Karroubi takes on his critics
19 Aug 2009 09:23
Karroubi won't shy away. Archive photo. Source: Mowjcamp | August 16, 2009
Reformist politician Mehdi Karroubi's recent letter to Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani requested an investigation into the rape of detainees arrested in Iran's post-election unrest. The letter drew mixed reactions from Iranian politicians and religious figures, with some calling for his prosecution and others demanding an investigation.
Yesterday, Monday, Karroubi gave a tell-all interview in which he responded to his critics and elaborated on the points made in his letter.
"In the past week I've come under violent attacks launched from the Friday Prayers podium, by Majlis lawmakers, by Voice and Vision [IRIB, Iran's state broadcaster], and by papers affiliated with certain institutions," Karroubi said. "I had previously said that if such attacks continue, I will disclose all the untold stories."
"After the elections events took place in the country, which were unprecedented in violence and unlawfulness, the actions of people who were not in a position of authority [and claimed to act] in the name of the establishment, especially militia and plainclothes forces, have brought us to a point where responsible and free-thinking individuals are left with no choice but to set aside conservatism and take any action they deem necessary [in order] to prevent the repetition of such incidents," Karroubi said.
"All over the world, people may be arrested in protests, but nowhere in the world do they transfer detainees to secret locations and treat them in such a brutal manner. The Judiciary Chief and Prosecutor General say prisoner abuse does not happen in official prisons under their supervision. After a while it becomes known that there is a detention center under one of the ministries or that things have happened in Kahrizak detention center, police stations, and Basij headquarters."
"All of this has happened because people protested the results of an election. Is this how we should treat the people who have asked about the fate of their votes? In the space of a few weeks, a number of people have been killed, some have been injured and have broken teeth and heads, eyes have been blinded, and some have lost their lives under torture."
"Torture is used to extract confessions and when the prisoner passes out under torture he/she is taken to the hospital and interrogation continues while that person is being treated. This is why I say that violent methods have been used by ignorant people in an unprecedented manner and against people who have only disputed the result of an election."
"The things that have happened are so extreme that when the truth-finding committee presented its report to the Supreme Leader, he furiously ordered the closure of Kahrizak and now we see some of the detention center's officials removed from their posts."
"Accounts of prisoner abuse have been personally confided to me. One young woman arrested at her home was severely beaten in front of her mother. This woman courageously reported the incident to the truth-finding committee during its visit to prison. I was very saddened about such acts taking place in the Islamic Republic; anyone reading this can easily put him/herself in place of that mother who witnessed her daughter beaten in front of her eyes."
"When they [SAVAK] came to arrest me [under the Shah's regime], sometimes Mrs. Karroubi would insult them and they would only tell me to ask her to contain herself. But today we see a girl has been beaten in front of her mother's eyes while being arrested. This is why I say such behaviors are unprecedented in our country."
"I had informed the Judiciary chief, the former intelligence minister, and other officials of these instances [of abuse] and in interviews I repeatedly brought up the issue so that maybe it would be taken into consideration and its re-occurrence would be prevented."
"But when I heard about the sexual abuse, I was so devastated that I wrote a letter to the Judiciary Chief. I waited for a response for 10 days but there was none, so I made the letter public. Many of those devoted to the establishment praised me for this and some of them offered me brotherly criticism, which I welcomed. But others used the Friday Prayers podium, the Majlis floor, websites, newspapers and Seda o Sima [state TV and radio] to insult me."
"I was treated this way for merely requesting an investigation to determine the veracity of these claims. If assaults had take place, I believed their perpetrators should be brought to justice. I wanted to make sure that the dismissal [of Kahrizak officials] from their posts was not a show -- that they would not later return to their duties. This had happened a few years ago, when they carried out tortures and caused the establishment to lose face in the international arena, and a video [of it] was released that was unbearable to watch for even ten minutes."
"Those who must use the sacred Friday Prayers tribune to tell the people about the current affairs of the country, under the pretext that I had insulted the establishment, made allegations against me and accused me of many things ... When certain newspapers, Seda o Sima, and those affiliated with certain institutes say such things, it cannot be considered unexpected because they are mercenaries."
