Interview with Kalame: “The Green Movement Is Standing Firm on Its Rightful Demands” (27 February 2010)

Mousavi’s Interview with Kaleme after 22 Bahman

Kaleme: Three weeks have passed since the 22nd of Bahman rally, which has prompted many discussions and comments. What is your opinion?

Mousavi: It is not the first time that the ceremonies of 22 Bahman have been held in our country. These ceremonies are in remembrance of the 1979 rallies [and have taken place] on different occasions with more than a million people [taking part]. Every year, those who support the revolution participate in these ceremonies, in which traditional institutions such as mosques and religious assemblies play an important role in organization. Usually, each year’s ceremonies are influenced by important events that have taken place that year as well as the country’s political atmosphere. [Consequently,] the 10th presidential election and the subsequent events have influenced this year’s rally. The government mobilized [a large amount of the public [as well as] public employees from all across the country by using trains and buses and spending large sums of money. This was all to neutralize the impact of the presence of [members of the] Green Movement.

K: How was this year’s rally different from those of previous years?

M: The difference was related to the events that occurred after the election..  The rally was significantly affected by how members of the Green Movement (which was formed this year) would [choose to] participate in it. [The amount of] police, military and security forces deployed in the streets was unrivalled, compared to previous years. [Moreover], the violent and savage confrontation particularly evident in Sadeghiyeh Sq, as well as other locations, was unprecedented. In previous years, people participated in the rally [dressed in anything they chose] and shouting any slogan they desired. But this year, violent security forces could not bear to see a green shirt worn by a young person or green beads carried by the clergy. I doubt that people will easily forget these confrontations.

K: In your opinion, how many Green Movement supporters attended the rallies?

M: It is hard to approximate an accurate number. But, [we] can make estimates based on some observations. [First, we must] compare the weight of the crowd that participated in the 25 Khordaad rally, with that of 22 Bahman. [Second, we must evaluate] the empty space in Azadi Sq during the speech [of Ahmadinejad] and compare it with previous years, in which the rallies were more crowded.  No explanation has been offered as to why Azadi Sq was not filled [to capacity] and why the cameras only covered specific areas close to the podium. To hear that people may have been worried about the grass and the environment is comical, especially for those who had witnessed the [level of] attendance in the same square in previous years. If the authorities cared to estimate the population of the Green Movement, they would not have stopped its members from showing their identifying artifacts. But, [their] fear of revealing this identity [as a member of the Green Movement] took away a historical opportunity. This is more harmful for the system than the Green Movement [itself]. It is obvious that ignoring reality does not eliminate the problem. And, regarding this specific issue, I have no doubt that a widespread confrontation will only spread the identity [of the Green Movement.] In a discussion I had with Mr. Karoubi, we decided to repeat our request for permission to hold a rally according to Article 27 of the Constitution. The level of participation in [such a rally] will put an end to all rumors. We believe that if the Green Movement, other reformist parties and great marjas had not encouraged people [to attend] this year, [we] would have seen such low participation that the rally would have been in the same shape as Azadi Sq during the speech.

K: It has been said that bribes and threats played a role in organizing the rallies, and that some have attended them for mundane reasons.

M: I prefer the term: ‘engineered’ rallies. I am against slandering those who disagree with the messages of the Green Movement. Our arrangement was not, and will never be to view as immoral the actions of those with different opinions. We are all fellow countrymen. Aside from a few murderers and mobsters, we are all brothers and sisters. Even the security forces and members of the military are our brothers, and we know that they are forced to yield to violence. Of course, I condemn the expense of hefty sums along with the abuse of government facilities and inducing government employees with their job security to organize gatherings. I remember that during wartime, it was a big hassle for defense organizations to rent trucks for the transportation of troops until Imam [Khomeini] issued permission to use personal trucks and vehicles with the assurance that the government would pay for all damages. But for the latest rally, [an enormous number] of buses and even trains were used by the military to transport people. Such engineering of the gatherings is not only nothing to be proud of, it also resembles the despotic mentalities of pre-revolution governments. During the Shah’s time as well, if a government employee failed to attend a pro-regime rally, he or she would have problems at work. After the 1978 revolution, our system has triumphed in the people taking to the streets themselves. As such, we can only truly revel in the rallies of June 15 [only three days after the controversial election of June 12, 2009] and those that followed; not in artificially-engineered rallies that may have been instigated by economic obligation, by expenditure, or by a terrifying environment.

