Following calls by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to hold a popular referendum to end political gridlock within the country, 15 prominent activists from several groups issued Monday a statement demanding that a referendum indeed be held in the country under the sponsorship of the United Nations.
One of the signatories, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the activists’ statement is an answer to the popular demands and calls voiced by demonstrators in the last protests that erupted across Iran against the dire internal situation.
“Iranians want to peacefully transfer authority from a Wilayet el-Faqih regime to a secular parliamentary democratic system,” she said.
Ebadi also expected that in case the referendum turns into a popular demand, the government would be forced to hold it.
“The percentage of people unsatisfied with the current situation in Iran has reached a high level, to an extent where we witness daily disturbances,” she added.
The activists’ statement had accused the authority of exploiting religion, hiding behind religious concepts, ignoring public opinion, violating people’s rights and freedoms and being greatly incapable of solving the political, social and economic crises in the country.
Rouhani had originally made the proposal to hold a popular referendum during a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Sunday.
However, Ebadi said that the activists’ statement was “independent” from the president’s speech.
She said that the 15 activists who signed the statement include Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, lawyer Nisreen Stouda, of Iran's Human Rights Defenders Center in Tehran, lawyer Narges Mohammadi, political activist Hassan Shariatmadari, political figure Abulfadl Qadiani and human rights activist Mohammad Nourizad.