Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


Entries in Pedestrian (3)


The Latest from Iran (30 March): Strategies

2000 GMT: Politics, Religion, and Culture. Reihaneh Mazaheri in Mianeh offers a detailed article setting out how President Ahmadinejad has tried to use financial support of religious and cultural centres, often supervised by his close allies, to reinforce his political base. An extract:
The administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using state funds to spread its political and religious ideology and at the same time maintain powerful allies during times of turmoil, critics say.

The authorities have set aside 4.5 billion of the 347 billion US dollar, 2010-11 budget, which took effect on March 21, for cultural matters - but much of it is spent on religious and culturally hardline institutions sympathetic to the administration.

Ever since first becoming president in 2005, Ahmadinejad has made a clear effort to defend religious groups and organisations to a degree previously unknown in the country.

He set out his thinking in a speech to clergy in southern Fars province in 2007, saying, “In the budget of previous administrations, no room was found for religious centres and religious matters. However, we have taken them into consideration in the budget.”

The budget for “mosque centres”, one of the government’s main sources of popular support, has increased to 25 million dollars from 1.6 million in 2005 at the end of the term of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, according to Mohammad Hosseini, the minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

NEW Iran: Preventing Tehran from “Going Nuclear” (Ramazani)
NEW Iran Politics and Music: Sasi Mankan’s “Karroubi”
NEW Iran: The Green Movement’s Next Steps (Shahryar)
Iran: A View from the Labour Front (Rahnema)
Iran’s Nukes: False Alarm Journalism (Sick)
The Latest from Iran (29 March): Questionable Authority

1545 GMT: A Media Note. To the Charlie Rose Show on the US Public Broadcasting Service: I've now viewed what amounted to a half-hour propaganda special for the Iranian regime, aired in the US last night. Given the substitution of polemic, distortions, and misrepresentations posing as "analysis", I'm not even posting a link.

I'm hoping that this unfortunate interview disappears quickly. However, if it receives any attention as supposed "insight" into post-election Iran, I will be back with a fury.

In the meantime, this should suffice: this programme is a disservice and, indeed, a disgrace given the thousands detained, abused, and denied rights and freedoms. Speak to them, not the two "experts" to whom you turned over airtime last evening.

1540 GMT: Today's Propaganda Drama. After the reported rescue of Iranian diplomat Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niaki from abductors in Pakistan, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has declared, “The Islamic Republic did not capitulate to any of this armed group’s demands which is supported by the US and Mossad.”

1535 GMT: Grounding Iran's Airliine. The European Commission has imposed a ban on flights by Iran Air within Europe.

1530 GMT: The "Other" Khamenei Visits Freed Reformist. Hadi Khamenei, the brother of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, joined others in visiting Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former Deputy Minister of Interior who is on temporary release for Nowruz, at his house last night.

1520 GMT: Revival of the Photograph. Pedestrian reports that Amir Sadeqi of the photo blog Tehran Live is out of prison and again taking and posting his photographs.

1500 GMT: Another Death Sentence. Back from an academic break and an appearance on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story (airing 1730 GMT) about the latest in Iraq's power politics, I find confirmation on websites of the news --- reported yesterday --- that 42-year-old schoolteacher Abdolreza Ghanbari has been sentenced to death for  "Mohareb (war against God) through contacts with dissident groups". This broad charge covers "suspicious emails and having contacts with television media outside the country".

1110 GMT: Joke of the Day. An EA correspondent has pointed out the feature from the blog Persian Letters on post-election humour in Iran but, in my opinion, the best joke came from a reader in the comments:

Q. How Many Basijis Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?
A. None. The Basijis will sit in the dark and blame Israel and the USA.

0810 GMT: Latest on the battle over subsidy reform comes from "principlist" member of Parliament Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, who says the Government is obliged to act according to the vote of the Majlis.

0800 GMT: Rule of Law. Rah-e-Sabz tries to interpret what a meeting between the Supreme Leader and the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, means for Iran's judicial procedure and sentencing.

Rah-e-Sabz also claims information on a strategy by the Revolutionary Guards to avoid exposure of human rights violations, including the effort to crack down on human rights organisations in Iran.

0655 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Children's rights activist Maryam Zia Mohaved has reportedly been released from Evin Prison after a 13-day hunger strike.

0645 GMT: We begin today with three Iran specials. Josh Shahryar thinks about the next steps for the Green Movement. R.K. Ramazani evaluates the best US strategy to deal with Iran's nuclear programme. And, after the arrest of underground rap artist Sasi Mankan, we post his April 2009 single "Karroubi".

Latest Iran Video & Translation: Mousavi's and Rahnavard's New Year Messages (18 March)

Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard addressing the Iranian people for Nowruz. The English translation of Mousavi's statement is from Khordaad 88, as is Rahnavard's.


