Tehran, 13 Dec. (IPS)
As the authorities stepped up crackdowns on students and political dissidents, a former popular president entered the ring and single handedly, attacked the hard liners, both civilians and clerics, on all fronts.
Speaking at the Technical Faculty of Tehran University on Tuesday 11 December, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami told cheering students that “everywhere in the world, universities and students are the front row of struggle for democracy and freedom. Iranian universities and students are no different”, he said.
As Mr. Khatami was addressing the students, the authorities confirmed the arrest of at least 24 students on charges of “seeking to disturb public order”.
The atmosphere of the auditorium where Mr. Khatami was speaking to students was in sharp contrast with the one that, a month ago, received the fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with shouts of “down with dictators” and “university is a bastion, Khatami is a defender” or “political prisoners must be freed”.
In his speech, cut several times with warm applauses, Mr. Khatami openly condemned the arrest of students and political dissidents, the new decisions by the Council of Guardians concerning the vetting of candidates, declarations of a senior hard line cleric stating that universities are “not Islamic enough” as well as slanders against Mr. Mohammad Hoseyn Moussavian, a diplomat and a former high-ranking nuclear negotiator.
As the former moderate president was addressing the students, the authorities confirmed the arrest of at least 24 students on charges of “seeking to disturb public order”. The intelligence Ministry had confirmed the arrest of “several” individuals it described as “fake students trying to organize illegal demonstrations at Tehran University”.
In fact, most Iranian universities had been the theatre of violent anti Government, anti Ahmadinejad in the past weeks, including a big protest rally that called for the “immediate and unconditional release of the jailed students”.
“Nobody should be arrested because of not sharing the ideas and policies of the governing bodies”, Mr. Khatami, a middle rank cleric said, referring to the arrest of students, women activists and intellectual dissidents, saying “ideas must be fought with counter ideas, not with repression”.
Former president Mohammad Khatami criticised the Goveernment for arresting students and dissidents.
Under his eight years of presidency from 1997 to 2005, Iran got back his place in the international community, Iranians of outside reconciled with those inside, world leaders, including the most influential and important of them, queued to invite him, Iranians, most women and youngsters, enjoyed more, even if limited freedom and the press flourished.
However, his presidency was tarnished by the savage crackdown of students in 18 July 1999, in the one hand and the massive shut down of the press on the other, both ordered by Ayatollah Ali Khamenehei, the leader of the Islamic Republic.
Turning to the recent declaration of Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the Council of the Guardians, the body that wets all candidates at all elections in the Islamic Republic, that “the first and foremost condition for anyone wishing to be elected is his total abiding to the principles of the Islamic Revolution and the absolute Leadership (of Mr. Khamenehi, who names the six clerics of the 12 members Council), Mr. Khatami said: “who has the right to decide instead of the people? Who says that only 12 people have the right to say who can be eligible (for elections) or not? It is to the people to choose those whom they consider as the best. The most important principle for eligibility must be the confidence of the people on those they vote for”.
In the last parliament elections, the Council, dominated by hard liners, rejected the majority of the reformist candidates, paving the way for the Majles being again controlled by eh conservatives.
He then sharply criticized Government’s police repression on the people under the pretext of “securing and safeguarding social order”. Since the measure was introduced last summer, not only hundreds of people, mostly young girls and boys have been arrest for not wearing decent Islamic dress or not behaving “Islamic way”, but also many shops selling female lingeries, hair dressers accused of giving young boys western style haircuts etc have been shut down.
Who says that only 12 people have the right to say who can be eligible (for elections) or not? It is to the people to choose those whom they consider as the best.
“Insulting and humiliating people, mostly women and young ones in the public can not be considered an Islamic behavior”, Mr. Khatami noted.
To the question of a student asking what he thinks of Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi’s saying the universities are not Islamic enough, Mr. Khatami immediately responded “it is nonsense. They don’t know what they are taking”, but added statically “nevertheless, though a minority, their knives cut much better than ours, in the majority”.
The hard line cleric is considered as being the mentor of both Khamenehi and Ahmadinejad.
Khatami did not hesitate to criticie the present President and his supporters accusing Mr. Mousavian of espionage, saying: “Mr. Moussavian, like Mr. Cyrus Naseri and Mr. Mohammad Javad Zarif are valiant patriots who served their nation. They do not deserve to be treated as they have been”.
Mr. Zarif was Iran’s ambassador at the UN and Mr. Naseri another senior nuclear negotiator with Mr Moussavian. He also was accused of bribe-taking. Charges not proved.
[In an interview with the daily Jame Jam, published by the Leader-controlled, State-owned Radio and Television, Mr. Hassan Rohani, former coordinator of the nuclear negotiations called on the President to “repent and ask pardon” because of the accusations he made against Mr. Moussavian.
“The saga of Mr. Moussavian is over. There is no more need for explanations, for now everyone has understood what was the story, what was behind it, where the pressures were coming. It is better for Mr. Ahmadnijejad to repent (for the charges of espionage brought against the former nuclear negotiator), he added].
“After such frontal attacks at the very hearts of three main hard line bastions by Khatami, one must expect ultras heavy counter attack against him”, commented Mr. Hoseyn Bastani, one of the editors of the independent internet newspaper “Rooz”. ENDS KHATAMI ATTACKS 131207