February 27, 2010
Three weeks has passed since the 22nd of Bahman rally and there have been lots of discussions and comments regarding this rally, what is opinion your about this event?
It is not the first time that the ceremonies of 22nd of Bahman have been held in our country. These ceremonies are in remembrance of rallies in 1979 [and have taken place] in different occasions with more than a million people. Every year people who admire this revolution participate in these ceremonies where traditional institutions such as Mosques or religious assemblies play an important role in organizing the rally. Usually the ceremonies in each year is influenced by important events of the year and the political atmosphere [in the country] . 10th presidential election and the events that followed it influenced this year’s rally. The government mobilized [large number of people] public employees, using trains and buses from all across the country by spending large sums of money. This was all to neutralize the impact of presence of green movement.
How was this year’s rally different from previous years?
The differences were due to the events that occurred after the election. Considering the formation of the green movement this year, the rally was significantly affected by how the movement would [choose to] participate in it. In no other years so many police, military and security forces were deployed in the streets. The violent and savage confrontation particularly vivid in Sadeghiyeh Sq and other locations was unprecedented. In previous years people participated in the rally with any form or dress and shouted any slogan they desired. But this year violent security forces could not bear to see a green shirt worn by a young person or green beads carried by a clergy. I doubt people would easily forget these confrontations.
In your opinion what was the number of green movement supporters that attended the rallies?
It is hard to come up with an accurate number. But [we] can make estimates based on some observations. One is comparing the weight of the crowd who participated in 25th of Khordaad rally with 22nd of Bahman rally. Another observation is the empty spaces in the Azadi square during the speech and comparing it with previous years that the rallies where more crowded. No explanation has been offered as why the Azadi square was not filed and why the cameras only covered certain areas close to the podium. To hear that people worried about the grass and environment is comical especially for people who had seen attendance of people in the square in previous years. If the system cared to estimate the population weight of green movement, they would not stop them from showing their identities. But [their] fear that this identity is revealed took away a historical opportunity. This is more harmful to the system than the green movement. It is obvious that concealing reality does not eliminate it. And on this specific issue I have no doubt that this widespread confrontation will only spread this identity. In a discussion I had with Mr. Karoubi we decided to repeat our request for permission to hold a rally according to the Article 27 of the Constitution. The level of participation in [such a rally] will put an end to all rumors. We believe that if the green movement as well as other reformist parties, Great Marjaas and other figures had not invited people, this year [we] would have seen a low participation such that the course of the rally would have been in the same shape as Azadi Square during the speech.
It has been said that bribes and threats played a role in organizing the rallies, and that some have attended these rallies for mundane reasons.
I prefer the term: ‘engineered’ rallies. I am against slandering those who disagree with the messages of the Green Movement. Our arrangement was not, and will never be to view as immoral the actions of those with different opinions. We are all fellow countrymen. Aside from a few murderers and mobsters, we are all brothers and sisters. Even the security forces and the military are our brothers, and we know that they are forced to yield to violence. Of course, I condemn the expense of hefty sums along with the abuse of government facilities and inducing government employees with their job security to organize gatherings. I remember that during wartime, it was a big hassle for defense organizations to rent trucks for the transportation of troops until Imam [Khomeini] issued permission to use personal trucks and vehicles with at the assurance that the government would pay for all damages. But for the latest rally, [an enormous number] of buses and even trains was used by the military and by security to transport people. Such engineering of the gatherings is not only nothing to be proud of, it also resembles the despotic mentalities of the pre-revolution governments. During the Shah’s time as well, if a government employee failed to attend a pro-regime rally, he or she would have problems at work. After the 1978 revolution, our system has taken pride in the people taking to the streets themselves. As such, we can only truly take pride in the rallies of June 15 [only three days after the controversial election of June 12, 2009] and those that followed; not in artificially-engineered rallies that may have been instigated by economic obligation, by expenditure, or by a terrifying environment.
Do you and Messrs Karoubi and Khatami consult on the decisions and positions taken?
I am always in touch with these honorable men. With extensive detainments, I feel even stronger about the necessity of direct communication and, thank God, there is good coordination on this front. Although it is for the benefit of the country that, instead of filling prisons, [officials] support the creation of a powerful organizational body that disagrees with the current destructive policies in place but is still within the framework of the system. I think the only way to stop the leaders of social and political activities from leaving the country is through the [support of such a body]. However, as State TV deviates more and more [from the path that leads towards desirable solutions] and persists in one-sided views, closures of newspapers and detainments of journalists, it seems that establishing a body to gather the actual figures and align things with the Constitution is not going to happen. I still believe [in] the importance of the motto “every citizen is a medium,” along with increased usage of social networks to raise awareness. I believe that there is no alternative for such social networkds. Although, I should I add that these difficult conditions have had some benefits as well, alongside all the damage. Among them is the development of self-reliance and the expansion of the Green Movement to countless other social networks. In this regard, the use of virtual space was miraculous. [The web] has established itself as a stable and trustworthy structure that, in connecting people and networks, brings them together to collaborate. It is very similar to traditional bazaars where countless stores and booths of varying size are connected, along with mosques and tea houses, to produce an image of one coherent structure, despite the differences in every unit. What is interesting is that on one side of the bazaar you can have very different appetites, opinions, and capital flowing from the other sides, but this variety never constrains its totality or its concept of unity. Instead, [this variety] acts as a point of strength.
