Iranian reform movement

Iranian reform movement

The Iranian reform movement (Persian:اصلاح طلبان), or the Reforms Front (Persian: جبههٔ اصلاحات) also known as 2nd of Khordad Front (Persian: جبهه دوم خرداد which refers to the date of President Mohammad Khatami's 1997 landslide election victory in the Iranian Calendar) is a political movement by a group of political parties and organizations in Iran who supported Mohammad Khatami's plans to change the system to include more freedom and democracy. Iran's "reform era" is sometimes said to have lasted from 1997-2005 - the length of President Khatami's two terms in office. [Ebadi, Shirin, "Iran Awakening", by Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Random House New York, 2006, p.180 ]



2nd of Khordad Movement is a term that usually refers not only to the coalition of 18 groups and political parties of the reforms front, [ [ BBC News Poll test for Iran reformistsBy Jim Muir in Tehran ] ] but to anyone who was a supporter of the 1997 reform programs of Khatami. The ideology of Khatami and the movement is based on Islamic Democracy.The reforms front consists of several political parties, some of the most famous of which include:
* Islamic Iran Participation Front: Key figures are Mohammad Reza Khatami, Saeed Hajjarian, Alireza Alavitabar, Abbas Abdi, Mohsen Safaie-Farahani, Mohsen Aminzadeh, and Mostafa Tajzadeh. It is sometimes described as the dominant member within the 2nd of Khordad Front, [ [ 1/9/2001 2nd Khordad Front must ponder over every aspect of their actions: daily] ] and the party most closely associated with President Khatami. [ [ BBC News, 10 February, 2000, Poll test for Iran reformists] ]
* Association of Combatant Clerics ("Majma'e Rowhaniyoon-e Mobarez"): Key figures are Mohammad Khatami, Hadi Khamenei, Majead Ansari, Mohammad Tavassoli, and Mohammad Mousavi-Khoinihaa.
* Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization ("Sazman-e Mojahedin-e Enghelab-e Eslami"): Key figures are Behzad Nabavi, Mohsen Armin, Mohammad Salevati, and Feyzollah Arabsorkhi.

The front is coordinated by the Council for Coordinating the Reforms Front.


Many Iranian intellectuals were involved in establishing a foundation for the movement. Perhaps the most influential figure was Abdolkarim Soroush. For many years his was the only voice that publicly criticized the regime's policies. His regular lectures at Tehran University used to enjoy the attendance of many Iranian students who later generated the 2nd of Khordad movement. Many famous figures of the movement belong to the Soroush circle. However, at the rise of 2nd of Khordad movement, Saeed Hajjarian acted as the main theorist behind the movement and the main strategist in Khatami's camp.

The "core" of the reform movement is said to be made up of Islamic leftists who were "disempowered" by Islamic conservatives following the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989. [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, (2005), p.98] Islamic leftists turned reformists include Abdolkarim Soroush, Saeed Hajjarian, Akbar Ganji, Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pur and the Anjoman-e-Eslami (Islamic Association) and Office for Strengthening Unity student groups.

The size and broadness of the movement was reflected in the fact that even some Basij members voted for its presidential candidate, Mohammad Khatami. [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, (2005), p.149]

Major events

The 1997 presidential election

"See also: Mohammad Khatami's reforms"

The movement began with the May 23, 1997 surprise victory of Mohammad Khatami, "a little known cleric", [ [ BBC News, 6 June, 2001 Profile: Mohammad Khatami] ] to the presidency on with almost 70% of the vote. Khatami's win was credited largely to the votes of women and youth, who voted for him because he promised to improve the status of women and respond to the demands of the younger generation in Iran.

Khatami is regarded as Iran's first reformist president, since the focus of his campaign was on the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of all Iranians in the political decision-making process.

