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Jewish Journal

Q&A: Expert Nikbakht sheds light on Iran’s Jews and the elections

by Karmel Melamed

June 16, 2009 | 11:18 am

Frank Nikbakht, photo by Karmel Melamed

Iranian Jewish activist and director of the Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, is perhaps one of Iranian Jewish community’s few very knowledgeable sources for accurate information regarding the behavior, history and tactics of Iran’s current regime. He has spent a better part of his life speaking out in public about the true evil nature of Iran’s current government towards Jews and non-Jews alike. I recently sat down with Nikbakht, who is based in Southern California, to discuss the results and background concerning Iran’s recent elections and the mentality of those Islamic clerics ruling Iran today with an iron fist.


Mr. Nikbakht thanks for chatting with us. From your knowledge, would Ahmadinejad or the supposed reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi be any different in their treatment of religious minorities such as Jews, Christians and Bahais living in Iran?

They don’t make a difference since both of these candidates have hardline histories in their fundamentalist loyalties to the discriminatory Islamic Republic of Iran constitution as well as documented anti-Israeli policies and military planning. Mousavi, for example was not only the initiator of the current nuclear program In Iran but he was among the leading officials as Prime Minister in the 1980s behind the creation of the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group and the deployment of thousands of Revolutionary Guards in Southern Lebanon and Baalbek area.


You are an Iranian Jew who knows first hand about the regime in Iran and its treatment towards Jews/minorities. What is the biggest misconception Americans have about the elections and the candidates running for the presidency there?

The biggest misconception among Americans is that they think the official government in Iran is actually a real policy making entity; it is not. There is another parallel government in Iran which is headed by the Supreme Leader Khamenei, complete with several major departments, which is the real government and policy making entity and which does not hold elections either. The official government is in charge of implementing major policy decisions of the higher authority and also tasked with minor policy making and the day to day business of the country.


If the reformists are able to regain the presidency fromAhmadinejad, how will they be using Iran’s Jews to advance their own propaganda machine and their image in the West?

The “reformers” were the ones who initiated the using of minorities for major foreign propaganda, but Ahmadinejad took this to a higher level and was behind the continuous efforts for bringing sympathetic or bought off journalists to Iran to report on the “ideal” conditions of the religious minorities in Iran. Ahmadinejad, forced the removal of the old and obedient Jewish leadership in Iran since they finally refused to accept his Holocaust denying statements. The “reformers” as some in the West like to call them, will certainly do the same and appoint Jewish “representatives” according to their needs.


Do you believe either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad will be better for the Obama Administration to deal with when it comes to the nuclear issue?

The Obama administration on the other hand has been heavily rooting for Mousavi, who was declared the loser by a huge margin in the recent elections and whose loss is already creating the largest regime split and popular uprising since the early 1980s. The US administration, clearly misled by their Iran advisers and analysts, apparently believed that the real power in Iran would stay neutral in the elections and would let the people actually elect someone without fraud and vote rigging—even when it comes to the four out of 470 candidates which the powers that be had approved for their loyalty to the regime and the Supreme Leader.


Can you please discuss the role/influence of Khamenei and the Council of Guardins in the elections? And also when it comes to negotiating with the nuclear issue?

No major decision in Iran is made without Khamenei’s approval. We are witnessing as before that every factional dispute is always taken to the house of the leader for mediation or decision. The Wall Street Journal had an excellent factual account of how the 1997 participation, approval and election of president Khatami was painstakingly negotiated and pre-approved by the supreme leader, even though Khamenei himself didn’t predict the actual landslide Khatami victory back then. The same deal is on-going today.

The Council of Guardians is a major Islamic institution which existed even in the old constitution of the 1906 Revolution and was mandated during the Pahlavi Dynasty whose disregard for the constitution resulted in the absence of this institution from the scene for over 50 years. It became the source of a deadly grudge between the mullahs and the Shah. After the revolution, this council was put in charge of vetoing any parliamentary law that was passed but was somehow deemed to be “un-Islamic”. However an additional and very controversial role given to this council enabled it to be the main legal and dictatorial entity for qualifying or disqualifying any candidate—turning the Guardian Council into a major power deciding the destiny of the nation. One of the main demands of democratic forces inside Iran is the abolition of these powers in the Council. The supreme leader, of course can and has overridden some of the decisions of the Guardian Council. As Mel Brooks would say: “It is Good to be the Supreme Leader!” The nuclear issue is an exclusive domain of the house of the supreme leader. The “reformist” Khatami, as his officials have boasted, succeeded in buying time and deceiving the West while the nuclear industry in Iran surged ahead clandestinely. Ahmadinejad took the ball and is running with it to the end of the field. The difference was their style and also the possibilities and necessities of the Islamic Republic.


During the recent elections in Iran were there any political candidates in Iran who discussed issues dealing with Jews and other religious minorities?

Some Jews in Iran admired Karoubi during whose tenure as the Speaker of the Islamic Assembly (parliament) in 2002, he passed a law “equalizing” the blood value (value of life and limb in compensation laws) of some minorities with the blood value for Muslims. Of course this law was rejected by the Guardian Council as un-Islamic but temporarily re-instituted by an indirect way by another confusing super-institution called the “Expediency Council” which cited our opposition in the West to such attrocious discriminatory laws as “foreign propaganda”. Karoubi also used some of my own writings in his campaign speeches - verbatim- to present himself as a pro-minority rights person. In the end, according to the official results, Karoubi received about 0.8% of the votes! Yesterday, in his post elections bitter statement, Karoubi specifically apologized to his constituents including the religious minorities for not having been able to be in a position to defend their rights. Of course he couldn’t do anything for them anyway since the constitution itself is very specific about Muslim superiority over religious minorities in all aspects of life in Iran.

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