August 5, 2022
The issuance of the order establishing constitutionalism and the formation of the parliament of the nation’s representatives on 5 August 1906 was a critical turning point in Iranian intellectuals’ fight to establish the rule of law. At that time, Iran demanded a government that would be the guarantor of freedom, legal equality of the people, independence and the liberation of Iran from foreign interference and dominance and a provider of stability, security, and national interests and one to push a nation and society mired in a swamp of backwardness towards progress and modernity.
The outbreak of the First World War and the increasing Russian and English interference and the resulting insecurity, chaos, and the growing crisis in Iran made conditions such that safeguarding Iran’s territorial integrity, the return of stability and security became prerequisites to freedom, progress, and modernity and thus became the priorities for the constitutionalists.
It was in such circumstances that , “Sardar Sepah” (Reza Shah) arrived and, according to the celebrated historian, Mashallah Ajudani, became “the powerful and capable hero of constitutionalism”. Ajudani writes in “Iranian Constitutionalism”: “Reza Shah put two important demands of Iran’s constitutionalism, i.e. the creation of a powerful central government and the modernization of the backward, traditional society, with all the contradictions that existed in Iranian modernism and progress, in his plan of action, and within twenty years, it changed the face of Iranian society.”
The widespread reforms of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi should also be considered a continuation of historic desire for constitutionalism. How could one speak of a modern society when women, half of the nation’s population, were barred from political participation and another significant portion of populace were effectively serfs? My father, with his land reform and insistence on female participation in the political and social spheres, took a further step to advance the project of constitutionalism.
Yet exactly at the time when a further critical demand of constitutionalism, political freedom and democracy in Iran, could have been realized, the regressive 1979 revolution against the values of the constitutional movement took place. The proponents of Sharia law in the vein of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri defeated the constitutionalists in the vein of Sattar Khan, Bagher Khan, and Sardar Asad Bakhtiari and established a government of religious sermonizers and criminals. The government that, from its very first day, replaced the Iranian nation with the “Islamic nation”, shuttered the modern, national judicial system and set up courts of Islamic injustice to rule over peoples lives and livelihoods and it deprived the people, especially women, of social freedoms. Today, it hands over Iran’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and destiny to China and Russia and maintains its grip on power by spending the nation’s money on terrorism and vast crimes.
Constitutionalism, however, was not a historic event that ended at one point in time. Constitutionalism is our eternal desire and its path always continues. Its continuation is in the debt of intellectuals and those dedicated individuals whose names, after a century, continue to shine like stars in Iran’s sky and shimmer like a light of hope to the tired.
Today the Iranian nation, more than at any other time, demands national sovereignty and the the realization of its will in all social, political, and economic matters. I am certain that this great force will arrive at its demands and goals and that we will realize independence, development and progress, freedom and democracy in our dear country.
Long live Iran,
August 5, 2022