The organization was established to champion the institutionalization of democracy in Iran. Our objective is to promote a strategy of nonviolent political defiance to the rule of the dictatorial theocracy in Iran and set the conditions for a transparent national referendum, with international observation, through which the people of Iran will be free to materialize their democratic aspirations and determine their future form of government in a free, fair and democratic manner. The form of the future democratic government will be decided by the direct vote of the people either in favor of a parliamentary monarchy, as in England, the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries, or for a democratic republic such as France, Germany or the United States.
Due to its democratic organizational structure, the membership of the National Union for Democracy in Iran is diverse and representative of many different political views and orientations.
The unity among our members is due to our organizational commitment to tolerance, individual liberty and our unyielding opposition to the theocracy that has been ruling our country. The Islamic regime has come to power through fraud and deception and has stayed in power only by relying on terror as an instrument of domestic and foreign policy. And as such, it is the most immediate obstacle for Iran’s transition to democracy, progress and prosperity.
Our absolute priority is the democratic nature of the Iranian political system and a free market economy after the fall of the Islamic regime. We are deeply committed to the welfare of the people of Iran and their freedom to choose their own lifestyle, to have opportunity for creativity, employment and prosperity and to have access to affordable housing. We believe that a functioning democracy must provide, to the best of its ability, a social safety net to guarantee the welfare of its citizens. Regardless of its form, the post-Islamic government in Iran must comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adhere to the articles of a democratic constitution that guarantees economical, social and political freedoms for all its citizens to be the author of their own lives and to pursue happiness.
We strive for a democratic system of government that is popularly based, with clear delineation of power with “checks and balances.” The democratic system of government will ensure a vibrant civil society wherein people of different ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic groups, and political persuasions will coexist peacefully, respecting the rights of one another, while advancing their own wellbeing as well as rebuilding our homeland.
Iranian Democratic Movement’s Conditions
The process of transition to democracy and concordance with the modern world was initiated by the people of Iran a century ago through the Constitutional Revolution of 1906. The constitution that was ratified in 1906 is a legal monument documenting the will of the people of Iran for self-determination. It is an undeniable testament of Iranian people’s democratic aspirations. However, the democratic movement of the people of Iran faced, from the very beginning, a stiff opposition from illiberal traditionalists who were disguised under the veil of religion. Their hostile opposition to individual freedom and progress coupled with the deficient social foundations have been the two major impediments for the long and arduous process of institutionalization of democracy in Iran. The process of institutionalization of democracy in Iran had to go through different developmental stages to overcome these two barriers. The first necessary stage was the creation of an energetic central government with different ministries to lay the foundations such as national judicial system, railroads, universities and national army. The second stage had to concentrate on creation of economic infrastructures and development of industry. The economic development of Iran during this stage was so vast and extensive that even after twenty seven years of destruction under theocracy its remnants are still serving the country. The final stage of institutionalization of democracy and modernity in Iran was the creation of civil society through social institutions and political organizations. This process was interrupted by the Islamic revolution. The reactionary forces that opposed free markets and individual freedom, in all its aspects, imposed the ideology of Velayate Faghih on Iran—the political ideology that holds that the people are incapable of making the right decisions on their own and need a supreme religious guide to decide on their behalf. The Islamic regime was established on these premises and illegally codified this political ideology into a new Iranian constitution. The Islamic regime’s constitution was never legally ratified by the people of Iran.
It is crucially important to understand that the roots of the Iranian democratic movement go back to the constitutional revolution of 1906. The evolutionary process of this movement has a hundred-year history. Removal of the Islamic regime from power is necessary to materialize its final stage: institutionalization of democracy.
What Sets Us Apart?
Similarly, all political organizations that are fighting for freedom and democracy against the Islamic regime are in a sense, part of a collaborative effort to promote the collective rights of the people of Iran.
Institutionalization of democracy in Iran is a national endeavor that could be treated like a public good that benefits each and every Iranian. As such, the fight for the institutionalization of democracy in Iran is not a partisan task but a national project that belongs to all Iranians. All Iranians, regardless of their race, gender, religion or political orientation, will benefit from a democratic system of government equally regardless of their political orientation and the interest groups in which they belong.
