The showdown set for Friday is becoming increasingly dramatic. While the regime has still not moved against the actual opposition leaders, they are rounding up close associates and relatives, apparently hoping this will silence Mousavi and Karroubi, and they are threatening Rafsanjani to keep him ambiguously in line. Thus, they have arrested three grandchildren of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who called upon all clerics to come out and fight the regime (more below), along with the brother of Mrs. Mousavi, and relatives of leading clerics in Qom. The New York Times reports on this today:
This tactic will not work against Mousavi and Karroubi, who are firmly convinced that they are in the right (they are both deeply religious) and that their cause will win, even if they are killed in the process. And they seem prepared for this (remember that Karroubi provoked the security thugs who came to his office a few days ago: “Why don’t you arrest me now, it would be an honor”).
Indeed, just yesterday Karroubi had a meeting with Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who attempted to convince him to be ‘reasonable,’ promising gradual reforms, etc. Karroubi came out and issued an open letter, detailing the evidence of rape and torture in the prisons that he had presented to government investigators.
I don’t think anyone outside a very restricted circle in Iran imagined that Karroubi was capable of the courage he has shown in the past three months. But there you have it; he’s been heroic.
Meanwhile, Khamenei and the regime have been severely criticized by two leading Islamic figures, Abdolkarim Soroush (who has been teaching at Georgetown University and will be at Princeton this academic year) and Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, a longtime critic of Khamenei’s (Montazeri lost out to Khamenei as successor to Khomeini as Supreme Leader, but notwithstanding his motive for revenge, Montazeri is widely respected both in Iran and throughout the Shi’ite world). The language is particularly harsh.
Soroush (in an open letter to Khamenei):
The fading fear of the people and the vanishing legitimacy of the concept of Supreme Leadership are the greatest achievements of the revolt of honor over plunder. The slumbering lion of courage and resistance has been awakened. Neither usurpation by the military, nor rape committed by the corrupt; neither dust thrown in the eyes of humanity, nor hot air to puff up the [regime’s] ragged clothes; neither dependence on animal savagery, nor attacks on human sciences [Soroush is referring to a recent speech by Khamenei in which the Supreme Leader voiced concern about human sciences taught in Iranian universities because they instil secularism.]; neither the flattery of flatterers in your pay, nor the poetry of poem-selling fools; none of these will bend the back of the resistance…
We are of a fortunate generation. We shall celebrate the disappearance of religious despotism. A moral society and a government beyond religion are the beacons of our Green nation.
We shall cherish and esteem freedom, that same freedom which you did not value and unto which you heaped injustices. You were sold fascism and told that freedom is whimsical and permissive….If you had allowed the press to be free, it would have divulged corruption and the corrupt would not have dared engage in their misdeeds. If you had allowed people to criticize you, you would not have fallen into the abyss of dictatorship and the corruption of power. The people’s true words would have dispelled your daze of ignorance. They are the schools of the nation, not “enemy bases”. And what would have been so terrifying if the doors of those schools had been kept open and you had been able to learn there?
We will cherish religion, that same religion that you made a tool of your power and in whose name you gave lessons in slavery and melancholy. You did not understand that joy and freedom walk alongside true faith….and that religious power corrupts both religion and power. Governing a joyous, free, informed, and nimble people is an achievement, not lording over a bound and dejected nation.”
And Montazeri, in a letter to the Shi’ite clerics (this from a summary by his people):
Montazeri appealed to the clerics, warning them that they bore a heavy responsibility as jurisprudents (maraje’). This, he said, was because…they were responsible for defending the religion and for purging it of the deeds that this regime has been perpetrating in the name of the religion – deeds that are diametrically opposed to shari’a and to the goals of the Islamic Revolution.
Referring to the events of recent months following the presidential election, which he said included murder, oppression, and various human rights violations in the name of the religion and with the support of part of the regime’s religious establishment, Montazeri called on the clerics to declare out loud that they oppose the regime.
Montazeri pointed specifically to the regime’s pressure on former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom he called men of honor, and again appealed to the clerics, saying that it is their role and their traditional and historic responsibility to act in light of the deeds of the regime, which are counter to Islam.
He concluded by saying that the Iranian people is asking why the clerics are not coming out against the oppression and the injustice. He reiterated his call to the clerics to use their power, their ability, and their influence against the regime – because, he said, they know all too well that the regime requires their legitimization. The regime, Montazeri told the clerics, is exploiting you, and your silence makes you its collaborators.
Those who believe that Islam as a monolithic and unchanging doctrine resting on the bedrock of sharia (Islamic Law), should note that we have here two leading Shi’ite theologians in open conflict with an “Islamic republic” that claims to rule in accordance with sharia. Both Soroush and Montazeri want an end to it, and both would welcome a secular state. Finally, both were close allies of the Ayatollah Khomeini and played important roles in the Revolution (as did Mousavi and Karroubi).
Similar criticism is coming from previously apolitical sectors of Iranian society. As the New York Times reports today, “a conservative filmmaker and activist wrote an unusual letter to Ayatollah Khamenei on Monday blaming him for the post-election violence.
‘As a commander in chief of the armed forces, you did not treat people well after the election,’ wrote the filmmaker, Mohammad Nourizad, in the letter posted on several Web sites including his Web Blog.”Nourizad blamed Khamenei personally for the wave of violence.
Finally, there is violence against the regime as well. This is rarely reported, but there is a recent report that gunmen entered the house of the temporary Friday Sermon leader in Sannadaj following Friday’s prayers and shot him dead. He was a prominent cleric in Kordestan Province who supported Ahmadinejad in the last elections. This is the second attempt on officials’ lives in Sannadaj during the past week; the first was a failed attempt to kill a local Revolutionary Court judge.
The French call this phenomenon “Thermidor.” It’s the destruction of the revolution by the revolutionaries themselves. That is the fear that keeps Khamenei, his son (who seems to be the eminence grise who leads the forces of repression these days), Ahmadinezhad and the rest of the slim veneer of faithful that sit atop a burning society that hates them.
And still there is not a single Western leader who has supported the opposition, nor demanded the release of Iranian political prisoners, nor refused to recognize Ahmadinezhad as the legitimate president. All are obsessed with the nuclear question, ignoring the evil of the regime and the war it has waged against us for more than thirty years.
Citizens with a few fragments of common sense should ask their leader: “The Iranians are killling us. What are you going to do about it?”
In our case, the answer is quite clearly “nothing. Maybe we’ll talk a bit.”
I’m told that many Iranians are now openly calling Obama “Chamberlain.” And rightly so.