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IRAN: Opposition leader's wife Zahra Rahnavard implicitly calls for peaceful protests during fire festival

March 13, 2010 |  8:57 am

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The wife of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi called on country's green-themed protest movement to come out in full force during an upcoming annual fire festival but to refrain from using violence.

"Chaharshanbeh Souri is a national and ancient tradition for Iranians," Zahra Rahnavard said of Tuesday night's upcoming celebration in an interview with Kaleme.com (Persian). "It is an occasion for festivity. The Green Movement will certainly be joyful and prosperous on that occasion. But the Green Movement is a movement of kindness, resistance and calm. We will commemorate [the movement's martyrs]  without showing any violence or virulence."

She added, "We will love all people, no matter they are green or not. We will even tell military forces that we love them," she said. "We'll ask them to donate flowers to people instead of baton and bullet. If any violence happens, be sure that the regime will be to blame."

The reference to the martyrs of the Green Movement will be seen by both opposition supporters and security forces as a call to turn the holiday into a protest.

In the interview, Rahnavard, the former head of a women's university in Tehran, broached a number of topics, including the status of the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose disputed reelection last year sparked months of unrest.

"I've said time and again that this government is illegitimate," she said. "However, since it has been confirmed [by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] and it recognized its own legitimacy, it has to fulfill its obligations."

She accused the "far-right conservative press" of spreading rumors about attempts by leaders of the opposition to cut a deal to save their own skins. 

No such bargain is afoot, she said.

"They repeated incessantly that the Green Movement has repented and it has lost the game in a failed attempt to demoralize the people," she said. "The Green Movement represents people who will never retreat from their demands."

For now, she said, the government wouldn't dare arrest her husband or her, despite their continued vocal opposition to the government.

"The hard-liners are well aware of my clout with the Green Movement," said Rahnavard, who is also a university professor. "But for the moment, my incarceration will be of no help to them and they are trying to torture me by their physical and verbal attacks."

The pressure will have no effect on the movement's vitality, she vowed. She said she will keep pushing the opposition aims, including the restoration of civil freedoms, the rule of law and an expansion of democracy.

She linked the group around Ahmadinejad to the shadowy figures responsible for the so-called "chain murders" of the late 1990s.

"They are sailing into uncharted waters," she warned the hard-liners. "I will never succumb to these black stormy winds because the Green Movement's freedom-seeking oxygen has refreshed my spirit and body."

Still, like other opposition leaders, she failed to articulate any kind of concrete strategy, except to urge confused supporters to remain strong.

"If we remain steadfast, victory will be with us," she said. "The Green Movement will breathe fresh oxygen of liberty into lungs of thought."

Another English-language account of some of her comments is also available at the website Green Voice.

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Zahra Rahnavard. Credit: RFE/RL

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