Support for the mass protests against Ahmadinejad’s re-election! But we should have no illusions that Moussavi would have been any better
Yassamine Mather, chair of Hands Off the People of Iran, assesses the highly fluid situation in Iran
It is no surprise that the highly contested results of the presidential elections in Iran have sparked unrest in Tehran and other cities across Iran. The level of cheating on display seems crazy even by the standards of Iran’s Islamic Republic regime. Clearly, the results are the final proof that confirms that the whole electoral process is deeply undemocratic and rigged from top to bottom:
* Ahmadinejad was declared winner by the official media even before some polling stations had closed
* His final result was almost identical to what the (rigged) polls predicted all the way through the elections. This percentage did not ever vary by more than three percent
* Hundreds of candidates were barred from standing in the first place.
The main ‘reformist’ candidate Mir-Hossain Moussavi has declared the elections a “charade” and claimed Iran was moving towards tyranny. Thousands of protesters (not all of them backers of Moussavi) have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the re-election of Ahmadinejad.
Of course, Hopi condemns the arrest of over 900 demonstrators and 100 leading ‘reformists’, most of the latter ones supporters and collaborators of Moussavi.
But we should not forget that Moussavi does not consider the nine previous presidential elections in Iran’s Islamic Republic – most of them with very dubious results – a “charade”. In the 2009 election, he did not bat an eyelid when the Council of Guardians disqualified over 400 candidates. He did not think the process was a “charade” when the supreme religious leader intervened time and time again to defend Ahmadinejad.
Even now, although he is furious about losing the elections, he is not calling on the Iranian people to support him. Instead, he is addressing the ‘Religious centres of Guidance’ (elite shia Ayatollahs) to denounce the result. He is no fan of democracy and mass movements. Like his predecessor Mohammad Khatami, Moussavi is well aware that the survival of the ‘Islamic order’ is in his interests. That is why, even when he is clearly a victim of the supreme leader’s lunacy, he cannot rock the boat.
Moussavi’s terrible past
After all, irrespective of the illusions of their supporters, Moussavi and the other reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, are no radical opponents of the regime. For eight years, Moussavi served as prime minister of the Islamic republic – during some of the darkest days of this regime. He was deeply involved in the arms-for-hostages deals with the Reagan administration in the1980s, what came to be known as ‘Irangate’. He also played a prominent role in the brutal wave of repression in the 1980s that killed a generation of Iranian leftists. During this period, thousands of socialists and communists were jailed, with many of them executed while in prison.
Moussavi has attempted to refashion himself as a ‘conservative reformer’ or a ‘reformist conservative’ by expressing his allegiance to the supreme leader and by claiming to have initiated Iran’s nuclear programme, which he promised to continue. He also criticised the release of British navy personal in 2007 as “a humiliating surrender”. Defending his government’s anti-Western credentials, Ahmadinejad claimed that “prime minister Tony Blair had sent a letter to apologise to Iran”. Within a few hours, the foreign office in London issued a stern denial that such a letter was ever sent. Moussavi tried to exploit this ‘weakness’.
But he clearly failed. The supreme leader could not tolerate his former protégé Moussavi. Although his politics are almost indistinguishable from those of Ahmadinejad, he was just a bit too ‘progressive’ on two points:
* He promised to be more liberal over women’s dress code and said he would expand women’s rights –within the parameters proscribed by the religious state, of course
* He promised to use more diplomatic language and a more amenable attitude in dealings with the West, especially the USA. Despite this diplomatic ‘packaging’, however, he remains committed to defending Iran’s nuclear program (including the right to enrich uranium)
These elections were a “charade” from the day they started. All four candidates are supporters of the existing system. All support the existing neo-liberal policies and privatisations. All four are in favour of Iran’s nuclear programme.
But we should not underestimate the anger of the Iranian population against this blatant manipulation of the results. Iranians had to choose between the lesser of two evils – and when the worst was declared winner, they showed their contempt for the system by huge demonstrations culminating in the massive protests of June 13 2009.
Until early June, most Iranians had shown little interest in these elections, as they knew that neither candidate would lead to real change. But it was the live TV debates that changed the apathy. The debates betweeen Ahmadinejad – Moussavi and Ahmadinejad -Karroubi have been unique events in the history of the official media of the Islamic Republic. The debates confirmed what most Iranians know through their personal experiences – but which they have not yet heard on the official media:
* Ahmadinejad stated that Iran had been ruled for 24 years (up to his presidency) by a clique akin to an economic and political mafia. ‘Elite’ clerics such as the reformers Rafsanjani and Khatami had “forgotten their constituents” and were corrupt
* Moussavi stated that the economy has been in a terrible state, particularly in the last four years
The situation in Iran is very fluid. Over 900 protesters and 100 ‘reformist’ leaders have been arrested, including the brother of former president Khatami. Moussavi and his wife have gone underground. There are signs of the beginning of an internal coup. Thirty years after the Iranian revolution, if Iran’s supreme leader believes he can suppress the opposition, he will be making precisely the kind of mistake that led to the overthrow of the Shah’s regime in 1979. The foundations of the Islamic Republic regime are shaking.
The protests of June 13 were the largest demonstrations since 1979. After the euphoria of the last two weeks, when Iranians participated in their millions in demonstrations and political meetings, no state – however brutal – will be able to control the situation. The events of the last few weeks show that there is real hope that the Iranian people can get rid of this regime – be it in the guise of Ahmadinejad or the no less undemocratic and corrupt ‘reformists’.