Iranians are currently denied the most elemental human rights and fundamental of freedoms.
For over a hundred years, Iranians have struggled to secure their rights and pressed to establish a just society that reflects their collective will. Despite being a long-standing signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its accompanying conventions, Iranian governments have never honoured their undertakings. Limiting the unfettered powers of the Iranian State has been an enduring challenge. Despite repeated popular attempts to institute legal structures or impose checks and balances through a division of State powers, a succession of Iranian governments have refused to honour the will of the people. Two revolutions have failed to secure popular sovereignty. At each juncture the ancien regime was supplanted by governments that, in turn, forfeited their legitimacy by resorting to arbitrary rule.
At such perilous times for our homeland, the scourge of State despotism reigns in Iran by relying on religious slogans to denigrate civil society and trample individual human rights, and by monopolizing the levers of power and depleting the country’s national resources. The Iranian regime is solely concerned with perpetuating its survival. The consequences of such a calamitous manipulation of all human dignity has been a long train of travesties such as political oppression, poverty and economic mismanagement, societal discord, cultural repression, international opprobrium, and the sacrifice of countless Iranian lives.
Reversing such a dishonourable state of affairs requires critical reflection and a wholesale rejuvenation of Iran’s political culture. To eviscerate political absolutism in Iran, we must honour our plurality and draw on various strands of our century old yearnings. The absence of a moral foundation in our politics, suffused by universal values, has prevented disparate demands from congealing and has perpetuated the prevailing absolutism. Now more than ever, we must establish a new moral order invigorated by the broadest array of political aspirations and capable of accommodating our varied demands. The resonance of any political activism must be judged by their manifest adherence to ideals that acknowledge political pluralism and honour universal mores. Accepting differences will occasion the renaissance of our political culture, institutionalize civil dialogue, forsake recourse to political violence, and highlight the imperative of respect for individual rights.
This Charter represents an effort to recognize the tolerant ethos that has found universal expression and fuelled popular struggles the world over to create responsive governments that reflect the will of the people.
Diverse yet united, Iranian society represents a rainbow. Charter 91 is an effort to acknowledge and reflect this rich diversity. Examining the myriad configuration of colours that brighten the Iranian sky better allows us to contemplate the combined beauty of our mutually tolerant perspectives.
We the Undersigned Believe and Affirm the Following:
• Accept the equality of all Iranians and recognize that the prosperity of Iran hinges on strengthening its bonds of friendship with other countries and maintaining peace with the peoples of the world;
• Individuals are free and autonomous, and their fulfillment depends on freely entering into a social contract that neither condones discrimination nor arbitrarily differentiates between them;
• All humans are as free to choose their faith or be free from religion;
• The machinery of the State and religious institutions must remain independent and at arm’s length, for any attempt to combine one with the other compromises and impoverishes both;
• The continued prosperity of any society hinges on each individual’s adherence to the law and the acceptance of individual and collective civic responsibility for their future;
• The vitality of any society depends on its ability to accommodate differences, to probe for the truth, kindle the spirit of inquiry and shun violence;
• Prudent is any society that institutes a legal administration that zealously administers justice in deed and spirit and eschews violence;
• The death penalty undermines the ends of justice by inviting vengeance and perpetuating an endless cycle of violence;
• The consent of the governed is the sole guarantor of the legitimacy and sovereignty of any government. The will of the public may only be ascertained by way of free elections in which every citizen retains the right to vote or stand for office;
• The will of the majority may neither trample nor usurp the guaranteed legal rights of minorities;
• Honouring linguistic and cultural diversity enriches the fabric of society by allowing it to retain its capacity for openness and innovation;
• The greatest resource of any society is its human ingenuity and attaining collective prosperity depends on its ability to fully harness the talents of all its members;
• The ability to advance sustainable national economic development depends on nurturing and invigorating the vitality of all and preventing the inequitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and natural resources;
• The State must endeavour to eliminate discrimination and relinquish unfettered prerogatives, foster conditions for prosperity, safeguard the wealth, dignity, life and privacy of individuals, and implement the law without discrimination;
• Boundless and unfettered State power are the source of corruption and ill fortune, and the apparatus of the government must never be insulated from being challenged by civil society and its subjects;
• The administration of justice should eliminate absolute power and discrimination, and other barriers to development, invigorate individual rights and promote social cohesion. As such, every effort to turn the judiciary into an auxiliary of the State in expanding its arbitrary powers or attempts to transform it into a tool to interfere with the private affairs of individuals must be resisted;
• The right to vote and freedom of conscience are guarantors of the health and wellbeing of any society;
• Merit and competence should be the sole criterion for advancement throughout the government bureaucracy; and
• A free and vigorous media will mirror the broadest spectrum of opinions among the public and is an indispensable pillar for securing popular sovereignty and the blessings of individual liberty.
