Iranians are witnessing an “undeclared martial law” in their country, according to a group of political prisoners held in the notorious Evin Prison.
In a statement published on Wednesday on Kaleme, an opposition website affiliated with Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, the 39 political detainees said that the forthcoming parliamentary elections in March 2012 would “bear no resemblance to the elections mentioned in the country’s constitution.”
“In no place in the world is this considered to be a free and fair election [or] an indicator of national rule,” the statement added. “Today, our people are witnessing an undeclared martial law. The experience of all countries, as well as our country’s own, demonstrates that elections held under the dominance of military men and security forces, will merely constitute a rubber-stamp election whereby the fate of the [parliamentary] seats have already been pre-determined.”
On Monday, the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, an influential decision-making body within the Green Movement, said in a statement that the authorities’ ongoing suppression of dissent in recent months had “left no doubt that the regime is incapable of comprehending how dire the current situation is as well as its own interests, and lacks the courage” to hold free and fair elections.
“The council … considers the forthcoming parliamentary election as illegal and unfair, and sees participation in a theatrical election as contrary to the interests of the nation and the country.”
Last week, Ali Mohammad Gharibani, president of Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, announced that the country’s pro-reform factions would not be participating in the parliamentary race in March. He said the council had “decided not to present a unified list [of candidates] and not to support anyone [in the race].”
Months earlier, former reformist President Mohammad Khatami had set conditions for the reformists to participate in the Majlis elections, including: the release of all political prisoners; free and competitive elections; and freedom for political parties and the press.
On Monday, Khatami backed the Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, saying, “My opinion is the same as the council’s, which is that the reformists cannot and must not have candidates and a unified list in the elections.”
“I don’t speak on behalf of anyone. I think that all indicators suggest that we must not take part in the elections.”
In their statement, the 39 political prisoners argued that participating in the March elections “in any form” would “only legitimise a disgraceful theatrical election and help strengthen the foundations of tyranny and authoritarianism, and goes against the democratic and anti-dictatorial ideals of the  Islamic Revolution.”
The signatories to the letter, which according to Kaleme was smuggled out of Evin prison with the aid of sympathisers working there, noted that taking part in the upcoming elections would constitute a betrayal of the sacrifices made by the Iranian people and their aspiration for democracy and human rights in Iran.
The reformists’ refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the next Majlis elections has been met with response from Iran’s ruling elite, including former parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel.
A day after Khatami’s comments, Haddad Adel told the semi-official Mehr news agency, “They’re [the reformists’] participation or absence in the elections has a meaning and that should be taken into account.”
“Khatami’s recent comments show that these seditionists aren’t short of hollow claims and words, even though this group of reformists hold no position in society,” said Jafar Shajouni, a senior member of the conservative Combatant Clergy Association.
“Seditionist” (or “Fetnehgar” in Persian) is a term commonly used by Iranian authorities to refer to the opposition Green Movement formed following the rigged 2009 presidential elections.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a former Foreign Minister and current advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on international affairs, told state media that “all parties, and political groups and figures that seek the support of the West in the elections must be aware that this will lead to their demise.”
Some in the conservative camp accuse Iran’s pro-reform factions of being backed by the West and serving Western interests, an allegation firmly dismissed by the reformists.