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Anxiety About Elections and Protests Against Lack of Freedom: Hashemi Rafsanjani no Longer Called "Unwise"

By Nazanin Kamdar, Rooz Online

Akbar Hashemi RafsanjaniRestrictions on the use of the Internet, the presence of dogmatic individuals in elections and the absence of freedom and the right to hold views were the three subjects of a speech that Hashemi Rafsanjani recently gave in response to the growing police state atmosphere in Iran, including the possibility of government interference in the upcoming elections.

Such talk by him had until now been labeled lacking wisdom and astuteness. But following the exposure of differences between ayatollah Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, such remarks are also now made by principlists who at one time unequivocally supported Ahmadinejad.

In the first public remarks on the subject last week, Rafsanjani spoke of the Internet situation in Iran and while pointing out to the weak infrastructure in this regard said that the protest movement of the last two years had also resulted in more restriction and public access to the Internet to the point that recently a confidential directive was sent out by the ministry of communications to Internet service providers to buildings and government centers asking them to control and limit access to the media.

While Rafsanjani did not directly mention the unprecedented blocking of access to the Internet that is currently practiced in Iran, which filters out a site simply because it may have the names of Mousavi or Karoubi in its Google searches, he did make inferences to this.

According to Rafsanjani's personal website, in a meeting that he had with members of the computer industry leaders, he said, "While it is necessary to monitor the contents of the Internet, we can take big strides in the area of access and speed so that we can catch up with our deficiencies in comparison to other regional countries in this regard."

Resolving these IT issues, he continued, required goodwill and executive desire.

In another part of his talk, Rafsanjani said that it was not useful for the government to compete with the private sector in different fields, particularly information technology, and added, "one way to create jobs in the country is to relegate more economic spheres to the public and the private sector. These two have shown that they are trustworthy and have the growth, development and welfare of the country in mind."

It is noteworthy that Rafsanjani's personal website was blocked last year for 24 hours by the Filtering Council. The filtering was removed after a strongly worded letter by the public relations office of the State Expediency Council which is headed by Rafsanjani.

According to Aftab website, speaking to a group of clerics from Qom who had gone to visit him, Rafsanjani had said, "If we fail to win the support of the majority of people, history has shown that we will not succeed and we will not have a clear future. Islam does not need to impose ideas and views because the foundations of its thought and values are strong. Islam is a religion of talk and free ideas."

Speaking on another subject, but related to freedom of speech and ideas, Hashemi also criticized the way use was made of speakers to present free speech and ideas at universities. "Free discussion positions at the university could have been used to produce positive results but were used for personal reasons and some were derailed," he said.

But the most poignant criticism came when Rafsanjani said, "Those who say that selection (or election) is the prerogative of the ruling imam and not the masses, are none other than the dogmatists who during the (pre-1979) struggle used to say that until the rule of the twelfth Shiite imam returns, no Islamic government should be created. They attacked us for fighting the Shah in those days. Today, these same people say that people have no right to vote or engage in political and government affairs. But the Imam (i.e. ayatollah Khomeini) rejected this and said that elections had to be popular and not to the pleasure of the feudal."

It is noteworthy how the political atmosphere in Iran has changed over the past few months. Anything that Rafsanjani said then was interpreted by the official media to be unwise and un-thoughtful, but now his three criticisms of the government and its allies did not result in attacks by principlists or even the extremist news sites.

... Payvand News - 07/07/11 ... --

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