Saturday, June 20, 2009

Moussavi's speech to the Saturday demonstration: No retreat

Below is an English translation of a speech (or part of a speech?) delivered by Moussavi to one of the rallies that the opposition managed to hold in Iran on Saturday, despite the government's efforts to break them up. (The transcript is also available here in both English and Farsi.)

(Update: Although the first reports I saw described this as a speech, it is described elsewhere as a formal written statement. Both may be true.)

I think it merits attention on several levels.

=> In immediate practical terms, the bottom line is that Moussavi refused to capitulate to Khamenei's ultimatum that the opposition should accept Ahmadinejad's re-election, shut down its demonstrations, and go home. Moussavi's response was firm and uncompromising.
As a companion who has seen the beauties of your green wave, I will never allow any one’s life endangered because of my actions. At the same time, I remain undeterred on my demand for annulling the election and demanding people’s rights. [....]

Be sure that I will always stand with you. [....].By trust in God, and hope for the future, and leaning on the strength of social movements, claim your rights in the frameworks of the existing constitution, based on principle of non-violence.
=> But Moussavi used most of the speech to reflect on the meaning and purpose of his candidacy, and of the larger movement at whose head he has, perhaps unexpectedly, found himself.
I had come to say that people wish honesty and integrity from their servants, and that many of our perils have arisen from lies. I had come to say that poverty and backwardness, corruption and injustice were not our destiny. I had come to re-invite to the Islamic revolution, as it had to be, and Islamic republic as it has to be. In this invitation, I was not charismatic [articulate], but the core message of revolution was so appealing that it surpassed my articulation and excited the young generation who had not seen those days to recreate scenes which we had not seen since the days of revolution[1979] and the sacred defense. The people’s movement chose green as its symbol. I confess that in this, I followed them.
The heart of Moussavi's message here is to present himself and his followers, not the ruling authorities, as the real guardians of the Islamic Republic and its guiding principles. His discussion blends Islamic and democratic themes, and I suppose that's not surprising.

What is more striking is that Moussavi aggressively portrays himself and his movement as the true disciples of the Ayatollah Khomeini (!), and as the ones committed to preserving and defending the true principles of the 1979 revolution. (To recall a slogan from that era, Moussavi presents himself as still "following the Imam's line". No second thoughts or regrets there.)

This is intriguing. Moussavi's decision to wrap his movement in the mantle of Khomeini is interesting in itself. But it also raises some deeper and more difficult questions. To what extent does Moussavi really believe this claim? Or, to put it in a way that is probably more appropriate, what does he mean by it, and how does he understand its implications? To what extent is his invocation of Khomeini a matter of tactical strategy, and to what extent (and in what ways) is it sincere and heartfelt? Those last two possibilities aren't mutually exclusive, of course.

Those aren't rhetorical questions. I don't know the answers, and recent analyses of Moussavi and his candidacy that I've seen (including this one) don't provide solid or unambiguous answers either.

(Political symbolism is complicated. We should remember that for much of the 20th century many people genuinely committed to democracy could nevertheless invoke an idealized image of Lenin with admiration. And since Khomeini is so central to the foundational myths of the Islamic Republic, it makes sense that people hoping to work for reform, rather than revolution, might be inclined to reinterpret and appropriate Khomeini as a symbolic figure rather than break with him. But I should add that on the basis of my own knowledge about Moussavi--which is quite thin--I have no reason to suspect that he doesn't sincerely believe what he's saying here. How he believes it is more obscure.)

During the campaign, Moussavi made it clear that he favors a number of policies that Khomeini would not have approved, to put it mildly. And it's also clear that many of the people who voted for Moussavi actually want to break with the system that Khomeini created. But for other portions of the anti-Ahmadinejad coalition that's undoubtedly not so clear--which is one more indication of the complexity and heterogeneity of the constituency (and now the popular movement) for which Moussavi has become, almost by default, the representative.

The meaning and import of what Moussavi has to say in this speech, both for him and for his audience, remain far from clear (at least to me). So these questions are worth pondering further. In the meantime, you can read the speech itself (below).

--Jeff Weintraub

==============================
Enduring America
Video and Transcript: The Moment of Truth? Mousavi’s Speech at Saturday’s Protests">Video and Transcript: The Moment of Truth? Mousavi’s Speech at Saturday’s Protests
June 20, 2009
Posted by: Scott Lucas

This video was posted late Saturday afternoon. Supporters are claiming it is footage of Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi appearing and addressing a large rally on Jeyhoon Street in Tehran today. Mousavi’s speech, which has appeared on numerous sites, has now been translated into English and is reproduced below the video. Taken together, these are evidence of a significant act of defiance, not only of the Iranian Government but of the Supreme Leader:



MOUSAVI: In the name of God, the kind and the merciful

Indeed god demands you to safe keep what people entrust in you, and to rule them with justice. [this a verse of Koran]

Respectable and intelligent people of Iran, These nights and days, a pivotal moment in our history is taking place. People ask each other: “what should we do?, which way should we go?”. It is my duty to share with you what I believe, and to learn from you, may we never forget our historical task and not give up on the duty we are given by the destiny of times and generations.

30 years ago, in this country a revolution became victorious in the name of Islam, a revolution for freedom, a revolution for reviving the dignity of men, a revolution for truth and justice. In those times, especially when our enlightened Imam [Khomeini] was alive, large amount of lives and matters were invested to legitimize this foundation and many valuable achievements were attained. An unprecedented enlightenment captured our society, and our people reached a new life where they endured the hardest of hardships with a sweet taste. What this people gained was dignity and freedom and a gift of the life of the pure ones [i.e. 12 Imams of Shiites]. I am certain that those who have seen those days will not be satisfied with anything less. Had we as a people lost certain talents that we were unable to experience that early spirituality? I had come to say that that was not the case. It is not late yet, we are not far from that enlightened space yet.

I had come to show that it was possible to live spiritually while living in a modern world. I had come to repeat Imam’s warnings about fundamentalism. I had come to say that evading the law leads to dictatorship; and to remind that paying attention to people’s dignity does not diminish the foundations of the regime, but strengthens it.

I had come to say that people wish honesty and integrity from their servants, and that many of our perils have arisen from lies. I had come to say that poverty and backwardness, corruption and injustice were not our destiny. I had come to re-invite to the Islamic revolution, as it had to be, and Islamic republic as it has to be. In this invitation, I was not charismatic [articulate], but the core message of revolution was so appealing that it surpassed my articulation and excited the young generation who had not seen those days to recreate scenes which we had not seen since the days of revolution[1979] and the sacred defense. The people’s movement chose green as its symbol. I confess that in this, I followed them.

And a generation that was accused of being removed from religion, has now reached “God is Great”, “Victory’s of God and victory’s near”, “Ya hossein” in their chants to prove that when this tree fruits, they all resemble. No one taught them these slogans, they reached them by the teachings of instinct.

How unfair are those whose petty advantages make them call this a “velvet revolution” staged by foreigners! [refering to state TV and Khameneni, perhaps!] But as you know, all of us were faced with deception and cheatings when we claimed to revitalize our nation and realize dreams that root in the hearts of young and old. And that which we had predicted will stem from evading law [dictatorship], realized soon in the worst manifestation.

The large voter turnout in recent election was the result of hard work to create hope and confidence in people, to create a deserving response to those whose broad dissatisfaction with the existing management crisis could have targeted the foundations of the regime. If this good will and trust of the poeple is not addressed via protecting their votes, or if they cannot react in a civil manner to claim their rights, the responsibility of the dangerous routs ahead will be on the shoulders of those who do not tolerate civil protests. If the large volume of cheating and vote rigging, which has set fire to the hays of people’s anger, is expressed as the evidence of fairness, the republican nature of the state will be killed and in practice, the ideology that Islam and Republicanism are incompatible will be proven.

This outcome will make two groups happy: One, those who since the beginning of revolution stood against Imam and called the Islamic state a dictatorship of the elite who want to take people to heaven by force; and the other, those who in defending the human rights, consider religion and Islam against republicanism. Imam’s fantastic art was to neutralize these dichotomies. I had come to focus on Imam’s approach to neutralize the burgeoning magic of these. Now, by confirming the results of election, by limiting the extent of investigation in a manner that the outcome will not be changed, even though in more than 170 branches the number of cast votes was more than 100% of eligible voters of the riding, the heads of the state have accepted the responsibility of what has happened during the election.

In these conditions, we are asked to follow our complaints via the Guardian council, while this council has proven its bias, not only before and during, but also after the election. The first principle of judgment is to be impartial. I, continue to strongly believe that the request for annulling the vote and repeating the election is a definite right that has to be considered by impartial and nationally trusted delegation. Not to dismiss the results of this investigation a priori, or to prevent people from demonstration by threatening them to bloodshed. Nor to unleash the Intelligence ministry’s plain clothes forces on people’s lives to disperse crowds by intimidation and inflammation, instead of responding to people’s legitimate questions, and then blaming the bloodshed on others.

As I am looking at the scene, I see it set for advancing a new political agenda that spreads beyond the objective of installing an unwanted government. As a companion who has seen the beauties of your green wave, I will never allow any one’s life endangered because of my actions. At the same time, I remain undeterred on my demand for annulling the election and demanding people’s rights. Despite my limited abilities, I believe that your motivation and creativity can pursue your legitimate demands in new civil manners.

Be sure that I will always stand with you. What this brother of yours recommends, especially to the dear youth, in terms of finding new solutions is to not allow liars and cheater steal your flag of defense of Islamic state, and foreigners rip the treasures of the Islamic republic which are your inheritance of the blood of your decent fathers. By trust in God, and hope for the future, and leaning on the strength of social movements, claim your rights in the frameworks of the existing constitution, based on principle of non-violence.

In this, we are not confronting the Basij. Basiji is our brother. In this we are not confronting the revolutionary guard. The guard is the keeper of our revolution. We are not confronting the army, the army is the keeper of our borders. These organs are the keepers of our independence, freedom and our Islamic republic. We are confronting deception and lies, we want to reform them, a reform by return to the pure principles of revolution.

We advise the authorities, to calm down the streets. Based on article 27 of the constitution, not only provide space for peaceful protest, but also encourage such gatherings. The state TV should stop badmouthing and taking sides. Before voices turn into shouting, let them be heard in reasonable debates. Let the press criticize, and write the news as they happen. In one word, create a free space for people to express their agreements and disagreements. Let those who want, say “takbeer” and don’t consider it opposition. It is clear that in this case, there won’t be a need for security forces on the streets, and we won’t have to face pictures and hear news that break the heart of anyone who loves the country and the revolution.

Your brother and companion Mir Hossein Mousavi

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