In an exclusive interview with Rooz, Mojtaba Vahedi, the former spokesperson for Green Movement leader Mehdi Karoubi who continues to be under house arrest, announced that he has decided to end his relationship as advisor to Mr. Karoubi. He made the announcement on his personal website in a letter in which he wrote that he believed in “the complete overthrow of the regime that has been created in the name of religion,” and since Karoubi continued to believe in the “Islamic republic as defined by ayatollah Khomeini”, he has decided to end his 30-year cooperation with him. In the letter, Vahedi calls Karoubi his “great teacher” and writes that now is a good time to join millions of Iranians. He also wishes Karoubi success in his path.
Vahedi is a well-known reformist and journalist. He was till this letter Karoubi’s advisor and spokesperson. He was also the chief editor of Aftab Yazd newspaper at one time. He is now a resident of Virginia in the United States.
Read on for the details.
Rooz: Had you informed Mr. Karoubi of your decision to separate prior to the announcement?
Mojtaba Vahedi (Vahedi): No. I spoke with one of his children after the publication of the letter. I think their minds were ready for this. When I wrote two weeks earlier that I was thinking of retirement, many thought of this. In the year and a half that I have been in the US whenever I gave any interviews I made it clear that it was as a journalist and political commentator. Prior to February 2011 you will not find anywhere where I said that I was speaking as the advisor to Karoubi. This was used only after the house arrest of Mr. Karoubi which was because of the message that he himself had sent me.
Rooz: What was his opinion about your resignation?
Vahedi: He was surprised because I normally discussed an issue before a decision. He appeared satisfied after I presented my reasoning.
Rooz: Did he approve of you to continue to act as Mr. Karoubi’s advisor or not?
Vahedi: You see, being an advisor to Mr. Karoubi is something between me and him. I have great respect for Mr. Karoubi’s children and wife and accept their views and act on many as well. But this is a completely personal matter between Mr. Karoubi and me. I have made my final decision and convinced Mr. Karoubi’s offspring that it is the right decision. On the other hand, he did not have any rights to remove me on behalf of his father or accept or reject my resignation
Rooz: What if Mr. Karoubi sends a message that he rejects your resignation?
Vahedi: Still, I have made my final decision that I am acting not as his advisor, while I will continue to respect him for the rest of my life.
Rooz: In the meantime, did you not see any signs, confirming a news report a few months ago that Mr. Karoubi’s family had expressed dissatisfaction about you acting as Mr. Karoubi’s advisor?
Vahedi: This report was published by a lying news site, which was not their first or last lie. Mr. Karoubi’s son denied that news. Mrs. Karoubi also denied it. Saham News also denied it. Essentially there was no issue to be dissatisfied, which is why that news neither upset me as did not is denial. But I am certain that at least some of Mr. Karoubi’s children are not happy with the current situation because they would like more people to be advancing Mr. Karoubi’s views.
Rooz: Then why did you resign?
Vahedi: My determination is that by resigning my hands will not be tied to do other things.
Rooz: In your letter you reference reports that while Mr. Karoubi believes that the Islamic republic is neither Islamic nor a republic, he still believes in the version presented by ayatollah Khomeini. What are these reports?
Vahedi: These are the reports and there are no other comments. In his latest comments, Mr. Karoubi has expressly said that he does not think the current regime is Islamic or a republic, but he believes that the Islamic republic that Mr. Khomeini promised to the public can save the country. In his message regarding the elections to the ninth Majlis that he sent through his wife in 2011, he made it clear that he is no longer bound by the constitution that as enacted in 1989 and added that at the right time people would return to the 1979 constitution. In other words, Mr. Karoubi no longer feels much usefulness in the utility of the current constitution. In an interview he also expressly described how the principle of velayate faghih (clerical leadership of the state) was inserted into the constitution and his opposition to this. In a note that I published in about a month ago in Saham News on “What kind of regime did Mr. Karoubi want and what kind of regime does he now want” I wrote that while Mr. Karoubi wants an Islamic republic, I believe that if a vote was taken, people no longer want such a regime. In other words I made it clear in that note what my differences are with Mr. Karoubi.
