Letter to President Khatami









What follows is a letter written by Abdolkarim Soroush to President Seyed Mohammad Khatamti, in which he complains about what he describes as lack of freedom in the Iranian press and mismanagement in the country.


I sent this letter to the estimable and beloved President Seyed Mohammad Khatami when my friends were sill kept in chains. But even now that they have been released from the cage, the heavy weight of the lead-filled atmosphere of their captivity still lingers. The angel of death has now come to take the life of "Salam", "Aban" and "Iran-e-Farda", and the lock on "Navid", "Rah-e-Nou", and "Jame'a Salem" has been tightened, and "Jame'a" and "Tous" do not yet have a bright future, and the empire of those waging a battle against pen, seeking to expand the realm of its conquests, is set to launch new attacks. The cultural colonelcy with Changiz-style incentives has become the mode of the day, and besides the press, it is also setting fire to the universities. I deemed it appropriate to make public my private words with that beloved one and bring to the public notice my sympathy with those suffering from the pangs of the pen, letting the captain of the ship of civil society know that "We had better not rely on this troubled sea.

"I flaunt the myopic attitude of that army of Turks who attacked me, a dervish armed only with his cloak I am follower of that veteran sage, don't be annoyed with me O' Sheikh, for you made the promise, but he fulfilled the promise"

Dear Hojjatoleslam Seyed Mohammad Khatami, the Beloved and Estimable President of the Islamic Republic of Iran: After reetings, you well know that it is for some time that a number of courageous and intelligent children of this land have been chained on charges of iberality, seeking freedom, loyalty to the civil society and disturbing national security. It is for one month that the agitating heart of manliness and tearful eye of justice is beating and weeping over the ominous nature of this injustice. Deterioration of the hasty government of civil society and its entanglement in the talasma of the predicament of religious despotism boded ill by this flagrant treatment. The history of our land has always anguished from and is replete with examples of insecurity of the people of pen, the mediamen, shattering the ship of the masters of art, honoring those breaking the principles, and respecting the sold-out authors. This time, however, the event is of a different nature. A group of admonishers , counselors, set their heart to the promises and guffaws of that pompous eunuch optimistically and selflessly and annihilated themselves in the mirage of treasure of their orgy, not knowing that there is no loyalty in fulfillment of this promise, and that the eagle of injustice and tyranny has extended its wings over the city. And the eunuch has no concern for his servants. And when the army of those narrow-sighted Turks attacked the dervishes, the friends broke the promise and denied acquaintance of any sort. Now that the shelterless and the sinless, like Yousef (Joseph), have sit at the corner of prison at the behest of the night watch and push the morsel of sorrow from the table of loneliness into the mouth of patience, what message they have for those outside of the prison and the claimants but: One should not forsake one's heart and religion I am so repentant of so doing that is beyond question Mr. President, one who is not among this folk should not play in their team. The sea of truth and freedom is i nundated with waves of blood. Love seemed to be easy at the beginning, but problems ensured. It will bring about the suffering of royal people and chagrin of the wise people to teach people to pour oil on the inhabitants of wooden houses and chanting slogans and giving promise and demand the shelterless selfless people to fulfil them and surrender those fulfilling the promises to the tyranny of the day, and observing the oppression and violence of justice-combating people without raising one's head in protest, and paying lipservice to kindness, beauty and freedom and humanity and laughing like kings and be satisfied with the name of law and truth and failing to shout at those who kill the Farhad. O, dear! the gallows have been set up for those who believe in the truth, while you observe without rendering any help? You are a man of the pen and appreciate oration. In our land, no people has been born most shelterless and desperate than this people. The sibling of the farm of civil society is being irrigated by the drops of tears trickling down the eyes of the deprived people who have no prospect for the future and the liberals who are not linked to the sources of power. If this spring is dry, where else one can carry water to quest his thirst. The day when two of the cabinet members were thrashed, I found that the agitation overtaken this dynasty is endless. I told myself that closing a daily is no less punishable than crushing an eye or a chin. If those who have broken the pot are punished, why not punishing those breaking the wine vat? Who is to support the selfless people who are the torchbearer of freedom and make sacrifices in the cause of dispensation of justice and who are founders of the civil society? Who is responsible for their sufferings, insecurity, agonies and deprivations? Who is to curtail the impure hands of the agents of religious despotism, agents who do not see the slightest browbeating or censure by the most junior officials? Whom should the hopeful and selfless generation rely on, a generation who have fixed their eyes on the civil society, who are heedless of the advices of a handful of dictatorial surrogates and power-wielders, and who have filled the ballots with their ideal-seeking votes. The thiefs have taken both cannibals and opium together and splash soil and thorn into the eyes of manlihood and draw their daggers and pistol at freedom, while forerunners of civil society mourn over the body of lovers of civil society, aghast, weeping for these victims of cruelty. When Khatami came to power, I told myself that the present state of affairs would come to its end. But I see that done is with the civil society and human rights. Torture is order of the day. Hands are broken. Newspapers are torn to pieces. Freedom-seekers are thrashed. The newcomers have mastered the methods of cruelty. They flatter and ... in the name of the merciful God and the pure religion and in the presence of one who has come to put an end to the prevailing deceit, confirm the denied rights of the people and restore the hu man dignity of Iranian human beings and suggest that right is above responsibility, to enhance research rather than encourage immitation (Taqlid), to turn monopoly to diversity, to ease the free flow of information, to open the door before freedom, to restrict freedom to justice and strangle the throat of despotism, to decapitate religious hegemony, to dissociate from religion of official interpretation, not to believe in special prerogative for any group, oblige the government and leader to be accountable to people, to break the tentacles of transgressors of human rights, to make the judiciary to dispense justice and not as a tool enablig them to gain power, to highlight religion and morality, to supplant non-sceitnfitic management by scientific administration and personal desires and orders by law. Mr. President, Don't feel delight at the smiles of the lion! The print media are the stalwart pillar of civil society, being more efficacious than parties in our society. The unceasing combat launched by t he enemies of civil society against the press bears witness to correctness of my argument. Time is over with lovely words; today we need daring action. The vengeful attack unleashed against the press and the threat posed to the security of the media men is not befitting a people who filled the ballots with their polls. These attacks are the signs of decline and decedance. This poeple elected you not to be a watcher, but a fighter safeguarding their dignity. Mr. Khatami! let me on your behalf tell the people who are breaking the pens that wranglging with the peopel of the pen does not lead to good consequence and will burn interest and capital altogether and all at once. O, God! help us not see the press torn and the pen broken, and make sunny the cloudy sky of thoughts, and irrigate the dry and fledgling farm of civil society in Iran with toleration and manlihood.

 Source: Tehran Times daily Dec. 7 1998



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