Mousavi: This is a Cult not a Political System
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
28 Feb 2010 03:58
The latest from Karroubi and Mousavi.
A few days ago, Mehdi Karroubi declared that the people have not backed down and that they continue to stand firm for their legitimate demands. He ridiculed the claim of the hardliners that on February 11, the 31st anniversary of the Revolution, 50 million people had demonstrated in support of the political establishment. He demanded that, in accordance with article 27 of the Constitution, which permits peaceful gathering by the people, the Green Movement be allowed to stage its own demonstrations, in order to show which side has more support. He also demanded a national referendum in accordance with article 54 of the Constitution to decide whether the Guardian Council should be allowed to control and supervise elections and vet the candidates.
In his interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Karroubi also stated that he does not recognize the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as legitimate or Islamic. The courageous Karroubi thus demonstrated once again that he personally will not back down.
Kalameh, the website of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has just posted an interview with him in which he too has emphasized that the Green Movement is standing firm and repeated the demands that had been made in his previous statements, in particular those in Statements 13 and 17. He also echoed Karroubi's demand that the Green Movement be allowed to stage its own demonstration, in order to show which political side has more support in Iran. What follows is a translation of almost the entire interview.
Q: Three weeks have passed since the rally on 22 Bahman [February 11, the anniversary of the Revolution], and much has been said about it. What is your view of the rally?
This is not the first time that we have had such a rally. Every year since 1979, we have had rallies in which millions of people have taken part. Every year those who support the Revolution take part in the rallies. Typically, the annual rallies are influenced by important events in the nation and its political condition. This year, it was influenced by the tenth presidential election and its aftermath, and the government spent a huge sum, organized buses and trains from all over the country [to bring people to Tehran], and utilized the bureaucracy [to order people to attend the rally], in order to neutralize the presence of the Green Movement.
Q: What were the differences between this year's rallies and those in the past?
The differences result from the aftermath of the elections. Due to the formation of the grand social-political Green Movement, the rallies were strongly influenced by the presence of the Movement's supporters. Never before have the security and police forces been such a presence in the streets. The violent crackdown, especially the one around Sadeghiyeh Square [in west Tehran], had never taken place in the past. In previous years, people were free to take part in the rallies in any shape or form. This year, however, the police could not tolerate the presence of even one person with green clothes. I do not believe that the people will easily forget such treatment.
Q: In your opinion how extensive was the participation of the Green Movement supporters?
We cannot present precise statistics, but based on some evidence we can estimate. One piece of evidence is a comparison between the rally on June 15 [three days after the rigged election, in which 3 million people took part] and the rally on February 11. The other evidence is the empty Azadi Square [when Ahmadinejad spoke on February 11] and the comparison with the Square in the past. There still has not been any explanation as to why the Square was empty, and why the cameras [of the national television] were showing
only a small area. To claim that the Square was empty because people were careful about the lawn and the environment is ridiculous. If it had been important to the political establishment to find out how widespread the Green Movement is, this would have been a historic opportunity to find it out.
It is clear that hiding the truth does not eliminate it. I deeply believe that, due to the treatment that people received, it [the Movement] will become even deeper and more widespread. When Mr. Karroubi and I consulted [a few days ago], we thought that we should again repeat our request--that we should be allowed, in accordance with Article 27 of the Constitution, to have our own rally, and then the degree of participation will end all speculation. We also believe that, had we not invited the people to take part in this year's rally, there would have been a weak showing and the big majority [of those taking part] would have been the security and police forces.
Q: It is said that bribes and threats played a role in the rally, and that some people participated to make financial gains.
I like to call it an engineered rally. I am opposed to insulting those who do not support the Green Movement. Everyone is not supposed to agree with everyone else. If someone does not think similarly to us, it does not mean that he or she is a bad person. They are all our compatriots and, except for some hooligans and murderers, they are all our brothers and sisters. Even the security and police forces are our brothers, as we know that they are forced into using violence.
