The twentieth conference organised by ACI took place in Berlin, as announced, in September 1997. The efforts of ACI were concentrated on organising a gathering where the May Presidential Election in Iran, which heralds radical social changes, would be scrutinised and reflected upon. To this aim the following two specific subheadings were introduced:
1. The study of social and political implications of the recent Presidential Elections in Iran.
2. An examination of Iranian political culture and the possible methods of establishing Democracy in Iran.
The eighteen participants were made up of respected scholars and members of different Iranian political groups. They introduced their respective understanding of the current situation and offered future predictions based on recent events in Iran.
The discussions mostly revolved around the shift in Iran’s civil society, which after eighteen years of Revolution yet again brought people onto the streets demanding their lost rights. Twenty million people took advantage of the only means available and said a definite ‘No’ to Velayat Faghih. They voted for Mr. Khatami who promised reform and change. During his campaign he pledged a return to civil law and the establishment of a civil society.
Mr. Khatami’s recognition of this enormous responsibility and the important realisation of the fact that this vote is not an authorisation of free will and carries the crucial message that should he not deliver it will turn against itself, were the points of emphasis in most of the discussions.
The speakers and audience alike pointed out the strong presence of the opposition to Mr. Khatami by the clergies of extreme right who will do everything to hinder his progress. The question is whether Mr. Khatami is able to overcome them and deliver his election promises. In view of the recent elections and events the establishment of democracy was another strong debate point. Emphasis was put on the formation of political parties; and their freedom of practice within the society was decided to be the biggest aspect of a move towards a civil society.
Discussions turned towards the origins of political culture. It was stressed that unless the society bases its evolution on freethinking and freedom for the growth of a healthy political culture, whatever type of government, it will end in an oppressive system. As evidence, it was pointed out that since the establishment of constitutional government in Iran many unsuccessful attempts had been made to correct the society. Their failure has resulted in the present unsatisfactory situation in Iran.
Also, it was suggested that each generation should be made aware of its duty. That politics is not necessarily a job for life and that the younger generation should be prepared and instructed in its ways. In view of the fact that over 82% of the Iranian population are under forty years of age ACI put forward a proposal. Briefly, it suggested that under the expert guidance of the older generation (over 65 years), the link generation (40 – 55 years) who is capable of relating to both generations should assume responsibility of training the younger generation to shape Iran’s future. This proposal was very well received and resulted in a healthy discussion between the young people and the older generation present in the auditorium.
The unanimous and final message of the conference called for the observance of human rights in the four corners of Iran and overcoming ethnic prejudices which is a must in safe guarding Iran’s territorial integrity.
The Conference boasted an unprecedented attendance by various political groups and organisations as well as the general public. Also, the enthusiastic and active participation of women and the younger generation in the debates were most welcome. We would like to thank everyone who attended and took part in this Conference.
Finally, ACI would like to take this opportunity to thank the journalists and reporters who as always gave the conference their complete coverage. The strong presence of the broadcasting media such as Voice of America, BBC World Service, Radio Israel, Pars Press, Radio K?n, Berlin TV and Radio ensured an international coverage which included extensive live broadcasts into Iran.
ACI, Berlin October 1997