"Some of these centers, institutes and media outlets think whomever does not think like them is a spy who is morally and financially corrupt."
Karroubi, apparently referring to the arch-hardline daily Kayhan, said, "One of these newspapers recently called a number of officials who wrote an open letter 'extremists and extortionists.' This is while one of the signatories of the letter, Mohammad-Ali Najafi, served as the minister of education for eight years, minister of higher education, and the head of the budget organization. Now, they are calling this same person an extortionist."
"It seems these institutes perceive themselves to be a performance yardstick against which everyone must be measured. Instead of attacking those who have betrayed the country, here, they attack the children of the revolution and blacken their reputation."
Karroubi went on to slam Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari by association with Saeed Imami, an intelligence official accused of having orchestrated the murders of intellectuals during the Khatami presidency (Imami allegedly committed suicide in prison and never stood trial).
"Let me just say that the editor of this newspaper [Hossein Shariatmadari] was one of Saeed Imami's close friend and consorts. A high-ranking official once told me he [Shariatmadari] is invincible; if Esfandiar the Invincible's [a mythical Persian character like Achilles] only weakness was his eye, this guy is so invincible he does not possess even one weakness."
The Reformist politician next pointed to the performance of Iran's official state news agency IRNA, which had published a false news report claiming that Karroubi had said his allegations of prisoner rape were rumors.
"This news agency has a habit of running false reports. When a youngster named Ghaniyan was killed in the post-vote unrest, IRNA quoted the youngster's father as saying Mousavi is responsible for his son's death. Ghaniyan's father later rejected the report as false."
Karroubi next slammed Mashhad's Friday Prayers leader, Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Ahmad Alamolhoda, who in a recent sermon called Karroubi a terrorist and an agent of the 'global arrogance' [United States].
"The Friday Prayers leader who called me a 'terrorist' next to the shrine of Imam Reza has apparently forgotten those days [before the revolution] when he [Alamolhoda] made repeated trips to Pakistan, with funds at his disposal, on missions on behalf of Ayatollah Shariatmadari."
"We never accused him of anything, but this is natural course history runs, and he now uses the Friday Prayers podium to defend the Islamic Republic and call me a counter-revolutionary and terrorist."
[Ayatollah Mohammad-Kazem Shariatmadari was a Shia source of emulation in favor of the separation of mosque from state and the restoration of constitutional monarchy in Iran. He was an outspoken critic of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini. In 1982, he was accused of offering financial support to Sadeq Qotbzadeh, who was arrested on charges of plotting with military officers and clerics to bomb Khomeini's home in Jamaran and overthrow the state.
Ayatollah Shariatmadari was forced to read out a confession asking forgiveness from Khomeini on national television. As he was a source of emulation and could not be executed, he was placed under house arrest until his death. Clerics were banned from attending his funeral.]
"The Tehran Friday Prayers leader [Ahmad Khatami] who echoed these accusations against me is someone who used to sit in the front row of Ayatollah Montazeri's classes. Back then, when some spoke against his [ Montazeri's] stances, he [Khatami] supported them. But when Montazeri fell out of favor, he became one of his staunchest critics just to climb the ladder of success."
[Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri was chosen by Imam Khomeini to be the next Leader of Iran, however, his calls for more open politics and his condemnation of post-war executions as well as his opposition to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie led to his demotion and exile to Najafabad in Isfahan.]
"Could they have not accepted the proposal I put forth out of concern and investigated the issue and punished guilty officers and told the people that these acts were committed autonomously and not by order of the Islamic Republic? Should the letter of a veteran of the revolution be answered with such harsh words?"
Karroubi also made reference to Qom's interim Friday Prayers leader Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi, who had called for Karroubi's immediate prosecution.
"I only consider Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli and Amini as Qom's interim Friday Prayers leaders. It interesting that they introduce this person [Saeedi] for such circumstances to lead the prayers; I will not react to his remarks, because of my acquaintance with his [Saeedi's] late father and due to my respect for him."
"Some of our brothers in the military who have been hurling insults [at me], it is only right for them to adopt such a stance because they now exercise control over all political and economic center. They do not understand that an idea is not hinged on one person or more, but that it penetrates into families -- and now even in the families of some of these military men such issues are raised. If necessary, I will elaborate on this further."
