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Fearful Iranian Government Eases Imprisonment Conditions of Protest Leaders

 
Filed under: Iran

Fearful Iranian Government Eases Imprisonment Conditions of Protest Leaders
University students protesting inside Tehran University. Anti-riot Iranian police prevent them from joining other protestors, in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017. (Iranian opposition)

Due to concerns over a civilian revolt on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic (February 11) in Iran, the leaders of the Iranian regime have been compelled to ease the conditions of the imprisonment of three leaders of the “Green Movement” protests of 2009. At the same time, statements continue to be issued by senior government officials expressing deep concern over the extensive uprising of embittered citizens in the wake of the country’s difficult situation. Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson and the two daughters of former President Rafsanjani recently stated that Islamist ideology has collapsed and the fate of the regime is uncertain.

A crowd of anti-government protesters in Karaj
A crowd of anti-government protesters marches in the city of Karaj, adjacent to Tehran, Aug. 2, 2018. (Iranian photographer)

Hussein Karroubi, son of 81-year-old Mehdi Karroubi, one of the leaders of the Revolution and former speaker in Parliament (the Majlis) for eight years, confirmed on January 14, 2019, that Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, prominent activists in the reformist movement in Iran and leaders of the Green Movement in 2009, have seen changes in their conditions of imprisonment. Both of them have been under house arrest in Tehran since February 2011. Now, for the first time, the conditions of their incarceration have been relaxed.1 Both of them can leave their home once a week, but they have to coordinate any visits with security sources from the Supreme Council. Mehdi Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh, who used to be the head of an important department of the Martyr Foundation of the Revolution and an active figure among the families of the casualties of the Iran-Iraq War, eventually became the mouthpiece for her husband and the other two personalities at protests. She never stopped attacking the leaders of the regime in letters and interviews. The Supreme National Security Council is responsible for the arrest of the prominent protest leaders.

Hussein Karroubi confirmed that his father has also left his besieged house in north Tehran six times, choosing to visit the families of those slain during the Iran-Iraq War. It should be emphasized that most of the families of the senior casualties in this war have, over the years, become vocal opponents of the conservative camp and have even openly joined the current demonstrators against the regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. These families and primarily the descendants of the most prominent casualties among the officers of the Revolutionary Guard killed during the war (such as Hassan Bagheri and Mohammad Ebrahim Hemmat), are considered by public opinion in Iran as legendary heroes even more than 30 years after the end of the war, and they have become leaders of the protests against the regime’s failing administration. Apparently, this is the reason why Mehdi Karroubi visited these families on the first opportunity he received to leave his home.

Mehdi Karroubi
Mehdi Karroubi, several days before his prolonged house arrest in February 2011, surrounded by his supporters in the streets of Tehran. (Radio Zamaneh’s website)

Mir-Hossein Mousavi served at the beginning of the Revolution as Iran’s prime minister (from 1981-1989). During the 2009 elections, he ran against Ahmadinejad and beat him. However, as a result of fraud, he lost. He became the leader of a broad protest movement that rejected the results of the elections and was placed under prolonged house arrest. Mousavi’s wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, who was a political activist and president of an important university in Iran, was also put under house arrest along with her husband.

The protest that led to their arrests sparked extensive rioting throughout Iran, and it was suppressed with great cruelty after then-U.S. President Barack Obama ignored the protestors and the election fraud. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced after three days of unprecedented rioting that he trusted the decision of the Guardian Council of the Constitution that Ahmadinejad had won the elections.

The Supreme Leader ignored the popular protests in 2009 and preferred to confirm the presidency of Ahmadinejad (right). Left: Mir-Hossain Mousavi. (fa.wikipedia.org)

The three figures considered leaders of the reform movement have called upon the heads of the regime dozens of times to put them on trial, but Khamenei, who is a kinsman of Mir-Hossein Mousavi ignored these calls and was not even prepared to accept responsibility for the order to place him under arrest. Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, former commander of the Law Enforcement Force, said six years ago that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei eventually took responsibility in secret for the house arrest of the three to make sure that no one else would release them.

Rouhani’s False Promises: “Only the Angel of Death” Can Solve the Arrest Problem

President Hassan Rouhani promised during both of his election campaigns in 2013 and 2017 and in several speeches that he would work to release the prisoners. However, during his first term as president and since his reelection, he has done nothing for their release and has not even mentioned their names. The president’s cool approach toward those under house arrest has caused much shock among the reformist camp and has shaken their trust in President Rouhani.

The leaders of the Green Movement have not been satisfied with expressing their protest against the conditions of their house arrest over the past eight years. They have also sent dozens of sharp letters protesting strongly against the regime’s domestic and foreign policies. The most famous of these letters was written by Mehdi Karroubi in February 2018, in which he called upon Khamenei to take responsibility for 30 years of failed leadership. Before long, his sharp letter was published. Karroubi wrote a second letter stating that no one could provide a solution to the complicated issue of his unlawful house arrest and that of his friends, and only the “angel of death” or “the angel” of the Supreme Leader could end his house arrest.