What follows reflect our beliefs to promote the fundamental rights of Iranians and the future wellbeing of Iran.
Individual Rights and Responsibilities:
All Iranians have the same civil rights.
Iran belongs to all Iranians unconditionally. Every Iranian is endowed with an inalienable right to maintain their citizenship, and none may be barred from departing or returning to their country.
All residents of Iran and individuals subject to its jurisdiction must be guaranteed fundamental rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Adhering to the law is the responsibility of all residents of Iran.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within Iran’s borders.
Residents may not be discriminated against on the basis of race, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, social origin or status.
The will of the public is the fount of Iran’s full sovereignty. The collective aspirations of all Iranians is determined in free and transparent elections conducted in accordance with international norms in which all citizens are permitted to cast votes.
Every Iranian shall enjoy freedom of thought and conscience without limitation.
Every Iranian shall enjoy freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Every Iranian shall have the right to freedom of dress and appearance in public.
Every Iranian has the right to establish or join a social, political, cultural, or religious establishment.
Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and association.
Every Iranian has the right to liberty, may stand for office, may exercise the right to vote, must be permitted to pursue happiness, and retain the right to security.
Every Iranian must enjoy freedom of conscience and religion, as manifested by practice and worship, a right which includes freedom to change one’s religion or belief, and extends to the right to be free from religion.
The right to dignity and worth for each individual must be secure for every Iranian and her or his family.
The right to dignity is the guarantor of equal access to available public services to obtain social, educational and health benefits or to adequate food, clothing, and shelter.
Every resident has the right to access free primary education.
Every Iranian has the right to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work and to undertake activity in furtherance of their full economic realization.
Rights to property must be respected and everyone has the right to the protection of the law against arbitrary private or public interference or intrusion.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their individual or family privacy, or to unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation.
Every Iranian may decide their sexual orientation.
Scientific, literary and artistic innovations belong to their creators and everyone is entitled to protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which the individual is the author.
Women are custodians of their own bodies and may freely pursue their social conduct, and must be permitted to determine their fate free from compulsory paternalism.
No limitations or discrimination may be imposed on a woman’s right to freely participate in any public aspect of the life of the nation.
The wellbeing of society depends on its ability to facilitate the full realization of women’s aspirations and the advancement of their rights in the public sphere.
Any barriers that prohibit women from attaining the highest political, social, economic, military or scientific positions must be eliminated.
Women must be ensured full equality before the law and be entitled without any discrimination to equal protection in all aspects of the law.
For greater certainty, no discriminatory interpretation or application of the law will be permitted.
Special protection should be accorded to mothers in the workplace during a reasonable period before and after childbirth.
The elimination of discrimination against women is the moral and cultural obligation of each and every member of society.
The State is legally obliged to eliminate all bases of violence against women.
Marriage must be entered into with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
Civic and Workers Rights:
The right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental and non-derogable right.
Full adherence to the principles of the International Labour Organization (to which Iran is a signatory) is a precondition for the full implementation of employment safeguards and labour rights within the country.
The right to form trade unions is a fundamental right of all workers.
The establishment of a minimum wage in accordance with conditions that permit workers to secure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families and fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value are essential.
The right to strike and unemployment insurance are essential.
Iran is comprised of various linguistic, racial, cultural and religious groups each of which are entitled to equal rights.
The racial, linguistic and religious diversity of Iran has endowed the country with invaluable human and social resources and all should strive to vigilantly safeguard the continued viability of such diversity.
All minorities and in particular racial, religious and linguistic ones individually or in community with others, have the right to enjoy their own culture, profess and practice their own religion, or use their own language.
The rights of a majority may not circumscribe the fundamental and inalienable rights of minorities.
The fundamental rights of all minorities must be enshrined in the constitution.
Irrespective of sexual orientation, all individuals are equal before the law without limitation and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination.
