Iran opposition: Even violence wont keep us from continuing

Translated by Henry Crapo (l'Humanite) The celebrated cinematographer, now international spokesman for the movement of Mir Hossein Moussavi, provides us his analysis of the events of recent days

'You can be sure that even violence won’t keep us from continuing.' The great Iranian cinematographer (Kandahar or Safar e Ghandehar (2001)) Mohsen Makhmalbaf has become international spokesman for the reform candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, whose 'defeat' in the presidential election last Friday has lit the powder kegs in Iran. After having visited the European Parliament to plead for refusal of the election results, the movie-maker replies to our questions. Meanwhile, the anti-Ahmedinejad demonstrations continue in the streets of the capital and other large Iranian cities.

Huma : The opposition contests the election results. Why ?

Mohsen Makhmalbaf : Events developed in a very suspicious manner since the beginning. Some hours after the polls closed, reliable information reached us, and also the offices of the minister of the interior and of the supreme guide of the revolution (the Ayatollah Khamenei) indicating the victory of Mr. Moussavi. The supreme guide simply demanded that 'the announcement should be made with some discretion.'

But later, when Moussavi was preparing his victory speech, the generals of the revolutionary guards (the pasdarans, the regime’s powerful praetorian guard) arrived in his offices carrying a letter from the supreme guide explaining that he could not accept the victory of the green camp (anti-Ahmedinejad). For their part, the commandants let it be understood that Moussavi was ordered to keep a low profile. He refused to accept this order.

How should we believe, in fact, that the incumbent president who, in the first election had just managed to gather five million votes, had managed a landslide of 63% this time, after four years of economic failures, inflation, social crisis and an impoverished population ? What’s more, information reached us from various polling stations that were far from agreement with the official results. In short, the election had been cut off, and must be reorganized, but under the control of independent observers, or observers of the other candidates. This is what we demand (and, according to my information, this is also what the European Parliament demands). But for us, the affair is worse than a simple manipulation of votes. We are witness to a veritable coup d’état in Iran.

Huma : What coup d’état, and who are the authors ?

Mohsen Makhmalbaf : On election eve, there was actually a coup d’état in my country, organized by the outgoing president, Ahmadinejad, aided by the supreme guide and the commanders of the forces of the guardians of the revolution, also with the benediction of the Russian government.

For proof I point to the way events developed, and the fact that after the stuffing of the ballot boxes and the hurried announcement of the results, the government didn’t hesitaate to impose a blackout for the following day, cutting telephone communications and arresting opponents. Today we face a government born from a coup d’état, and we don’t accept this. The people show this every day with their demonstrations.

Huma : How important was the role of the people’s active opposition and their daily demonstrations ? This seems totally to have changed the situation.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf : For decades already the Iranian people have been excluded from the political life, and forbidden any participation. So for a long time it was not interested in politics and its issues. This time, the people decided to play the game, and turned out en masse to the urns (a level of participation of 80%). And look what the regime has done with their votes. So we can’t, and we won’t, retreat. The two reform candidates, Misters Moussavi and Karoubi, have both declared that they will not abandon their legitimate demands. And even if they do, the Iranian people will not stop this time. Not before having won their demands. Our movement is non-violent, but we will use all means at our disposal (demonstrations, strikes) to reach our demands that our votes, and the implied changes, be respected. It’s the new Persian springtime.

Huma : What is it that the demonstrators really want ?

Mohsen Makhmalbaf : The Iranian political system is, for the most part, I’d say 80%, a dictatorial regime directed by the supreme guide. He controls and directs the justice system, the army, the institutions. Ever since the islamic revolution of 1979, with very rare exceptions, as in the surprise election of Mr. Khatami in 1997, the Iranian people were firmly excluded from public affairs. Now, the people finally react. Iranians demand the right at least to chose, among preselected candidates, to whom to confide the reins of power. In brief, to be able to change their minds.

We should also say that there has been a fracture in the political elite itself, among the leaders of the country. An important member of this body, a pure product of the inner circle, like Mr. Rafsandjani for example, is no longer in phase with the present leadership of the country. And, in another way, people of different opinions, who have until recently had little in common, now find themselves in the same camp, to defend their votes and their rights. I believe they will now, together, oppose the dictatorship.

Huma : Just how far are the demonstrators and the opposition willing to go ? Would new elections bring some calm to the situation ?

Mohsen Makhmalbaf : There was a coup d’état in Iran last Friday. But we must understand that the presence of people in the streets goes way beyond a simple demands for correcting a faked election. To begin with, it is surely the case that we must reorganize a presidential election under democratically controlled conditions. We won’t be satisfied with vague promises.

It remains to see whether the government will bypass the citizens’ demands and use violence against the people. I have no doubt but that the movement will continue to grow. The Iranians have had thirty years to test the Islamic revolution. Today, they show their profound disenchantment and discontent. And they cause the powers of state to tremble to their foundations.