Assassination attempt on Saeed Hajjarian

Very soon after the rise of the 2nd of Khordad movement, there was an attempted assassination of Saeed Hajjarian the main strategist of the reformist camp. In March, 2000 he was shot in the face on the doorstep of Tehran's city council by a gunman who fled on a motor-cycle with an accomplice. The bullet entered through his left cheek and lodged in his neck. He was not killed but was "badly paralyzed" BBC: "Iran jails Hajjarian gunman" (17 May 2000)] for some time. During his coma, groups of young Iranians kept a vigil outside Sina hospital, where he was being treated. Due to this injury, Hajjarian now uses a walking frame and his voice is distorted. BBC: "Iran's reformists warn of dictatorship" (17 July 2002)] [,8543,-11205218336,00.html Hajjarian casting his ballot in the 2005 election]

His assailant Saeed Asgar, a young man who was reported to be a member of the Basij militia, was later arrested and sentenced to 15 years in jail. He was released after spending only a short term in prison.

Ganji and "Red Eminence and Grey Eminences"

"Red Eminence and Grey Eminences" ( _fa. عالیجناب سرخپوش و عالیجنابان خاکستری "Alijenabe Sorkhpoosh, Alijenabane Khakestari") is name of series of articles and a book written by Akbar Ganji in newspaper under the responsibility of Saeed Hajjarian, in which he criticized the former president Rafsanjani as the "Red Eminence", and the intelligence officers in his government, such as Ali Fallahian as the "Grey Eminences". The article cost Akbar Ganji 6 years of imprisonment. [ عالیجنابان سرخپوش و عالیجنابان خاکستری، آسیب شناسی گذار به دولت دمکراتیک توسعه گرا ISBN 964-7134-01-1]

18 Tir crisis (1999)

July 8, (18 Tir) crisis, refers to a demonstration in Tehran University dormitory in reaction to closing Salam newspaper by the regime. Demonstrations continued for a few days in most cities in Iran and in more than ninety-five countries worldwide. The demonstration ended in violence and the death of a young Iranian citizen along with many casualties. It was Iran's biggest anti-government demonstrations since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

18 Tir national day of protest (2003)

In 2003 Iran's leading prodemocracy student group, the Daftar-e Tahkim-e-Vahdat called for a national day of protest on the 18th of Tir to commemorate the original 1999 protest. At least one observer believes it was the failure of this protest that "delivered a fatal blow to the reform movement." [Molavi, "The Soul of Iran", (2005), p.313]

According to journalist Afshin Molavi, many Iranians hoped the day would lead to an uprising that would "break the back" of the hardliners, but instead the Islamic Republic "employed violence, intimidation, and sophisticated carrot-and-stick approach to suck the wind out of the demonstrations." In addition to a show of force and numerous checkpoints, the state used sophisticated jamming technology to completely blackout satellite television feed, and allowed the holding of (rare) outdoor pop concerts that drew young people away from the demonstrations. Dartar-e Tahkim-e-Vahdat also hurt its cause by calling for foreigners - the UN - to assist it against the government. [Molavi, "The Soul of Iran", (2005), p.315-9]

6th Parliament (2000)

In the Iranian parliamentary elections, 2000 or 6th parliament, reformist enjoyed a majority. , 69.25 percent, or 26.8 million, of Iran's 38.7 million voters cast ballots in the February 18, 2000 first round.

7th Parliament (2004)

In January 2004 shortly before the 2004 Iranian legislative elections (the 7th Parliament), the conservative Council of Guardians put a stop to the problem of Iranian voters continued support for reformists by taking the unprecedented step of banning about 2500 candidates -- nearly half of the total -- including 80 sitting Parliament deputies. More than 100 MPs resigned in protest and critics complained the move "shattered any pretense of Iranian democracy". [ [ Iran: an afternoon with a hostage-taker, Afshin Molavi] 10-11-2005]

27 Khordad presidential election (2005)

In the 27 Khordad presidential election (June 17, 2005), Mostafa Moin and Mehdi Karroubi were the main candidates of the 2nd of Khordad movement. However neither made it to the second round of the election (the final runoff) - Moin came in fifth and Karroubi third in the first round. As a result many supporters of the reform movement lost hope and did not participate in the election.