Upholding law and justice should not be concerned with vengeance and violence.
The administration of justice must be impartial and independent of the other branches of government.
All are equal before the law and the interpretation or administration of justice must not admit of discrimination.
Establishing the rule of law is imperative and its realization depends on the vigilance of all individuals.
All have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law at a fair and impartial trial conducted in accordance with international judicial norms and safeguards.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.
Every accused individual is entitled to legal counsel of their choice and shall be brought promptly before a legal entity and be entitled to a judicial determination within a reasonable time.
Anyone who has been the victim of an unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.
Everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The deprivation of life does not advance justice.
Penitentiaries must be administered in a transparent manner and be accessible to domestic and international civic and legal organizations meant to safeguard the dignity of prisoners.
The basis of Government authority is a social contract freely entered which reflects the overall will of Iranians tempered by legal structures and conditioned the separation of the political branches of government. Nonetheless, the will of the majority may not trample enshrined legal safeguards to protect minorities.
The State must refrain from interfering in the affairs of religious institutions and must uphold the dignity and equality of all faiths and their adherents.
The State must maintain its independence from religious institutions and refrain from favouring any particular faith.
State structures must refrain from monopolizing the levers of power to administer national affairs.
The State must eschew any pretense to paternalism and remain ever responsive to the general public.
The State must respect the rights and sovereignty of all countries around the world.
The State must refrain from arbitrarily transgressing in the private affairs of individuals.
National resources and the country’s wealth belong to all. The harnessing and exploitation of national wealth must be undertaken in accordance with the national will.
The State and its functionaries may not abuse their stewardship of the country’s natural resources.
The State may not be financially independent of the population and its income must be primarily derived from the public.
Economic advancement must be primarily entrusted to private individuals and economic and commercial interests from which taxes and levies may be derived.
The State is responsible for conducting free elections and permit monitoring by international or civic organizations.
The State is prohibited from exercising exclusive control over media outlets and may not arbitrarily interfere with the management and operation of private media organizations.
The State is prohibited from barring interested persons or reporters from pursuing or communicating their findings on issues of interest to the public.
The State must promote tolerance and offer public educational programs condemning violence.
The constitution must reflect the will of the citizens and any amendments to the fundamental laws of the land may only be occasioned by public support and approval.
All elements of the State apparatus are obliged to adhere to the spirit and strict letter of the constitution without exception.
The obligation of the armed forces whether it be the Army, Police or security officials is to protect, serve and render assistance to the general public.
The armed forces are precluded from acting as an auxiliary for any political entity or interfering in the economic life of the nation.
All citizens have the right to be considered for recruitment in the Army, Police or security apparatus.
Military and security high level officials are barred from maintaining membership in political parties as long as they remain in the armed forces.
Military and security officials must comply with a military code of conduct consistent with human right norms and principles.
Natural Resources, Cultural Heritage and Protecting the Environment:
Natural resources, historic artefacts, archaeological sites, and the environment represent Iran’s most valued national inheritance.
Economic development must not be achieved by relying on unsustainable environmental practices.
Prudent stewardship requires that sustainable development be conditioned by responsible use of natural resources and the environment.
All inhabitants must assume the responsibility of preserving the environment.
The willful and negligent devastation of the environment by any individual or institution is strictly prohibited.
The State must initiate environmental impact assessments and adhere to sustainable practices.
Animals cohabit the earth with humans and respect for their wellbeing is essential.
Failure to respect animal rights contravenes modern norms of conduct and humane ethos, and all must assist in preventing animals from being subjected to harm or violence.
Charter 91 is not a partisan endeavour comprised of members. Affixing one’s signature is the sole condition for acceptance of its guiding principles. This Charter is neither a pretext for establishing government, nor subscribes to a particular political orientation. We the undersigned do believe, however, that politics and the State should solely be concerned with earthly matters, and recognize that the latter must be subject to the will of the public. Raising awareness of the principles underpinning this Charter may only be achieved with the participatory support of the people of Iran. As such, it is incumbent upon us to pursue transparent objectives and to strive to assist individuals and civic activists concerned with advancing principles and norms referred to herein.
The provisions of this Charter may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Ramin Jahanbegloo, Mehrdad Loghmani, Mehrdad Hariri, Ali Ehsassi, Mehrdad Ariannejad