The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions



In the name of God, the Compassionate and the Merciful,

The unified caravan of martyrs

I wish all of our people a Happy New Year, as we approach the green spring and this national holiday.

I will especially make note of the families of those who lost their lives while defending our independence during the [Iran-Iraq] war, the veterans, the injured, and those who suffered in any way. I should also mention the martyrs and those injured in 1388 [the year that is coming to an end], since I see their fate as connected to that of the war-time martyrs; they are all a apart of the caravan of martyrs that our country has produced over the course of history. If we have a proud country and a free nation today, it is due to their suffering and sacrifices.

Congratulating Iranians both inside Iran and abroad; [all] Iranians with a common identity

I should also pass on good wishes to Iranians from various groups, tribes, ethnicities, cultures and [political] parties; all of our people. This year, I would particularly like to mention our countrymen living abroad. Today, our people are united, and this is one of the blessings of the Green Movement. It has become so extensive, that there are people on the other side of the globe who identify themselves with the rich Iranian and Islamic cultures, strive for the glory and development of Iran and the Revolution, and try to concern themselves with the fate of their country. This is particularly true among our youth, be it inside Iran or abroad, who have sacrificed the most and who have experienced the most damage [in the events of the past year].

We should help and comfort the families who have experienced loss

As far as I have heard, the third and fourth generations of Iranians living abroad are as active as the youth inside Iran, and I would like to use this opportunity to wish a Happy New Year to them as well. The families of the martyrs and the injured have had a crucial role in our movement; our people should stay alongside these families and comfort them, particularly in these first few days of festivities.

The year that has passed

The passing year has been a special one for us all. Our people witnessed a great deal of energy and excitement in the days leading up to the election, and the beauty of it was the love and unity that you saw between people of different backgrounds and political inclinations. The election could have turned into a great festival for our people and initiated a new movement in the history of our nation. It was this movement that lead to very high voter turnout, with which you demonstrated your resolve to see [progress], change, independence, [and the authority of] freedom and justice. But, your active presence in the election was met with a reaction that prompted you to go to the streets with the common question: “Where is my vote?” The roots of this reaction go back to June 12, [election day]. It was not even 5PM when one of my main campaign headquarters was attacked. By 8PM, my central headquarters was also attacked and, before being published the next morning, the main Kalemeh Sabz headline was changed several times on orders from intelligence officials.

A response by the government unworthy of the dignity of our nation

The lack of a proper and Islamic response to the elections by the government created a negative image in the minds of our people and as a result was the root cause of many of the events that occurred in our country.  The response [by the government] to the protests was not befitting of the grandeur, liberty and pride associated with our nation. The crimes at Kahrizak prison, the atrocities at the student dormitories, the killings on the 30th of Khordad, even the 25th of Khordad and the events that followed, such as on the day of Ashura, took the people of our country by surprise.

If the challenges were political in nature, then they should have been resolved through political channels with convincing explanations to our people. This was however not the case and the responses were unfortunately also not satisfying. One of the most significant days was the 25th of Khordad when our people took to the streets in masses, transforming this day into a decisive moment in the history of our nation and a testament to the high spirit of our nation days after the elections.

What did our people desire?

Our people while chanting national and Islamic slogans came out to the streets, without creating any tension, to declare their point of view and cast their vote. We expected a [the government's] response tailored to meet the gentle spirit of our people, unfortunately, we however, witnessed a much different type of response in the events that followed which only further complicated matters.

On the 22nd of Khordad the people of Iran participated in the elections in order to determine their destiny and define the direction of their future. The events that followed the elections, however, turned into an eye opening experience for our people and our country. Our nation discovered major discrepancies and glitches that lead to the formation of a broad spectrum of new demands. These demands began with a request for a referendum on open and fair elections, and later extended to other areas. The Green movement resulted in uniting people behind the fact that all matters should be dealt with in the framework of the Constitution and this became a slogan widely accepted by the majority.

Ignoring parts of the Constitution is tantamount to rendering it meaningless

The truth is, this slogan is of significant importance to the destiny of our nation. The Constitution is a national covenant, without which there is no unity and only chaos and darkness. It consists of a set of contiguous articles and as such, ignoring or weakening one section only leads to rendering it meaningless and void in its entirety.

One must look at the constitution as a whole.  When the constitution was first written, those involved in its inception, wrote an important introduction designed to protect the integrity and continuity of the law. The articles emphasize a set of values, aspirations and demands that are integral to the constitution and cannot be separated. Now that our people have witnessed the judiciary, political, electoral, etc. problems they realize more than ever that the path to a bright future is returning to the foundation defined by our constitution, without any interference by the various political factions.