One the other hand, fighting a common enemy is no excuse to curtail the rights of any political association. Happily, there are many political organizations with different ideas about the future of Iran and how it should be governed. Nonviolent competition of political organizations with differing ideas is the best way to exercise and promote democracy and it is also the best way for the public to become aware of different points of view. Political organizations can promote the concept of popular sovereignty by systematically putting future political leaders in touch with and accountable to the Iranian people. Political organizations have to prepare platforms that prescribe programs of public policy that will in turn attract the support of the people and thus mobilize them to participate in the democratic movement. To a substantial degree, competition among the political organizations prevents corruption by motivating each organization to maintain a keen watch over the conduct of other organizations.
Political organizations encourage political participation by socializing the people to their civic roles and by educating them on how the future government should be organized, how to have checks and balances in the government, how the present and future public policies will affect their lives, and how to influence the conduct of public officials. When the leaders of these organizations behave as accountable political brokers arranging transactions among the multitude of interests in the Iranian opposition forces or as legitimate and representative negotiators of a transition to democratic system, their activities in effect implement a system of conflict management that channels political conflict along nonviolent lines.
Therefore, The National Union for Democracy in Iran is a political organization with a set of beliefs and points of view about the future of Iran and that at the same time shares all the democratic ideals of all other political organizations. We believe ourselves to be a part of collective and national struggle towards democracy while forwarding our own ideals in the political arena. We are a political organization that believes that institutionalization of democracy is a national project.
Removal of the Islamic regime from power should never be viewed as a diplomatic puzzle. The regime can be removed from power by variety of means and ways. The central question however, is how will it be removed at the hands of the people of Iran and how will the removal of the regime lead to a complete functioning democracy. National Union for Democracy in Iran will not settle for anything less than a total democracy and will categorically reject the notions such as Islamic democracy.
Mobilization of the people requires that we articulate the long term goals of the democratic movement and its philosophical tenets beyond the collapse of the Islamic regime. Only then removal of the Islamic regime from power will transform itself from a diplomatic puzzle and political dilemma to a technical issue. Therefore, we must first get a thorough understanding of the theoretical content of the democratic movement of the people of Iran and then set our strategy in accordance with the real needs of our society at this historic junction. If our theory and strategy deviates from the general direction of the evolution of our society, the democratic movement will lose its momentum. On the contrary, if our strategy is in accordance with the evolution of the society, all social and political interaction, even the brutal activities of the regime will add to its momentum.
In a sense, removal of the regime from power is only the first step for the complex project of rebuilding of Iran. In rebuilding Iran we need to balance between the need for steadfast completion of national projects that are centrally planned and the need for public participation. This is a huge task and will require mobilization of the people based upon a national consensus for progress and modernity that has been established and accepted by the majority of the people long before the regime has been removed from power.
Thus, national unity, in our opinion, is not a mathematical addition of all political personalities and political organizations. It is, however, a natural process and a genuine coming together of all the Iranian people for planning the implementation of a democratic system and to establish a historically necessary new political order.
This historic necessity is manifested in the urgency for a democratic transition from theocracy to democracy. National Union for Democracy in Iran was established to achieve this goal and the concordance of all other democratic groups and personalities will speed up this process.
Organizational structure of the National Union for Democracy in Iran
As a diverse group of individuals our ability to agree on a common agenda is our greatest strength. Our objective is to rally all Iranians under one basic principle or project without advocating any particular ideology or form of government, in the sense of preempting a due political process. What we advocate is more than a common denominator. It is a foundation, upon which to promote a national consensus on key issues of modernity such as democracy, separation of Islam from the affairs of the state, human rights and popular sovereignty. Our project is a collective and united front, working together to find solutions to our common social problems.
We trust that the internal organization of National Union for Democracy in Iran can serve as a model for all future political organizations in Iran. Just as the socio-political conditions in the west paved the way for a greater level of tolerance in all aspects of life, and just as western political parties were developed over the decades to contribute to the society while they helped sustain stability, law and order, we too, believe that we need to learn many lessons from western model of tolerance and democracy and pave the way for a well functioning democracy in Iran in which all political parties can democratically compete for public offices. We strongly believe that saving our homeland and the region from the present predicament is contingent upon our unity of purpose to institutionalize democracy in Iran.
Separation of Islam from Politics:
Essential Factor in Institutionalization of Democracy in Iran
One of the more dramatic consequences of the Islamic revolution has been the realization that theocracy is an unacceptable form of government. Iranians are now openly debating the merits of secularism and clear and total separation of Islam from government.