The men who rule the Islamic Republic of Iran
The men who rule the Islamic Republic of Iran (khamenei.ir)

“Oh Reformist, Oh, Conservative, Know that the Issue (the Islamic Regime) Is Finished With”

Iranian demonstrators inside Iran and abroad have called upon the leaders of the country to release the leaders of the Green Movement. However, since the demonstrations in December 2017, which spread to more than 100 cities throughout Iran, this call has not been heard. The demonstrators, who are finding the burden of the newly imposed American sanctions very hard and are already experiencing a prolonged economic crisis, explained that they are fed up with both camps and they do not pin any hopes on either of them – reformist or conservative. In fact, they are indicating, as the daughters of Rafsanjani and Khomeini’s grandson stated that they had lost confidence in the Islamic political ideology. The most prominent slogan used by the demonstrators is, “Oh reformist, oh conservative, know that the issue is finished with.” This means that the Iranian people has no faith in anyone in the Islamic regime and is seeking a new regime. The demonstrators are using more and more slogans in support of the exiled Iranian Prince Reza Pahlavi, son of the Shah who was overthrown in 1979.

An easing in the conditions of house arrest for Mehdi Karroubi, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and his wife have not yet been officially announced, and apparently there will be no such official announcement from the government. With the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution approaching, the leaders of the government, headed by Khamenei, recently expressed open concern regarding the shakiness of the foundations of their regime. Specifically, around this important date, the noose of the sanctions from the Trump administration is tightening, and the hope of salvation from Europe is gradually fading. The European Union is even imposing sanctions on Iranian organizations following the exposure of Iranian involvement (again) in terrorism in Europe. All of this has made the life of ordinary citizens much harder and more hopeless. Marking 40 years since the Revolution only focuses on its failures and the lack of hope for Iranian citizens, some of whom have already moved from Iran to the West.

Ebrahim Raisi
Raisi: Whitewashing the Pahlavi Dynasty endangers the Islamic regime (Eghtesad News)

A whole series of senior figures in the regime, including cleric Ebrahim Raisi, one of the apparent candidates for inheriting the mantle of leadership after Khamenei, recently stated that the younger generation in the country expressed support in a “surprising way” for the Pahlavi dynasty, and external enemies had managed to brainwash the young people of Iran. Raisi, who apparently also wants to lead the legal authorities from August 2019, said this week, “The crimes of the Pahlavi dynasty have been forgotten, and the enemies are whitewashing the face of the Shah.”2 Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hossein Bagheri, the Iranian Chief of Staff, even stated that the coming year was critical for the regime because, according to him, enemies are doing everything to encourage the Iranian people to rise up against the government in Tehran.3

Bagheri
Bagheri: A critical year for the regime. Enemies are planning to stir up a citizens’ revolt. (Tasnim News Agency)

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Regime and the fall of Shah Pahlavi’s government, more than 400 political activists around the world who support the exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi called upon President Trump in a joint open letter4 to “urgently … freeze stolen Iranian assets by the occupying Islamic Republic in Iran, so these funds can be utilized to create a democratic Iran and build infrastructure after the Iranian people reclaim Iran again.”  These steps would encourage and even intensify strikes by laborers, teachers, truck drivers, and other sectors in the country.5

Prince Reza Pahlavi
Exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi giving a speech at the Washington Institute on December 14, 2018. (Washington Institute)

In an official message from his place of residence in the eastern United States, the secretariat of the campaign headquarters of Prince Reza Pahlavi stressed that the prince had nothing to do with the composition or sending of the letter. He believes that receiving aid from foreign countries does not serve his interests and he is not asking for aid from any outside source. The Iranian people are the only source that can be depended upon to change the regime.

Truckers’ strike.
Truckers’ strike. (Iranian opposition)
University students protesting inside Tehran University.
University students protesting inside Tehran University. Anti-riot Iranian police prevent them from joining other protestors, in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017.
(Iranian opposition)

Pressure on the Iranian regime is increasing, both at home and abroad. The protests, even though they still have a low profile, are continuing on the streets of Iran. The social media networks, which have replaced the video cassettes once sent by Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran on the eve of the Revolution, are now promoting activities against the regime and calls for it to be replaced. At the same time, there is no charismatic leader who stands out, such as the late Khomeini, who can unite the various streams calling for a change of regime. Prince Reza Pahlavi is gaining support, but it is doubtful whether this is sufficient to challenge the present regime that is reliant upon the lances of the Revolutionary Guard.

If commanded to do so, will the Revolutionary Guard refuse to fire at the demonstrators with live ammunition, just as the Shah’s army refused to do in its day? It is not certain. However, the year 2019 will be a true test for the Islamic regime.

To paraphrase the words of Khomeini regarding the fall of the Communist regime, the sound of the creaking bones of the Islamic regime can already be heard.

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Notes