The Secretary General of the outlawed Iran Freedom Movement has warned Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, about a repeat of the Iranian experience and the revival of tyranny in the small North African country.
In the letter Ghannouchi, the veteran Iranian politician, said that the recent victory of the moderate Islamist Ennada party in Tunisia’s first free elections following the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime in January 2011, left the party chief with “a heavy burden of responsibility.”
“While the political maturity of the Tunisian people has had a profound impact on me, I’m gravely concerned about its long-term outcome,” the letter cautioned. “Despite our struggle for realising our fundamental rights, freedom and the right to govern, we Muslims, regardless of nationality, lack the necessary experience when it comes to democracy.”
“We fight and remove dictators, but we do not eradicate tyranny as a way of life. Tyranny is not summarised in and limited to a certain political structure, but it has cultural dimensions that go hand in hand with the political structure,” Yazdi stated.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Yazdi became a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Council and the country’s first post-revolution Foreign Minister. Shortly after the formation of the interim government, he and other cabinet members resigned to protest the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.
Yazdi, in his 80s, has been jailed both before and after the fall of the Shah in 1979. Since Iran’s rigged 2009 presidential election, the activist has spent more than a year in prison. While behind bars, he was considered to be Iran’s oldest political prisoner.
“We Muslims topple tyrants while soon after, we witness their new replacements,” he noted. “We overthrew the Shah, but forgot to deal with the ways and character of the shah within us.”
The prominent pro-reform figure maintained that democracy was not an “export commodity, but a national process of learning and exploration.” Yazdi recognised the importance of the recent Tunisian elections, but at the same time stressed that ballot boxes would not be enough to automatically ensure a democratic future for the country.
The letter calls on Ghannouchi to safeguard three principles to ensure that Tunisia avoids turning once more into a tyranny: accepting and respecting “diversity and pluralism in human society”; “tolerance” of various existing views, as well as “convergence” and “cooperation” among the different political groupings. He expressed hope that Tunisia would not repeat “the mistakes we made in Iran,” but would instead become a role model for the institutionalisation of democracy in the Arab and Islamic World.