Date: June 9, 2010
Mehdi Karoubi, who was a candidate for the ninth presidential elections, describes going to sleep for a few hours and waking up to find Ahmadinejad’s name having miraculously emerged from the ballot boxes. As a result, Karoubi opted to stay awake during the tenth presidential elections, but the results were the same nonetheless. During the previous elections 9th presidential election] he resorted to protesting and writing letters, but this time around he is standing with a nation that still asks “where is my vote?” so that he may also reclaim his vote. In his view, the individuals who currently rule Iran act in an arbitrary and despotic manner. To this end, Karoubi strongly believes that “the current conditions will not prevail” and that eventually, the country will “turn towards reform.” In an interview with the Rooz news agency that was conducted via email, Karoubi did not respond to questions regarding Mr. Khamenei’s role and position, indicating that “the time will come when it will be appropriate to comment [on that].” Karoubi did, however, make the following comment regarding the group that is currently in power: “Those behind this downfall include the section of the Judiciary that orders all newspapers to be closed, the same Ministry of Intelligence that is part of the Executive Branch, the same individuals with whom we had differences of opinion, both in the third and sixth governments, the same Sepah, Basiji and certain individuals associated with Friday Prayers, the Special Clerical Court, The Guardian Council, the people whom I would prefer not to refer to, and an entirely new group that includes Mr. Ahamdinejad.”
Below is the full interview:
Mr. Karoubi, you have mentioned that after the death of Imam Khomeini, you expected to be isolated by certain individuals. Who are these individuals and why [would they do such a thing]?
[At that time] there were differences of approach and opinion among various factions. In other words, some held different interpretations of Islam, [the concept of the] state and the Islamic Republic. Since these factions were closer to the center of power, their views and opinions were more likely to be implemented.
Which groups [do you mean]?
Political groups like the Motalefeh Party, the Association of the Clergy, and the Association of Religious Teachers. We had differences of opinion that led arguments and [extensive] discussions. These differences revolved around taxation, municipal land and other issues that were important at the time. However, Imam Khomeini’s support for us (or for our ideas) would set them back. They had also come to understand that the Imam preferred our opinions over theirs, despite the fact that he respected them and appointed some of their key members to the Guardian Council. These differences led to formation of Expediency Discernment Council . As Dr. Mehrpour mentioned [once] if guardian council had adopted a more open policy toward various issues and would consider Imam Khomeini’s warning the Expediency Council would not have been formed. But we knew after Imam’s death , those groups will increase their power and presence and we will become more isolated. And this is what has happened. Using their power through , Special Clerical Court, The Guardian Council and individuals that I do not want to name isolated the Imam’s Path forces.
Are the individuals that you prefer not to name the same people you have referred to previously and said : “ they could not tolerate a party office or newspaper” , “ they want [to take control of ] the government to satisfy their own interests “ , “ they engaged in fraudulent activity after the death of Imam Khomeini” , who are these people?
They are the same people who run the country now. In judiciary they are those who order newspapers and offices closed. They are in the Ministry of Intelligence. They are those with whom we had serious difference during third and sixth parliaments. They are in Basij, IRGC and among the Friday prayer Imams. I should also mention that the traditional conservative forces with whom we were friends before despite our many differences have also to various degrees supported these people. Unfortunately currently, an entirely new group of people with Ahmadinejad on top and other in lower ranks are leading [the country].
[Previously] you talked about the boat of the state that does not have capacity for 70 million people. In this turbulent sea of politics is there a chance that this boat will reach the shore safely?
It is obvious that a boat does not have much capacity to maneuver even in calm waters. The sea needs a giant ship. And when the sea turns stormy and turbulent , 70 million people should be present to safely guide the ship to the shore. Therefore I think the current situation will not last [for long] and we are eventually forced to return to reforms although we will have to pay the costs.
What do you think the most important issues of the country are?
Losing the trust of the nation, militarizing the society, and deviating from the ideals of the revolution [are the most important issues we face today.] We have reduced ourselves to such a low level that we treat the family of Imam Khomeini with such disrespect. They dare tell Mr. Jamarani, who has been organizing ceremonies on this day for Imam since 20 years ago, to stop organizing the ceremony this year. Do we have to witness changing the mood of the society to one of fear where tight security and control is imposed every day? Do we have to see forces armed with anti-riot shields march our streets every day? Nothing will work like this. The government should create security not constrain it. The way the authorities define ‘security’ seems very different [than what it should be.] Despite all, I believe this situation would not last, in the end the wiser ones would take over.
Everyone’s talking about the necessity to reexamine the constitution. Where do you see the source of the problems in the constitution? What should be done?
Every constitution has its own faults. I have said this many times. There is only one book without mistakes, and that’s the holy book, Quran. As Muslims we believe in that. It is possible that a non-Muslim becomes critical of Quran. [No book is perfect, and] it is for this very reason that Imam [Khomeini] allowed the possibility to reexamine the constitution. It is a common practice in the whole world to change the laws according to the most recent conditions and needs of the day. However, even if this constitution is acted upon [in our society] many of our problems would be resolved.
According to the existing constitution, the head of the judiciary is chosen by supreme leader. Does this process interfere with the independence of the judiciary branch? Do you not see any contradictions in this process?
At the time, those who created this process did the right thing. But right now we are degrading this law with our actions. Keep in mind that this process was not always like this, and later changed to become as such. Early on, five people constituted the leadership of the judiciary branch. Two of them were chosen by the supreme leader and three of them were chosen by a group of judges in a free and competitive election process. The problem right now is that the judiciary branch cannot act on his own and is taken over by the security officials.
What is the main demand of the green movement, and what can it be?
This movement that manifests itself through calm, nonviolent protests that take the form of civil disobedience is created out of the insult and dissatisfaction that resulted from different elections.
The 7th and 8th parliamentary elections and the 9th and 10th presidential elections. All the dissatisfactions piled up until it exploded after the 10th presidential elections. This movement is originates from the hearts of people, it is a self-evolving movement. It is a movement that was created over the structure of force that the authorities created for people.
What are you after in this movement?
We are looking to see the full enactment of the constitution; that we can have a free and sound election, and benefit from free political parties and newspapers; that students are free [to express what they want.] What we are looking for is that no one chooses the destiny of people for them. Accordingly, I believe that even the current constitution is enacted, despite the criticisms, many solutions would unfold. But unfortunately, some even don’t abide by this law. Those in power right now act despotically out of their own interests.
To achieve victory, how should the green movement move on from here? Wouldn’t the current process gradually degrade the movement? What must be done? What can be done?
Discontent and defiance in the nation will continue. Though people are more conservative in expressing their discontent. They are just waiting for the right moment to express themselves. This does not weaken the movement but the government. With regards to ways that the movement can proceed, first, people’s presence is the most important and critical thing for this movement or any other movement. Second, the movement can not be after instant success; what comes easily goes just easily. The movement must be chipper, it must reach out to people and strengthen its grass-root support. The gentlemen are presenting an untrue depiction of this movement to the public. They say this movement is against your religion and culture. They are publicizing this movement as a threat to national security and claim it will bring about a similar situation in Iran as is present in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must fight off these false publicized accusations while spreading our own messages to widest possible audience. We are after security, peace, and calm for the country. We are loyal to this country. We are fighting dictatorship and fascism. We want to establish the rule of law. Thus evangelizing, organizing, and staying in touch with each other are important. The government is quite sensitive to these activities as it has confronted them in many occasions. This is a great testament to the effectiveness of these activities. So, despite what they might say, I don’t think the movement is diminishing, it is in fact growing.
What did Mehdi Karoubi think of the future in 1989 and how does that compare to the way events have been rolling out?
We thought the revolution would bring about mutual respect for every person and her/his ideas and rights. We wanted the revolution to bring about equality and respect for Islam. But that did not happen. In those days, people were in with the government, they knew everything that was going on. That’s because we realized our legitimacy came from people’s approval. We wanted to be a role model and a leader in the world and tried hard to reach these goals. Of course some of the blame lies with us and some with others. The fact of the matter is that in the beginning of the revolution, there were some violent struggles. Parts of the country stated independence and invaded central government’s military bases. Azarbayejan, Gonbad, Khozestan, and Kordestan were amongst those regions. The late Mr. Taleghani and Mr. Foroohar traveled to these regions to speak to the people and try to resolve the conflicts. After that, assassinations of the country’s intellectuals and leaders started: Myrters Motahari, Beheshti, Ghazi, Tabatabaie, Mofateh, and many others. In those day, secret shared homes where created by the armed militants and violent confrontations started taking shape. The war against Iraq started as these conflicts were still ongoing. When the presidential headquarters and political party headquarters of a country are blown up by internal anti government militants, it is obvious that the country is headed towards radicalism. In any case, they didn’t make it possible to achieve the goals that we had; we missed the chance. In those years, after the bombings, we had the worse situation in the parliament. Government officials were under pressure by the war, internal conflicts and assassinations, and country’s management…. It was difficult times. Those who created the internal conflicts did a great injustice to this country.
On the Israel , Palestine issue If two countries reach an agreement what would be your position?
We might have an ideal position in our mind, but we should realize that Palestine belongs to Palestinians so if they reached an agreement that they find pleasing we should congratulate them.
Iran is facing detrimental quandaries in its foreign policy, if you were in charge what policy would you adopt regarding the following issues:
I believe that with the exception of Israel we should have relationship with all other countries. Despite everything that has happened between Iran and United States I think we should reestablish the relations without neglecting Iran’s dignity and independence. Unfortunately Iran-US relations have become a domestic political discussion in Iran. When one side agrees to normalizing relations , another side opposes and vice versa . It has become an internal quarrel between different streams.
Relations with China and Russia
We have normal relations with both countries now and I agree that we should. I travelled to both countries when I was head of the parliament numerous times in order to expand our political and economical relations. Russia is our neighbor, therefore we should maintain our relations. I should mention though that states only seek their own interests in relations with other states. Having relations with another country should be based on benefits [that we seek].
We should become more transparent We should negotiate, we should defend our rights but we should also make [our intention and conduct] more transparent.
The human rights file:
The human rights are those rights that belong to all people. These rights are undermined today in many countries. For example, in Palestine, these rights are completely ignored by the Israelis. In our country too, on some issues these rights are undermined, however we must not abuse human rights like a political tool. What I believe is that we cannot take human right issues very seriously for one country, and then ignore them completely for another one. One obvious example of the latter is the human rights issue in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
If we divide the history of Islamic Republic into different periods, from Mr. Karoubi’s perspective which period would be closest to the ideals of the Islamic Revolution and which period was the furthest from them?
Naturally every revolution is closest to its ideals at the very early state. I have said this many times. In every revolution radical moves and abrupt reactions break out due to inexperience and immaturity. I can say this confidently, that most of those who act radically now are those who acted in a radical way back then. The first decade was one of ideals. We gradually entered a different atmosphere that concludes to what we see right now. I believe the worst conditions is what we have right now.
And last question: What is your greatest wish today?
I wish for governance of people, denial of outsiders’ interference, and insiders’ despotism. I wish for health and prosperity of this nation, for the greatness of Iran, development of our country. I wish for rise of pride for Islam and enactment of its rules. I don’t believe in imposing our perspectives, I don’t mean interfering with private lives of people. What I mean by wishing enactment of rules is enactment of ethics in the society, enactment of justice, and keeping the dignity and respect of people.