Withdrawing our demands of unconditional execution of the Constitution is an act of treason for Iran and for Islam. This is a demand that we will not abandon.

If an article in the Constitution is erroneous, the way to fix it is clear. We must amend the Constitution in accordance with public opinion and the recent state of affairs. [As of now], we do not have a free media or the freedoms outlined in the constitution. We lack free elections, where candidates are not cherry-picked, and fair competition. We do not have rights that protect the people’s privacy; rights that prevent some from searching through personal letters with self-serving ‘justification’. How can we assume to have a working system and solve our problems while the national course of action taken is against the Constitution?

We are facing many issues and difficulties in this New Year. Some of them relate to the shape that our demands are going to take. And these are rightful demands. They are a way to achieve national greatness and are a salvation for all parties on the path of developing our nation. We will persevere with these demands, and, accordingly, the coming year will be [known as] the year of persistence. We do not have the right to turn away from them. Any distraction would be an act of treason for the nation, for Islam and for the blood of our martyrs. Our Constitution was created in a sea of martyred blood. It is not something that we can lose easily and we must all return to [its principles].

Among all other things, I wish that the executive branch was at least proficient.

Besides this problem, there are others too; problems that existed before, but which are going to intensify this year, although I am wishing against it. Economic prospects for the future are not good. I am not pleased with this situation. I wish that despite all our issues,  we would have seen an outlook to solve these [non-political] troubles. But that was not so. Forecasts of economic growth for the coming year are poor. First, in addition to drops in investment, this would mean greater instances of unemployment and extensive and increasing poverty. Our middle-class is shrinking more and more as we face these problems. Second, our current [international] standing is not a pleasant one due to ambiguous policies, as well as an adventurous and inept approach [to foreign policy]. Looming upon us is a threatening situation. We have the worst possible international relations and foreign policy, and it seems that with greater sanctions we should expect [more economic pressure].

The Green Movement must expand its reach.

Faced with such a situation, the Green Movement must expand its reach to all segments of society. The Green Movement must revive the timeless social and Islamic principle of inclusion. We must lend a hand to neighbors and neighborhoods both near and far, through job creation and other forms of interaction.

Let us live more modestly; let us help our fellow men and women; let us reduce the weight of people’s problems

Let us make our lives more modest and, by foregoing unnecessary formalities, make more room to think about how to reduce the load of problems that people appear to have. Let us help and attend to the families of the martyrs and those who have been injured—the just prophet looks favorably upon spending time with these families. Moreover, doing this will rekindle the nation’s hope.

The path that we cannot avoid

I believe that the path to realizing the greatness of our nation follows this route and, without a doubt, the nation understands that there is no other alternative. Thus, the nation is hopeful in following this path. God-willing,  we will reach our distinct goals, since our demands are not extravagant by any standards. We demand a fair and healthy election—an election where being on the ticket does not imply having been vetted and selected by a few in power. That kind of election—the kind that we have been having up until now—does not reflect the appropriate respect towards a nation as dignified as Iran. The Iranian nation is great, progressive, and civilized. It should not be treated like a nation of uncivilized, ignorant people, for whom matters need to be decided because they cannot be trusted to run their own affairs and choose their own government properly. I ask that the government respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press so that the nation’s thoughts and ideas are able to flow freely and publicly. I am certain that the manifestation of these thoughts will be Islamic. Only then will we see a productive and progressive Iran brimming with justice and freedom. We must not be afraid to allow this to happen. In fact, we must truly fear the consequences of not allowing this to happen. We must truly be afraid of turning our backs on the demands of the people.

I will finish with a prayer from Imam Khomeini—a prayer that is relevant to our situation today:

O Lord, be watchful of our martyrs and let them rest close to your kindness and compassion. Heal our injured and our dead, and lead those who have been captured by the enemy back to the bleeding hearts of their families. O Lord, in your kindness, grant us patience and success.


RAHNAVARD: We wish our countrymen, inside and outside the country, no matter where they may be, a happy Norouz. Norouz, this ancient, eternal holiday.

[New Year prayer] O savior of hearts and sights, guide of night and day, you who transform our being and our condition, transform me to the very best.]

How strange that this ancient ceremony has been so elegantly woven with an Islamic narrative, and not only with a beautiful Islamic narrative, but with the modern society we live in today, and at a time when the green movement has engraved its own beautiful signature on it.

