x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A turning point in the history of Iran

As Iranian authorities deployed thousands of security forces across Tehran on Sunday, the first day without protests since the June 12 elections, the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi denounced the 'lies and fraud' of the leadership in their effort to force 'an unwanted government on the nation'. In a direct challenge to the Islamic Republic's leadership he called for continued protests and for annulment of the election and a re-vote, supervised by an impartial national body.

As Iranian authorities deployed thousands of security forces across Tehran on Sunday, the first day without protests since the June 12 elections, the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi denounced the 'lies and fraud' of the leadership in their effort to force 'an unwanted government on the nation'. In a direct challenge to the Islamic Republic's leadership he called for continued protests and for annulment of the election and a re-vote, supervised by an impartial national body. "Iran's revolution has now run through a full cycle," wrote Robin Wright in Time magazine. "A gruesomely captivating video of a young woman - laid out on a Tehran street after apparently being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across her face - swept Twitter, Facebook and other websites this weekend. The woman rapidly became a symbol of Iran's escalating crisis, from a political confrontation to far more ominous physical clashes. Some sites refer to her as 'Neda,' Farsi for the voice or the call. Tributes that incorporate startlingly upclose footage of her dying have started to spring up on YouTube. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the one-time designated successor to the Islamic revolution's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a statement about the attacks of the security forces on the demonstrators and the resulting casualties. "With much sorrow I was informed that, during peaceful rallies to defend their lawful rights, the great Iranian people have been attacked [by the security forces], beaten, and bloodied, and killed. While expressing my condolences for this painful event and the losses, and feeling the pain of the nation, I declare Wednesday [June 24], Thursday and Friday days of national mourning. I express my strongest support for the Muslim nation [of Iran] in their defense of their rights in the framework of the Constitution that recognises republicanism [direct and free elections, and respect for the votes] as one of the pillars of the [political] establishment, and declare that any action that would harm the republicanism of the system is not permitted [is against religion]. Every one of our religious brothers and sisters must help the nation in defending its lawful rights. Based on this principle, any resistance in this direction [against people who are defending their right], particularly use of violence, beating, and killing of [the people of] the nation is acting against the Islamic principle that the nation must decide its own fate and path and, therefore, I declare it to be religiously haraam [the worst sin]." On Sunday, the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a formal statement addressed to the people of Iran. Gary Sick provided commentary on Mr Mousavi's statement. "Although he denounces the 'lies and fraud' of the leadership, particularly in the recent election, he views the fraudulent election as only as the symptom of something far more serious. He describes a revolution gone wrong, a revolution that was originally based on attention to the voice of the people but has resulted in 'forcing an unwanted government on the nation.' "This moment is 'a turning point,' he says, and he defines the movement that is forming around him of having a 'historical mission' to accomplish nothing less than 'renewing the life of the nation' according to its own ideals. "He acknowledges, interestingly, that his own voice at the beginning was less 'eloquent' than he would have wished and that the people were ahead of him in turning the movement green. But now he accepts the 'burden of duty put on our shoulders by the destiny of generations and ages.' "He denounces both extremes of the political spectrum: those on one hand who believe that 'Islamic government is the same as Tyranny of the Rightful'; and on the other, those who 'consider religion and Islam to be blockers for realisation of republicanism,' ie those who believe that Islam and democracy are incompatible. "Mousavi says his call for annulment of the election and a re-vote, supervised by an impartial national body, 'is a given right'. The objective is nothing less than 'to achieve a new type of political life in the country.' "That is truly a revolutionary statement. He says he will stand by the side of all those seeking 'new solutions' in a non-violent way. He accepts the principles and the institutions of the Islamic Republic, including the Revolutionary Guard and the basij, but denounces 'deviations and deceptions'. He demands reform 'that returns us to the pure principles of the Islamic Revolution.' Meanwhile, Press TV reported: "former President Mohammad Khatami proposes an impartial committee to investigate complaints about results of the disputed presidential vote. " 'A fair, professional, impartial and brave team, which is also entrusted by the protesters, and whose judgment can be accepted will be the resolution to the current unrest,' IRNA quoted the former reformist president as saying in a statement on Sunday. " 'It will also be a positive step toward strengthening the Islamic establishment and restoring public confidence. It will also manifest vital decision-making in the interests of the Iranian nation and ideals of the Islamic revolution in a sensitive juncture,' Khatami added." A commentary on Ali Ardeshir Larijani, speaker of the Majlis (Iran's parliament), written for Tehran Bureau said: "Speaking live on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Channel 2 on Saturday (20 June), Larijani stated that 'a majority of people are of the opinion that the actual election results are different from what was officially announced.' He criticised members of the country's Guardian Council, which must certify the election results, for openly favoring Ahmadinejad and campaigning for him. 'Although the Guardian Council is made up of religious individuals I wish certain members would not side with a certain presidential candidate.' " 'The Guardian Council should use every possible means to build trust and convince the protesters that their complaints will be thoroughly looked into,' Larijani declared. Expressing his concern that the Iranian people had lost their trust in the country's legal system, Larijani said it was up to the authorities to provide an atmosphere in which people feel free to express their opinions. "Press TV has just released a report quoting an interview with Larijani, in which he 'urges "politicians and candidates" to separate themselves from rioters and seek legal channels to prove their claims.' Larijani accused some of the rioters of not having voted, and 'taking advantage of the current mood by creating unrest and disrupting public security. They must be stopped.' "Larijani 'is the quintessential opportunist' cautions Iranian-born security expert Shahram Chubin, the Director of Research at the Geneva Centre for Security Studies in Switzerland. 'Be prepared to see him on every side of a question, utterly without any scruple or principle, except self-advancement.'" In Newsweek, Fareed Zacharia suggested: "We are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy in Iran. I don't mean by this that the Iranian regime is about to collapse. It may - I certainly hope it will - but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. We are watching the failure of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian government. The regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists were presumed to have divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality, but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea, velayat-e faqih, rule by the Supreme Jurist, was at its heart. Last week that ideology suffered a fatal blow. "When the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a 'divine assessment,' he was using the key weapon of velayat-e faqih, divine sanction. Millions of Iranians didn't buy it, convinced that their votes - one of the key secular rights allowed them under Iran's religious system - had been stolen. Soon Khamenei was forced to accept the need for an inquiry into the election. The Guardian Council, Iran's supreme constitutional body, promised to investigate, meet with the candidates and recount some votes. Khamenei has realised that the regime's existence is at stake and has now hardened his position, but that cannot put things back together. It has become clear that in Iran today, legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular will. For three decades, the Iranian regime has wielded its power through its religious standing, effectively excommunicating those who defied it. This no longer works - and the mullahs know it. For millions, perhaps the majority of Iranians, the regime has lost its legitimacy."

pwoodward@thenational.ae