The movements in the street have been met with extreme violence. We saw an instance of this during the 22 Bahman rally in Sadeghiye Circle. Are there other paths we can follow to achieve the very legitimate goals of the Green Movement?
This question is being asked a lot. Our response is that the Green Movement should not forget its goals, just as it should not become a mundane and passive task that needs no strategy. The Green Movement’s goal from the very beginning has been to reform the administration within the current constitutional framework. The color green has connected us all. The minimum demand that could surely bring a majority together was a call for the unequivocal execution of the Constitution. Of course, there were those who wanted to move beyond this demand, but the Green Movement has never deviated from this common goal and, God willing, will never do so in the future. I have repeatedly spoken about the importance of sticking to this demand and, as a member of the Green Movement, have stressed its conservation. We must consider the showings in the streets to be a method with which the Green Movement has attempted to present its goals and intentions to the whole nation and the international community. But, this has not been the only method. Tens of millions of Iranians have objections to the government’s actions to censor, constriction of freedom, oppression, foreign policies that are whimsical and adventurous, destructive economic policies, and spreading of lies and corruption. [The people] demand changes that will allow them to decide their own destiny. They want to change the destiny forced upon them by incompetent officials.
Our nation wants to avoid falling behind in tough regional and international competition. Our nation wants to interact with the international community – not fight it or be hostile towards it – and follow foreign policies that promote growth. Out nation does not want to bury its own agricultural and industrial production under a sea of imported goods, [which has grown] under the careless and irresponsible watch of the [current] government. Our nation does not want to put the Revolutionary Guards and other semi-governmental organizations in charge of the majority of the country’s projects and economic activities under the privatization banner. Our nation wants to deal with unemployment and poverty as a religious, Islamic, and national duty. The deceptive mass advertising effort by the government should not hide the true poverty, unemployment, and inflation affecting the nation. Our nation does not want its teachers and workers to be attacked when asking for their wages, or its women to be attacked while trying to abolish discrimination. Our nation wants the government to allow all voices in society to be heard through the public media. It does not want the media to be monopolized by unjust people who publish libel. The majority of people here like one another. They do not want to be divided into the Party of God and the Party of Devil, nor into humans on one side and dirt and animals on the other.
Our nation does not want its mail, email, SMS, and calls to be under surveillance. Our nation is well-informed and courageous and does not appreciate the effort of a select few to constrict its freedoms and limit its constitutional rights while hypocritically claiming that all of these intrusions are [actually] desired by the nation. With whatever means possible, the Green Movement must inform the whole nation and members of all sects and groups, that the demands of the nation are the demands of the Green Movement. The Green Movement must publicize these demands.
These demands are completely Islamic, constitutional, and consistent with religious democracy. They are not anti-religious and, as such, execution, murder or imprisonment cannot be justified [as a means of dealing with them]. Nor are the demands anti-establishment or against the nation. Since they are [legitimate], the people support them. The demand for freedom, human rights, the abolishment of discrimination and tolerance of different opinions shown on street and in the media is not a crime. On the contrary, denying the expression of these demands is a sign of tyranny and a distortion of the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, which succeeded under the slogan of “Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic”.
In response to your question, I have to say that the basis for any fundamental change in the direction of reform is to spread awareness. Spreading the seed of awareness within all levels of society is not going to happen with demonstrations alone. However, social gathering is a civil right as well as one of the people’s methods to reach their political, social and cultural ideals. The important point here is that any supporter of the Green Movement [should find] a way to spread awareness, especially among the poor (oppressed). This should be done on the basis of the saying: “Each Citizen, a Medium.” However, we must be humble. The goal is not to necessarily see the green supporters in charge in the end. There is no “I” in Green and, hence, no place for self-interest. In this way, we will use the streets [to spread awareness] peacefully and lawfully as well as other legal means. As a companion of the Green Movement, I would like to emphasize again that the most effective way to reach victory is to spread national awareness. We want to attain our ideals with the people and by means of the people.
How do you see the role of the establishment, the system and other parties with regards to these changes?