Transform me to the very best is the very wish of the green movement. The green movement wants to work for the betterment of its own condition, and the circumstances of its nation. And evolution in any effort is a beautiful symmetry. The Green Movement is not a movement that works to overthrow. It is a movement that seeks evolution, an evolution from the status quo to a better circumstance. But allow Hafez to light the way, and let us use the trust we have in him every day of our lives:

To thy complain, love reacheth, if like Hafez
Thou recite the Koran with the fourteen traditions

These fourteen traditions, of which Hafez speaks, and has united with love, tells us that it is something in which we can trust. It is not fortune telling, I don’t believe in fortune telling, and the Holy Koran states: “you are what you are” – do not put the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders. Rather, we take inspiration from him:

Arrived the glad tidings that grief’s time shall not remain:
Like that remained not; like this shall not remain.

Although, I am, in the Beloved’s sight, become dusty and despicable;
Honored like this, the watcher shall not remain.

Since the veil-holder striketh all with the sword,
Dweller of the sacred territory, a person shall not remain.

Of the picture, good or bad, is what room for thanks or for lament
When, on the page of existence, the writing shall not remain?

O candle! reckon union with the moth of a great gain;
For till dawn, this commerce shall not remain*

Dear Hafez, who is our trusted guide on those cold, winter nights and in celebrations, when we are pained and sad and when we are joyous, who “to our complain, love reacheth” – we are encouraged to love one another. We have said before too that the Green Movement is an enemy to no one, it only has a vision and a demand.

In the midst of the new year, we want a return of freedom to our country. We want the rule of law, which has been, in its modern form, a human effort of the past few centuries, to return to our country.

We want deceit and darkness to end, we want an end to discrimination, be it class discrimination, financial, cultural or discrimination against women. We want respect for personal freedoms, and this doesn’t mean we do not pay heed to the collective and its concerns, but that we believe the individual too has a right. And usually, in highly ideological systems, the individual is not allowed to have an opinion or desire of his own. But this is what the green movement is asking for.

Our people are the very creators of the green movement. The green movement is not like a library where a few books have been placed. The green movement is the very people and their visions. We are all together, we are countless. Our country, in terms of ethnicity, language and geopolitics is one of the most complex. But we thank god for the Koran which states: let’s respect this reality – which states that if there are numerous tribes and clans, they should make an effort to get to know one another. Color and language, they are holy. They are signs of god. This plurality is indeed quite beautiful.

The Green Movement is a collection of other movements such as the workers’ movement, teachers’ movement, women’s movement and others. It is also an assembly of different social and professional sects such as artists, athletes, human right supporters that includes all of us in the movement — this unifies us all — as well as other groups. The Green Movement is like a prism that focuses the light shone by every Iranian star — every citizen of this country — on a beautiful canvass that is the Iranian society. The Green Movement demands freedom, it demands change from the current state of affair in realization of greater Islamic morals. The Green Movement is benign, not violent. We don’t want to stress the old saying that says: “You can’t penetrate a solid rock with an iron nail”. Rather we want to go beyond such mentality. We want to say that in this story, there is no solid rock or iron nail – just citizens of this nation, calmly moving forward. I also want to wish our people and the establishment success in realizing the higher ideals.

I would also like to talk about women. The highest ideals for women are freedom and putting an end to discrimination. This is not only specific to women of Iran ,  it is an ideal  women across the world struggle for . In certain countries [women] have had more success [ in removing discrimination] but we have not been successful . This is a reality. I have always said that the Islamic Revolution is an incomplete project. We were hopeful that the great ideals of Islamic Revolution and its great leader Imam Khomeini would substantiate in the Islamic Republic.  Since the revolution succeeded very quickly we expected ideals such as freedom, rule of law, equality, public welfare, eliminating class discrimination and others will be realized in Islamic republic. But it did not happen.  Pursuing these very same ideals particularly women issues is the goal of green movement. Our women suffer numerous discriminations such as legal, cultural and so on.

Some imagine that when the subject of ending discrimination and seeking equality comes up for discussion that [gender] roles are forgotten, that we are talking about a violent society of a Stalinist sort, where everyone acts in the same way, where heads are cut off so that everyone can be the same size as everyone else. This is not at all what I am talking about. The Green Movement recognizes these roles. Not only the Green Movement but all anti-discrimination activism across the world knows and recognizes these roles. It is not the case that in the Green Movement when we talk of ending discrimination, we forget kindness, the qualities of motherhood, creating love, bringing into being passion and excitement, the continuation of human life. In fact, ending discrimination means we want to make use of our religious teachings and customs in a certain way as far as women are concerned. Like sweet basil, not in a heroic manner. What I mean is that we should behave with kindness and in an enlightened manner, not try to be heroes in the way we act.

