In the wake of post-election turmoil in Iran, Tehran is in the grips of a fever that only worsens as reports increase of torture and abuse of detained activists. The regime has taken measures to contain the crisis, but each action has only fanned the flames. As Iranians at home and abroad protest the regime’s actions, the parliament and the Assembly of Experts – popularly elected bodies – could have aligned themselves with the people, but have chosen instead to pay heed to their regime constituencies, losing the opportunity to write a new page in Iran’s history.
The Majlis, Iran’s parliament, has the constitutionally guaranteed right under article 76 to question and investigate “all the affairs of the country.” However, in an election where three candidates questioned the validity of the election results, repeatedly asked the Guardian Council to conduct a comprehensive recount and/or demanded a new election, none of the members of parliament have officially questioned the disputed results or called for an investigation into allegations of fraud.
Members of the Majlis, as part of their investigative authorities, have the right to interpolate ministers and submit questions to the president, as specified in articles 88 and 89 of the constitution. Yet, at a time when the whole world, not to mention the Iranian nation, is questioning the legitimacy of Iran’s election, the Majlis has been unable to think of a single question to pose to the president or his ministers. Out of 290 members, only 10 are needed to initiate the interpolation of a minister. The post-election violence, massive arrests, reports of prisoner abuse and mass trials – reminiscent of Stalinist Russia – have thus far failed to build even this smallest of constituencies in the parliament. De facto martial law has been implemented through nightly curfews, restrictions on travel and the pervasive presence of security forces, yet the parliament has not stood up to demand that the government account for these repressive measures as required in article 79 of the constitution.
The Majlis has a duty – and the constitutional authority – to investigate, hold the government accountable and respond to public concerns. Yet the members of parliament have not had the courage to stand up as the spring of elections has turned into a bloody fall. Even those who visited detention facilities in response to allegations of prisoner mistreatment failed the Iranian people by not publishing the results of their investigation and denying any signs of abuse, in clear contravention of well documented evidence.
Similarly, the Assembly of Experts is constitutionally mandated in article 111 to supervise and hold accountable the Supreme Leader for “fulfilling his constitutional duties.” However, the Assembly seems to have found nothing extraordinary in the election or post-election that would indicate the need for a meeting regarding the performance of the Supreme Leader. While one of the Experts, Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheyb, called for an immediate meeting of the Assembly in an article on his website entitled “Legitimacy and Acceptability in Islam,” several of his colleagues have been warned against action by members of the clergy in Qom.
Why have these two assemblies, the Majlis and the Assembly of the Experts, failed the Iranian people? If their members are truly elected by the people, these bodies should respond to public concerns, utilizing every legal tool at their disposal. But while the members of the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts are chosen by the electorate, the candidates for which Iranians can vote are determined by the Guardian Council – whose members are directly or indirectly appointed by the Supreme Leader. The members of any assembly respond to the constituency that put them into office. For the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts, their constituency, first, is the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader, and the people second.
Maybe if Iranians’ representatives were truly directly elected – unafraid of disqualification by the Guardian Council in the next election – then Iran would have a defiant Majlis that stood for the people and maybe the Assembly of Experts would issue a cry of protest for the nation rather than dead silence in protection of the regime.
Alinejad is a columnist for the Iranian newspaper Etemad-e Melli. A professional journalist since 2000, she served as editor of the parliamentary desk for the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) and writes articles and reports on domestic politics. Alinejad is the winner of the first annual ‘Omid Journalism Award’ from the Mehdi Semsar Foundation and is also a prominent women’s rights activist.
Published on September 1, 2009