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Mr. Mohajerani goes to Washington

by TARA MAHTAFAR in Washington, D.C.

20 Oct 2009 17:1713 Comments

[ dispatches ] Ataollah Mohajerani's political career began in 1980 when he entered the Islamic Republic's first Majlis as a representative from Shiraz as its youngest member. He served as the deputy for parliamentary affairs under Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and later under President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Mohajerani is best known for his tenure as Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance during Mohammad Khatami's reform-minded presidency. His official policy of "leniency" ushered in Iran's cultural renaissance in 1997, which initially saw an explosion of free press and arts in the country. His liberal policies won him many enemies; he survived an impeachment by the conservative-dominated 5th Majlis, but eventually sent a 50-page letter of resignation to Ayatollah Khamenei and stepped down in April 2000.

Mohajerani currently lives in London with his wife Dr. Jamileh Kadivar, a former parliamentarian, and maintains a personal weblog here.

In Iran's 2009 presidential election, the ex-Ershad chief backed Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi. He is now a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy Green Movement, a cause he promoted this week at a high-profile conference at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a conservative DC-based think tank.

Dr. Ataollah Mohajerani ('Ata' to intimates), a famously polished speaker, thwarted impeachment when serving as Mohammad Khatami's Culture Minister by virtue of an eloquent defense to Majlis. His talk on "The Future of the Green Movement" to a packed audience of Iranian diaspora Monday night at Montgomery College in Virginia, true to form, was laced with philosophic references and poetry.

Yet Mohajerani did not mince words when it came to the nuts-and-bolts questions facing the opposition movement in Iran's ongoing internal crisis.

He began by cautioning against haste and expectations for fast results. "The Green Movement is an opportunity for the Iranian people to define themselves on their own terms. The process requires time -- it's not a sprint, but a marathon."

He warned that any act toward radicalization would spell "the death of the Green Movement," and stressed the need to preserve its non-violent nature. "The age of armed resistance is passé, unless you're al-Qaeda," he said. "If we answer violence with violence, we are no different from them [the government]."

The veteran Reformist named Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami as the political leaders at the helm of the movement. He said that while a multitude of demands had escalated after June's fraudulent election, the original goal of the post-election protests is the "national" banner under which the movement should unite, in order to avoid becoming divided and ineffective. "We must move together in an organized and cohesive manner, just as birds trapped in a net will be able to lift off only when they all fly in one direction."

He next expounded on this 'original goal' of the Green Movement, adding that a 'second goal' had emerged in the wake of the government's brutal response to protests.

The foremost demand, Mohajerani said, centers on the signature question "Where is my vote?" -- a phrase "coined by the country's youth" to "denounce the [Ahmadinejad] government as illegitimate."

"Those who orchestrated the vote fraud imagined that society would show no reaction if faced with a fait accompli. But in fact, they are now unable to manage the country."

The former parliament deputy went on to say that Majlis, the Iranian parliament, can help end the country's political deadlock by voting to impeach Ahmadinejad on grounds of being unfit to head an administration [adam-e kefayat] and lack of legitimacy [adam-e mashruiyat].

He added that the Iranian public must keep up efforts of staging anti-government protests on calendar occasions, as has been the trend thus far. He also encouraged artists not to attend award ceremonies, as a way of refusing to recognize the government.

But the Green Movement doesn't stop at Ahmadinejad, Mohajerani told his audience. In light of the state-sponsored violence, jailing, detainee torture, and show trials that met protesters who were exercising their "constitutional right to free assembly," the top authority in charge of the country must also be held accountable.

"The Leader is responsible for these events. This word comes from "responding" to questions. He must answer to what has happened in Iran. Just as he ordered the closure of Kahrizak [detention center], he could have stopped these other terrible incidents."

"The Assembly of Experts has a duty to weigh in on the role of the Supreme Leader and hold him accountable. If it fails to do so, the Experts will have deviated from their primary function."

Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, Iran's top Shia theologian, issued a fatwa declaring Khamenei's rule as Supreme Leader illegitimate.

Mohajerani pointed out that both these demands -- that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei be held accountable by Majlis and the Assembly of Experts respectively -- are "within the framework of the constitution."

The former Culture Minister ended his speech by emphasizing that the Green Movement is a "national and independent" movement that does not need "support" from the United States or other external forces.

It was interesting to watch a former Islamic Republic official, who still looked and sounded like one, addressing a roomful of Iranians -- the women were hejab-less and the men in ties -- on a visit to the capital of the United States (to speak at the Washington Institute, no less).

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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Yet another perspective from an exile speaking before "hejab-less women and men in ties".

Tehran Bureau, this coverage is now thoroughly predictable.

How is it that Kaveh L. Afrasiabi can consistently maintain objective intellectual sources from inside Iran, for his perspectives, and you cannot? Unless, of course, this is intentional and you are part of a larger political agenda. Which would be disappointing, especially given the fact that you now appear to be part of Frontline, a media source counted on for a more balanced approach to world and national affairs.

All we're asking for here is the bare minimum in objectivity, like that found in a typical Frontline presentation. Otherwise, might I suggest that you expressly state that you are a news source dedicated to the opposition movement of Iran. Then we'll understand, and look elsewhere for a truly "independent" source.