Of course what I mean by “hero” here is not the meaning it has in our Persian literature; here its meaning is [to act] angrily and violently. Wherever there is discrimination, the odour of sweet basil is taken captive by this angry heroism. That is to say the anger and excesses that the culture or a [particular] system is liable to bring to bear on it. We are in fact pursuing this matter very seriously alongside the [other] ideals of the Green Movement, so that we can separate the bestowal of freedom on women from the areas of authority in which it is currently entrenched (whether these be legal or otherwise) and we can then raise women to the dignity and status that they have in all the noble and valued cultures of the world, including our own beloved Islam. And we want to raise women to that dignity both from a cultural and from a legal perspective.

Finally I would like to congratulate all those fine human beings who have, at a high cost, preserved the great revolution, brought about victory in the Imposed War [with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and his Western backers], and who have bestowed nobility on the Green Movement. I would like to congratulate most humbly the families of those in prison, the families of all the martyrs fallen in the history of Iran, especially during the last thirty years. I hope that the prisoners are free and that they are able to sit beside their families and their ‘Haft Seen’ (Seven ‘s’s) tables at the New Year celebrations. I hope that they alongside their families beside the Haft Seen table they bind the different ‘s’s in an eternally green chain made up of the green shoots of the Green Movement: besides the seven splendid ‘s’s, the ‘s’s of pride (sarfarazi), happiness (saadat), health (salamat) and other wonderful ‘s’s. And we are without number, we are together, we stand firm.

The Green Movement has paid a high price and stood firm in defense of its ideals. Ultimately these are the ideals we want, these are the demands that must be realized. It is not important who puts this into practice, what is important is that these ideals be realized with pride, these ideals that are the very same ideals of the great Islamic Revolution. I know that this will come about and I hope that all of us will find contentment and happiness.

UPDATED Iran Document: The Hardliners' Project --- Full Text (Bahavar)

Pedestrian posts the thoughts of Emad Bahavar, a political activist in the Freedom Movement of Iran, writer, and the head of “Supporters of Khatami and Mousavi” in the 2009 Presidential campaign. He was arrested shortly after the election, and released after two months. He was detained last week but released on Tuesday.

Bahavar's recent article in Rooz Online, “The destination was to begin the journey”, was the reason for his latest arrest. This is Part 1 of 3, with the following parts coming out in the next few days:

The Latest from Iran (11 March): Marathon

The destination was to begin the journey
Rooz Online, 6 March 2010

It is now quite obvious that what happened before and after the presidential election was a result of a very clumsy solution devised by security and military forces, to solve the “crisis of leadership” in the future system of the Islamic Republic. A solution that did not solve the crisis, and in fact, inflicted irreversible injury and damage to the very structure and legitimacy of the political system.

The ruling elite try to deny the existence of any political crisis, and to show that indeed it is the reformists who have reached a dead end. But analyzing their behavior and their responses to the aftermath of the election and the “green movement”, proves the opposite. A “political crisis”, in its most urgent form presents itself as a “crisis of legitimacy”, and a “crisis of legitimacy”, at its worse, becomes a “crisis of leadership”. Thus, not only is the system in a political crisis right now, this crisis is no ordinary quandary and is the worst of its kind.

“Who will be the next leader?” “What sort of mechanism will be used to choose the next leader?” “Is the current system of Leadership of the Jurist, in the current context of the constitution, sustainable?” These are questions which reformists, principalists and conservatives have been grappling with. The events of the recent election are in a way the product of different groups thinking of these questions. The events are in fact, a direct result of “serious measures” taken by the most hardline base of the establishment, in response to those questions. The result of the explosive, destructive actions following the election brought to light the very fact that a solution to these questions is not possible by “simple minded solutions” and the “crisis” and “dead end” argued here is much more serious to be solved by an adventurous wing of the establishment on its own.

What was this all about?

These events first seriously began when the most hardline wings of the system, composed of military groups, quasi-miliatry groups and extremist clerics, devised a strategy for “the transfer of leadership”. When Ayatollah Khamenei began his leadership of the country, most groups in the ruling establishment formed a consensus on his appointment and by acting above and beyond any faction or group, he was able to give the system relative stability and solidity. The election of a reformist president during his time, also gave many groups the belief that there is a chance to be active in the system and to reform it, without jeopardizing the stability of the entire system. But there was no guarantee that this stability would continue on forever.

There was no guarantee that when it came time to transfer the leadership to a “new leadership”, the same political stability would remain. By all accounts and all analysis, the system would experience great tension during this period and this tension might undermine its very existence. That is why all political factions within the system, from reformist to conservative to hardline, attempted to put forth a solution to this quandary in the frameworks of their own beliefs. For reasons of which I can not write about, it was the hardliners who were given the opportunity to carry out their solution. They were appointed to establish a “military rule”, a homogeneous ruling system empty and silent of dissent, to create an appropriate circumstance for the period of the transfer of leadership. This is how in 2005, “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” was chosen to serve as president and to prepare suitable conditions for this period.

