IRAN: Analyst says the people have left their leaders behind


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Nasser Zarafshan is a well-known human-rights lawyer who spent many years in jail both before and after the Islamic Revolution.

His latest stint was for revealing the faces of those who were behind the so-called ‘chain murders,’ the serial killings of intellectuals during the late 1990s by people linked to Iran’s security forces.


The Los Angeles Times recently sat down with him near Tehran University, where he studied law and was a political activist during the 1970s, for a conversation about the recent election controversy.

What’s your analysis of the current political situation?

Describing the political behavior of the Iranian people, it’s said that their political behavior is unexpected, unforeseen.

People’s upsurge after the election of June 12, 2009, was unexpected for all parties that were involved in that election. Before the upsurge, each of them entered the game with its own goal. The ruling fundamentalists wanted to maximize popular participation, to strengthen their position, to show their legitimacy. Reformists wanted to win in an ordinary and peaceful election, to romp to victory in this election.

But none of them reached its goal. The reformists have not won the election, and the ruling fundamentalists have lost (at least partly) their legitimacy.

After June 12, people entered the scene and changed everything. And now, we will not be able to understand clearly what has happened unless we identify and separate the three parties that have been involved in and contributed to recent developments.

There has been and there is a power struggle Between [Ayatollah Ali Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and each of the main candidates for the election were supported by one of these powers. The people (mainly from among the middle classes) seized the opportunity to enter the scene to express their own demands, their own dissatisfaction with the whole system, particularly after June 12. This popular upsurge changed the whole situation in such a way that the election and its results was eclipsed by this wave of protests. Western powers with their policies and plans and through their affiliates, their media, etc. played a role. In these events, under the systems like the existing system in Iran, the people ordinarily have no opportunity to express their will, their demands and their dissatisfaction. That’s the reason why they seize such opportunities as an election to express their own demands or move behind someone like [Mir-Hossein] Mousavi, who is a member of the power structure himself. In a country like Iran, where there are no real political parties, trade unions or independent associations, such maneuvers ... by the people are natural.Even the votes of a majority of those people who have voted for Mousavi were protest votes ... to say they are against those in power, rather than for Mousavi or the other candidates. The support of Mousavi by middle classes was opposition to [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad ... as the representative of the ruling powers.

Can Mousavi lead this uprising to something that might mean real change?

Before this uprising, in the days of electoral competitions, Mousavi and the people behind him thought they would be the winners of an ordinary and peaceful election. They had no idea of what would happen later on. Among the reformists, it was generally supposed that the people who boycotted the last election in June 2005 this time will vote for them and they would win. They said Ahmadinejad has a relatively organized and fixed vote, so the additional vote of boycotters would result this time to their victory. They did not have the foresight to plan for such an event. That is the reason why I think they cannot lead this uprising to something that might mean real change. I think they do not have the necessary aptitude and the potential to lead such a movement. And I think Mousavi and [Mehdi] Karroubi themselves don’t have the vision to lead or organize this movement.

What about the street protests of July 9?

That was not called by Mousavi or Karroubi, but the people autonomously specified a number of routes, marched to Enqelab [Revolution] Square and honored the [anniversary of the 1999 student uprising]. It was a clear demonstration that people have surpassed Mousavi and Karroubi.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran