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IRAN: Opposition leader Mousavi calls upcoming year one of 'patience and endurance'

March 16, 2010 |  4:45 am

Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi declared the upcoming Persian calendar year one of "patience and endurance" for the opposition movement in an attempt to lift the sagging spirits of his supporters and prepare them for a long-term contest against the Islamic Republic's hard-line rulers.

"The next calendar year is the year of patience and endurance for us," he said, referring to the March 21 start of the Persian new year, or Nowruz.

Iran-mousavi2 "Our opponents intend to sow division between us and people and we should not remain idle," he said in a speech delivered late Monday. "We push ahead with our own principles and we should watch out for traps. We insist on our independence without straying into extremism.

"Despite bitter incidents of the past nine months, people are keeping their spirits at a high level." 

Mousavi's latest comments, in an address to the central committee of the nation's main reformist political group, were published by the Persian-language news website Norooz News. His speech was the latest sign that the battered opposition movement ignited by last year's disputed presidential election remains a force within Iran's domestic politics despite imprisonment of its leaders and a violent crackdown against the street protests that have so far been its signature tactic. 

Coming days before the start of the Persian calendar year 1389, it was also a provocative move, aimed at preempting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's  annual Persian New Year speech anointing the upcoming year as one of this or that. One recent year it was a year of "Islamic solidarity and unity." 

Mousavi called on his supporters to counter the rhetoric of the hard-liners and reach out to Iranians of different classes and religiosity.  

He also encouraged Iranians to form and take part in nongovernmental organizations, despite the restrictions imposed on any kind of entity not monitored by authorities. 

"In our country, certain officials wrongly imagine that the government should impose its own organizations on people," he said. "Nongovernment organizations have to be comprised of people and the government should not restrict their activity. If people are not under pressure and NGOs are tolerated, people would not head to the streets. Even on the streets, if people are not denied their rights and do not face violence, they will maintain their calm."

Generally, he voiced optimism about the future of the movement.

"My feeling for the future is that this movement is irreversible," he said. "We will never go back to the position we were in one year ago. I'm very hopeful of the future. We have to transfer patience and hope to people. We have to welcome them to patience and endurance. We will insist on the objectives of the Green Movement until they come to fruition."

Below are some more of his remarks, delivered to the leaders of the Islamic Iran Participation Front:

On Iran's foreign policy

We want to regulate our foreign relations based on national interests, instead of winning so many enemies and leaving not a single friend with every speech. We should not be so adventuristic. Independence is a benediction the Islamic revolution bestowed upon us and we should not lose it. We have some problems with the U.S. and Europe, but we should set our relations based on our national interests, security, safeguarding territorial integrity and national development and growth. Our foreign policy should not be adventurist, nor should it create tensions. We don't have reliable friends to count on in difficult conditions.

On foreign connections to the opposition movement 

Opponents of the Green Movement are expressing trumped-up charges against the movement leaders in order to link them to foreigners, but people do not accept these accusations. We should not remain passive in the face of these baseless accusations and immoralities, and we have to preserve our equilibrium at any moment and against all the pressures. We should do our own job and we should not care for other countries' reaction. ... The fact is that in the past couple of years, intellectuals and people have been oppressed for their alleged ties to foreigners. ... What we should do is to give a lie to accusations of foreign connections. 

On Iran hard-liners' conspiracy theories

We have received information according to which our opponents have fabricated a legend about the election and its ensuing events and they have apparently believed it. They have defined a role for everyone and every party and impose these roles on them. They have painted a wrong picture of the Green Movement and people. They intend to take advantage of this image and legend to win over the grand ayatollahs and religious scholars. Such unfounded analyses are backed by the government.

On aims of the opposition

Our movement is aimed at reviving a compassionate Islam and the Constitution. We have to show the roots of the Green Movement. This movement is rooted in the Constitutional Movement. It has no enmity with Islam and is born out of people's religious convictions and anti-tyranny spirit. Our Constitution rooted in the blood of thousands of martyrs. People have endorsed this national covenant and all its principles have to be implemented.

On strategies for the opposition

If the movement intends to race ahead, it has to spread among people. We have to explain to people that the only option to alleviate economic pressure, reduce soaring divorce and resolve many other problems is to return to the Constitution. 

On street protests

Unfortunately, we have seen the contrary in the past nine months and people have born the brunt of extreme street violence. If people's demands and rights are taken into account, there would be no justification for them to protest in the streets or chant virulent slogans. People seek to regain their rights, but they have faced violent crackdown from government forces. The June 15, 2009, rally set a precedent and we should insist on its repetition. We should not let it be forgotten. Numerous articles have to be written about that demonstration in order to push the identity of the Green Movement into bold relief.

On reaching out to different classes

Under the present circumstances, we should not limit our interactions to the elite and we should reach out to other influential groups, including teachers and laborers. We have to explain the ongoing conditions to them in order to win more hearts and minds. We have to have our voice heard by all classes.

On reaching out to the pious

Another point is to take into account people's religious inclinations. The government has embarked on negative propaganda against us in order to make the society believe that we have changed our religious views. We have to convince people these are merely lies and accusations. We have to strengthen our bonds with the grand ayatollahs and the clergy in a bid to thwart their legend.

On civil liberties

I believe that prison is no longer effective against the Green Movement. During the past eight or nine months, I always prayed for the release of prisoners and the lifting of press bans. But nothing happened. People would not have turned to foreign media had our domestic media not faced so many restrictions. Were the regime wise, it would not resort to military campaigning in the streets. The solution lies in legal freedoms. 

People would have left the streets had the papers not been muzzled and restrictions not imposed. The government, the parliament and other pillars of the regime would have been stronger had these freedoms been guaranteed. The point is that such freedoms cause restrictions for power holders, but they benefit the regime. It's sorrowful to see the judiciary receive its orders from the Intelligence Ministry and the Revolutionary Guard about arrests, releases and verdicts.

On NGOs

Special conditions are prevailing against the country. You know well that governments must welcome the activities of parties and associations in order to find solutions to problems based on collective wisdom. NGOs and political parties liaise people with governments. A symbol of progress and development is freedom of action for political parties and NGOs.

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Mir-Hossein Mousavi in file photo. Credit: Vahid Salemi / Associated Press

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