What was the hardliners’ solution?

The worst kind of political stability is when the future of an entire system is put to depend on the future of one person, because the smallest change in the top of the hierarchy will influence the entire system. In a monarchy, this quandary has been relatively solved by hereditary rule and the selection of the children or kin of the monarch as the next rulers. In this system, the death of the king and the succession of his son is seen as a legitimate, natural process, and does not undermine the entirety of the system.

But in the current ruling system of the Islamic Republic, the mechanisms are neither monarchical or democratic. From one angle, it seems that the Assembly of Experts is chosen by the nation to elect a leader, from another angle, the approbation supervision of the Guardian Council over the members of the assembly means that a substantial number of the nation’s real representatives never make their way through and thus have no say in the selection of the leader. Thus, the very principle of legitimacy and admissibility of the leader by the people [in the tradition of democratic systems] is undermined with the role of “approbation supervision” of the the Guardian Council.

So what was the solution the hardliners put forth? As we know, the hardliners follow extremist clerics like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who never believed in the selection of the leader by the Assembly of Experts, and has always disapproved of this article of the constitution. The emphasis of Ayatollah Yazdi on the appointment of the leader is based on a theory of “seeking and appointing” --- not electing.

Thus, the solution of the hardliners for the transition process is something like a hereditary monarchy, with the different that the new leader does not necessarily have to be next of kin. In the view of Ayatollah Yazdi, the current leader has ways to seek the opinion of the twelfth Imam [who will return from occultation one day], and when notified of the Imam’s choice, inform the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly of Experts will in turn swear allegiance to the new leader on behalf of the nation and through this mechanism, the people’s approval will be satisfied. Thus, the new leader will be appointed by the old one (he will be “sought and appointed”), will have holy legitimacy, and through the approval of the Assembly of Experts (an indirect swearing of allegiance by the people) also have the people’s approval.

The belief of the hardliners is nothing but a recreation of theory of the caliphate. The Assembly of Experts and Parliament are nothing but a seal of approval for the caliphate. Hardline Shi’as in this way are very similar to hardline Sunnis. They believe that by implementing these theories, the tensions during the transition period will reach a minimum, and these tensions will be limited to insignificant political dissent and disapproval. In this way, the old leader will appoint the new one, and the Assembly of Experts will approve.

But the real quandary for the hardliners was implementing these plans, not writing them, as they had been written long ago, from the time of Sheykh Fazlollah. How can it ever be brought to fruition in the time of reformist publications, numerous newspapers, well known intellectuals, and clerics deeply opposed to such views? Is the implementation of such a project possible in such a pluralistic, politicized environment?

How did the hardliners’ project begin?

The hardliners were appointed to create a military government, homogeneous and clear of dissent, to pave the way for the new leadership. For this purpose, Ahmadinejad was chosen as president in 2005 and most of the positions on his cabinets were taken by former military officials. The hardliners’ plan was written out in “two parts”, for two presidential terms. In his first term, Ahmadinejad was appointed to either control or destroy the potentials created in civil society during the reformist era. The aim of this period was to “return to square one”. In this period, student associations, NGOs, political parties and the press were put under excruciating pressure, to attempt to return to the pre-1997 era [before Khatami].

The most important part of the project however, was to do with Ahmadnejad’s second term. The second term was a “period of elimination”. Two groups of political players had to be eliminated. One group which was a “barrier”, and one group which was the “goal”. The reformists were a barrier to the hardline project. It could be predicted that they would be vocal in their opposition to election fraud. So a scenario was written to widely arrest and eliminate the reformists, by accusing them of a “velvet revolution” and “soft overthrow”.

A second group which was to be eliminated consisted of moderate conservative politicians who had traditional been an ally to Rafsanjani. The goal was to eliminate Rafsanjani and his allies, because, in the view of hardliners, this group would have a big role in determining the next leader. Before the election, and in Ahmadinejad’s first term, there was great effort to take many of Rafsanjani’s close allies to court, people like [Hassan] Rowhani, [Housein] Mousavian, and Mehdi Hashemi. And that attempt was not very successful. The process of eliminating Rafsanjani was to begin with Ahmadinejad’s televised debate, and by firing up the nation, it was to be carried out swiftly.

Thus, by imprisoning more than 500 political and civil activists, and eliminating conservatives from the top of the ruling establishment’s hierarchy, a suitable environment for the period of transition was to be prepared. In such an environment, there would even be an appropriate chance for changing to constitution to be more inline with the principle of “seeking and appointing”. But as we saw, all did not go according to the hardliners plan. The green movement was born.

What really Happened?