K: Do you and Messrs Karoubi and Khatami consult on the decisions and positions taken?

M: I am always in touch with these honorable men. With extensive detainments, I feel even stronger about the necessity of direct communication and, thank God, there is good coordination on this front. Although it is for the benefit of the country that, instead of filling prisons, [officials] support the creation of a powerful organizational body that disagrees with the current destructive policies in place but is still within the framework of the system. I think the only way to stop the leaders of social and political activities from leaving the country is through the [support of such a body]. However, as State TV deviates more and more [from the path that leads toward desirable solutions] and persists in one-sided views, closures of newspapers and detainments of journalists, it seems that establishing a body to gather the actual figures and align things with the Constitution is not going to happen. I still believe [in] the importance of the motto “every citizen is a medium,” along with increased usage of social networks to raise awareness. I believe that there is no alternative for such [Green] social networks. Although, I should add that these difficult conditions have had some benefits as well, alongside all the damage. Among them are the development of self-reliance and the expansion of the Green Movement to encompass countless other social networks. In this regard, the use of virtual space has been miraculous. [The web] has established itself as a stable and trustworthy structure that, in connecting people and networks, brings them together to collaborate. It is very similar to traditional bazaars where countless stores and booths of varying size are connected – along with mosques and tea houses – to produce an image of one coherent structure despite the differences in every unit. What is interesting is that both sides of the bazaar have very different appetites, opinions and capital, which flow between them. But this variety never constrains its totality or its concept of unity. Instead, [it] acts as a point of strength. 

K: The movements on the street have been met with extreme violence. We saw an instance of this during the 22 Bahman rally in Sadeghiye Circle. Are there other paths we can follow to achieve the very legitimate goals of the Green Movement?

M: This question is being asked a lot. Our response is that the Green Movement should not forget its goals, just as it should not become a mundane and passive task that [appears to] need no strategy. The Green Movement’s goal from the very beginning has been to reform the administration within the current constitutional framework. The color green has connected us all. The minimum demand that could surely bring a majority together was a call for the unequivocal execution of the Constitution. Of course, there were those who wanted to move beyond this demand, but the Green Movement has never deviated from this common goal and, God willing, will never do so in the future. I have repeatedly spoken about the importance of sticking to this demand and, as a member of the Green Movement, have stressed its conservation. We must consider the showings in the streets to be a method with which the Green Movement has attempted to present its goals and intentions to the whole nation as well as the international community. But, this has not been the only method. Tens of millions of Iranians have objections to the government’s actions – actions that censor and constrict freedom, actions that oppress, that promote whimsical and adventurous foreign policies, destructive economic policies, and the spreading of lies and corruption. [The people] demand changes that will allow them to decide their own destiny. They want to change the destiny forced upon them by incompetent officials.

Our nation wants to avoid falling behind in tough regional and international competition. Our nation wants to interact with the international community – not fight it or be hostile towards it – and follow foreign policies that promote growth. Our nation does not want to bury its own agricultural and industrial production under a sea of imported goods, [which has grown] under the careless and irresponsible watch of the [current] government. Our nation does not want to give the Revolutionary Guards or any other semi-governmental organizations the authority to control the bulk of the country’s projects and economic activities under the privatization banner. Our nation wants to deal with unemployment and poverty as a religious, Islamic, and national duty. The deceptive mass advertising effort by the government should not hide the true poverty, unemployment, and inflation affecting the nation. Our nation does not want its teachers and workers to be attacked when asking for their wages, nor its women to be assaulted while trying to abolish discrimination. Our nation wants the government to allow all voices in society to be heard through the public media. It does not want the media to be monopolized by unjust people who publish libel. The majority of people here like one another. They do not want to be divided into the Party of God and the Party of the Devil, nor into humans on one side and dirt and animals on the other.