The Green Movement has stood firm in its civil demands. The more people’s awareness of their rights increases, the bigger will be the force behind those demands. This recognition will change people’s lives and that change is the nation’s capital for greater political and social transformation. As a humble member of the Green Movement, I would like to point out to its supporters that our goal is change within our establishment. However, this change does not have to be achieved by anyone specific. We have to remember this ethical principal: to attest righteousness, decency and beauty whether or not it is achieved by us. As a result, although we will stand firm for our demands, it is less costly if the establishment follows the solutions offered by the people and the National Covenant (the Constitution). I would like to state clearly that any actions by the government to adjudicate the rights of people and to fully uphold the Constitution will not be seen as a sign of weakness by us. We will not portray these actions as insignificant. On the contrary, they will be a symbol of the power of the Islamic Republic. We would like to see all segments of the establishment pledge free, competitive and non-selective elections.
We would like to see the establishment free political prisoners and work on political development as well as the development of the culture of freedom. We would like to see the establishment encourage diversity within media and protect its freedom. I would like to state clearly that even if the publishing of “Kaleme Sabz” (Mousavi’s newspaper) and “Etemad Melli” (the newspaper of the Etemad Melli Party, whose chairman is Mehdi Karoubi) is harmful, [these newspapers] are less damaging than non-national and foreign media. I know that they [the establishment]will not accept this; or at least they will not accept this in the current situation.
However I say that having one or more radio and TV channels for the green movement, will only strengthen the system and help national unity. I personally am worried that these current limitations will force us to fall behind lower ranking countries in the region. I don’t see another way to protect our nation against the waves that other countries will send towards us, countries which are thinking of their own self-interest. It is absurd to think that we can control these waves by hacking, filtering and jamming satellite signals.
Either way, if the ruling establishment and the different political factions are realistic, they must know that the green movement was present for 22 Bahman. And, [they must know that] a good future for the country can only be secured by creating unity between people and varying factions of society, and not by calling a significant portion of society “dirt and dust”, “cows and lambs” and “an insignificant, limited group”. The life of our prophets and imams show that at no time did they curse or abuse those who opposed their religion. They had a high regard for human dignity, and instead of judging individuals, they always showed great mercy and kindness, in order to show the path of truth. Our people cannot tolerate anti-religious actions being carried out in the name of religion. In the Koran, when the prophet and his followers are mentioned, they are described as being kind and strong in the face of enemies. For certain, both in the time of the prophet and after, not all Muslims had the same degree of faith. Our people greatly understand the different between piety and the seeking of power in the guise of pious clothing. This [current] ruling establishment is a clique which strives to rob the very meaning of being Iranian and national solidarity. And this is one of gravest dangers we face today. Our weapon against such devious actions is uniting around our common national and religious aspirations, and relying on those visions which will result in a developed, peace-seeking Iran, throughout the country and throughout the world. It is in such a circumstance that we can hope that just like the years of the holy war [Iran-Iraq war] the entire nation will unite in the face of danger. The nation is defined as all the groups, all ethnicities, all cultures and all differing factions. Those interested in the green movement take pride in being Iranian, and all the symbols that come with that, and thus, it is quite obvious that we are very suspicious about the changing of the color of our flag, and we see this [this changing of the color] as a clear sign of the lack of concern of this current ruling establishment for our national interests, values, and culture.
In your 17th statement, you gave a number of solutions for solving this current crisis. Do you have any other suggestions besides the ones you’ve given already?
A very important aspect of the 17th statement is that the very acceptance of the existence of a crisis is a part of its solution. At the same time, I do not believe there are any sudden, abrupt solutions out of this current crisis. For example, we cannot engineer an orchestrated demonstration and fool ourselves into believing that everything is over. The important thing is that we now take steps to ensure that the crisis will be solved in the future. Just imagine if today, it was announced that all political prisoners will be freed. Before any faction or group, I’m certain that the entire nation will be glad to hear this news. Or, another action that can work to better this environment of fear, is kindness towards the people who are simply demanding their rights.
We have seen the effect of calling people dirt and dust [as Ahmadinejad referred in his speech two days after the election]. Let’s speak with the people respectfully for once. In some situations, simply refraining from some inappropriate actions can help improve the national atmosphere. An example is the brutal treatment of people in Sadeghieh square on 22 Bahman [or 11 February, at the anniversary of the revolution] and the attacks on people and some families of martyrs and their children. Who can claim that such shameful actions could help the establishment [in some way?] What is more beneficial in solving the current crisis: Mousavi and Khatami joining the ranks of people [in the rally] and showing their unity [with them] in practice or the violent forces pursuing the strategy of “victory by terror” using sticks, knives and chains? Can the government find a solution by terrorizing people? If using such methods for victory was an achievement, then neither we nor anyone else in the world would be able to condemn Saddam’s attack on Halabja. We wouldn’t have said that he has no mercy, even though it was his own people that he decimated. The footage recently released of the attack on the [Tehran] University dormitories show how partisan attitudes can lead to merciless brutality.