The discussion about how the Green Movement was born requires a lot more space, and will  not be the focus of this article. But what is quite obvious is that this movement was a blow to the hardliner project which they had been planning for years. Not only did they not achieve an appropriate environment for transferring leadership, but rather, the political landscape of the country was badly shaken. The hardliners expected to see hopelessness and silence from political activists and the public, after a brief period of protest following the election. But just the opposite happened. The protests saw no end and they became louder and louder every day. Even those people who had previously been apolitical and disinterested, got involved. Thus, not only were the political not silenced,the apolitical became active as well.

The hardliners project was defeated. The reformists stood their ground and did not back down. Imprisoning the reformists was not a victorious strategy, and did not have the desired result. The resilience of some reformists actually gave more life to their cause. Rafsanjani with his insightful brilliance, deterred any attempts by the hardliners to be eliminated. Not only did he not lose his position, he wisely kept his distance with the leadership.

The hardliners solution for this period of transfer was a simple minded “the use of brute force”. They assumed that technology and money would be enough. But the result was just the opposite of what they had planned for. The legitimacy of the system was greatly tarnished, and over night, its national and international appeal was damaged. Many of the system’s previous supporters became doubtful. The stability of the system was greatly undermined and the fracture between the people and the political elite became wider.

Thus, the effort of the hardliners was to return things to the way they were before the election. They tried to substitute their betrayal of the nation with violence. But whatever they did, it created a worse situation.

The blow that the hardliners forced on the system was worse than what any opposition could do. The damage and destruction brought on the system after the  election was the sole responsibility of military and quasi military forces which were the masterminds of the project. Only relying on their might and financial backing, they jeopardized the very existence of the system.

What was the role of pragmatic conservatives?

Last year, a group of conservatives had sent a message to reformists, asking them not to announce a candidate for the presidential election, and instead to back the conservative candidates (someone like [Mohammad-Baqer] Qalibaf, [Ali] Larijani, etc). The argument was that if the reformists have no candidate, there will less of a consensus on Ahmadinejad, and the moderate conservative would win. In the view of these pragmatic conservatives, that was the only way to unseat Ahmadinejad. The reformists of course turned down this offer. In their view there was no way to be sure that a consensus around Ahmadinejad could be broken. The conservatives took orders after all, and the harliners were bent on keeping Ahmadinejad in power. The only power that could unseat Ahmadinejad would be a nation wide momentum, like that of the 2nd Khordaad [when Mohammad Khatami was elected in 1997], not backroom deals between political factions. Thus, the reformists put their efforts in nominating Khatami again, and recreating 2nd of Khordaad.

Now, after nearly a year, individuals like Ali Motahari send letters to Mousavi and ask him to back down, and leave the job to moderate conservatives. The likes of Motahari argue that so long as the reformists are active, the hardliner and conservative consensus around  Ahmadinejad will not be broken. But if the reformists back down, the conservatives themselves will take care of Ahmadinejad.

This time too, the reformists and Mousavi’s response was negative. If Karoubi and Mousavi back down, not only will this not weaken Ahmadinejad, it will allow for a swift move on the part of hardliners to eliminate conservatives as well. The only reason that Rafsanjani’s allies and moderate conservatives have gone unscathed is that the hardliners have been busy with the repression and silencing of the green movement. The pragmatic conservatives underestimate the hardliners. If the hardliners remove the “barrier” that is the green movement, they will go straight for the conservatives. We must not forget that the actual aim was Rafsanjani and his allies, and the project remains unfinished. If the hardliners are not deterred, the pragmatic conservatives will not fare any better than the reformists.

During the months following the birth of the green movement, pragmatic conservatives tried to steer clear of the fights so that the two reformist and hardline factions would wear each other down. So that once both these factions were completely weakened, they could emerge as “the third force” or “saviors” and take control of government. But what happened was that the conflict between reformists and hardliners grew worse by the day and the political landscape was becoming ever more polarized and radicalized to a point where the entire system was at risk and there was no place for the conservatives.  That is why these conservatives decided to play a role in the events, after seven months of silence. A mediating role. The letter Mohsen Rezaie wrote to the leader, their attempts to reform election laws and to take Saeed Mortazavi [former Tehran Prosecutor General] to court, an attempt at changing the head of the police forces and the IRGC, parliament’s reports on government’s violations of law, their efforts to free imprisoned reformists and their numerous interviews in criticizing the government were all efforts on the part of pragmatic conservatives to end the conflict. Their efforts became more apparent after 22 Bahman [31st anniversary of the revolution].

What is waiting ahead?

