Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Rights Charter Attempts To Unify Iranians

The main architect of the new document, Iranian writer and philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, has been living outside of Iran since 2006. (file photo)
The main architect of the new document, Iranian writer and philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, has been living outside of Iran since 2006. (file photo)
By Golnaz Esfandiari and Kambiz Tavana
Inspired by Czechoslovakia's renowned Charter 77, a group of Iranian intellectuals have penned a new document that aims to unite the Iranian people around a common human rights and civic agenda.

"Charter 91," so called because this year is 1391 under the Persian calendar, enshrines basic rights and rejects violence. It also provides a blueprint for a future democratic Iran under which the rights of all minorities, including homosexuals, are protected. Religion is separated from the state, under the document, and freedom of speech is protected.

"In order to transit from dictatorship and despotism and reach democracy, we Iranians need to review and rebuilt our political culture," the charter reads.

Articles of the charter are dedicated specifically to women's rights, justice, natural resources, and the environment, in which the rights of animals are addressed.

"All Iranians should have equal rights," reads one passage. Another one says that Iranians should have the freedom to choose how they appear in public.

The charter also says that the judiciary should be independent and that justice should not lead to violence and revenge.

The main architect of the document is prominent Iranian-Canadian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, who has written extensively about the culture of nonviolence.
The Charter 91 LogoThe Charter 91 Logo
The Charter 91 Logo
The Charter 91 Logo

Jahanbegloo says the idea of the charter came to him after the mass protests that followed the 2009 presidential election, and the state-engineered crackdown that followed.

"Some, including myself and young people, were asking ourselves why Iranian society has been engaged in a culture of violence and revenge," Jahanbegloo says in explaining the reasons behind the charter.

"We have to believe that, in order to achieve a mighty society from a political point of view, we need to have strong moral principles and a civic culture. And behavior cannot be imposed from the top; society has to achieve it through a process. I hope this charter will be helpful."

'Perfect' Timing

Jahanbegloo, who was detained in Iran in 2006 before moving to Canada after being released on bail, says the goal is to distribute Charter 91 among Iranians and generate a national debate about the rights and values included in the document.

One of the signatories of Charter 91, Professor Nader Hashemi, who teaches Middle Eastern politics at the University of Denver, believes the timing of the document is "perfect."

"Iranians who are upset with the state of politics in Iran need some hope for the future," he says. "And I think this charter provides the hope for a better Iran; for a future Iran that will be more peaceful, more democratic and more respectful."

Charter 91 has a website and a Facebook page through which Iranians can learn about its principles and grant their approval.

The document has already been signed by some 100 Iranian intellectuals, human rights activists, and women's rights defenders -- all of whom appear to be based outside the country.

But for Charter 91 to have an impact within Iran, it needs to gain the support and approval of those living inside the country. And there lies one of the greatest challenges facing the document.

Government Response?

According to Hashemi, it is very important that it doesn't become merely a charter for Iranian exiles and expats. Hashemi acknowledges that for anyone in Iran, signing the document would be hazardous, but he also says the government has reason to respond with restraint.

"What would be interesting -- obviously it's a huge risk -- [would be] for the Islamic republic of Iran  to arrest someone and put them in jail because they simply put their name on a document such as this, which calls for basic human rights, basic rights that the Islamic republic often claims it supports," he says. "It would be a huge embarrassment for the Islamic republic, so we have to wait and see what happens."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Tehran-based journalist and supporter of the opposition Green Movement describes the charter as a "very fine" document. However, the journalist said he believes it lacks a statement about Iran's territorial integrity. He says he is unlikely to sign it.

"All of those who have signed it are outside the country, which makes it difficult for me to sign it, even though they have my full sympathy," the journalist says.

Written and reported by RFE/RL Washington correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Radio Farda correspondent Kambiz Tavana
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Tala from: Iran
September 10, 2012 19:08
Thank you so much for covering this very important initiative.

by: Demetrius Minneapolis from: My House
September 10, 2012 21:45
This is good in the eventuality that 100 Iranian clerics die all at once, or Ahmadinejad admits he's a rat-faced punk. I think they have good intentions, just don't see where it's going.

Has anyone thought about presenting it to the ayatollah or a minister of MOIS? They will appreciate the rainbow in the logo I'm sure.

by: Sinav from: South Azerbaijan
September 10, 2012 23:09
Ms. Esfandiari did you just mean “Shamsi(Solar Hijri) Calendar” by the “Persian calendar”?!
I don’t think if “Charter 91” will mend the ingrained chauvinism.

by: Anonymous
September 11, 2012 00:00
How is this charter going to prevent a war? A war would mean an end to any hope for democracy in Iran. Are you listening Bibi?!

by: Kaveh from: Tehran
September 11, 2012 02:28

Attempts to revive the irrelevant and antiquated Iranian exiles will fail again ( it seems the US does not learn from its past fiasco). These people know nothing about the Iranian society, they live in their materialistic bubbles in the West and have nothing in common with ordinary Iranians, when they travel to Iran they have a culture shock because they have assimilated into a hedonistic secular society which Iran is not.

Islamic government in Iran has genuine mass support and this is the main reason why the imperialist West could not do much against the Islamic system in Iran for the past 33 years, and now with sanctions more Iranians turned anti-imperialist and view the Islamic system as the only viable option to colonization.
In Response

by: Ben
September 12, 2012 11:26
Western obsess on the democracy has rediculouse consequances as the human rights` defenders greet the Bomb of his country for it`s enemies fright.Bibi has nothing to wait of this opposition.

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