The ultimate lack of success of the movement is described by The Economist magazine:

Dozens of newspapers opened during the Khatami period, only for many to be shut down on one pretext or another by the judiciary. Clerics who took advantage of the new atmosphere to question the doctrine of velayat-e faqih were imprisoned or otherwise cowed. Even as political debate blossomed, Iran's security services cracked down on religious and ethnic minorities. A number of the regime's critics fell victim to murders traced later to the interior ministry. In 1999 police reacted to a peaceful demonstration for freer speech by invading Tehran University, beating and arresting hundreds of students and killing at least one. In the majlis (parliament) much of the president's reforming legislation was vetoed by the Council of Guardians, a committee of clerics appointed by the supreme leader to ensure that laws conform with Islamic precepts. ["Men of principle", "The Economist". London: Jul 21, 2007. Vol. 384, Iss. 8538; pg. 5 ]

Saeed Hajjarian, who was the main theorist behind the movement declared in 2003 that: "the reform movement is dead. Long live the reform movement". [اصلاحات مرد زنده باد اصلاحات]

The victory of conservatives in the 2005 presidential election and Majlis 2004 election can be explained "not so much" by an expansion of "their limited core base as by [their] dividing of the reformers and [their] discouraging them from voting," according to political historian Ervand Abrahamian.

The conservatives won in part because they retained their 25% base; in part because they recruited war veterans to run as their candidates; in part because they wooed independents on the issue of national security; but in most part because large numbers of women, college students, and other members of the salaried middle class stayed home. Turnout in the Majles elections fell below 51% - one of the worst since the revolution. In Tehran, it fell to 28%. [Abrahamian, Ervand, "A History of Modern Iran", Cambridge University Press, 2008, p.194, 3]


Iranian American journalist Afshin Molavi reports that "as Khatami's star faded, so did his ideas of Islamic democracy. Today, secular democratic thinkers are more popular" in Iran. He quotes a leader of the "leading prodemocracy student group", Office for Strengthening Unity ("Daftar-e-Tahkim-e-Vahdat"), as saying `We want democracy without a prefix or a suffix. Just democracy.` [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Democracy", Norton, (2005), p.165]

Referendum movement

The Referendum movement calls in effect for a rerun of the 1979 referendum that established the Islamic Republic in Iran - for "a 'yes or no' vote on whether today's Iranians still want the authoritarian Islamic Republic that another generation's revolution brought them." It is said to have been born out of "the ashes of the failures of Khatami's Islamic democracy movement" and reflected in one-word graffiti on walls in Tehran saying "NO". [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", (2005), p.311]

Notable figures

*Ali Shakeri (imprisoned, released)
*Abdolkarim Soroush (sent to exile, expelled from University)
*Masoud Behnoud (imprisoned)
*Mohammad Khatami
*Saeed Hajjarian (attempted assassination)
*Akbar Ganji (imprisoned)
*Ezzatollah Sahabi (imprisoned)
*Ataollah Mohajerani (resigned his post)
*Reza Khatami
*Akbar Mohammadi (imprisoned, sentenced to death, murdered)
*Abbas Abdi (imprisoned)
*Elaheh Koulaei (facing charges)
*Mostafa Moin
*Alireza Rajaei (imprisoned)
*Ahmad Zeidabadi (imprisoned)
*Mohsen Sazegara (imprisoned, later released)
*Abdolfattah Soltani (imprisoned)
*Attaollah Mohajerani
*Abdollah Nouri (imprisoned)
*Alireza Noori (died suspiciously)
*Abdollah Ramezanzadeh
*Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini (imprisoned)
*Hashem Aghajari (imprisoned, sentenced to death, commuted to imprisonment and probation)
*Latif Safari (imprisoned)
*Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri
*Ebrahim Yazdi (imprisoned)
*Mohammad Ali Abtahi
*Mehdi Karroubi
*Morteza Alviri
*Alireza Alavitabar (facing charges)
*Nikahang Kowsar (imprisoned)
*Ebrahim Nabavi (imprisoned)
*Abdollah Nouri (imprisoned)
*Ahmad Batebi (imprisoned, sentenced to death, commuted to 10 years imprisonment)
*Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari (imprisoned)
*Ahmad Ghabel (imprisoned, sent to exile)
*Ezzat Ebrahim-Nejad, (shot dead by security forces)

ee also

* Human rights in Islamic Republic of Iran
* History of principle-ism in Iran
* Chained Murders of Iran


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