Pirouz / October 20, 2009 8:43 PM

The gist of your criticism is that reporting the content of a dissident's lecture lacks objectivity becuase the speaker himself is partial to begin with. Either that, or you're suggesting that the media should publish a rebuttal of every speech or opinion to prove they're objective.
To me, as a reader, objectivity lies first and foremost in the accurate reporting of an event. Just so, I'd rather read statements made by IRI officials than have their positions explained to me by Mr Afrasiabi, whom I find extremely untrustworthy.

mahasti / October 20, 2009 10:58 PM

Dont worry about Pirouz. He is the same loser that posts on NIAC site.

Tani / October 21, 2009 12:01 AM

Mr Afrasiabi objective? Pass me my dictionary.

Tony in London / October 21, 2009 12:12 AM

Though I thoroughly understand Dr. Mohajerani’s concern and argument that the green movement has much to loose if it does not take cautious steps. There are however many urban city dwellers’ in Iran that can no longer tolerate the oppressive system they have been subjected to for the past three decades. Therefore considering the public mood is it possible to contain the public anger and continue the struggle non-violently?

Cyrus Wasgington DC / October 21, 2009 6:39 AM

What is this guys problem!? He continuously seems to be critical of or whining about something. His comments are excessively negative, cynical, and fault-finding...and he talks about objectivity. Last time I checked objectivity meant a balanced and neutral point of view!!!

Iman / October 21, 2009 10:37 AM

Your compatriots that are in exile today left their motherland precisely because their basic freedoms such as wearing a tie or going out without an Islamic head cover were denied to them in Iran. Had the Iranian government relaxed its control over the domestic media and allowed international observer to monitor the polls to prevent irregularity we would not have seen the birth of the green movement. Afrasiabi view’s are from a defunct academic who was expelled for his unprofessional conduct from Harvard. Afrasiabi does not offer a new paradigm and continues to repeat the same conspiratorial theory and paranoiac assumption of the Ahmadinejad illegitimate government that America and Britain are behind the popular uprising. My question to you is how could the U.S. and Britain organize around 3 million people in Tehran alone to come out and protest on June 15th. Similar demonstrations were also seen in Shiraz, Esfahan, Tabriz and Mashhad. Have most of Khomeini’s disciples such as Mir Hossain Moussavi, Khatami, Karrubi, Hassan Khomeini (grandson), Behzad Nabavi, Ata Mohajerani, Mohsen Kadivar, Abdolkarim Soroush and etc..become American and British stooges?

Shahriar Qajar / October 21, 2009 6:19 PM


This is the first time someone calls Afrasiabi objective. He is a mouthpiece of Ahmadinejad and the IRI. I call him "rent-a-pen." Yes, he writes well, but writing well does not make anyone objective. Ask him where he works and how he makes a living. Ask him why he cannot hold onto any job for more than a year.

Indeed, if you are looking for pro-AN propaganda, you need to go elsewhere. All this article did was reporting on what Mohajerani did. Mohajerani is responsible for what he says, not TB.

George / October 21, 2009 6:20 PM

Iranians who mingle with their own kind forget about the realities in Iran!

The green movement is significant, but Ahmadinejad has many supporters and in any fight, if you don't know anything about your opponents you will lose!
All that Pirouz is saying is that we need to hear from both sides.

Afrasiabi supports Ahamdinejad and Ahmadinejad may be crazy, but he has lots of supporters in Iran and if you'd like to ignore that, then you're living in as much of a dream world as he is!

Pedestrian / October 22, 2009 5:42 AM

Has it ever occurred to anyone that the Ayatollah and the President want one more chance? If they can integrate Iran into the international community why shouldn't Iran see an economic boom? Yes, I agree with people who contend that legitimacy will keep a government in power but so will peace and prosperity. The voter simply doesn't want to tamper with success and is willing to put up with a good deal. It can also lead to that political disease of great expectations. Nor does it guarantee anybody their job within the ruling party.

Daedalus / October 26, 2009 6:58 PM

I am glad to see finally some fellow Iranians are turning around on attacking Kaveh Afrasiabi the most astute Iranian poitical scientist who lets his publications speak for him. Any one who labels him and attacks him I suggest you first familiarize yourself with his numerous writings. I suggest you start by looking up his bio on the website of campaign against sanctions and military intervention in Iran: http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/?q=afrasiabi

the dictatorial monarchists filling these comment pages with their labeling machine don't bother!

faraneh / October 30, 2009 10:47 AM

Qutoing Mohajerani's closest friends: "He lives in a Mansion in Manchester, He married his secretary at the ministry of culture and escaped with her....He basically married or sigheh four men and I guess this is her last wife. He has a great life in Britain writing and enjoying poetry...." And suddenly he appears...EVERY BODY WANTS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IRANIANS, WHO RIST THEIR LIVES IN THE STREET FOR FREEDOM! I HATE all these opportunists!

Anonymous / November 20, 2009 10:02 PM

i love iran
down with moosavi and karoobi and hashemi

my love is ahmadinajad

mhd / July 29, 2010 2:02 PM