HUFFINGTON POST
07/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Statement By Iranian-Americans On The Elections And Current Situation

Statement By Iranian-Americans On The Elections And Current Situation:

Like many Iranian-Americans, we have followed the recent developments in Iran with great interest and concern. We were excited to see that the Iranian people demonstrated once again how seriously they take their rights to participate in the political process, and inspired by the fact that they did so in a responsible, non-violent manner. We watched with enthusiasm as a reported eighty percent of the electorate turned out to decide the course of their future. The Iranian people were on the verge of accomplishing something rare for a region with a troubled political history: voting in a contested election that could have resulted in a peaceful transfer of power.

Ten days later, the integrity of the presidential elections remains under serious question. Three of the four candidates have formally complained of widespread irregularities. The allegations of improper conduct range from misconduct at polling stations and mishandling of ballots during the elections process itself, to illegal use of state funds and resources to support campaign activities. There are even allegations by the presidential candidates that the plan to fix the outcome of the elections was premeditated and set in motion days in advance of the elections themselves. Since the elections, there are now concerns that the ballots have not properly been preserved even to enable a proper investigation into the original allegations. These allegations themselves are serious enough, but the size of the protests in the days after the elections indicate that these complaints are not those of a disgruntled few, but that a broad segment of the Iranian electorate lacks confidence in the outcome of the elections.

The candidates had referred the allegations of misconduct to the Guardian Council, seeking annulment of the elections. Although the Guardian Council earlier had indicated that it would undertake a limited review of the electoral count, the Supreme Leader's remarks at the Friday prayer are interpreted by some analysts as suggesting that such a review at best will be a formality. Indeed, the Guardian Council has apparently announced that it will limit its review to assessing the vote count at ten percent of the ballot boxes.

The legitimacy of the Guardian Council's review rests on taking all allegations of electoral fraud extremely seriously. This means that, contrary to what the Guardian Council appears to be doing, an annulment of the elections cannot be foreclosed as a remedy before the inquiry has even started. The people of Iran are entitled to have confidence that their electoral system does not tip the balance in favor of one candidate. As United Nations General Secretary Ban-ki Moon stated, the genuine will of the Iranian people should be respected. Therefore, the Guardian Council's investigation should be expanded. Steps should be taken to ensure that this investigation will be independent (that is, immune from all political pressures), complete (such that all allegations are fully investigated), and transparent. Moreover, if it turns out that the ballots have not been properly preserved, no credible investigation is possible, and the elections should be annulled. Only under these circumstances can the investigative process produce a result that could ensure that every person who showed up to vote was permitted to cast a ballot, that every single ballot that was cast counted, and that all votes counted equally. If the Guardian Council is not equipped to conduct a proper investigation, either an independent committee should be convened to look into the allegations or the elections should be annulled, per the request of the candidates.

We also urge all parties in Iran to resolve their differences over the presidential elections through reasoned discussion and without resort to violence. We are heartened by the "green" movement's explicit decision and directive to conduct peaceful, non-confrontational protests. At the same time, we are deeply concerned about confirmed reports that protesters have been fatally shot by government security forces during demonstrations, that student dormitories have been raided and students have been shot and beaten, and that dissidents are being arrested. We are furthermore extremely disturbed at reports that vigilante groups are targeting individuals for execution-style killings. There is absolutely no place for the use of deadly force to resolve political disputes, and there is no justification whatsoever for assassination by death squads. The government security forces are responsible for exercising restraint and respecting their compatriots' inalienable rights to life and liberty.

We also urge the government to reverse its policy of prohibiting free press coverage of domestic events. It is essential that the process by which the disputes about the recent elections are resolved be open, transparent, and free of intimidation. Nothing less than such an approach would be legitimate because no less than the public trust is at issue.

Ervand Abrahamian, Abbas Amanat, Cyrus Amir-Mokri, Ali Banuazizi, Hamid Biglari, Kamran Elahian, Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Mohsen Moazami, Hamid Moghadam, and Firouz Naderi