Of course, [illegal] use of public funds and the bureaucracy [to force people to take part in the rally] must be condemned. I remember that even during the war [with Iraq in the 1980s, when Mousavi was prime minister] the use of [privately owned] trucks by the defense establishment had to overcome many legal and religious hurdles, even at times of deep crises during the war, and the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] permitted use of private sector [equipment] only if the government covered the expenses and guaranteed reimbursement. But, for this rally, all the buses and trains from all over the country were used. Staging such engineered rallies is not an achievement, but resembles the dictatorship of the pre-Revolution era. During the rule of the Pahlavi dynasty, too, if someone who was working for the government did not want to take part in its rallies, he or she would have encountered a lot of problems...
Q: Are there consultations between you and Karroubi and Khatami regarding your positions and decision making?
We are always in contact. Due to the large number of people who have been arrested, it is even more necessary than before to maintain contact, and I thank God that there is good harmony between us. It would have been in the country's interest, of course, if instead of a violent crackdown and filling up the prisons, there was support within the present political framework for strong organizations of those who do not accept the current destructive policies. I believe that this is the only way of preventing the transfer of the leadership of the social and political groups to outside the country. But because the Voice and Visage [the national television and radio network controlled by the hardliners] has been acting totally one-sidedly, because of the closure of the [reformist] newspapers and imprisonment of journalists, it currently seems impossible to set up organizations that can openly bring together influential figures [of the opposition] to be active within the framework of the Constitution.
Therefore, I still believe that the best way to address the problem is by having every citizen acting as a journalist and reporter, and to expand the social networks with the aim of elevating the level of social and political knowledge of the people. While this has some negatives, it also has some positives, and I believe that the Internet has created a miracle [by keeping people connected and informed]...
Q: Street actions [by the Green Movement] have always been confronted with violence. We saw an example of this in Sadeghiyeh Square. Are there other ways of pursuing the legal and legitimate goals of the Green Movement?
This question is asked frequently. The answer is that the Green Movement must not forget its goals. It should also not give up and forget its strategy. Right from the beginning there was a clear framework for the goals of the Green Movement. We should consider what binds the Green Movement together. The minimum and certain goal that can create a large coalition is putting into action all articles of the Constitution. There have, of course, been people and groups that have wanted to cross this line, but the Green Movement has never deviated from its fundamental goal of complete execution of all articles of the Constitution and, God willing, will continue on this path to the end. I have always emphasized the important of this key demand of the Green Movement, and as a supporter of the Movement I have also emphasized maintaining the integrity of the demand. What has happened in the streets was to tell the world about this key demand.
But using the streets is not the only way of accomplishing this. Tens of millions of Iranians are protesting censorship, oppression, violent crackdowns, an unstable and adventurous foreign policy, destructive economic policies, and the spread of bribery and lying. They want to change the situation, and by deciding their own fate change the fate that has been imposed on them by an incompetent government. Our nation does not want to lose the tough worldwide and regional competition [for progress]; our nation wants to live in peace with the rest of the world, not to confront it, and wants the country to follow a foreign policy that promotes development; our nation does not want to watch domestic production buried and destroyed by cheap imports; our nation does not want artificial privatization, whereby under the guise of privatization all the important projects are brought under the control of quasi-governmental companies and the Sepah [the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]; as its national and Islamic duty, our nation wants to end unemployment and poverty as the accepted norms, and prevent their concealment via intense propaganda. Our nation does not want our teachers beaten up because they demand better salaries and benefits, or our labor force attacked because it demands its legal rights...
Our nation does not like its letters, phone conversations and messages, and text messages eavesdropped on; our nation is courageous and well-informed and does not want a small group that limits its freedoms, suspends its fundamental and constitutional rights, bans the newspapers, and issues new orders on a daily basis for how to write, listen, and talk. Thus, the Green Movement must spread the message that such demands of the nation are also those of the Green Movement. These demands are Islamic and in accordance with the Constitution and our religious democracy. These demands are not anti-religious in any way that could justify orders for murder and imprisonment, and they are not anti-patriotic or anti-political establishment, and that is exactly why they are supported by the people. Demanding freedom, human rights, elimination of discrimination, toleration of various opinions and thinking, and confronting corruption and lawlessness are not offenses if one pursues them [peacefully] in the streets or through means of mass communication.