Rooz: In view of these remarks, don’t you think that your resignation in fact confirms the critics who have been saying for a while that your views are different from those of Mr. Karoubi and that you can no longer be his spokesperson?
Vahedi: I am not concerned about people who are rejoicing that I have resigned. If it makes them happy that what they consider to be a lie has been proven, that is ok. I do not think much about that. I think that in my comments from now on I do not have to think about coordinate my views with Mr. Karoubi’s. If my previous comments were not in line with his, he is a direct person and has no formalities with anyone. The ministry of intelligence passes on all my comments to him. If there had been any differences in views in the past, a note would have been sent to me in this regard through his wife, children or Saham News website. If any problems may come up they will be from now on, not in the past.
Rooz: Why? What is expected to happen in the future? In your resignation letter you have warned that you will expose the names of those who claim to be representatives of people. Is this what you mean by future problems or something else?
Vahedi: Let’s move forward naturally and those friends who think that my comments are not right will be able to defend themselves.
Rooz: In your letter you make a reference to those who will lie to the public on behalf of and for the regime during the campaign for the next presidential elections. Who are they?
Vahedi: This can be a very large or small group. We must wait to see who will participate in it. For now, there are only speculations and some indications. But as someone who has been a supporter of the Green Movement, and will continue to be, believe that the movement had a key assertion in that the last presidential elections were rigged and that this government is not trustworthy of people’s vote and thus has no legitimacy to perform free elections. There is no problem if anyone who wants to participate in the upcoming presidential elections, breaks away from the Green Movement. But if he wants to continue to be part of the Green Movement and at the same time remain affiliated with this regime, these election laws and structure, then this is a deception.
Rooz: But there are many who view themselves reformists and in line with the Green Movement and who also believe in the fraud and rigging of the past presidential election but also believe that these issues are behind us and the focus should be on the next presidential elections. What about them?
Vahedi: Look, I categorically say that there is no problem if a person comes forward and says that I did not believe in the claims of the Green Movement right from the beginning. Or even if he says that the Green Movement is lying and that there was no rigging or fraud committed in the last presidential vote and consequently I want to trust the system again. This too is not problematic. But if someone claims to be a supporter of the Green Movement can he participate in the next round of elections when the initial key question and issue of the Green Movement - about the rigged elections - has not been resolved?
Rooz: So you think there still is a Green Movement on whose past issues you want to build your future?
Vahedi: It depends on how you describe the Green Movement. This was a protest movement inside the country to announce the regime’s illegitimacy to hold elections. It will not go away even if it is suppressed. This claim has till now not been rejected or addressed. Of course the reason for the weakness of the movement is not only because it was suppressed. The double talk of some of our friends has resulted in that people are indecisive not knowing their relationship with the movement, elections and the regime.
Rooz: From published official reports, it appears that today the various strands of Principlists and a section of the reformists who mostly were cabinet ministers during Mr. Khatami’s administrations, are preparing themselves to participate in the next presidential election. And amid all of this, you speak of the Green Movement and the next presidential elections.
Vahedi: I agree that two major groups will participate in the next president election. But the two that I have in mind are not the same that you mention. I think the main competition will be between the two factions within the Principlists and a group of reformists will participate as part of one of these two groups. I do not believe that reformists will independently and separately running the elections.
Rooz: But even at this time some names such as Mr. Aref and Mr. Jahangiri are being mentioned as candidates from the reformist camp for the upcoming elections. They too have not denied this and have said that reformists must participate in the elections. It is also reported that Mr. Khatami too supports this and has said that he sees signs of an opening in the political atmosphere of the country for the next presidential race. Do you believe that independent reformists will be running or that those who run under this banner will not be reformists?
