Federalism and the integrity of Iran
Dr Afrasiab Shekofteh
Historically, federalism unified various regions, provinces, and ethnicities. Federalism unified a nation like Germany, which is a federal state even though it is one nation that has one culture.
Federalism and democracy proved their ability to hold out and survive, while the states that were forced to unite failed and disintegrated. Those who understand federalism well, know that, it serves and reinforces Iranian national unity peacefully.
It was Iraq’s centralization that led to dictatorship after dictatorship. It has been Iraq’s centralization that has deprived citizens of basic human and civil rights, namely Kurdish Anfalization. There is now a created system where power would be shared between the federal government and the regions of Iraq, with the promise of equal representation for all regions and ethnic groups, a federalist Iraq can serve as a model for a long term peace in the Middle East, although it is still a very young federal unity with some difficulties (mostly comes from none-democratic neighbours for known and cristal clear reasons), which of course needs time to be settled down as it is in a right mission.
In consistent with the principles of United Nations laws, every nation reserves this fundamental, legitimate and inborn right of self-determination and self-government. According to Unrepresented Nationalities and Peoples Organization (UNPO) of the UN, all nations have the right of self-determination and self-ruling of their own indigenous native people in multi-national states, for instance alike Iran, which federalism could be a suitable shelter to cover it as intact one.
Iranian nationalities will no longer be satisfied with trivial rights but would demand their share in the governance of the country under the parliamentary democratic federal system; the very young developments in Iraq have shown that federalism is the best administrative system for multi-nation countries. Developments in federal Iraq might help Iran overcome its disintegration phobia. Federalism is an equally suitable system of good governance that guarantees and respects the rights of self determination for all nationalities in decentralized democratic federal Iran.
Members of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI) are demanding administrative rights and the right to self-rule. Self-rule does not necessarily mean having a separate state. Under U.N. norms, Iranian nationalities have the qualification as an Unrepresented Nationalities and Peoples to exercise self-determination as political rights within a unified Iran.
In my view parliamentary, decentralized, democratic federal Iran after a revised constitution with peaceful coexistence of all its religions and ethnic minorities along with human rights values and state territorial integrity and security is the only suitable system in Iran for everlasting.
Federalism and coexistence of all indigenous people and nationalities in Iran facilitate democracy and social justice in all aspects and eradicate the abject poverty, human right abuses and inhumanity, and based on UN human rights framework, it is the main ingredient to peace in a multi-national state such as Iran.
Iranian people are avowedly secular (forget about the current cleric rulers and fanatic oppressors) and among the most pro-western democracy’s people in the world. The constitution should accommodate all ethnic groups’ rights and their cultural practising, and there should be guarantees that the constitution to be implemented on the ground in practice via legalism.
Iran consists of homogenous Kurdish, Azeris, Lors & Bakhtiyaries, Arabs, Turkoman, Balochis … who are demanding to live up their language, culture, traditions and identity constitutionally by using of their language in their regional schools and law courts. Separation of the ethnic minorities into independent states would cause havoc; fortunately this is much less likely, especially if federal arrangements be done peacefully and be embraced by all.
As Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, the world powers put all its diplomatic muscle into a doomed effort to hold the country together, and it did nothing to stop the coming war. We should not repeat that mistake in Iran; it is to all Iranian to embraced federalism and extends their fraternal hand to CNFI for a warm hand shakes to preserve a unified Iran for all.
All ethnic minorities are demanding that, on their own homelands to claim a right of nationhood within God-given lingual borders. The monopoly government lacked the resolve that comes from possessing a single ethnic origin, religion, language or none-democratic leadership by denying the others, and thus were relegated to the sidelines of the nationalist drama. The opportunity passed them by, and has passed them by ever since, which has brought destitution, hatred, executions, tortures, jailing & raping, hostility, inflation, corruption and huge poverty by despotic rulers, which is too sad in this 21st Century and globalization era.
Political expediency, not to mention justice and human rights, demands that urgent attention to be paid to the legitimate grievances of Iran’s ethnic minorities. It took Turkey some 30 years of war to understand that it cannot force its Kurdish minority to abandon their identity in favour of becoming artificial Turks. It has taken Iraq almost 80 years of tragic experiments to recognize the Kurds as a distinct people deserving full cultural and national rights. Iran is the same, In the long run; Iran’s unity can only be preserved in the context of pluralist diversity within a federal ruling system.
Iran, however, is not a nation-state but rather a multinational empire dominated by Persians, much as the Soviet Union was once dominated by Russians. Except that in this case, the Persians only account for just about half the population of Iran (making them a smaller proportion than the Russians were even in the final days of the Soviet Union).
There is no scholar who studies Iran, would dispute that there is a very strong Persian identity and pride of ownership in ruling Iran among the Persians, but only a very weak sense of Iranian participation among non-Persians. Iran is not like Lebanon, where the different communities often fight each other. Instead, Iran’s minorities each resist the Persian-dominated central government. Just in recently, guerrillas of Baluch nationality kidnapped ruling ideological militants in southeast Iran. Arabs of Khuzistan province next to Iraq detonated bombs in Ahwaz, and Kurds clashed with the ruling ideological armed forces.
The Kurds, who account for about 10 million of the population (including 1.5 million Khorasani Kurds), have been encouraged by the example of virtual Kurdish semi-independence in Iraq next door. Their demands for autonomy are becoming more forceful fact, and something as of a political up-raising seems to be increased in all nationalities regions. Very few Kurds are likely to rally around their Persian overlords who are denying their righteous political demands and ruling.
The religious extremism of Iran’s regime has further fractured the nation’s solidarity by discriminating not only against the non-Muslim such as Baha’is, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians who amount to only 3% of the total population, and are of yet smaller political significance, but also against the 12% or more who are Sunnis (who are not even allowed to have their own mosque in Tehran, where 1 million of them live) and also Sufism too.
Nationalists and theocratic ideological fascists declare the ownership of a country in the name of an ethnicity or a nation, and demand dominance over certain other ethnicities. Obviously, all these matters have moral concerns, considering that in the practical translation they will affect the people’s lives and usually result in suppression of the other ethnicities. However, without openly acknowledging the moral nature of these claims the nationalists justify their position on the basis of a worldview which sees the planet divided into nation states, with each nation racing against the other for dominance. Accordingly, the ideologues and the activists represent their enterprises as bids for survival or assertion of the superiority of their ethnicity among other ethnicities and nations. In the meantime, all their detractors are represented either as enemies not to be trusted or as dupes and stooges who should be ignored and deterred from expressing themselves. In effect, the nationalists dismiss moral dissenters as either enemies or misled by enemies.
Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools short of war for readjusting faulty borders, a mental effort to grasp the Middle East’s organic frontiers nonetheless helps us understand the extent of the difficulties we face and would continue to face. We are dealing with gigantic man-made deformities that will not stop generating hatred and violence until they are corrected, and the only peaceful option to rectify the problem, could be decentralised federalism system in the region.
As for those who refuse this very clear object, they should remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries, ethnic cleansing works under the police-state control of the world’s most fanatic and oppressive regimes for instance Islamic regime that commands vast, unearned oil wealth who have been able to project their extremist vision of a disciplinarian, intolerant faith far beyond their borders, and in the same time its own people swimming in deep poverty ( 12 million under deep red poverty line).
Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan and so on, if the Federalism and decentralised system be denied by some silly, light-headed and or radical ideological politicians.
Federalism will keep all nations united within Iran. Neither of any ethnic can monopolize the central government. Federalism would allow each side to run its own affairs and keep them all under one roof, which is the federation roof. Thus that is the people who should decide how to govern themselves.