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IRAN: Khatami says protesters won't back down

October 11, 2009 |  9:34 am

KhatamiFormer Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has posted a strong declaration on his website that the protest movement in Iran will not die despite violent crackdowns by the military and police.

“Be sure that people will never back down,” said Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005 and has become a leading reformist voice. “Today, we are living in a world in which no dictator could be imposed on people to force them to be absolute obedient to him. An acceptable government is a government born out of people.”

The statement posted today on Khatami's website was a bold rebuke to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose reelection in June was marred by accusations of fraud that triggered nationwide protests. The police and Revolutionary Guard have backed Ahmadinejad, and demonstrations have dwindled under tight security.  

“Why are we presenting Islam in a way to encourage segments of the society to turn their back on religion and the regime?” said Khatami, who with opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi have challenged the government for months. 

He added that the crushing of anti-government protests “constituted an affront to the nation. The million-strong civil protesters, who were moving in conformity with the principles of the Islamic Republic, were dubbed as rioters. In reaction to these protests, non-Islamic, inhumane and unconstitutional behaviors were observed. Senior figures were arrested and forced to confess under duress.”

He concluded, “The creation of the ongoing atmosphere is a hackneyed method that would backfire. The majority of Iranians are unhappy with the ongoing conditions in which famous individuals and ordinary citizens are being maltreated.”

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: Mohammad Khatami. Credit: Associated Press