IRAN: Opposition leader Mousavi offers narrative to fateful Persian calendar year 1388
Barred from the airwaves, Iran’s opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the Internet in a Persian New Year speech in which he recounted the tumultuous events of the previous year, which catapulted him from a former prime minister to the figurehead of a grassroots political movement.
Mousavi praised the period before last June’s presidential elections and one of “liveliness and joy” that could have marked a turning point for the nation. “More beautiful was the unity among people from different political affiliations,” he said. “This election could have become a big festival for the nation and set in motion a new move in the history of our country.”
Mousavi said he worried about the country’s economy in 1389. “Our economic prospects are grim,” he said. “The projected economic growth rate is very low, implying a decline in investment, runaway joblessness and extensive poverty.”
Moreover, he said, because of foreign policy “adventurism and miscalculations,” Iran now faces multiple threats. “We are in the worst state in our foreign policy and international relations and we are bracing for more sanctions and pressures,” he said.
But much of his speech was an alternative history to the past year to those offered up by government-controlled newspapers.
Despite the massive turnout on Election Day, Mousavi said, the authorities themselves ultimately prompted a popular revolt with their actions. “Everything began on Election Day,” he recounted. “No sooner was it 5 p.m. than one of my important election campaigning committees was attacked. Three hours later, my central committee was assailed and the front-page headline of [his] newspaper was changed several times in the presence of security forces.”
He recalled the hundreds of thousands of protesters who poured into the streets June 15, the violent attack on student dormitories, and June 20 killings of Neda Agha-Soltan and other protesters and the Kahrizak prisoner abuse scandal, as well as the violent confrontations last December during the Ashura religious commemorations.
The state's use of violence, he said, was unjustified.
“If it was a political issue, it should have been resolved politically,” Mousavi said in the video. “People had to be convinced with justified reasons. But it did not happen.”
The elections and the violent aftermath “awakened our nation,” he said.
“The nation uncovered faults and deviations and new demands took shape on a large scale,” he said. “These demands began with free election and reached new matters.”
He honored those who died in the Iran-Iraq war as well as those who were killed during the political clashes of the last year. “I believe that all these martyrs have combated for the same ideal,” he said. “If today we have an honorable Iran and a free nation, it is due to all these sufferings and sacrifices.”
In a turnabout, he also offered a nod to Iranians abroad, who have supported the opposition movement. Previously Mousavi had tried to disassociate the movement from foreigners in what some critics described as a self-defeating strategy that played into the hands of hard-liners.
“This movement has expanded to beyond our borders and our countrymen overseas are undertaking efforts for the revolution, greatness and progress of their country and they try to contribute to the fate of their homeland,” he said.
He urged supporters to provide support to the families of those who died in clashes of the last year. “Our nation feels compelled to placate the families of martyrs and other victims because of their significant role,” he said.
For the next year, he urged his supporters to spread the word “to all social classes, ethnic groups and provinces,” as he did in a previous speech to elders of Iran's main reformist political group.
Photo: A still from the Persian-language YouTube video of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's Persian New Year address. Credit: Los Angeles Times