Vahedi: I do not understand how the people that you mention can be reformists. Mr. Khamenei announced on Khordad 14 that there was a left movement in the country who later joined hands with the enemies of Islam and Imam Hossein. In other words, from Mr. Khamenei’s perspective there is no such thing as a left group, which is the same as the reformist group. And this is why the very person that you name was given a medal of honor by Mr. Khamenei and then placed him in the State Expediency Council along with Mr. Mohseni Ejhei and Mr. Saffar Herandi. I do not believe that Mr. Khamenei would have given a medal to someone who had even a single vein of reformism in him or given him a post. Regarding Mr. Khatami’s remarks, it would be good if he could present the signs that he is talking about. He is not any different from others in terms of intelligence. He should give specific examples, such as Mrs. Narges Mohammadi was taken to a prison in Zanjan and beaten up. Or that they have put 96-year old Haj Seyed Javadi on the exit ban list. This double talk is to convince people to participate in the elections and that this is legitimate. I do not think people are that ignorant that if Mr. Khatami provides his evidence they will not understand them.
Rooz: There is an opinion that has developed after Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karoubi were put under house arrest that says radical reformism and the Green Movement that is a manifestation of that have failed and so we must return to Mr. Khatami’s type of reforms. Don’t you think if those reformists who assert that the Green Movement is dead, this approach by other reformers is more realistic?
Vahedi: Before getting into this issue, I think some other issues need to be clarified. Some years ago Mr. Khatami told reporters that he predicted that the next president’s powers would be further diminished if he was not approved. At the same gathering he said that some wanted the president to be a simple janitor or an administrative assistant. So please tell me what has changed since then? Was he wrong? They think we must accept the current impositions. But we have a real experience behind us. Some claimed that if a president was bold, he could be more powerful and pointed to Ahmadinejad. But the events of the past year indicated that Ahmadinejad also is just another janitor. In other words, in Mr. Khamenei’s world and regime, he only wants a group of puppets called president, Majlis speaker, etc. I think today Mr. Ahmadinejad is even less than a janitor in Mr. Khamenei’s system.
Rooz: But these reformers argue that this model of reformism is better than the current situation.
Vahedi: I question the notion that Mr. Khatami’s process brought about reforms. I think that it was the calls for reform that brought in Mr. Khatami to the presidency. It is wrong to say that Mr. Khatami create reforms in the country. The demands for reform in the country, some radical others not, existed and created conditions that brought in Mr. Khatami. Some perhaps should ask what happened to the conditions in the country which brought in Mr. Khatami from Mr. Rafsanjani and then Mr. Ahmadinejad. I do not believe that Mr. Ahmadinejad became president even though Mr. Khatami and Mr. Lari’s assertions that the 2005 elections were the healthiest elections since the 1979 revolution which they said to deny Mr. Karoubi’s views on the elections. What these remarks however mean is that a society that wanted Mr. Khatami changed in the course of years of Mr. Khatami’s 8 years and suddenly opted for Ahmadinejad. If the achievements of the reform years are that this change came about in society, then reformers should continue their path and vote in next year’s elections! If this is reformism, I and many others like me, cannot support it. If these gentlemen say things have changed (i.e., conditions in the country) or that those reform tactics produced results, then they should present their reasons to the public.
Rooz: But I remember reading an article by you in 2005 in which you accepted Mr. Ahmadinejad as president and said debates over this should end. It appears that the very perspective that you are rejecting today is what you believed in many years ago.
Vahedi: What does that have to do with our discussion topic? I did write that but so did many others. Almost everybody had this view. In 2009, however, things were just the opposite and Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karoubi never accepted the notion that the elections were healthy and not rigged.
Rooz: I raise this point to indicate that if this logic was ok in 2005 why is it not ok today?
Vahedi: As I said, in 2005 almost all those who initially objected to the election results finally accepted them. In 2009 however, people, political groups and Messer Mousavi and Karoubi rejected the announced results of the elections. These two situations are completely different.
Rooz: Since you have announced that you will no longer be Mr. Karoubi’s spokesperson, what role do you see for yourself now?
Vahedi: I am a journalist and a political commentator who expresses his opinion without any considerations.
Rooz: What opposition group or view to you see yourself affiliated to inside and outside the country?
Vahedi: I do not have an organic relationship with any group outside the country but see myself close to those who view the current regime in Tehran to be not reformable.
Rooz: Why did you choose this time to announce your resignation. Has anything special happened?
Vahedi: Yes, as I said earlier, in recent months some people have become active who are in fact deceiving the public. With the disassociation with Mr. Karoubi, I think I can better reveal these people’s identity. Since the type of deception that is used is different, I think we too must change our ways.
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