There are still some, unaware of the Iranian history, who maintain the impression that Islam has always been central to our governing process. And that Iranians’ religious beliefs have barred them from espousing the principles of separation of religion and state.
In reality, Iran has experimented for several centuries with various degrees and models of governance, quite independent of religion. And even today many scholars believe that the present regime, in its totality, including its constitution, is in violation of Islamic teachings.
As one of the cradles of civilization, Iran has been a land of tolerance, a home to a multitude of ethnicities and religions. The respect for the individual faith and spirituality has always been an inseparable part of our culture. However, after more than twenty seven years of rule under a strict theocracy the people of Iran are fed up and tired of religion meddling in their daily lives. Yet, their dissatisfaction with theocracy has not been translated into a collective knowledge on the subject of secularism. Since we strongly believe that without full separation of Islam from politics we will not be able to begin the democratization process in Iran, we propose a national debate on the subject with the clear purpose of separation of Islam from the affairs of the state.
For a well functioning democracy we need to have freedom of religion, as well as the freedom from religion, for all Iranians. In our plans for the future of Iran the religion, and particularly Islam, must return to its respected place and do not interfere in the affairs of the state or legislation and regulations.
None of the world’s democratic systems allow religion to dictate the policies of the state. Religion is best served if it is separated from the affairs of the state and is not used as an expedient tool for political agendas. We must follow the path of other democracies and separate religion from the affairs of the state.
Our International Goals
For the world community, Iran remains a complex problem. For over twenty seven years, it has experienced an Islamic government in Iran mired with chaos, violence, the seizure of hostages, angry mobs, senseless slogans, war, murder, and assassinations—in short, a total disregard for the most basic human values and civility.
Yet, there are many who have persisted in inaccurately portraying the political dynamics in Iran as a struggle between a reformist faction and the radical conservatives. Understandably, the world community is puzzled about how to react to Iran: which statement, which slogan, which faction, and which promise to believe?
The real struggle taking shape in Iran today is not between reformists and the radical conservatives; rather, it is the forces of state despotism and terrorism against an emerging popular movement that demands democracy, rejects militant fundamentalism, and repudiates supreme rule by divine right.
Thus, from the perspective of international relations, too, democratization is the best solution to the regional dilemmas created by the Islamic regime.
And finally, with regards to the war on terrorism, we believe that if the people of Iran participate in the decision making process of setting the state policies, they would never ever allow their government to support terrorism in any and all its forms. When the people of Iran are in charge, the post-Islamic government will also actively promote peaceful coexistence with all nations.
Does National Union for Democracy in Iran Promote a Particular Form of Government?
We believe that if all democratically minded political groups and organizations insisted on the democratic nature of the future government, as opposed to insisting on the future form of it, the process of change will occur much faster.
The parliamentary democracy that National Union for Democracy in Iran advocates, in its essence, is similar to the democratic governments of United States and Western Europe—a democratic socio-political order that guarantees basic liberties of all citizens. We advocate a constitution with bill of rights, separation of powers, and a congress that has been directly elected by the people to write all the new laws.
National Union for Democracy in Iran asserts that for true democracy to exist in Iran, the following freedoms must be guaranteed by the government:
Every Iranian is entitled to freedom of speech and freedom of self expression to share differing views and opinions, even when contrary to popular or majority belief, free from any absolute power of government to suppress or censor the same. Even unpopular expression should be protected from absolute government suppression or censorship.
II. FREEDOM OF PRESS, PETITION & ASSEMBLY.
Iranians are entitled to assemble, form political organizations and have the opportunity to petition their government to communicate and express their thoughts and opinions. In the same manner, all Iranians are entitled to receive and circulate information through a free press that is protected from absolute government suppression or censorship.
The right to be free of unwarranted and unwanted government intrusion into one's personal and private beliefs, affairs, papers, and possessions.
IV. DUE PROCESS OF LAW.
The unconditional right of every Iranian to be provided with proper notice, trial, right to counsel, opportunity to present evidence and review and confront adverse evidence and witnesses prior to the administration of government action depriving an individual of life, liberty or property.
V. EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW.
The right to be treated equally before the law, regardless of social status.
VI. FREEDOM OF RELIGION.
The right to exercise one's own religious beliefs, or the lack thereof, free from any government regulation, influence, or compulsion.
As indicated before, the particular form of the government must be chosen by the people in a direct, free, and fair referendum.