Our nation does not want its mail, email, SMS, and calls to be under surveillance. Our nation is well-informed and courageous and does not appreciate the effort of a select few to constrict its freedoms and limit its constitutional rights while hypocritically claiming that all of these intrusions are [actually] desired by the nation. With whatever means possible, the Green Movement must inform the whole nation and members of all sects and groups, that the demands of the nation are the demands of the Green Movement. The Green Movement must publicize these demands.

These demands are completely Islamic, constitutional, and consistent with religious democracy. They are not anti-religious and, as such, execution, murder or imprisonment cannot be justified [as a means of dealing with them]. Nor are these demands anti-establishment or against the nation. Since they are [legitimate], the people support them. The demand for freedom and human rights; for the abolishment of discrimination; for supporting tolerance towards different opinions reflected both on street and in the media is not a crime. On the contrary, denying the expression of these demands is a mark of tyranny and a distortion of the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, which succeeded under the slogan of “Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic.”

In response to your question, I have to say that the basis for any fundamental change in the direction of reform is to spread awareness. Spreading the seed of awareness within all levels of society is not going to happen with demonstrations alone. However, social gathering is a civil right as well as one of the people’s methods to reach their political, social and cultural ideals. The important point here is that any supporter of the Green Movement [should find] a way to spread awareness, especially among the poor [and the oppressed]. This should be done on the basis of the slogan: “Each Citizen, a Medium.” However, we must be humble. The goal is not to necessarily see the green supporters in charge in the end. There is no “I” in Green and, hence, no place for self-interest.  In this way, we will use both the streets and other legal means [to spread awareness] peacefully and lawfully. As a member of the Green Movement, I would like to emphasize again that the most effective way to achieve victory is to spread national awareness. We want to attain our ideals with the people and by means of the people.

K: What, in your opinion, is the role of the establishment, the system and other parties with regards to these changes?

M: The Green Movement has stood firm in its civil demands. The more people’s awareness of their rights increases, the bigger will be the force behind those demands. This recognition will change people’s lives and that change is the nation’s capital for greater political and social transformation. As a humble member of the Green Movement, I would like to point out to its supporters that our goal is change within the establishment. However, this change does not have to be achieved by anyone specific. We have to remember this ethical principal: to attest righteousness, decency and beauty whether or not it is achieved by us. Accordingly, though we will stand firm in our demands, it is less costly if the establishment follows the solutions offered by the people and the National Covenant (the Constitution). I would like to state clearly that any action [taken] by the government to adjudicate the people’s rights and to fully uphold the Constitution will not be interpreted by us as a sign of weakness. We will not portray these actions as insignificant. On the contrary, they will be a symbol of the power of the Islamic Republic. We would like to see all segments of the establishment pledge free, competitive and unbiased elections.

We would like to see the establishment free political prisoners and work on political development as well as the development of the culture of freedom. We would like to see the establishment encourage diversity within media and protect its freedom. I would like to state clearly that even if the publishing of “Kaleme Sabz” [1] and “Etemad Melli”[2] is harmful, [these newspapers] are less damaging than non-national and foreign media. I know that [the establishment] will not accept this; or, at least they will not accept this in the current situation.

However, I say that having one or more radio and/or TV stations for the Green Movement will only strengthen the system and bolster national unity. I am personally worried that the existing limitations will force us to fall behind even less-developed countries in the region. I don’t see another way to protect our nation against the waves that other countries may send towards us – countries that are primarily self-interested. It is absurd to think that we can control these waves by hacking, filtering and jamming satellite signals.

