests only the vaguest notion of how such a government would be organized or how it would work. But the central notion of his treatise—that leadership in government belongs to the community of Islamic jurists as heirs to the mantle of the Prophet—became the basic pillar of the constitution of the Islamic Republic and remains so today. While much has changed in the composition of the ruling elites in Iran since the revolution, with men of secular backgrounds running the technical ministries and government departments, the commanding heights of power and the most sensitive positions in the state are still controlled by clerics—in alliance, of course, with the Revolutionary Guards. Indeed, if President Dwight Eisenhower were delivering a farewell address in Iran today, he would warn against the rise of a military-clerical complex.
            It is true that a very broad coalition of forces made the Iranian Revolution. We like to believe that in Iran, as in the countries of the Arab Spring, a united people rose up in a demand for democracy and good government. But this should not obscure the fact that the Iranian Revolution was also a revolution of classes: of the underprivileged against the privileged; the poor against the rich and even the moderately well-off; those excluded from power against the ruling elites in the broadest sense; the upwardly mobile against those already part of the comfortable bourgeoisie.
            Mehdi Bazargan, the first prime minister of the Islamic Republic, writes that when he was offered the position of prime minister, he described to the Revolutionary Council (RC) his criteria for choosing his cabinet. His cabinet officers, he told the members of the Revolutionary Council, would of course have to be men with a reputation for piety and oppositional activism, but they would also have to be men with the proper education, professional qualifications, and experience. Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Beheshti, Khomeini’s principal representative on the RC, responded with a firm “no” to these criteria, Bazargan writes. Men of experience and education, Beheshti told Bazargan, (and I am paraphrasing) means “you people will hold office again. We have our people too. They may have no education or experience, but they also expect jobs and positions and they should get them. If necessary, we will assign them deputies with the proper qualifications.”
            Like Bazargan, many of the middle-class professionals, members of the intelligentsia, university professors, economists, engineers, and mid-rank government officials did not understand that while they regarded themselves as revolutionaries and part of the opposition against the monarchy, the less privileged saw them as members of the privileged elite who had benefited from the old regime and who deserved to be driven out to make way for the newcomers. Ayatollah Beheshti also told an industrialist who came to see him after his factory had been expropriated: “For decades you people have enjoyed privilege, money and position. Now it is our turn.”
            As a consequence, the revolution resulted in a sweeping transformation of elites. In the civil service, the top ranks, down to three or four levels, were eliminated through dismissal, purge, arrest, and flight. Like the army, the police forces were purged of their senior officers. The business elite—industrialists, contractors, bankers—were expropriated and a great deal of private wealth was taken over by the state. Similar transformations of elites took place virtually everywhere—in universities, in banks, in hospital administrations. Even in the clerical community, many of the highly respected members of the older clerical establishment were gradually marginalized to be replaced by middle-rank clerics identified with the Khomeini revolutionaries.
            It is possible to argue that the electoral successes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the Arab Spring also represented a reach for a share in power, privilege, and material reward by the underprivileged whom the Brotherhood represented. But in Egypt the old ruling elites remained in place; and the new claimants to power were soon ousted.
            From its very beginnings, post-revolution politics in Iran has been characterized by deep divisions and fierce power struggles both among the wide range of groups that formed the original revolutionary coalition and among the men most closely identified with Khomeini himself. The radical students who seized the American Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 brought down the moderate Islamist government of Mehdi Bazargan. Iran’s first president, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, who in his own disorganized way sought to tame the powerful currents and radicalism released by the revolution, was impeached by the clerical radicals in the second year of his presidency. After the ouster of Bani-Sadr, the men around Khomeini turned on the left-wing guerrilla organizations that had played a role in bringing down the Shah and in support of Khomeini. In the worst period of revolutionary terror witnessed since the revolution, thousands of members of these organizations were executed, sometimes in broad daylight on the streets of the capital. Arrests and repression gradually eliminated or neutralized members of the Tudeh (Iranian Communist) Party, elements of the old National Front, and other fringe groups.  
            By mid-1985, the men around Khomeini had eliminated most of the rival claimants to power. But this inner circle, it turned out, was not united; and while deep differences over policy and purpose remained muted due to the exigencies of the Iran-Iraq War, they emerged in force at the end of the war and with the death of Khomeini in 1989. Over the last two decades and more, conservatives of various stripes insisted on the enforcement of Islamic laws and principles, resisted any deviation from what they regarded as revolutionary ideals, and emphasized loyalty to the revolutionary organizations and the principle of concentration of power in the supreme leader’s hands. They competed for political primacy with the pragmatic domestic and foreign policies championed by President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (1989-1997), the sweeping and ultimately unsuccessful reformist policies of President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), and the populism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013). These competing strands in the politics of the Iranian ruling elite reflected the unresolved political legacy—the unresolved political issues—generated by the 1979 revolution. Hassan Rouhani’s election as president in 2013 on a platform of moderate, cautious reform represents the latest attempt to address them.
Shaul Bakhash is the Clarence Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University.
This paper was presented at the Middle East Program meeting, “Iran’s Tumultuous Revolution: 35 Years Later” on February 10, 2014.
Photo credit: Imam Khomeini via Instagram, Reza Shah Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Khamenei on Revolution’s Achievements

            Iran’s supreme leader celebrated the 1979 revolution on his Facebook page, even though the site is banned in the Islamic Republic. The following are images Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s account posted in early February to mark the revolution’s 35th anniversary. Each one heralds what Iran views as one of its main accomplishments – in nuclear science, women’s rights, education, building its armed forces, and more.

            This split-photo posted on Khamenei’s Facebook page depicts two generations of the revolution under two supreme leaders – the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) and Khamenei (left).








Event: Iran's Revolution 35 Years Later

            On February 10, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace convened a panel of experts to discuss Iran’s revolution on its 35th anniversary. The following is a recorded video of the event moderated by Dr. Haleh Esfandiari featuring:

Shaul Bakhash
Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University
Mehdi Khalaji
Senior Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
John Limbert
Distinguished Professor of International Affairs, United States Naval Academy
Karim Sadjadpour

Senior Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Iran and U.N. Watchdog Agree on Next Steps

            On February 8 and 9, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran reached groundbreaking agreement on seven measures to be implemented by May 15, 2014. The measures are based on the interim nuclear deal’s framework brokered in November 2013. For the first time, Iran has agreed to deal with U.N. suspicions that it conducted weapons-related research. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants to clarify Iran’s research on fast-functioning detonators, which have some non-nuclear uses but can also trigger an explosion. Several of the measures deal with expanded access for inspectors.

           But “there are still a lot of outstanding issues,” Tero Varjoranta, deputy director general of IAEA, said at Vienna airport after returning from Tehran. “We will address them all in due course.” The following is a list provided by the IAEA.

  • Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd;
  • Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Ardakan concentration plant;
  • Submission of an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor;
  • Taking steps to agree with the Agency on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the IR-40 Reactor;
  • Providing mutually agreed relevant information and arranging for a technical visit to Lashkar Ab'ad Laser Centre;
  • Providing information on source material, which has not reached the composition and purity suitable for fuel fabrication or for being isotopically enriched, including imports of such material and on Iran's extraction of uranium from phosphates; and
  • Providing information and explanations for the Agency to assess Iran's stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.

Click here for the U.N. press release.


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