The events of 2009 were a result of the deadlock in the reformist movement between 2002-2006. Who can clearly guess the repercussions of eliminating the reformists all together? The silencing of the symbols of the green movement has not destroyed that movement, but taken it to the inner layers of society. The green movement was beyond just “street protests” to be killed off when protests were no longer possible. The demands of this movement are very serious and the lack of a response to them leads the way for possible future political crises and more tension. Right in that moment when the hardliners think everything has come to an end and everything is calm, everything will start anew.

Two groups have always offered a wrong analysis of the Green Movement: an opposition which wants to overthrow the system, who interpreted the street protests as a “last action before the fall of the system” [a reference to Mohsen Sazegara] and the other group is conservatives who thought the Green Movement is the only obstacle towards a final stability of the system. (a writer in the conservative magazine Panjereh [Window] had declared the “end of history” right before a “final sin”; a sin that was the greatest sin of all and was the product of the devil).

The Green Movement however is a reformist, peaceful civil rights movement with clear demands, which is stubbornly trying to create better living conditions for all citizens. Thus, this movement will continue to live beyond the frameworks of those two groups, and will continue to speak out of its demands to the rulers, in whichever way possible, – and not just street protests. With the eruption of every national or international crisis, there is the chance that more street protests will take place. Even though Ahmadinejad has spent a great budget giving charity to the impoverished populations, with growing inflation and unemployment, this group too has much to protest. Amir Mohebian was right when he said: “Mousavi couldn’t tie the struggle of the lower classes to that of the middle class” but certainly, Ahmadinejad is up to the task.

2- Reformists and their leaders will not stop protesting. But the protests of the pragmatic conservatives will be much more effective and useful when they stand with the green movement, and not when they are alone. One of the reasons the reform movement was defeated was that Saeed Hajjarian’s strategy of “pressure from below, bargaining from above” never materialized. There was no pressure from below, and those around President Khatami had no ability to bargain.

The Green Movement is the restructuring and the reforming of the reform movement. When[Saeed] Hajjarian was in prison and was preparing for his televised interview, his strategies were being implemented outside prison. In an unwritten agreement, the people and the leaders of the Green Movement were pressuring [the ruling establishment] from below, and the bargaining was being done by the conservatives from above. This was an effective, realistic dividing of the responsibilities.

3- Up to this point, the hardliners have been defeated in their project. They have not been able to unseat Rafsanjani, and they have not been able to imprison Khatami, Mousavi and Karoubi. Even if Tehran does not see any other street protests, the political environment is so tense and inflamed that it will not allow them to carry out any other projects.

But we must remember that the hardliners are so determined to take the next leadership of the country that they are willing to put the country under any pressure. In order to create extreme circumstances, they are even willing to go to take the country to war with neighboring countries. We know that a war is a good excuse to carry out certain political decisions inside the country. (Faridedin Adel, the son of [Gholam-Ali] Hadad Adel [hardline ex-speaker of parliament] has predicated in an article that Iran will be going to war with Turkey in the next few months.)

4 – It has become quite obvious to the ruling establishment that the hardliners’ solution for the transfer of leadership is very very costly, and full of risk. And that even if this project was to succeed, sustaining it (in terms of its national and international legitimacy, economic difficulties, etc) would be near impossible. That is why we can be hopeful that in the future, the reformists and the pragmatic conservatives will also have the chance to put forth their  solution. These solutions include democratizing the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, eliminating the approbation supervision of the Guardian Council and creating a “Council of Leaders”.

The destination, was to begin the journey.

We can clearly witness two defeats for the contemporary  hardline Shi’a movement: the executions of Sheykh Fazlollah and Navab Safavi. Ayatollah Khomeini too left them dissappointed when establishing the Islamic Republic, by incorporating modern democratic institutions within the frameworks of the system. After the ayatollah’s death, the hardliners spent years trying to reclaim their century long pursuits. But in the last instant, with the rise of the “Imam’s prime minister” [Mousavi], a great movement took shape. The birth of the green movement was an end to the hardliner project, and marked another disappointment for them in history. The family of Ayatollah Khomeini raised their voice in protest and many of the marjas [grand ayatollahs], even some of the most conservative, spoke out in criticism.

If there is any group that is guilty of attempting to overthrow the system, it is the hardliners who wanted to overthrow the “Islamic Republic” and replace it with a “Shia Caliphate”. Mousavi had no choice but to disagree with such a move, even though it had a heavy price for him and the people. Mousavi consciously paid this  price to steer the reformists out of deadlock, because the reform movement is the only way of saving the democratic aspects of the system, and saving the Islamic Republic.

The hardliner project for eliminating the democratic aspects of the system was defeated with the birth of the green movement. The green movement reached its aim right at the start; whatever it might gain hereafter, are all added achievements. The destination was to begin the journey.