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Mousavi: Regime Worse than Goebbels in "Distortion and Deceit"

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

12 Jan 2011 12:07Comments
MousaviStern11.jpgGreen leaders speak out ever more strongly as hardliners' prosecution threats ring hollow.

Over the past few weeks the regime and its hardline supporters have been attacking the Green Movement and its leadership, Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami. There has been no limit to the accusations and threats that have been made against them, virtually no restraint in the derogatory ways they have been labeled, even the profanities with which they have been maligned. These officially sanctioned attacks have taken place at the same time the regime has been relentlessly claiming that the Green Movement is "dead." The regime has repeatedly declared its unswervable intent to put the leadership on trial, but without taking any practical action toward formally charging them -- because it is well aware of what the consequences would be.

The Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic (the government-controlled national TV and radio network) broadcast demonstrations by Basij members shouting "death to Khatami, Mousavi, and Karroubi." Claiming that Mousavi does not believe in Islam and the Judgment Day, the hardliners elevated themselves to the status of the divine, presuming to prophesy that the Green leaders will not be forgiven even by God.

The regime never bothers to address two simple questions: If the Green Movement is dead as claimed, why does the regime bother to even mention the names of its leaders, let alone defame and threaten them with imprisonment? And, if those figures have actually committed punishable offenses, why is the regime so terrified at the prospect of actually putting them on trial? This is the same regime that has imprisoned hundreds of university students, attorneys, human rights advocates, Reformist political figures, and even family members of the unjustly jailed, handing down interminable sentences to many of them after show trials.

For several weeks, the Green Movement leadership kept silent and did not react to the relentless attacks. Then they began to speak out. Karroubi was the first. He publicly challenged Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi to try him in a court open to the public, so the citizens of Iran could hear the arguments of each side. Clearly shrinking from the challenge, Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei responded that trials are not "imminent."

Khatami, in his typically calm and reasoned manner, was next to step forward. In a meeting with the Reformist deputies of the Majles he set three conditions for the Green Movement to participate in any future election. He again emphasized the necessity of free elections and declared, "When a social movement is born, it cannot be destroyed by repression." He also said,

The veterans [of the Revolution] that are critical [of the present state of affairs] should be counted on as valuable [not a threat] to the society.... We have emphasized and emphasize again people's [civil] rights, their right to [freely] elect, people's freedom, and justice for all. Everybody's rights must be respected because the Constitution is for everybody.... Some people are under the illusion that everything contrary to them and their views must be eliminated, and even allow lies and baseless accusations to achieve this goal, and it is here that the society encounters difficulty. The point today is not the confrontation between fundamentalism and reformism. The fact is there is a movement that wants to control all the country's resources -- it lies, it makes accusations, tampers with [facts], and even decides for the organs of the Islamic Republic of Iran who can run and who cannot, and says that those of whom we do not approve must be eliminated. This is no longer limited to the Reformists, it also [includes] some that are known to be Principlists, but because they are wise and fair, they too must be eliminated.

Khatami's statement infuriated the hardliners.

Next, it was the turn of Rahnavard, who has been dismissed from her job as professor of art at the University of Tehran, to publicly respond to the attacks. In an open letter to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, she demanded that all the political prisoners in the country be unconditionally released.

And then, on Tuesday, there were two important developments. In a meeting with university professors and members of the Iranian Medical Association, Khatami declared, "Those who do not believe in [the rights of the] people do not have any rights to speak on their behalf," which will surely enrage the hardliners yet again.

And yesterday, as well, Mousavi finally responded to the attacks, accusations, and threats. In an interview with his website, Kalemeh, he reaffirmed what he has been saying for months -- that the Green Movement is in fact gaining strength across every strata of Iranian society. When asked why he had not addressed the hardliners' campaign against him and the other Green leaders earlier, Mousavi said,

I intended to respond, but the [open] letter of my dear brother Mehdi Karroubi convinced me that there was no need to. He described well what the hardliners have been doing. The second reason for my silence was that such propaganda belongs to an old era -- they still use tactics employed by totalitarian regimes, such as the Soviet Union under [Joseph] Stalin or Romania under [Nicolae] Ceauşescu. Those who order such propaganda are not familiar with their own society, nor do they understand the changing international environment. They live in a bubble that is trapped in a time before the advances made in information technology.

When asked how he evaluates the recent attacks on the democratic movement, Mousavi said,

For the reasons that I explained in response to your last question, the negative effect of the attacks has been feeble. But also, due to their unfair nature, they have had the opposite effect. The past ten days have been an excellent opportunity for the people to really understand the nature of the officials. All these lies and slanders indicate what their [version of] "Islam" really looks like. It is, of course, not surprising. We know a Friday Prayer leader who claimed that, through Saudi Arabia, the United States has provided us with $1 billion and has promised another $50 billion after our victory. And this official, despite his lies and slander, has kept his job. That is why such unparalleled propaganda, coupled with ridiculous obscenities and threats, have demonstrated the righteousness and energy of the Green Movement, rather than harming it.

Mousavi was referring to Ahmad Jannati, leader of Tehran's Friday Prayers, who in a sermon made the accusation about the American funds supposedly to the Green Movement, although he never provided a shred of evidence for the claim. Mousavi proceeded to draw a portrait of the hardliners:

They do not understand that when someone who has been accused of murdering a good man over a partridge claims that someone like Mr. Khatami does not understand the Holy Qu'ran, or in their websites attack the former revolutionary prosecutor and confidant of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] of being a spy for the Soviet Union, or make the ridiculous claim that a Qu'ran scholar like Mrs. Rahnavard was working with the family of the Pahlavi regime, or accuse both me and her of being Freemasons, how people react to such claims. These people have surpassed Nazi Chief of Propaganda [Joseph] Goebbels in distortion and deceit. They have made slander and falsehood a part of their retrogressive religion combined with superstition. Of course, there is a delicate point here as well. The belief among a significant portion of the ruling establishment is that millions of people in this country are "dirt and dust," "goats and calves." They still do not believe in the people's wisdom, but in private, they are even terrified of the very notion of citizen rights and the innate dignity of all peoples.