Either way, if the ruling establishment and the different political factions were realistic, they would know that the Green Movement was present on 22 Bahman. And, [they must know that] the country’s future can only be secured by uniting people of varying backgrounds; not by calling a considerable portion of society “dirt and dust”, “cows and lambs” and “an insignificant, bounded group.” The life of our prophets and imams shows that at no time did they curse or abuse those who opposed their religion. They had a high regard for human dignity and instead of judging individuals, always showed great mercy and kindness in order to pave the path of truth. Our people do not tolerate irreligious actions being carried out in the name of religion. In the Qur’an, when the prophet and his followers are mentioned, they are described as being kind and strong when facing their enemies. Certainly, both during the time of the prophet and afterwards, not all Muslims had the same degree of faith. Our people definitely understand the difference between piety and power-seeking in the guise of pious clothing. The [current] ruling establishment is a clique that strives to rob the very meaning of being Iranian and national solidarity. And this is one of most serious dangers we face today. Our weapon against such deviousness is to unite around our common national and religious aspirations. Relying on this image will result in a developed, peace-seeking Iran throughout the country and throughout the world. It is [only] in such circumstances that we can hope the entire nation will unite in the face of danger, just like it did during the years of the holy war [3 ], . The nation is comprised of all groups, ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds. Those interested in the Green Movement take pride in being Iranian and all the symbols associated with that definition. . Thus, it is quite obvious that we are very suspicious about changing the color of our flag and we see this as a clear indication of [the establishment’s] lack of concern for our national interests, values, and culture.

K: In your 17th statement, you proposed a number of options to resolve the current crisis. Do you have any other suggestions besides the ones you’ve already mentioned?

M: A very important aspect of the 17th statement is that the very acceptance of the existence of a crisis is a step towards its solution. At the same time, I do not believe there can be any sudden, abrupt solutions . For example, we cannot engineer an orchestrated demonstration and fool ourselves into believing that everything is over. The important thing is that we now take steps to ensure that the crisis will be solved in the future. Just imagine that today it is announced that all political prisoners will be freed. I’m certain that the entire nation will be glad to hear this news apart from any specific group. Something else that can improve the existing environment of fear is [to express] kindness towards people who are simply demanding their rights.

We have seen the effect of calling people “dirt and dust”. Let’s speak to the people respectfully for once. In some situations, simply refraining from some inappropriate action can help improve the national atmosphere. One example is the brutal treatment of people in Sadeghieh Sq on 22 Bahman and the attacks on people and some families of martyrs and their children. Who can claim that such shameful actions can help the establishment [in any way]? What is more beneficial in finding a solution to the current crisis: For Mousavi and Khatami to join the people [in the rally] as a show of unity in practice, or for the armed forces to pursue a violent strategy of “victory by terror,” using sticks, knives and chains? Can the government find a solution by terrorizing people? If using such methods for victory was an achievement, then neither we nor anyone else in the world would be able to condemn Saddam’s attack on Halabja. We would not have said that he has no mercy, even though it was his own people that he decimated. The recently-released footage of the attack on the [Tehran] University dormitories shows how partisan attitudes can lead to merciless brutality.

Those who are beating up the students – the children of this nation – are even lower than animals. Even more devastating is the fact that officials from all levels claim that they do not know who is responsible for these attacks. This is an even greater insult to the intelligence of the students and the people [in general]. What is interesting about this footage is that even among security forces, there are some who ask others to desist.

I just wish that the country’s police and security forces saw strength in providing a secure environment for all Iranians, irrespective of their beliefs, without the use of suppression and violence. Why was it necessary to pollute Sadeghieh Sq with pepper gas and other chemical pollutants?

All these actions will stray us further away from rational solutions. If this crisis is not resolved, the legitimacy of the ruling establishment will plummet even faster. The Green Movement, under any circumstances, must emphasize free and fair elections – elections that are not preceded by a purging process. Just like freedom of the press, freedom of all political prisoners and putting an end to this frightening environment are all very important, we must not only let the establishment, but everyone hear of these solutions.

K: There have been many discussions about the relationship between the Green Movement and social elite [professors, students, artists, etc]. What is your opinion?

