The only way forward for Iran is a unified push by all political movements for a direct, democratic referendum on changing the Islamic Republic’s ruling system, former revolutionary Abolfazl Qadyani said from his prison cell.
73-year-old Qadyani (also spelled as Ghadyani) is a co-founder of the political group Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution of Iran Organization (MIRO). He helped the clerics consolidate power after the downfall of the monarchy forty years ago. The MIRO strongly supported the Islamic Republic’s ruling system until 2009, when the group fell out with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after the disputed re-election of populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Khamenei “will not submit to reform,” and the only way out of Iran’s economic and social turmoil is for the Supreme Leader to step down, Qadyani wrote in a letter smuggled out of prison and published on Kalemeh, a website affiliated with the Green Movement, the political uprising sparked by Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.
Qadyani’s comments were in response to a speech Khamenei gave on the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution February 12.
"The Islamic Revolution has been mighty, but merciful; forgiving and even oppressed since its inception, this Revolution has never been merciless nor has it ever shed blood; it has neither been passive nor hesitant,” Khamenei said in his speech.
Comparing Khamenei's statement to the philosophy of the German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels, Qadyani has insisted, "the Supreme Leader believes that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it, hesitating to question its credibility. The bigger a lie, the better."
In an earlier letter published in November, Qadyani had described lifetime appointments, including that of the Supreme Leader, as the “mother of all corruption.”
"The power in Iran, as everybody knows, is monopolized by the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (the philosophy behind the position of the Supreme Leader). Therefore, since the Supreme Leader is under nobody's supervision and not accountable to any institution, he is responsible for spreading the corrupt products of the concentrated power for life across the land,” he wrote.
Qadyani, himself a former pro-reform activist, also criticized Iranian reformists in his most recent communication from behind bars for their steadfast belief that the regime can reform itself.
“They [reformists] want to reform a corrupt and flawed structure,” he wrote, “they are either not reformists or simply cherish an impossible dream.”
He called on all political activists, including those in the reform camp, to demand Khamenei step down. Otherwise, he warned, Iranians may face the same sad fate as Libyans and Iraqis, whose dictators were forced from power.
"The current dominant regime will never submit to reform since its legal and real structure is fundamentally against reform," Qadyani argued, adding, "Therefore, it should be forced by resistance and persistence to accept structural amendment through reform or national referendum.”
Qadyani is in prison along with many other political activists who publicly challenged the results of the 2009 presidential election. Along with fourteen other activists, he signed a statement in 2017 demanding a referendum on changing Iran’s cleric-dominated ruling system to one of secular democracy.