Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami voting (2008 file photo)
Seyed Mohammad Khatami’s last minute voting in the March 2 Iranian parliamentary election at a remote polling station was news at least as important as that of the manipulated election itself which was presented with conflicting statistical results. His voting has disappointed many people, including those in the reform camp, who have given up on him and who have interpreted his action to indicate his exit from the Green Movement. The Iranian regime, on the other hand, used his vote to once again pronounce that there was no path for those who had opposed the regime but to return to support it.
In response to criticism levied against Mr. Khatami, the former president posted a short comment on his website explaining the reasons for his voting, and the 11th hour change of heart. “My action is rooted in my character and political perspective, and what I believe in and am committed to. I have acted as a reformist with the goal of keeping the window of reforms open, which I believe are not just the most important but the only path to the dignity of the country, and for the purpose of achieving the original ideals of the revolution and the attainment of people’s rights and the nation’s interest, and also with the goal of repelling the domestic and external dangers and threats facing the country. The achievable and acceptable goal is to return the affairs to a situation where the interests of the country and the fundamental and historic demands of the people become the essence of everything,” Khatami wrote.
"Abandoned" by Mana Neyestani
Now since Mr. Khatami has talked of reforms within the realm of the Islamic republic (which is in fact not that surprising because he has always said this and it was always others who had other expectations from him), I request clear answers to some questions of my own:
1-The action that is claimed to stem from belief took place at the last moments of election day and in a remote town, despite Mr. Khatami’s declaration to his close associates that he would be leaving town in order to avoid voting in the March 2 election, is not there. Does the statement by Mr. Khatami not indicate a fundamental inner contradiction?
2-Mr Khatami mentions “keeping the window of reforms open.” But reformism after 1997 has not been just a “window” but a wide path supported and demanded by 20 million votes. But for whatever reason, reforms today are in their current state of affairs, and only a handful of Majlis representatives support it. Even among these few however not only do some lag behind ideologues such as Ali Motahari and Emad Afroogh, and are more conservative than them, but some others among them have totally rejected even these meager reforms. The voices that one day joined principlist ideologues in the Majlis and called the Green Movement a “sedition,” and thus sided with pro-government representatives and ayatollah Khamenei and even called out for the death of Green Movement leaders, still ring in our ears. So my question is this: Where are we supposed to go through these “windows” and attain what heights? How will a Majlis that behaves in this manner have the ability to talk? To where are “matters” supposed to be turned in this atmosphere? Are they supposed to take us to the student dormitory where students were murdered? Or to the situation when a day before that, a police vehicle drove over protestors on the street? So where are we going?
3-Mr Khatami has spoken of internal and external threats. Does his action result in confronting the external threats, which come because of the Islamic republic’s adventurist policies such as the nuclear issue and the systematic violation of human rights? Will Israel and the US end their option of attacking Iran because of his action? Regarding internal threats that Mr. Khatami writes about: Close associates of Mr. Khatami have said that in the last hours of the election day some government officials went to Mr. Khatami’s brother’s house and threatened him to go and vote otherwise they would hurt their friends in prison. In other words, they would be killed in accident or in prison, etc. As a result, Mr. Khatami could not bear these threats and went to a voting station. Even if this is the case - and this is a serious calamity - in this system of blackmail, will Mr. Khatami have any choice in future so long as even one of his friends remains in prison? Can he go anywhere other than the voting station? May be not but when he does, would it not be better if he would stop talking about free elections and not repeat his words: “We should not have participated in the 2005 election. This was our mistake. Next time we shall not participate if the conditions are not right.”
4-Mr Khatami on an occasion scared a group of university students of those who were planned to get rid of him. He was right. Those who came were indeed frightening. But our question is this: When Mr. Khatami was president he had called election violations as “amoral,” but still could not do anything about them because of the regime even with his approved ministry of interior (which in Iran is the executive branch agency responsible for implementing the election process and law), so how can one expect anything to happen when his imprisoned friends are threatened with execution? What would Mr. Khatami do if one day they used the same blackmail method and sent individuals to him asking him to publicly bless the judiciary of the Islamic regime and label judge Saeed Mortezavi the “model manager,” or face the execution of one of his imprisoned friends?
There are many such questions to be asked. Many of these have been asked by others already but have not received a response, so we stay content with this:
At a time when Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, cleric Mehdi Karoubi, Mohammad Nourizadeh and many others remain committed to their pledges to themselves, and not even to the covenants they have made with the nation and the public, is it not wrong to shock them in their prison cells with and attack their hopes which may result in their death because of despair?
When Mr. Khatami had the support of a nation plus twenty million votes and could use these against the regime, he chose not to do so, for whatever reason. Today, when the sharp edge of the guillotine is pressing against his chin, I ask this of Mr. Khatami: Under these circumstances, should one raise their head to not let the blade cut the throat or should one go to a remote voting station to cast a vote? How far can government agents, who that Friday went to Mr. Khatami’s house to present their threat, go and where else may they take him? If Mr. Khatami’s red line is not the blood that was shed by Neda Agha Soltan and Sohrab - which appears to be the case - then where is it? The answer has already been provided by the state-managed Kayhan newspaper to Mr. Khatami: It is at a spot that separates us from them.
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