M: The Green Movement was born out of a number of very important and differing social groups and it has been able to grow through the interaction between these groups. For example, I can refer to the letter written by 116 professors at Tarbiat Modares University. This school is a child of the Revolution and I, as one of those who served the country in the early days of the revolution, had a role in its formation.

Everyone knows that this university does not have an undergraduate level and the average student age is higher than usual. Many of its staff and students were very active in the first years of the Revolution. The statement signed by 116 of its professors, along with similar statements from other academics and Islamic Associations, reveals to what degree the movement is alive and earnest across the academic sphere. I would like to say that you can see the same trend among physicians, teachers, engineers, laborers, women’s activists, athletes, artists and members of other major factions. A clear and unbiased look at the Fajr Festivals demonstrates where the artists stand as a valuable social group. It is said that about a thousand music clips and videos were made about the Green Movement after the election. Many cartoons, posters and paintings as well as other works of art were created in that period. This movement is unique in our cultural history and, possibly, even internationally. I believe the Green Movement’s powerful connection with these major groups is the best reason to be hopeful for [success in] reaching its ideals. Why shouldn’t we be hopeful, when millions of our country’s students stand behind the Green Movement?

K: What about the clerics?

M: There are a significant number of faithful, aware and resilient clerics present within the Green Movement. The greens must know that the attitudes of a few spiteful and radical clerics do not reflect the opinion of the whole society, nor do they reflect the general attitudes of jurists or members of the clergy. Our noble clergy never refer to people with slanderous words. They would never support murders, bloodshed, or jailing of the innocent. Our noble clergy knows well what Islam says about slander, torture, violating the dignity of others and invasion of privacy. Our actual clergy can differentiate [grand] expediencies concerning our national and Islamic resources from [short-sighted] partisan benefits. Our clergy accompanies the universities, united with their students and faculty. They understand the importance of this union. We view the clerics who are part of the Green Movement as a very important supply of potential and support. Their presence is connected to the survival of the movement concerning the various methods and means to accuse the green movement of secular ties and connections to foreign governments.

For this reason, I must tell everyone who has joined the Green Movement with the hope of [achieving] a better Iran, that we must be careful not to fall for propaganda that encourages the clergy to lose its trust in the movement. Let’s not forget the “Carnivals of the month of Ashura” during 1998 and similar plots. Some opponents of the Green Movement, if not all, have no sense of decency or morality.

K: What is your suggestion regarding the ceremonies of the last Wednesday of the year?

M: These ceremonies commemorate the victory of light over darkness. But, the supporters of the Green Movement, having extreme respect for religious and national symbols and ceremonies, do not want these specific rituals to be a venue for harassing people. We should especially keep in mind that the opponents of the movement may have plans for trying to defame it, as they have before. I am sure that the greens will not take part in any unconventional activities or vandalism. Causing explosions or fires is not in line with [our] attitudes, which have been focused on non-violent activities. Being green is not only determined by your clothes and symbols. Being green is a matter of morals and behavior. If we remember this important principle and remind each other of it, we can definitely prevent the damage that may be caused by the actions of a few dressed in green.

K: Final words?

M: I hope that someday the situation in our country will be such that all of the posters, paintings, video clips, and other works of art created over the last year could be exhibited without censorship. I know that, [God willing], with hope and the steady progress of the Green Movement, we shall witness such an exhibition some day: one that expresses our emotions, aspirations, and concerns as a nation.

[1] Mousavi’s newspaper during the election campaign

[2] Th newspaper of the Etemad Melli Party, whose chairman is Mehdi Karoubi

[3] Iran-Iraq War

[4] Refers to a plot to discredit Mohammad Khatami, during seventh presidential election in 1998

Speaker or Agency: Mir-Hossein Mousavi

Title: Mousavi: The Green Movement Is Standing Firm on Its Rightful Demands

Language: English and Persian

Western Date: 27 February 2010

Persian Date: 8 Esfand 1388

Physical/Electronic Location:,

Citation or official document code

Translator: Khordad88

Date Translated: 27 February 2010

Tags: mir-hossein mousavi, interview, kalame

Date Last Updated: 30 August 2010

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