However you see or understand democracy, it starts from the roots, and like a tree grows strongly when its roots have penetrated in the soil holding firmly to the earth. In a religious society like Iran, with a long history of despotism and colonial domination you need to work patiently and continuously to ensure that democracy takes root. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic today provides ground for this discourse in Iranian society, but that alone does not suffice, particularly taking into consideration the conflicting interpretations and the obstacles facing the realization of democratic values.
As an NGO , the Center for Peace and Environment endeavored to play its share in this domain by convening a workshop on the role of environmental NGOs in promoting awareness and changing lifestyles in Iranian villages. We had invited four NGOs and experts to provide their success stories for the media and other NGO members. Education for protection of endangered species such as the cheetah, sustainable agricultural methods that would decrease pesticide and chemical fertilizer use, environmental education experiences for women's cooperatives in 30 villages throughout Iran and a project on enabling rural women to develop their potentials for sustainable resource management were discussed. Most of these projects had commenced during my tenure at the Department of the Environment and they had developed experiences worth sharing. I thanked them at the end and we gave them each an artwork of calligraphy from the Holy Quran.
On Thursday, I attended the annual congress of the Organization of the Mujjahedin of the Revolution. They are one of the major political parties in the reformist camp. All leaders and prominent members of the reform movement were present. Mr. Salamati read the Party's statement and then Dr.Hajjarian was given the floor to present his views. The audience gave him a lengthy standing ovation. After being attacked by a radical group in 1998, he now uses a walker and has difficulty in speaking. He went to the podium and announced that his speech would be read by another person.
He spoke about the necessity of containing and limiting the extent of power in any political structure. There is a tendency inherent in political power, to seek unlimited authority and to reign for an eternity. Democratic processes are in place to limit and control power and through efficient means of oversight and regulation to ensure accountability and transparency. He compared uncontrolled power to a high voltage current that can burn homes and neighbourhoods if not properly controlled to lower voltages appropriate for home appliances. He mentioned the regulatory mechanisms enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic which are not fully practiced. His speech was as usual very clear and to the point. I however, have certain doubts whether the timing of this discourse, which targets the power and leadership structures , is appropriate. We are nearing the very sensitive months before Presidential elections and the reformists should take necessary precautions.