Ali-Akbar Mousavi Khoeini started his political career as an activist in the Islamic Students Association of Khajeh Nasir University. Students in “Islamic Associations” are the biggest pro-democracy student groups in the universities in Iran. He was later elected to be a member of Adver Tahkim Vahdat, a representative body of Islamic Students Associations in Iran.
In 1999, he was elected to the Majlis of Iran (Iranian Parliament) from the district of Tehran. He along with Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, Ali Tajernia and others started the student faction in the parliament. They followed up the demands of student activists within the parliament. They initiated a sit-in in the parliament in support of jailed students, which resulted in many of them getting freed by the regime.
Mousavi Khoeini also helped form a committee in the parliament to visit the prisons and report on the condition of the imprisoned activists. He was able to able to uncover a number of secret facilities that were used to keep the political activists in very poor conditions. He also tried to provide ways of financial support for families of imprisoned political activists.
He also founded Sazeman-e Danesh Amokhtegan-e Iran (Iran Students Alumni Organization) to defend human rights of students, women, prisoners, and minorities. This led to his involvement with the demonstration of women in June in support of women’s rights in Iran. He was arrested during this protest on June 12, 2006 in Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran and was put in solitary confinement. He was released on bail on Oct 22, 2006 in part due to the efforts of Akbar Ganji, the well known Iranian political activist recently released from jail, who launched a mass-hunger strike campaign to free Mousavi from jail.
For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, on March 8, 2003, in a speech to Majlis, Khoeini pressed the Majles Khobregan (Assembly of Experts) to produce a report on the performance of Supreme Leader Khamenei.
Khoeini, who left Iran eight months ago and is a visiting scholar at Stanford University, recently gave an interview to insideIRAN.org:
Q: How do you interpret Supreme Leader Khamenei’s recent statements? Do you think he is welcoming moderate conservatives back into the fold? What do you think is his view now of Hashemi Rafsanjani?
A: There is a deep rift in the Iranian government as a result of pressure exerted on the government by the people over the past several years. Every once in a while, the society exerts some pressure on the core centers of power, such as Ayatollah Khamenei and military/security organizations. In order to repel an immediate threat, they show a harsh reaction, but after awhile, they realize that if this harsh reaction continues, this would jeopardize their hold on power.
This is what has happened in the past nine months since the June 12 election. First, there was a harsh crackdown that followed that epic demonstration. The government was not prepared for such a move, so it suppressed it very harshly. Now, after a few months, the government has a better understating of the situation and feels less threatened and that is why they are bringing back people like Rafsanjani to the game.
The Supreme Leader began allowing moderate conservatives back in the fold after the February 11 demonstration in which the government declared victory. But he also drew new boundaries and said Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi can no longer be in the system. This means that they can no longer run in future elections because the [Guardian Council] will reject their legitimacy and qualifications. Former President Mohammad Khatami fits in this category as well. People like Moussavi have no representation in the government. And this segment of society is without representation.
Q: Why would Rafsanjani forget all these personal attacks made against him and his family and make peace with Khamenei? What is his goal?
A: Mr. Rafsanjani’s goal is to reform Iran’s election laws. I think he has had some coordination on this with the Supreme Leader Khamenei. It has been brought to Mr. Khamenei’s attention that after Rafsanjani, the security/military apparatus will go after eliminating him and he will no longer be able to have any independence. This will make him step on the brakes in order to save the entire regime.
Q: How do you assess the stability of the state? Do you think Khamenei will make political compromises with the opposition even though he says he will not?
A: In terms of stability, I think the government is not fully stable until they meet some of the basic demands of the people. Economic difficulties will show themselves in the future.
Q: When you left Iran eight months ago, did it seem that there was an opposition movement? Did the movement truly form a short period before the election, or would you say that the election was simply the catalyst and that Iranian society is truly prepared to fight for political reform?
A: I think this movement was the continuation of reforms that started in 1997. The reform movement had a heart attack after eight years of Khatami and when Ahmadinejad was elected. Many NGOs tried to express the demands of the society. There were many social movements, such as the student movement, that had existed already. There were other movements, such as the labor movement and the women’s rights movement.
These movements practiced the art of organization and how to gather and assemble peacefully.
In the June 12 election, these movements joined hands and created a large coalition. Security forces were trying to prevent this. They were afraid that this might turn into a velvet revolution; although Iran’s social and political structure is not conducive to a velvet revolution.
The missing link here was the lack of faces that could represent the collection of these demands and utilize the potentials of this movement in the framework of the constitution. This missing link, someone who was accepted by all groups, turned out to be Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Both men came from backgrounds known to people, and they had defended their views when they held positions in the government.
Q: Do you believe Ahmadinejad’s claims that gasoline sanctions will have no negative impact on Iran?
A: Sanctions affect both the people and the government. The question is, who will hurt more? The government is not going to suffer much; rather, it is going to be the middle and the lower classes who will suffer. Sanctions have cut off people’s access to certain technologies, while the government has been able to acquire them through various means. This in effect has helped the Iranian government.
I think these restrictions about information technology on the Iranian people should be lifted. As long as people are not informed, there will be no major change. These restrictions must be lifted so people can use them. Hillary Clinton’s remarks about free access to information were nice, but there are legal challenges and restrictions in implementing this vision.
Filed under: Assembly of Experts, Ayatollahs, iran election, Iran News, Iranian protests, Iranian University Protests, Majlis, Rafsanjani, revolution, ایران iran, Khamenei, Khoeini, Rafsanjani, Reformists, university protests