Dr Abolhassan Banisadr was one of the leading lights of the Islamic revolution in Iran and was close to the Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1980, a year after the revolution, he was elected the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Omid Lahabi, euronews:
Firstly, the principal slogan of the Iranian revolutionaries was ‘independence, liberty and an Islamic republic.’ That’s still the slogan of the current Iranian regime. What did you mean by that?
Dr Abolhassan Banisadr, ex-President of Iran:
Independence meant the independence of man and the independence of the country. Independence and freedom meant no foreign country could intervene against the sovereignty of the people. At that time, the Islamic Republic represented the sovereignty of the people. Ayatollah Khomeini explained at Neauphle-le-Château: ‘Just like other countries in the world, just like in the West, the principal of the Islamic Republic is the sovereignty of the people. The will of the people determines everything.’
Do you think the combination of ‘Republic’ and ‘Islamic’ could end up with a democratic regime?
If Islam was the same as that which Khomeini defended at Neauphle-le-chateau – that is with respect for freedom, then yes. As I just said, at the time when you put the same question to Khomeini, to begin with he spoke of ‘the democratic Islamic republic,’ but once he arrived in Iran he just said ‘the Islamic republic’. Nothing more, nothing less. At the time he also said that political Islam is compatible with a republic led by the people, that balance in society is held in the vote of the people and that human rights would be respected, and so on…
Over the last few weeks popular movements in the Middle East — particularly in Egypt and Tunisia — have been successful. What are you thoughts on the link between the opposition protests in Iran and the other movements in the Middle East?
These movements have followed the example of a clear social rule. In the Iranian revolution the Shah’s regime had no objectives. The new generation had the goal of regime change — and they succeeded. The Tunisian and Egyptian movements succeeded against regimes that had become old and tired. The protesters won and the regimes left. In 2009 the Iranian protest movement wasn’t trying to bring down the regime — its goal was to defend ‘My right, My vote.’ And it didn’t succeed.