Iran’s leadership is resisting growing calls from clerics and some reformist politicians for a new referendum on the Iranian constitution. The only response to recent unrest is to execute violent protesters.
Power struggles between the country’s rulers have made it appear that the government is sending mixed messages on how to respond to the protests, but in reality the security forces have launched a crackdown, killing 10,000 people, including 60 journalists. A person was arrested nearby.
However, some senior members of Iran’s multifaceted regime have recently launched dialogue with protesting students or blamed the country’s troubles on the previous government, led by President Hassan Rouhani. Ministers face calls to release hundreds of students and teachers still in custody.
Students were outraged when 220 Iranian hardline lawmakers on Monday called on the judiciary to take firm action against the perpetrators of the riots. A parliamentary spokesperson who faced backlash said on Tuesday that the call had been misunderstood by the Western media, distinguishing between protests and riots, adding that appeasement for those who killed others was impossible.
Iran’s Justice Ministry spokesman Massoud Setaesi said at a news conference in Tehran that lawsuits had been filed against 1,024 protesters in Tehran.
Amid a largely leaderless revolution, clerics and some students are demanding that the regime try to resolve the crisis by holding an immediate referendum in the presence of international observers. The first Iranian revolution in 1979 was supported by a simple referendum on all Iranians over the age of 16 asking “Should Iran be an Islamic republic?”
The call for a new referendum was first made by Moravi Abdulhamid, Iran’s leading Sunni cleric, based in the southeastern city of Zahedan. “Have a referendum, see what changes the people want, accept whatever they want. The current policy is at a dead end,” he said.
“The constitution itself was approved 43 years ago, and the people who compiled it have all left and a new generation has come. This law also needs to be changed and updated. .
“We have been told many times that this law needs to be put to a referendum, but unfortunately nothing has been done and even the same law 43 years ago has not been properly implemented.”
His call to renew the government’s legitimacy was supported by the Islamic People’s Party coalition led by Azar Mansouri. “Lack of political legitimacy is the most obvious threat to national security,” she said. “Do you want to make a change that is justified? Instead of making the problem disappear, find out why people are protesting and ask yourself if there is no other way than free elections and an independent civil society.”
Hossein Noorani Nejad, a reformist member of the Mosharekat party, writing for Etemaad newspaper, added that support for the referendum is growing by the day and may be the last chance to find a reform solution.
But Mohammed Hosseini, Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs, said in a question-and-answer session with students that referendums are about individual issues and cannot be held to determine the principles of Iran’s system of governance. He said the protests have been going on for 50 days and require a red line.
Faced with student strikes and the construction of barracks, he continued: Do you think Saudi Arabia, who is killing its young enemy, wants to teach Iran a moral lesson with the media it has set up against us?”
A large group of students from Tehran’s Sharif University held a rally on Tuesday to protest the threats, arrests and pressure on students. In a statement, the students said, “This is Sharif University. This is not a prison. This is Sharif University, not the Qasr prison of the country’s intelligence and security services.”
Students demanded that authorities end their repression and respect academic autonomy. “Liberate classmates, stop ridiculous plans like banning students from colleges, remove uniformed troops from colleges, and provide a better space for scholars to voice their opinions.” said the statement.