Thursday, June 25, 2009

This morning Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded an end to the massive and forceful demonstrations protesting the controversial result of last week's election. He argued that to make concessions to popular demands and 'illegal' pressure would amount to a form of 'dictatorship', and he warned the protestors that they, rather than the police, would be held responsible for any further violence.

Khamenei's argument sounds familiar to anyone interested in the politics of collective action, since it appears to draw on the logic used by state authorities to oppose most of the great popular mobilisations of modern times, from 1789 in France to 1979 in Iran itself. These mobilisations took shape through a struggle to assert the principle that sovereignty rests with the people themselves, rather than with the state or its representatives. 'No government can justly claim authority', as South Africa's ANC militants put it in their Freedom Charter of 1955, 'unless it is based on the will of all the people.'

Needless to say it is up to the people of Iran to determine their own political course. Foreign observers inspired by the courage of those demonstrating in Iran this past week are nevertheless entitled to point out that a government which claims to represent the will of its people can only do so if it respects the most basic preconditions for the determination of such a will: the freedom of the people to assemble, unhindered, as an inclusive collective force; the capacity of the people, without restrictions on debate or access to information, to deliberate, decide and implement a shared course of action.

Years of foreign-sponsored 'democracy promotion' in various parts of the world have helped to spread a well-founded scepticism about civic movements which claim some sort of direct democratic legitimacy. But the principle itself remains as clear as ever: only the people themselves can determine the value of such claims. We the undersigned call on the government of Iran to take no action that might discourage such determination.

Peter Hallward

Middlesex University, UK.

Alberto Toscano

Goldsmiths College, UK.

This letter is also signed by:

Alenka Zupancic, Institute of Philosophy of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Alexander Garcia Duttmann, Goldsmiths College

Etienne Balibar, Paris X, Nanterre, and University of California, Irvine

Eyal Weizman, Director, Centre for Research Architecture, Dept. of Visual Cultures

Goldsmiths, University of London

Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (retired), MIT, Cambridge MA USA

Philip Pettit, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Rada Ivekovic, Prof., Collège international de philosophie, Paris.

Slavoj Žižek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and the European Graduate School

Also signed by the following academics:

Adam Bieniek, PhD, Jagiellonian University, Chair of Arab Studies, Institute of Oriental Philology , Cracow, Poland

Agnieszka Zuk, University of Nancy

Aleksander Glogowski, PhD, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland

Ali Banuazizi, Professor of Political Science and Director, Program in Islamic Civilization and Societies, Boston College

Ali Rezaei, Dept. of Sociology, University of Calgary, Canada
Nader Hashemi,Assistant Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics
Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

Asia Bochenska, Department of Kurdish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland

Beata Kowalska, Jagiellonian University, Poland

Dan Sperber, Institut Jean Nicod, CRNS, Paris

Eric B. Ross, Visiting Professor of Anthropology and International Development Studies, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Farideh Farhi, Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Farifteh Tavakoli-Borazjani, Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Iranistik

Farzin Vahdat, Vassar College, New York

Hossein Ziai, Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, Director of Iranian Studies, UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Los Angeles, CA

Isabelle Dolezalek, Freie Universität Berlin

Jadwiga Pstrusińska, Head of Department of Interdisciplinary Eurasiatic Research, Institute of Oriental Philology, Jagiellonian University, Cracow

Jean-Paul Martinon, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths College, UK

Joanna Bochenska

Jolan Bogdan, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths College, UK

Juan R. I. Cole, Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan

Kazem Alamdari, California State University, Los Angeles
Nayereh Tohidi, Professor, California State University, Northridge

Linda Herrera, Institute of Social Studies (The Hague)
Asef Bayat, University of Leiden

Lynn Schibeci, Dept of History, the University of New Mexico (retired), Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mark Gasiorowski, Political Science and International Studies, Louisiana State University

Martin Steinseifer, Universität Giessen

Martin van Bruinessen, Chair of Comparative Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Utrecht University

Martina Tissberger, Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Educational Sciences and Psychology

Michael McIntyre, International Studies, DePaul University, Chicago

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto

Norma Claire Moruzzi, University of Illinois at Chicago, Political Science, History, Gender and Women's Studies

Scott Hibbard, DePaul University, Chicago

Seyla Benhabib, Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University, New Haven
Jesse Lemisch, Professor Emeritus, History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, USA

Stephen Engelmann, University of Illinois at Chicago

Talal Asad, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Van Bluemel, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, MA

Vera Beyer, Kunsthistorisches Institut der Freien Universität Berlin

Dr Riaz Ahmed,Department of Applied Chemistry,University of Karachi, Karachi