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IRAN: Khatami, Karroubi and even Rafsanjani speak out

January 11, 2010 | 12:54 pm

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After lying low amid a torrent of official threats and even gunfire following the eruption of political unrest last month, Iran's leading moderate politician-clerics spoke out today, heatedly. 

Both former President Mohammad Khatami (pictured, above right) and former presidential contender Mehdi Karroubi issued strong statements condemning Iran's ongoing crackdown against dissidents and urging compromise in the political rift between government opponents and supporters. 

Even Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose brother over the weekend acknowledged that Rafsanjani had been silent, spoke out, saying the government needed to "use logic" to heal the political wounds that continued to divide the country following the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Activists and foot soldiers in the protest movement likely will take the statements as tacit approval of their attempts to heat up the political atmosphere and mobilize for demonstrations coinciding with Feb. 11 commemorations marking the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution.

"The closure of all reformist papers and imprisoning all reformists will not switch off the lights of reforms, and the flag of war against deception and mendacity will never fall to the ground," Karroubi wrote. "I swear that the daily growing intimidation and threats have not dissuaded me from continuing the path I've chosen. On the contrary, they have even further persuaded me to go ahead and prepare myself and my children for any disaster."

Karroubi said in his statement, carried on his Persian-language website, SahamNews.org, that Iranians were fed up with what he describedd as the government's heavy-handed ways, citing violence against women, secret detention centers, show trials and mass arrests.

"This time, these guys stained their hand with the blood of mourners," he said, in reference to the Dec. 27 Ashura protests. "They keep lying, but until when? They perfect one lie with a new one. They whitewash a sin with a new one."

He listed five solutions for solving the crisis: repentance among hardliners and militiamen who acted violently against peaceful protesters; obedience to the constitution and to international human-rights law as well the lifting of media restrictions and the release of political prisoners; renouncing the use of violence to resolve political differences; investigations into past alleged official misdeeds; and a genuine public debate to "prove who is right and who is wrong" regarding allegations of fraud in the last presidential elections.

"People are the best arbiters," he said. 

Khatami's statement, carried on the website of his charity Baran, was less incendiary. He denied that the opposition was out to dismantle the Islamic Republic, and he condemned those more radical protesters who had made regime change their goal.

"Our slogan has been and will be: 'Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic.' And any other slogan is not approved by the majority of our people," he said. "Any other slogan is a diversion from the path of the revolution."

Still, he said, "Extremism and violence will be much more destructive if they are exercised by the government itself."

And in a pointed message to hardliners such as Ahmadinejad, he said the first step toward democracy was "to recognize those who are at odds with us. We should not repel those not sharing our views. It would be dangerous to interpret the Islamic regime as a monologue. Our people have already experienced dictatorship. The regime should be tolerant of any criticism."

Like many politicians recently, Khatami sought to identify with an emerging moderate sector that included former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai and outspoken lawmaker Ali Mottahari.

"Two obscure currents are intensifying violence in the society; one hardline group seeks the purge of all its detractors and another group desires the overthrow of the Islamic Republic," he said. "Radical forces should be driven out or they will destroy everything."

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photos, from left: Mohammad Khatami. Credit: Associated Press. Mehdi Karroubi. Credit: AFP.

[NOTE: The original caption inadvertently transposed the names of the the two leaders.]

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