To those who are beating up the students, the children of this nation are even less than animals. Even more devastating is the fact that the officials from all levels of the power hierarchy claim that they do not know who is responsible for these attacks. This is an even worse insult to the intelligence of the students and people. What is interesting about this footage is that even among the security forces, there are some who ask others not to beat the students.
I just wish that the country’s police and security forces saw strength in providing a secure environment for all Iranians, irrespective of their beliefs, and not in suppression and violence. Why was it necessary to pollute Sadeqiyeh Square with pepper gas and other chemical pollutants?
All these actions will stray us farther away from rational solutions out of this crisis. If this crisis is not resolved, the legitimately of the ruling establishment will plummet even faster. The green movement, under any circumstances, must emphasize free and fair elections, elections which are not preceded by a purging process. Just like the freedom of the press, freedom of all political prisoners and putting an end to this fearful security environment are all very important, and we must not only let the ruling establishment, but all the people of our country hear of these solutions.
There are lots of discussions about the relationship between the green movement and elite social groups [professors, students, artists, etc]. What is your opinion?
The green movement is a movement that was born out of a number of very important differing groups within society and it is through the interaction it has had with these groups that it has been able to grow. In this regard, for example, I can refer to the letter written by 116 professors at Tarbiat Modarress University. This university is a child of the revolution, and I, as one of those who served the country in the early days of the revolution, had a role in its formation.
Everyone knows that this university does not have an undergraduate level and average age of the student is higher than other universities. Many staff and students of that university were very active in the first years of the Revolution. Statement of 116 professors of this university along with the similar statements from other academicians and Islamic Associations of other universities show that how much the Movement is alive and serious across the universities. I would like to say that you can see the same trend in physicians, teachers, engineers, laborers, women activists, athletes and artists and other major sects. A clear and unbiased look at the Fajr Festivals demonstrates where the artists stand as an effective sect of the society. It is said that about thousand music clips and videos were made about the Green Movement after the election. Many cartoons, posters and paintings as well as other art works were created in that period. This movement is unique in our cultural history and possibly in world cultures. I believe the powerful connection of the Green Movement with these major sects is the best reason to be hopeful for reaching the ideals of the Movement in the future of our country. Why shouldn’t we be hopeful when millions of students in our country is behind the Green Movement?
How about clerics?
There is a significant number of faithful, aware and resistant clerics present within the green movement. Greens must know that stands of a few spiteful and radical clerics are not the opinion of the whole society of the jurists and the clergy. Our noble clergy never call people with slanderous words. They would never support murders, bloodshed, and jailing the innocent. Our noble clergy knows well what Islam says about slanders, tortures, desecrating dignities of others and invading their privacies. Our real clergy can identify [grand] expediencies concerning our national and Islamic resources from [short-sighted] partisan benefits. Our clergy accompanies the universities and is in unity with students and faculty. They understand the importance of this union. We view the clerics in the green movement as a very important supply of potentials and support [for the movement.] Their presence in the green movement is connected to the survival of the movement concerning the various methods and means to accuse the green movement of secular ties and connections to foreign governments.
For this reason, I must tell everyone who has joined the green movement with hopes of a better Iran in the future that we must be careful not to fall for the propaganda that wants the clergy to lose their trust in the green movement. Let’s not forget the ‘Carnivals of month Ahsoura’ during 1998 and other similar plots. Opponents of the green movement if not all, but some of them, do not have any sense of decency and morality.
What is your suggestion regarding the ceremonies of the last Wednesday of the year?
The ceremonies of this day commemorate the victory of light over darkness, but the supporters of the green path movement, even though they have extreme respect for religious and national symbols and ceremonies, do not want these ceremonies to be a venue for harassing people. We should especially keep in mind that the movement’s opponents may have plans for trying to defame the green movement, as they have tried before. I am sure that the greens will not take part in any unconventional activities or vandalizing. Causing explosions or fires is not in line [consistent] with the green movement’s attitudes, which has been focused on non-violent activities. Being green is not only determined by your clothes or symbols. Being green is a matter of behavior and morals. If we remember this important principle and the members of the green movement remind each other of it, we can definitely prevent the damage that may be caused by the actions of a few dressed in green.
And the last word?
I wish that someday the situation in our country will be such that all of the posters, paintings, video clips, and other works of art that have been created in the last year could be exhibited without censorship. I know that, hopefully [if God is willing], with hope and the steady progress of the green movement, we shall witness such an exhibition some day, one which expresses our emotions, aspirations, and concern as a nation.