To the contrary, preventing the pursuit of such demands is a sign of dictatorship and defies the goals of the Revolution...
...But, we should also be humble. It is not necessary that all change must be controlled and brought about by the Greens. Being a Green means not being selfish and arrogant. To achieve our goals, we will use every possible way. I emphasize again that the most important means of victory is to increase people's knowledge.
Q: What is the role of the political establishment and other groups in the changes [that the Movement is pursuing]?
The Green Movement has stood firm, insisting on its demands. The more the nation becomes aware of its rights, the more powerful will be the force that supports the demands. More knowledge will changes the lives of the people, and this change is the nation's capital that will yield social and political changes. The point that I, as a minor supporter of the Green path, would like to emphasize is that our goal is to make the changes within the political system, and that the changes need not necessarily be made by this or that person. We should always remind ourselves of a beautiful moral principle, which is that we should acknowledge honesty, goodness, and beauty, even if they are not achieved by us. That is why I believe that we must stand firm for our demands, though the price would be lower if the political establishment itself begins to implement the changes. I would like to declare it as explicitly as possible that any action taken by the political establishment to restore people's rights within the framework of the Constitution will not be considered by us as a sign of weakness, but rather as a sign of the strength of the Islamic Republic...
I declare explicitly that publishing Etemaad-e Melli and Kalameh Sabz [the daily papers of, respectively, Karroubi's National Trust Party and Mousavi, both of which were banned after the rigged election], even if it does some harm, will do much less than the harm done by other internal [hardline] and external publications. I know that it will not be accepted, or at least it will not be accepted under the current conditions, but I declare that allowing radio and television channels for the Green Movement will strengthen the political establishment, and help national unity...
In any case, if the political establishment and various [conservative and hardline] political groups were wise enough, they would know that a good future for our country requires national unity among people from all walks of life, not descriptions of the people [who support the Green movement] as "dust," "calf and kid," and a "small and narrow group." The lives of the prophets and imams indicate that they never insulted even the enemies of religion, but respected their human rights and by being kind to them tried to attract them to their faith... Our people know well the difference between true religiosity and greed for power in religion's clothes--this is not the definition of a nation. This political establishment is a cult. It is destroying the concept of being Iranian, and this is the most dangerous issue that we are confronting. Our weapon for confronting the danger is a move toward national and religious reconciliation, and relying on the ideals that will lead to a peaceful and advanced Iran at the national and international levels.....
Q: In Statement 17 [issued on January 1], ways of resolving the crisis were mentioned. Are there other solutions for the problem?
There is an important point in Statement 17, and that is an admission [by the hardliners of] the existence of a crisis is part of the solution. On the other hand, I do not believe that there is an instantaneous and sudden solution for the crisis. For example, one cannot organize and engineer a rally and then pretend that the problem has been solved. The most important thing is to take actions that would improve the situation. For example, if it was announced today that all the political prisoners have been released, I am sure that the entire people would welcome it, just as they would if violence were not used against people who demand only their rights.
We have seen the effect of insulting people. So, let's try to treat them for once with respect. On some occasions, avoiding inappropriate behavior will improve the national mood. An example of such behavior was the violence in Sadeghiyeh Square on February
11 -- the attacks on the people, the families of the martyrs, and their children. Who can claim that such a disgrace can help our political system? Would Karroubi and Khatami joining the people during the rally not help national unity, or [does it help to] send some hooligans to implement the strategy of "victory through terror?" Does the political establishment consider terrorizing the people a solution? If that is the case, then why did we condemn Saddam Hussein's attack on Halabja [when the Iraqi army used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and Kurdish citizens of Iraq in March 1988]. The recent film that shows the attacks on the [Tehran University] Dormitory and the students [five of them were killed after the rigged election] only goes to show a cultist and violent culture.