The man who killed another over a partridge was Jalaleddin Farsi, a participant in the early days of the Revolution. He murdered a farmer, but claimed the shooting was accidental and was ultimately sentenced to no greater penalty than the payment of blood money. In a recent interview, Farsi strongly attacked Khatami. The "former revolutionary prosecutor" is Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha. "Dirt and dust" and "goats and calves" is how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to the ordinary citizens of Iran in his "victory" speech to his supporters right after the rigged presidential election of 2009.

When asked whether he is still insisting on the minimum set of demands that he outlined in his Statement 17 that he issued right after the Ashura protests in December 2009, Mousavi said that his five-step proposal for resolving the country's political deadlock still stands:

Yes, I said in Statement 17 that you [the hardliners] should ignore me, [but] release all the political prisoners and declare that you are loyal and committed to all the articles in the Constitution, allow for a free media and hold free elections without vetting [by the Guardian Council], and you will see that calm will return to the nation. Otherwise, the repression will increase the [people's] demands. The untrue and naive smear campaign waged against [the Green Movement] at the same time that the repression and the arrests continue will simply cause the people to lose any hope of realizing any real change in the country within the framework of the Constitution.

He was asked about his response to a claim made by Mohammad Nabi Habibi, secretary-general of the right-wing Hezb-e Motalefeh Eslami (Islamic Coalition Party) -- that, following the 2009 election, Mousavi had agreed to a partial recount of the votes but was dissuaded from moving forward after meeting with the two largest Reformist groups, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) and the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin (OIRM). Mousavi replied,

Unfortunately the new secretary-general of the Motalefeh lacks the required maturity and I would like to deny such claims. I had only agreed to the formation of a committee that would act as an arbitrator during the election dispute. If those who took part in that meeting search their own memories, [they will recall that] I even suggested certain names for such a fact-finding delegation committee. The worst part of his claim is the [baseless] accusation against two major political groups of the country, many important members of which are currently in jail...

When asked about the continuing pressure on Green Movement activists and the future of the movement in light of the recent wave of suppression, Mousavi responded,

The sheer magnitude of the distortions, lies, and threats is on the rise. The group executions, as well as the strange and unjust sentences, are meant to instill fear. More important, the culture of forcing confessions and repentance has found its way from within prison walls into the political arena outside. According to this culture, if you want to keep your job or to be selected [for a high position] or to have a share of the large and small deals, or to live in peace and be free of the actions of the immoral, you must have the "understanding" and "foresight" to condemn the critics [of the regime] and the Green Movement protesters. They have not even spared the religious seminaries and the grand ayatollahs, and we are witnessing pressures and insults aimed at the clerics. But, the authorities are ignorant of the fact that, within the families of officials, there is an increasing level of awareness about the demands of the Green Movement, because these demands are compatible with the people's rights and our national covenant [the Constitution].

The people do not have fond memories of coerced confessions, forcing people to "repent," [baseless] accusations, and lies. Such tactics have the opposite effect. All these tactics and actions only indicate that the Green Movement is marching forward and, God willing, with the participation of all, this process will continue until the achievement of the goals put forth by the Green Movement. We believe,"Then, as for the foam, it passeth away as scum upon the banks, while, as for that which is of use to mankind, it remaineth in the earth [Qu'ran, Sura Arr'ad (the Thunder), verse 17]."

The interviewer suggested that although the propaganda, baseless accusations and lies will all eventually be revealed to the people, due to the resources of the state and the volume of the propaganda they cannot be ignored for the time being. When asked how the movement can overcome the hardliners' propaganda campaign, Mousavi responded,

In my opinion, the main strategy must be raising [the people's] awareness and the best way forward is, "Each citizen, a [mass] medium." Seemingly simple acts, such as disseminating newspapers, letters, statements, and CDs with images and footage from post-election events, etc., have spread with great profusion and reached the most remote areas of the country. In addition to trying to increase awareness and fighting the spread of falsehoods and the distortion of the truth, we must not forget the memories of the friendly debates and discussions during the election [campaign in 2009]. We must not forget how we experienced and practiced listening to each other during the election debates before the so-called "security forces" stepped in to turn the civil debates into unrest and silenced the sound of discourse. We must not forget the green chain that linked all types of differences and styles from the south to the northern part of the city [Tehran] and country and taught us how to coexist. These valuable memories are precious lessons and models for today, as well. We must do our utmost, wherever we can, to practice tolerance toward one another by keeping the atmosphere of dialogue and national discourse alive while listening to each others' views and opinions, in order to overcome the [social] cracks reinforced by state media.

Mousavi ended by spelling out the true meaning of being a supporter of the Green Movement:

Being Green does not imply that we want to make everyone else Green and to have one color, as the fundamentalists and monopolists would like to see. Being Green means living side by side and understanding the differences in opinions, views, and approaches. While the fundamentalists and their media try to place an emphasis on the fissures within families and society, we must try to accept such differences and to come up with a plan to live side by side and peacefully. Raising awareness while maintaining peace is the most important weapon against violence and the seeds of division and ignorance.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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