Karroubi went on to allude to Basij commander Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Taeb, who accused him of lying about detainee rapes and called on him to bring four witnesses to prove his allegations or face the Islamic punishment of 80 whiplashes.
"Some of the affiliates of certain governmental institutions heroically came forth and said whatever they pleased about me. One of them, who is a member of a paramilitary organization, has forgotten that because of such behaviors and actions, the government of the time kicked him out of the intelligence ministry and transferred him to another place."
Karroubi added that he would not hesitate in disclosing what goes on "behind the scenes," if the present situation persists. He then moved on the Taraneh Mousavi dossier.
"I will tell you what really happened to see whether those who decry the vileness of lying will react and take a stance against this deceit or not."
"A while back [Reformist] websites ran a story about the kidnapping of a girl named Taraneh Mousavi on the sidelines of the Qoba mosque gathering. Some time after that a number of the detainees from that day were released, but not Taraneh Mousavi. Her family is told to come collect her body."
"Instead of investigating the issue to respond to the controversy created by foreign media outlets surrounding the issue, some of the authorities decided to divert attention from the issue. These ingenious plotters and far-sighted managers forged a scenario."
"To carry out their scenario, a person, who I will not name, told them about a family with a daughter-in-law in Canada named Taraneh Mousavi... it remained only to force the girl's family to do an interview and say their daughter is alive and in Canada."
"Therefore a number of military and intelligence officials along with civil servants, who are all well-known figures, showed up at this family's door. They tell them that Taraneh Mousavi has been in a fire and they need the family to identify her and claim the body."
"The father of the family says our daughter-in-law lives abroad. The son recognizes some of the well-known figures of the Sacred Defense [Iraq-Iran war] present in the group. This gentleman, who had political acumen enough, told the officials not to insult his intelligence as he knows the reality of the situation. This time these figures decide to talk frankly with the son of the family and persuade him to help them counter the plots hatched by foreign media outlets and protect the establishment."
"Taraneh's brother-in-law, convinced that he is helping safeguard the revolution, proposed that the officials speak with her parents. And this is how Taraneh's parents went on camera and said their daughter was alive."
"When this family realized the truth of the situation and decided to go public with it, Taraneh's brother-in-law told them they should keep their peace or something may happen to them."
"These people claimed that in order to protect the existence of the establishment this family must do such a thing [lie to the nation]. But in my opinion to ensure the survival of the establishment, adherence to the constitution and the ideals of the revolution and the Imam [Khomeini] are important."
"Protecting the establishment is only possible through delivering on the promises we have made to people. I am sorry to see backs being turned on the revolution and see [authorities] gambling with the establishment's reputation."
"Is this how authorities want to gain the trust of the people? These Sirs acted rashly and our people are smart enough to figure out the truth of the situation."
Karroubi went on to assert the reliability of the source who had revealed the details of the Taraneh Mousavi case. "My source is credible and if the need arises I will talk more openly about this issue so the roles of those involved will become known," he said.
"You have now created an environment in which no one will dare to speak out but I will tell you again that such behaviors and trying to terrorize me will not force me into silence and if need be I will reveal certain things."
"In the year when the serial killing of intellectuals occurred, the [presidential] election of 1997 had not yet been held and they said that Imam's mausoleum had been bombed and that they [saboteurs] had planned to bomb [Our Lady] Ma'soumeh's shrine [in Qom] but the bomber was arrested [before carrying out the plot]."
"After one week, they placed a few very healthy and happy looking girls in front of camera and these girls talked better than any professional speaker. At the time, I found the whole affair to be amusing and asked how is it possible to arrest someone and torture them to extract confessions with this speed and then put them in front of camera and have them confess. The result of such actions was the murders of intellectual and writers such as Frouhar and his wife."
"I do not only take such stances against these behaviors [detainee abuse and its denial], but as you know I also do the same [speak out when a wrong has been done] with my own friends and colleagues. I had the biggest role in the victory of the reformist movement but when there was a conflict of interest [dispute], the same gentleman [Mohammad Khatami], whom I had a decisive role in his election victory, refused to support me and these very same individuals made the most efforts to see the loss of the reform movement in 2005."