Minority groups represented
The Iranian Parliament (Majlis) wins no prizes for political pluralism. After successive purges of leftists and secular nationalists in the first two years after the 1979 revolution, the parties that continue to function legally and enjoy representation in that body express the «right,» the «center» and the «left» of the Islamic political continuum, which does not fundamentally question the existing system. Nevertheless, pluralism within the various national and religious groups that comprise the mosaic of today’s Iran operates without any serious restrictions. During our stay in Iran last week, amid demonstrations over a controversial sketch in a newspaper that was seen as an insult by Turkic-speaking minorities, Azeri deputy Akbar Alami held a press conference where he did not balk at mentioning the «economic, cultural and political apartheid» against Azeris. The same day we met another minority deputy who has the hardest job of his 290 colleagues. Maurice Motamed represents Iran’s Jewish community in the Majlis. «The Iranian Parliament includes elected representatives of the three recognized religions apart from Islam: one Jew, one Zoroastrian and three Christians. Citizens belonging to these religions vote in separate polling booths in their own places of worship. In Tehran there are 20 functioning synagogues; in the whole of Iran there are 80.» Motamed makes no secret of the trials his co-religionists have had to face in post-revolutionary Iran. «Of the 100,000 of us in 1979, there are now about 25,000. In the first few years after the revolution we were discriminated against, but during the past eight years (Ed. note: after the election of former president Khatami) things changed for the better,» he explained. Naturally, current President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s statements questioning the Holocaust caused a great deal of concern within the Jewish community. «It was an insult to all Jews and gave Iran a bad name,» Motamed said at a press conference for Iranian and foreign journalists at Parliament House. However, he took care to clarify that «Palestinians suffer daily under the yoke of tyranny» (Ed. note: under the state of Israel). «It is not realistic for there to be peace between Israelis and Palestinians unless the legal rights of the Palestinian people are recognized and an independent Palestinian state is set up,» said Motamed.