In the eyes of those who were beating the students, the children of the nation are worse than even animals, and it is a real catastrophe that the officials say they do not know who was responsible for the attacks. This is an even worse insult to the people and students. It
is interesting that among the police [at the Dormitory] there were people who were telling others not to beat the students. I wish the police would see there is strength and power not in violent crackdowns, but in creating a secure environment for all the citizens regardless of their thinking. Why was it necessary to use pepper and chemical spray in Sadeghiyeh Square? All such actions take from us any rational solution to the problem. Guaranteeing free, competitive, and fair elections is the key solution... The Green Movement must always emphasize this.
Q: Much has been said about [the relation between] some important social groups and the Green Movement. What do you think?
The Green Movement was born within the important groups and strata of the society, and has grown with them. For example, I can point to the letter by 116 professors of Tarbiyat Modarres University. This university is a child of the Revolution [it was set up after the
so-called Cultural Revolution in the early 1980s, to train replacements for those professors
who had been expelled] and I, as a faculty member, have had a role in its formation. Everyone knows that this university does not have an undergraduate program, and the age pyramid is higher than those of other universities. There are many among its students and staff that served the Revolution in its early years. The letter by 116 professors of this institution indicates how seriously widespread the Movement is in the universities. What I want to say is that you can find the same among medical doctors, teachers, engineers, laborers, feminist movement, athletes, artists, and other important social groups. Just a glance at the festivals during the ten days of Fajr indicates where our artists stand with regard to the Movement [most have boycotted the festivals this year]. It is said that after the election nearly 1000 clips and songs have been made about the Green Movement and the [election's] aftermath, and a large number of
cartoons, posters, paintings, and other artistic works have been created. I consider the link between the Green Movement and the various social groups and strata as the best way of achieving our goals for the future of our country. Why should we not be hopeful, when millions of university students support the Green Movement?
Q: What about the clerics?
There are many informed, committed, and combatant clerics in the Movement. The Greens must know that the views of a few biased and extremist clerics do not represent those of all the clerics. Our true clerics never use profanity against people, or defend murder, the spilling of blood, and the jailing of innocents. The true clerics know how Islam views making [baseless] accusations, torture, and defamation. The true clerics distinguish the true national and Islamic interests from those of cults and groups, and such clerics are allies of our academics and recognize the significance of this alliance. We view our active true clerics as highly important to the Movement. Their presence in the Movement, while it is accused of being infidel and the agents of foreign powers, is vital.
It is for this reason that I say to all those who have joined the Movement with hopes for a better future that we should be careful not to fall in a propaganda trap that aims to make our clerics distrust the Movement. We should always remember the Ashura festival of 1997 [when the hardliners produced a fake movie showing putative supporters of former president Mohammad Khatami dancing during the solemn day of mourning] and similar shows. Those who oppose the Movement, not all of them but at least some, have no moral qualm about [making such accusations].
Q: What is your suggestion for Chehar Shanbeh Souri [an ancient ritual on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Iranian calendar]?
The ritual on this day reminds us of the defeat of darkness by light. But the supporters of the Green Movement, while respecting such national and religious occasions, do not want them to be used to harass and hurt the people, especially since those who oppose the Green Movement may have planned to use the occasion to bring the Movement into disrepute. I am certain that the Greens will not take part in anything that can be exploited to harass people. Creating [small] explosions and making fires [customary elements of the ritual] are not in keeping with the deeply peaceful nature of the Green Movement. If we keep this important principle in mind, and suggest the same to other supporters of the Movement, I am certain that they will not be hurt by those who want to use this occasion as an excuse to attack them.
Q: And the last point?
I hope that the country will be in a condition that we can have an exhibition of the posters, clips, and other artistic work that have been created over the last year, without any censorship. I am certain that, God willing, with the hope and actions of the Green Movement we will someday have such an exhibition that will demonstrate our national excitement and concerns.
Once again, Mir Hossein Mousavi has demonstrated that he is a man of deeply held principles, and that he will not back down from expressing the legitimate demands of the people and the Green Movement that he is leading. He recognizes that the hope of much of the nation rests on his shoulders and thus on his words and actions.
Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau