Date: June 8, 2010
Moderator: We are approaching June 12th [22nd of Khordaad] and for the first time, we have the opportunity to hold a joint press conference with you two esteemed gentlemen.
Reporters from various ‘Green’ websites are present in this session to ask you their questions, and you will obviously reply with answers you deem suitable. But first, what would you like to say as introduction?
Mr. Mousavi: In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
I am honored to be accompanied by someone who has a long and persistent history of resistance for the Islamic Republic and am thus very glad to sit beside Mr. Karroubi, and also to be speaking with the Green websites and virtual media.
Mr. Karroubi: In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
As our dear brother, Mr. Mousavi, has said, this is a very valuable opportunity and it is also the first time that the two of us can sit and talk like this. Also, it has been a tough year, consisting of many events, but one still feels as though the grace of God is with our people, because despite all the bitter events and the damage that has been inflicted on the establishment and the Islamic Republic, there are still many blessings. If one of us had, in fact, won the election, it is possible that we could not have played as significant a role in the developments as we do today. And considering the plans that this government has unfortunately been designing for our country, this is very important.
Moderator: If you agree, the reporters will now ask their questions one by one and we will await your response.
Jaras [website]: Dear Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi, this question is addressed to both of you. In order to keep the Green movement’s momentum up and its supporters away from discouragement and despair, the movement needs to clarify its strategies; devise its short-term, intermediate, and long-term programs; and determine its main slogans. What measures have you taken in this regard? Isn’t it time for the leaders of the Green Movement to declare their joint positions on these three axes clearly and objectively?
Mr. Mousavi: This is a very good question. The slogans that are in use today have actually emerged through the people’s experiences in the course of their struggles and resistance in the past year. The first slogan was “Where is my vote?”, which arose following the violations and fraud that occurred in the election. But when people found themselves against various barriers and confronted with repression, torture, murder and the like, they realized that our problems span a broader area [than just the election itself] and thus other slogans were gradually introduced. Today, the demands of the Green Movement and the various factions that were damaged as a result of the election are much more clear and specific because of these slogans and experiences that we have gone through. This [the set of clearer demands] is also felt among the people. This vast awareness that has spread due to powerful social networks is incomparable to anything we have seen in the last century. It is true that these slogans should become more organized as the demands are [specified and] clarified. However the organizational [order] itself should remain flexible and negotiable based on the events that take place.
Mr. Karroubi: While I agree with what my dear brother has said, I would like to add a few points. The events of last year did not happen for no reason; this is an important point. In the midst of all the passion and excitement that people were feeling during the election, the most important question that remained for them was whether their votes would be counted in the final outcome if they were to participate in the election, or if something else might happen. Three dubious elections have been held, and we need to construct a rational, congenial, and logical investigation into these elections with the organizers and election officials. These three elections are the 7th Majles [parliament] elections [in 2004], the 9th presidential elections [in 2005], and the 8th Majles elections [in 2008]. All of these were precursors to the events in last year’s election. People worried, in the midst of their enthusiasm, that the fraud might be repeated in this election as well. At the time, we told them that [the government] can only rig between two to four million votes and so it’s best to participate in the elections [since a high turnout can undo the effect of limited fraud].
When so many people actually participated — and everyone agrees that there was an almost 85% turnout — and the results were announced, all of this accumulated and resulted in an explosion. The people suddenly felt offended and humiliated, and they protested with zeal and their initial slogan was “Where is my vote?”. They wanted their votes back. Unfortunately some [in the government] thought that this problem could be solved simply by cheating and then through repression and conflict, but it wasn’t. The planning you speak of should be carried out, but you must also consider how this problem has grown and emerged, and under what circumstances. Mr. Mousavi and I have appointed a committee. Mr. Alviri was my representative and Mr. Beheshti and Mr. Moghadam were his. They were supposed to follow the situation of those who were arrested. What was happening to them? Also those who were injured, what had become of them? And the martyred, what had happened to them and how? What [the government] did was to arrest these committee members as well, but fortunately one of them was abroad when they attempted to arrest him. In such circumstances — where [government officials] spy on our meetings, repress all dialogue, arrest people and keep them in custody for months — there has naturally been [hurdles and] interruptions in planning. However, there has also been a great deal of growth and awareness that our cause is growing on its own despite the circumstances. Things have got so tough for [the government] that we now see things like what happened on the anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s death, and this is something we could talk about as well.
Emrooz [website]: Mr. Mousavi, you have announced numerous times that the most important goal of the Green Movement is spreading awareness in society. In a simple categorization of a social awareness system, we find three pillars:
a) Information: consisting of news, analysis, messages, and other intellectual products of the Green Movement.
b) Communication framework: social networks through which the information can flow and spread.
(c) Education prerequisite: Without any intention to judge, a proper understanding of the information disseminated in social networks depends on acquiring certain educational prerequisites. Improvements in social education during the 8-year reform movement as well as the globalization of communication in a virtual world have brought these prerequisites to the middle class. However, a majority of society is still deprived of this knowledge.
From our organization’s point of view, the leaders of the movement have been active with respect to pillar A but have not proposed any specific plans or programs regarding pillars B and C. However, we believe that the leaders cannot get directly involved in the process of attaining pillars B and C and should pursue these issues by coordinating [the activities of] social and political activists. In recent months we have witnessed coordination and attunement efforts, but we would like to know of your [specific] plans regarding pillars B and C so as to share this knowledge with other activists.
Mr. Mousavi: The question is, in my opinion, descriptive, and contains part of the answer in itself. It divides the issue into three parts – the generation of information, and so on. The truth is that one of the characteristics of last years’ election was the explosion of information. This was a result of strong public sensitivity toward [the spread of] information. That is, the information always existed; but the discussion is [now] over how this information can be contextualized and interpreted. People gradually found it imperative to analyze and dissect the news so they could understand the [underlying issues] more clearly. The result [of this analysis] was the spread of information and knowledge. One could have guessed from the beginning that the official media would not have allowed the public to access this information despite the requirements specified in the Constitution. Had they [actually] acted upon these requirements and allowed everyone to express their voices via state media, the political quandaries and the crises we face would have been less severe. But in reality the national media became anti-national, blocking [both] dialogue and [interaction]. Public gatherings wherein information could be discussed amid large groups of people were prohibited. In truth, those who said that they have the majority of people’s votes demonstrated that that was not the case (since someone who has so many votes would not be afraid of public gatherings and assemblies). Consequently, people turned to social and virtual networks. Although virtual networks existed before, they came to be employed in a dramatically different way during the course of this [movement’s activities]. In other words, virtual networks shifted from acting as a medium in which people could meet, socialize, and engage in cultural activities to one that [facilitates the proliferation of a] lively movement. This became the backbone for a strong social network that established tenacious public ties. Of course, [the existence of this] information as well as the spread of information [in this manner] has its detriments. I think that those social groups that have access to information by means of the internet, virtual networks, television channels and strong university networks – groups which have established strong links amongst themselves – should extend the scope of their activities in terms of spreading information. This happened to some degree around Labor Day and Teacher’s Day, and we saw that it was effective. Students, teachers and others who are active in virtual networks should break the frameworks they have defined for themselves and increase their interaction with farmers, merchants, clergymen, labor workers and government employees in national sphere. We must not attend to these groups in order to use them as instruments [of popularity]. The problems that we currently face – problems that were exacerbated in the form of election fraud – stem, in reality, from fundamental and foundational quandaries that reveal themselves only when we pay extensive attention to them.
I believe that the economic sector, political corruption, and the tendency toward dictatorship pave the way for fraud of this sort and create the impression that free elections as specified in the Constitution are far from reach. Political activists are faced with difficulty [in such an environment]. The [authorities] currently advocate the suppression of any kind of meeting or gathering instead of inviting [various] parties and associations to become more active, which can facilitate the formation, discussion and debate of alternative perspectives. As Mr. Karroubi mentioned, they could not even tolerate four people appointed by us to follow up on the status of detainees. The state is using force to solve this crisis because it has restricted and eliminated any other possibilities of finding a solution. Therefore, it is not [even] possible for us to create a formal assembly to respond to these issues. With that in mind, I believe that social networks and virtual space could fill this vacuum for some considerable amount of time. Yet, simultaneously, every effort should be made to create other channels [of communication] both internationally and inside Iran. In particular, media efforts should be more coordinated and orderly and our friends who were thinking about establishing radio and TV Channels should expedite their efforts and act more swiftly. It is our nation’s right to have an independent channel for the distribution of national information and [initiatives of the] Green Movement.
Emrooz: The second question is for Mr. Karroubi:
The student movement is one of the social networks that is most capable of increasing awareness and promoting understanding among a variety of social classes. During the election you were able to attract students (and well-known student activists in particular) to your campaign. Considering the detainment of student movement leaders, as well as restrictions imposed on you in terms of contacting different social groups – specifically influential ones, such as students – how do you plan to overcome this situation and utilize the students’ potential in terms of realizing the goals of the Green Movement?
Mr. Karroubi: As you mentioned, [the government] has used pressure, restrictions, arrests, and many other means to break up these ties and connections. We see this every day that they arrest or expel a few students. Many students are now in jail, some for up to a year without respite. [The government] has suffered the biggest blow from the students and
so most of the pressure has been exerted on universities and student bodies. But the students are still very much active. It is natural that there is more precaution. There might even be a bit of decline in the activities due to these difficulties, but the students’ support and alliance are still with the movement. Despite the heavy pressure, I have committed myself to maintaining contact with the families of the students who are in prison and attending different gatherings. But some of the things I read in the news sadden and baffle me. They question a person for attending a wedding! One Revolutionary Guard representative, who is a clergyman, spoke against Haj Hassan Khomeini in an interview, criticizing him for visiting Mr. Beheshti (after he was released from prison) and I was completely baffled by this. In any case, these events have taken a great toll on this government; they have ended up doing things that don’t make any sense and are illogical. Although maintaining contact is difficult, we have tried to keep [our alliances] alive and we are willing to endure anything that comes in our way because of this. You see that [the government] exerts pressure on us every day so that we won’t dare go anywhere. They exert so much pressure that it becomes difficult to visit our fathers’ graves and say a prayer. However when we make it out, the individuals to whom Keyhan and Resalat conservative newspapers refer to as ‘the general public’ or ‘the people’ come out with tear gas, knives, and even fire arms. They beat up one of my bodyguards who himself is a member of the Revolutionary Guard. These people, the so-called ‘general public’, exert a great deal of pressure and create problems for us, but it only adds to their own problems. Our society will eventually come up with a solution to these challenges. The problem my bodyguard had was that he asked the so-called ‘people’ why they were making trouble for me while I was simply paying respects to my father’s grave. He was later released.
AdvarNews: Both of you gentlemen were main figures in the establishment of the Islamic Republic following the national and Islamic movement and revolution of 1979. You were involved in the struggles against dictatorship that led to the revolution and were well aware of the people’s demands. You were in touch with the leaders of the revolution. After its victory and establishment of the Republic, you held key positions. You confirmed that different movements interpreted the Islamic Republic in different ways (for example, when deciding on its constitution, different documents were proposed by different parties), and in the current situation, one of the road-blocks is the contrast in the ways in which relevant parties view the Islamic Republic. Now with reference to your thirty-year experiences, as leaders of the Green Movement, how many of the goals and demands set by the revolutionaries under the banner of the Islamic Republic have been achieved by the current administration? Specifically, does the Islamic Republic only exist based on the current Constitution “specially with regards to some of the chapters that grant vast powers to some” or can the Islamic Republic coexist with other legal constructs that would be more in line with the freedom-seeking demands of the revolutionaries in the 1979 and current generation?
Mr. Karroubi: I sit here as a serious and strong supporter of the Islamic Republic. This is my true opinion and I still stand by my vote thirty-one years ago. But what is executed today is not based on an interpretation of the Constitution but a diversion from it. Although they speak about the Islamic Republic, they don’t even believe in the people’s vote. I hear from different sources that they are even questioning the merit of the Republic. They expect three thousand people to vote for what they please while Imam Khomeini used to welcome difference of opinion, even when his list of favorite candidates differed from some governmental organizations. The Islamic Republic was presented to people and should be defined in a way that would solve the majority of their problems. Even during the war and other difficult moments, elections were upheld. During the events of 1981 and 1982 when our President and Prime Minister were assassinated, elections were held to replace them within 50 days. Some of these gentlemen have some useful ideas, but others who have enjoyed the taste of power have a personal interest in distorting the meaning of Islamic Republic. This is not the Islamic Republic we were promised. It all goes back to what I have said before: We cannot make noteworthy progress unless we investigate what happened in the seventh and eighth elections for the Parliament and the ninth Presidential election, all of which happened in the reform era.
Mr. Mousavi: This is a sensitive question. Mr. Karroubi talked about some of the ways in which the Islamic Republic has been interpreted. I firstly want to say that any text, no matter how clear, simple, and concise, will eventually be interpretable in different ways due to changing times and contexts. The Islamic Republic is the same way. In those days, it was interpreted as freedom, free elections, empowering the citizens, and supporting the victims and weaker groups. Now we see an interpretation that bares no resemblance to the original interpretations. We can point to the Constitution, which is the backbone of the Islamic Republic. The Constitution was designed to purge dictatorship and totalitarianism.
A quick look at the break down of power in our country would tell you that in our system, power is distributed more elaborately than many other nations. It is because of this very fear [of one point-of-view in absolute control] that the designers of the Constitution anticipated a committee in charge of the Judiciary instead of just one person. The fear was of despotism. The intentions in creating the Constitution were good and wise. If they had been followed, we would not be here today. What we must see right now is that special interests are supporting a reading of the Constitution that advocates silencing people, closing the media, organizing false elections and filling up prisons. This can be viewed from different angles. Recently though, what I have been leaning towards is thinking that the several hundred billion dollars of oil revenue within the government had to somehow contribute to strengthening a structure that defends special-interest groups; one that is reluctant to give in to a reading of Constitution that defends the people. My concerns here are over the 70 billion Dollars import industry and the tight grip [these special-interest groups hold] over financial and monetary institutions of the nation. It is natural that behind the scenes of political conflicts, we are facing some big interests that support a special reading of Constitution [that does not support people.] These are the sorts of questions we must talk about. The Constitution is a contract, like any other contracts. It does not have intrinsic value by itself. I say this in respond to your question, that other frameworks, too, could serve as the constitution of the Islamic republic. But I must add this: Any good reading of the text of any constitution, even of a very weak one, must incorporate the strong support of the nation that should serve as the basis for good laws. Public awareness should rise, the demands of the people should be clear, and their participation should be abundant. They must be able to live by their own demands. It is only under this condition that deviating from the right interpretations of the Constitution can be contained [and controlled]. Look at the current government. They refuse to commit to very the simple laws that are currently in place. This is against the rule of law and against the interests of our nation. It shows that our politics have changed and it is moving towards where it was before the revolution, towards the very state that we rose up to change. We see that the same despotisms are lurking back up again, and that the Islamic Republic is experiencing some problems dealing with it. Let me summarize by speaking to the question. We must look behind, at our historical experiences. I think the impact and importance of the [Green] movement has been superb in this regard. We must understand that in the future, any constitution that is not supported by people, and in which the demands of people are not clear, will allow for different interpretations. In any case, any change that happens in our Constitution should only come through the strong and aware participation of the people. It is only through this channel that aforementioned interests could be stopped and proper guidelines could be put in place.
Mr. Karroubi: Let me tell you an anecdote. During the Shah’s time, before 1972, the prisoners were separated. The communists and Muslims were separated. Even though both were fighting against the same regime, what separated them was the fact that Muslims would pray during the day. And they respected each other’s customs and habits. For example, the communists tried to avoid eating in public places during the month when Muslims were fasting. I saw a Muslim kid discussing Islam and talking about the Prophet and all, but he did not pray. When I asked him why he said: “God has said in the Quran that prayers are there to keep you away from the ugliness and evil in the world. But I already don’t commit evil deeds, so there is no need for me to pray anymore.” What I want to take away from this story is that some of the sires that are in power right now have interpretations that are just like this. Their view is not an interpretation, it is an interest. Sometime [during this interview] I must talk about what some of these fine sires believe about voting.
Saham News: Do you think that the authorities will finally cave in to the demands you have announced all of last year and in the months leading up to the election?
Mr. Mousavi: Our demands will only be heard and put to action on one condition – a powerful presence of the people. It is not a necessary condition but, if bolstered, the presence will automatically pave the way to a beneficial change, especially if the demands are supported by the people and based on national interests.
Alternatively, without the support of the people, the authorities will not yield even to the best of demands. This is true everywhere else in the world as well. If freedom exists in some countries on this planet, it is because of a strong and critical media, as well as the governments’ capitulation to the demands of their people. Even the smallest mistake (much smaller than things that happen daily in this country) can result in the overthrow of a government.
We say that the United States is our enemy. Right now, the U.S. president has gone to the beaches [in the Gulf] several times. He wants to show that he is attending to the country’s problems. There are similar examples in other situations as well.
Now tune back to our country. Those who are at the forefront of our political affairs think that they are special creatures of the Almighty, that they are blessed in some way. They think that if they say something, it must be done. They think that whatever they say is to be taken for the better good of our country. They don’t have the slightest faith in the collective thought of the nation.
If there is an election, it is just to say that we have one. The election is like a decoration to them, not an actual concept. In reality, it should be the case that when an election is organized, people can actually choose their representatives and send them to Parliament. These representatives should have the power to defend national interests and actually be in control of things.
There is an expression in one of Imam Khomeini’s letters regarding some of the rules of Parliament. In his political theory, Imam viewed Parliamentary legislations as belonging to the category of social norms, which he believed would take priority over the rules of logic and religion. It is the [Parliamentary] representative who identifies norms and legislations and, as such, everyone should be subject to them.
Parliament is the highest order of authority for the [simple] reason that no one should disobey the law; no one should think they can behave differently or do whatever they want no matter what the collective norms say (even if they believe that their actions are for the greater good).
Unfortunately, we have witnessed a different kind of behavior. But, last year’s experiences revealed that if people stand and insist on their demands, they will see results step by step. What we must keep in mind, however, is that this process takes time – like it did in many other countries.
Our own Islamic Revolution, too, would not have succeeded if it wasn’t for the great degree of patience and endurance [that was displayed]. It resulted in justice and freedom for our nation. It required a great deal of people’s presence in the decision-making process, which was not merely as a formality.
Mr. Karroubi: I believe that although the road ahead will be filled with many pressures and challenges, if we continue on this path, we will be victorious. Our imminent victory will be the result of (1) the spirit of our people and the awareness we will have created, and (2) the unreasonable behavior and blockades created by the ruling government. Let’s take for example the anniversary of Imam [Khomeini] death and the unacceptable manner in which a certain group behaved towards Seyed Hassan [referencing Imam Khomeini’s son, Hassan Khomeini]. What adverse effects do you suppose this type of behavior will have on certain segments of our society? Does this mean that an individual is no longer allowed to honor and speak at the gravesite of his father and grandparents? This unreasonable behavior will only lead to people turning away from [the ruling government]. It is clear today which side is losing ground and which side is advancing. I would like to warn everyone today that if the people’s rhetoric and slogans intensify, if they become more extreme and begin to overreact, the ruling government has no one to blame but themselves. We believe in moving in a reasonable and logical manner towards freedom of the press, free elections, and respect for people’s rights. What is happening today and the acts committed by [government officials], is the exact opposite [of moving in a reasonable and logical manner]. On the night of Ashura, they attacked Jamaran [late Ayatollah Khomeini’s compound] and now they are insulting the Imam himself. Clearly, this type of behavior is typical of individuals who believe that they will succeed by beating people and throwing them in jail.
Norooz: A question for Mir Hossein Mousavi: Why have political parties been unable to establish themselves within the Islamic Republic? Why is it that the regime has a tendency to eliminate rather than support civil and political entities?
There have been quite a few theories associated with the issue of political parties after the Islamic Revolution. A number of people agreed to their formation, while others were extremists and opposed them. Part of this reaction was due to historical circumstances, but there were also those such as Shahid Beheshti and others who believed in the importance of political parties and supported them not only in their words, but also in their actions. This rejection of political parties has occurred despite the fact that special attention has been paid to the right to form parties in our Constitution and that the formation of political parties is one of the fundamental rights of our people. History has shown that those countries with vibrant political parties enable strong dialogue among their citizens, resulting in the formation of better ideas and stability within the political system. Unfortunately, there are elements within the country who view political parties as entities against the regime and its authority, and who have tried to undermine political parties in any way possible. The fact that they continue to attack two of the most established political parties in Iran is a good example of this. We saw similar activities in the beginning of the Revolution. Unfortunately this type of activity has increased over the past few years and has only led to dead-ends, making it more difficult to introduce more peaceful solutions. I believe that in this regard we must also look at the specific elements provided within the Constitution. We must focus on and explain the importance of these types of organizations in our society, so that they are supported and desired by our citizens. Currently there are only a few well-known political parties such as the National Trust Party, the Participation Front, the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization and other political parties and trade unions. I believe that supporting them is a necessity for the Green movement.
Mr. Karroubi: Since you brought up the subject of political parties, I’d like to make a few comments (even though the question was addressed to Mr. Mousavi). Let me first stress that from the very beginning, political parties have not had the ability to function as they should and have also endured plenty of hardship. However, we have no other choice but to systematically develop these entities further. I’d like to point out that there is a segment of our society that is extremely hostile to the existence of political parties. These individuals have even stated repeatedly that we have clerics and mosques and, as such, have no need for parties. There is another group that seeks to interfere in the activities of political parties, whose goal is to prevent these parties from gaining strength. This is very unfortunate.
In my opinion, in addition to strongly cooperating with political parties, we must not only ensure that they are strengthened, but also push for the existence and further development of a diversity of parties. It is also important, moreover, that people refrain from working against the formation and further development of such parties. We must also pay close attention to groups who seek to create discord within political parties. In my opinion, the existence of parties is a necessity. We must work hard to ensure their continuity.
Another important point is keeping an eye on those who feel antagonism towards political parties and those who shy away from them. If we are unable to handle the former effectively, then we must at least seek to bring these people together and ensure that they form a cohesive party of their own. Take, for example, the unacceptable way in which the ruling government has treated us today. Recently, they have put [an immense amount of] pressure on two of our main political parties. The leaders of these parties have been imprisoned, even under circumstances in which there has been little to no party activity. It was around September of last year when they also attacked the offices of our political party [National Trust Party] without any legal precedence or provocation. When entering my personal office, the authorities stated: “Close the office and go home.” Since that day, our office has been sealed shut and we have been prohibited from any kind of activity.
Because of the current situation, our [party] members have been forced to continue their activities in an ad hoc manner. This again points to the fact that this regime does not allow political parties to function and goes out of its way to obstruct their activities.
Let’s not forget that elections are impossible without political parties. The pillars of the country’s popular vote are formed on the basis of such entities. Those who reject political parties today are reliant on the Basij and believe that Basiji forces should administer and enforce elections.
Norooz: My second question is addressed to Mr. Karroubi and relates to the religious scholars and Maraaje [Grand Ayatollahs]. Why do you think the Shi’ite Maraaje did not react to the incidents that happened and the manner in which the people were treated after last year’s elections? What do you believe is the reason behind the silence and seclusion on the part of religious scholars in the cities of Qom and Najaf?
Mr. Karroubi: I have asked and continue to ask that religious scholars take a more proactive role in dealing with the challenges facing our nation. It goes without saying that the religious scholars have done a significant amount of work in this area. Let’s not forget that there has been extreme pressure on the religious seminaries lately.
The important thing to note is that the circumstances [surrounding the Maraaje] are extremely different than those of Mr. Mousavi or mine. Mr. Mousavi and I have prepared ourselves for the worse. I want to refer to something here, although Mr. Mousavi can ask me to omit this. A while back, when we were at Mr. Mousavi’s residence, he noted: “The best option right now is for them to come and arrest us now, so that we no longer have to bear this responsibility.”
What I want to say is that perhaps we [Karroubi and Mousavi] can endure this. But the Maraaje and clerics cannot.
For instance, when a group gathers around our home and they shout slogans and break our windows and create worries for our neighbors — such a thing is not conceivable for the Grand Ayatollahs. But even with all of these considerations, a large group of clerics and grand ayatollahs have demonstrated a significant reaction.
A number of Maraaje have reacted. For instance, Grand Ayatollah Saanei has always been outspoken and supportive. Mr. Ardebili has spoken out and taken a position. He has also met with some of the leaders [of this movement]. Dr. Ahmadinejad’s trip to Qom bore a lot of hidden meaning. Firstly, the Grand Ayatollahs refused to meet him. Although [the government] tried hard to arrange meetings from Tehran, no one was willing to meet him with the exception of one. Yes, one or two other clergymen met him but only one serious grand ayatollah, and he had spoken aggressively. Some of the senior clergymen said it was forbidden to meet with Ahmadinejad. [It is the same as saying] I will never meet with him. Pay attention to the religious figures who did not meet him; this is certainly a [purposeful] reaction. This was never the case before. When presidents visited Qom after being elected, great care was taken to arrange meetings with every single Grand Ayatollah. The failure to do so would be considered offensive. Now only one figure has met him while others have met with the families of the victims after last year’s election and followed up on their situation.
Some Grand Ayatollahs do not enter the political arena. But when the families of political prisoners approached them after the election, they met with the interested parties and even asked them to come back for a follow up meeting the next day. So I believe that although they have not taken a completely clear [position], they have been very kind and have not said anything bad against people’s movement despite all the pressure.
Mr. Mousavi: This is a very important point. I also believe that religious scholars face restrictions. People in the movement have higher expectations than what they see, but in the past year we have witnessed that religious scholars have shown their support for the people by voicing their views as well as in their conduct. The reason is that the destiny of our religious scholars and Maraaje is closely related to the destiny of the people and is not separate from it. But we might expect to see more direct and explicit comments. Although in some cases a number of Maraaje took strong positions and involved themselves in ensuing events. Mr. Karroubi mentioned some names, which I also confirm. Besides this, there is another issue that is important. The religious seminaries themselves are going through the same serious and deep evolution that we observe in [rest] of society. These developments will, on their own, make Maraaje more outspoken and more sensitive toward the destiny of [our] country. I doubt that religious seminaries are the same as they were a year ago. We can see [things] are different there and this change has been reflected in positions Maraaje have adopted. The limited reactions Maraaje have shown during the last year either by maintaining their silence and noninvolvement, or by not accepting a visit [from Ahmadinejad] or offering their confirmation – these acts do not remain hidden from public view. It is because of these positions that they have kept their relationship with the people. [This is while] based on the information we have, they are under a lot of pressure [from authorities] who give them false information regarding the inclinations and goals of the movement. Although the young generation around the Maraaje is playing an important role in providing them with correct information. In conclusion , in my opinion, we cannot say that Maraaje have been indifferent regarding current issues. For example the reactions shown toward the incident on 14th of Khordaad  by Maraaje demonstrate their awareness regarding major events in our country.
Mizaan News: In the name of God, the Compassionate and the Merciful. Greetings to you two dear companions of the green movement of Iran. In the past year, every person in the movement has defined the movement with different characteristics. Some of these characteristics and slogans have changed along the course of the movement. How do you define the green movement?
If I would give a short answer I would offer this example: If it would have been possible to hold a demonstration on the 22nd of Khordaad [anniversary of 10th presidential election] one of the best signs people could have carried such that no one could object to them would be: “The nation’s vote is the judge.” The green movement essentially does not demand anything else. What we say is that the public’s vote should be the gauge for the type of the government we have and how issues are resolved. The movement has raised awareness about people’s rights and the importance of [public] right to vote; therefore I believe it has been successful. I cannot suggest a more important demand.
Mr. Karroubi: The “Green” label given to the Green Movement is itself a very good indicator of the character of those who participate in it. Included in the movement are people who are [actually] part of the system of the Islamic Republic. I insist that the movement just wants its vote back. The people want a free election. Again, I stress that the movement is pressing for a free election, for the people’s vote to be the final word on who rules Iran. It is natural that on the fringes of any large movement, people will emerge who claim that the movement’s demands go further than what I just mentioned. There are even some voices pushing for the overthrow of the regime. But we have said on numerous occasions that we are trying to operate within the framework of the existing Constitution. We are not claiming that the existing Constitution is without flaws. No book, other than the Quran, is without flaws. If everyone – including the current administration and the ruling elite – actually acted according to the Constitution, then most of our problems would be solved. Therefore, it is the ruling elite and the administration who, in their stubbornness, have forced some people to say that the government cannot be reformed. There should be other things involved in reform. Haven’t we – the government of the Islamic Republic – promised people political freedoms? For example, didn’t we promise on day one, thirty years ago, that even the communists can come and express their views without fear of being harmed and/or arrested? Didn’t we promise that people can converse and debate freely in universities? Even if we forego all of this – why can’t we at least have a free press? Why doesn’t the current administration let the newspapers publish what they like? I see no reason as to why all the government’s filters should remain. I have mentioned it before and I will repeat it again: the fate of our election is now in the hands of the Guardian Council, and I don’t even mean in the hands of twelve people. I mean, in effect, in the hands of one person – or at best, two or three people.
Basically, our system of government has been reduced to one person vetting every candidate. The candidate can only run after being endorsed, and the people can only choose among those who have already been vetted by this one person. If he doesn’t approve them, they can’t run. What kind of a republic is this? All I’m saying is that if they hadn’t acted like this, last year’s events would not have happened. I should add that all of their repression techniques are meeting with failure. They rejected two-to-three thousand people’s candidacy in the seventh election. This turned people away from participating in the
Tahavol-e-Sabz website: In the name of God, hello to you gentlemen and thank you for providing us with this opportunity. There has been ample discussion about following the current Constitution without any further amendments. Mr. Mousavi mentioned that if one section of the Constitution renders a different section obsolete, then it is possible that the entire document would lose its meaning. Do you think that the time has come to seriously reconsider the part of the Constitution that keeps us from enacting the rest? What are your ideas about revising the Constitution?
Mr. Mousavi: In short, there is no doubt that the Constitution should be amended. But the question is: when would be the right time to make these amendments? It is not to the people’s advantage for these reforms to take place when they have little negotiating power – little leverage, if you will. I refer to the current situation, when those in power don’t even obey the most commonplace laws. Amending the Constitution [at this time] has little meaning. The apt moment for reform would be when people can adjudicate their rights and have an effective and powerful national presence. Reforms can [only] be effective at a time when everybody acknowledges the weight of the people’s presence; when the people can [actually] attain their demands.
Mr. Karroubi: See, ten years after writing the Constitution, the previous Supreme Leader, Khomeini, ordered for it to be amended. We are fortunate that Imam Khomeini had specified exactly which parts he wanted to amend. If he had not done that, those who were responsible for making amendments could have taken advantage of Khomeini’s death to take certain inappropriate liberties. It is customary for constitutions to be re-evaluated and for amendments to be made every seven to ten years. At that time, the mechanisms available for making amendments were nowhere near what they are today. Right now, changing the Constitution is practically impossible and meaningless.
It was explicitly stated in the Constitution that Islamism and Republicanism are here to stay and that they cannot be separated from the charter. Now, certain people are saying that we should remove the [part about] Republicanism. We can see that little by little, certain gentlemen are slowly declaring themselves [to be] Imams. These are the people who are talking today. Therefore, I say that we should make every effort to implement [every section of] the Constitution – a lot of problems will be solved this way.
At this time only one or two clauses of the Constitution are being implemented – [the authorities] are making up the rest as they go. There have always been differences. As Mr. Mousavi mentioned previously – now they say that one person determines who is right and who is no longer a Muslim. Sometimes I am terrified by what they say, because it sounds terribly similar to what the Taliban says. The Taliban also claim that they determine who is righteous and who has lost their status as a Muslim. They claim that whoever disagreed with them in any way is no longer considered [to be] a Muslim. This is ridiculous. What about everybody else? What about [the opinions of] all the other spiritual leaders? What about those who used to be part of the previous Guardian Council? What about all the other educated leaders? This is not right. We should return to our own Constitution and execute it properly.
Kalame website: You saw the events planned for the 14 of Khordaad and everything that happened on the periphery. Unfortunately, what the administration did was not welcoming to those who follow Khomeini. What is your opinion about what happened to Mr. Hassan Khomeini and what do you think are the social consequences?
Mr. Mousavi: June 4 and the days surrounding it were supposed to be organized in such a way that people would get a chance to be present and be heard; that they get a chance to voice their opposition to the insults directed at the descendants of Imam [Khomeini]. These days should have been used to investigate the causes of this problem and discuss the roots of the Revolution. Unfortunately, the ceremony was organized in the way that was witnessed by our nation: closed, controlled and abbreviated. This is [also] what we witnessed today, with the interference of the military in the ceremonies of June 5. My interpretation is that this incident actually had the reverse affect due to the incorrect intentions of some of the organizers. I think that people came to find out about the oppressed families of the descendants of Imam, about the way of Imam [himself]. People already knew Seyyed Hassan [the Imam’s grandchild] as a sad, oppressed, and aware person. But the recent incidents resulted in them getting to know him better. He is a very knowledgeable man. He is rooted in the country’s religious seminaries and schools. He is a religious scholar. He is fairly well-known and can be a source of hope for our people among the clergy. The side-effects of what the organizers did are all related to the blessing of what happened during the ceremonies on June 6. I consider these events and, even though they sadden me, I see that some good has come out of it for our nation. We must be thankful to God that the descendants of the Imam have emerged with strength in light of these events.
Mr. Karroubi: You see, on the events of the June 6, as Mr. Mousavi knows well as the Prime Minister for 8 years, the Imam insisted on telling people that the revolution belongs to them, that they should be in charge, and that we should be serving them. Mr. Jamarani was in charge of charities. We asked him if we should be taking over some of the old and unused school buildings of Tehran, or if they should be used by another entity. The Imam said, “[they are for] none of you; the people should take them.” The Imam always insisted on the people’s role [in government].
Now, the anniversary of the Imam’s death was just a few days ago. There was unrest. There was unrest in the universities. There was unrest among the clerics and among the unions. They didn’t even allow the ceremonies [to be held] at the Imam’s residence. This is against the image that the Imam had in mind. It was bitter but it was beneficial too, in that they discovered that actions like this would not have the desired effects, especially when exaggerated to this extent. They take a good, scholarly person like Mr. Hassan Khomeini and did whatever they wanted to do to him. One wonders how they can do such a thing. How can they disrespect the dignity and identity of a civilized people? They even go as far as saying that he is not the real son of the Imam, and that Seyyed Nasr is the real one. There were so many people who took bullets left and right for the Imam during the time of the Shah. This is what Seyyed Hassan Khomeini dislikes. There were police and batons then; there are police and batons now. Even if he is not the real son of the Imam, isn’t telling three million people of such a thing disrespectful? These words hurt whether you are Sunni, a Shi’a, or a Christian. Doesn’t he have good relations? Yes, he does. [Doesn’t he have] good will and honest intensions? Yes. Doesn’t he love his country? Yes, he does.
Voice of the Green Message: Best regards and greetings. I represent The Voice of the Green Message. My first question is for Mr. Mousavi regarding the strategies of the Green Movement. Dear sir, considering the hardships and narrow path ahead in terms of finding a way towards creating a civil movement inside Iran, how do you suggest that the Green Movement can proclaim its existence and position, especially if the authorities keep denying us a license for the marches? How can we demonstrate the [power] of the Green movement to authorities?
Mr. Mousavi: This question raises a concern that many members of the Green Movement discuss with one another as well. It is a very important question. Let me say, first and foremost, that the presence of the people declaring their reactions to what has happened has already had an impact. Please remember that historical march on the June 14, 2009. It is going to remain in history forever. It cannot be erased no matter how hard one tries. However, the situation has changed. We cannot define the Green Movement in terms of the people’s street-presence [anymore]. [The authorities] continue to induce fear, and there is a large machine that protects the special interests behind this fear-mongering. It is, however, important for the movement to find a new way to maintain its existence through the creativity of its members when facing new situations. I feel that raising awareness is the most important thing that the movement can do. The more it can reach out to different groups, the better other members of society will come to understand the situation. In reality, this is going to create the context for proper change. Street-presence is only one of the many ways in which one can raise awareness, and it should be used as soon as the possibility presents itself. I think that anyone from any position or circumstance can raise awareness via the extensive social networks [available]. This is [already] done in universities in one way, and in religious centers and mosques in another. It could also manifest itself in many [other] ways.
Every one of us is a member of dozens of extensive social networks and if in our activities we keep alive the idea of green awakening, we will find an opportunity to spread awareness through each and every one of them. That is the very thing they fear. Just as Esfandyar the invulnerable had only one point of vulnerability, namely his eyes, and it was precisely there that Rostam attacked him, so too the supporters of despotism are vulnerable in this one place alone. If awareness spreads, then the great force of the people will stand behind the demand for change and the ground will be prepared for further activities. For this reason I think that, just as we saw on 4th June that the obstacles they created produced a sort of ‘camp’, we must have an approach that deals with this matter and transform our limitations into an opportunity. I truly believe that a powerful and enduring network made up of [different] social networks has been created in the country, one that did not exist before the elections, whether in actual or in virtual form. We have to extend this network on every level and nourish it as far as its thought and its media reach are concerned. In addition, one of the most interesting elements of the people’s activism over the last year has been their artistic activities. The legacy [of this activism] will conserve the movement for the future. I believe that the people must help disseminate these films, photographs, video clips, movies taken by mobile phone cameras, these websites and posters. These are our best tools. They work like an army. When the security forces are drawn up against us, they are our army, they can get our message out to the people. I want to say to this ‘awareness brigade’ that they shouldn’t consider their interlocutors to be intellectuals alone, but teachers, workers, farmers and every part of society, that they should consider these to be the targets of consciousness raising and in such conditions we won’t feel as if we are stuck in a bottleneck, but rather these very bottlenecks will be enable us to uncover new opportunities.
Green Voice of Freedom: My question is for Mr. Mehdi Karroubi and it has to do with the relationship of the movement with the security forces. How can the Green Movement bring the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces over to their own side so that they are transformed from an instrument of repression into a lever of support for the people’s demands? What measures have you taken to speak with the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and get them to desist from crackdowns and violence? Basically does it seem like the Guard’s conduct can be brought back [to support] the people or not?
The Guard is an institution from the revolution and has made great sacrifices. Even the Basij has been made dependent on it, and all of us during the revolution and in Parliament gave the control of the Basij to the Guard, which is another issue to be discussed elsewhere. The Guard has made sacrifices which have been a shining example, and unfortunately it has also engaged in unsavory acts which have altered its image. On the other hand [the government] has also engaged the Guard in political and economic activities which have led to and lead to problems for the Guard, because they have acted contrary to the Imam [Khomeini’s] orders. But at the same time the Guard has done things, for instance the things they have said but a number of them have publicly refused [to speak about]. You see an example of it when they come and speak on television and that is what happens. The Guard comes from the very same people, is dependent on the very same people, is connected to the heart of the people, and we should not harm an institution which has made such sacrifices. To sum up, the conditions they have brought about, not only for the Guard but for individuals, are such that they don’t dare contact me. And they believe that it is possible to work with such pressures. But how large are the Guard’s forces? How many people can mediate in this chaos?
Moderator: We are the eve of 12th June, and on this historic occasion what do the two of you have to say?
Mr. Karroubi: I humbly greet and thank the people. In particular I humbly greet and thank the families of those who have been martyred, those imprisoned, those injured, and even those individuals who have been made unemployed.
Mr. Mousavi: I thank the people. The people have carried out great deeds. In the face of crackdowns, beatings, and imprisonment, they have shown how powerful they are. Their behavior has been without equal in the history of our country and I pray that, God willing, God will reward their [good] intentions and standing firm, and I am certain that these intentions and this standing firm will produce results. And not one individual in this nation can forget what has happened to the people and the signs of how they have been oppressed. I have spoken in many places about Kahrizak [detention centre] and about how people were stripped and flogged there. Scenes only some of which we have been able to see due to the difficulties involved. It is said that there are thousands of other films that have not been shown or viewed out of consideration for those involved. And is it possible to wipe from one’s mind that scene of a car twice running someone over? This is a grave insult to the entire people. The nation saw these things and stood firm and its courage increased. I am certain that with this spirit the people will continue their struggle in different conditions and in the same peaceful manner. It is possible that we will have to withdraw from one stage but that we will continue to be present on another, and this is the future of our nation, the future of our country, the future of our people, the future of our children. We do not want to cower while a group of people rule the country and treat the people as if they didn’t exist, so that their freedom is taken away and others consider themselves the delegates of the people without the people having awarded them such authority. Let us recognize that hard work and sacrifices will yield results and that everyone must be prepared to pay the necessary price, and God will certainly support this path [of ours]. Right now we are in a better place compared with one year ago. God willing we shall see this path become greener and its harvest more abundant.