According to reports from Tehran, Mojtaba Khamenei, a son of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has attempted to convince Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to revise his earlier positions in light of the mounting threat of war and Western sanctions on Iran.
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi led the opposition Green Movement until mid-February when they were placed under house arrest after they called for rallies in support of the revolutions in the Arab World. The pair took part in Iran’s 2009 presidential elections, widely believed to have been subject to a monumental fraud that was designed to ensure the victory of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The announcement of the election results sparked the largest protest rallies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution with the opposition candidates refusing to accept the legitimacy of the election, dismissing it as “engineered” and “rigged.”
Opposition website Jaras reported on Sunday that around a month ago, Mojtaba Khamenei met with Mousavi, and called on the opposition figure to soften his stance vis-à-vis the country’s establishment due to the growing international pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. The former Prime Minister then reportedly stated that he will only respond to the request on two conditions: “Firstly, I will respond to the leader [Khamenei] on the condition that there are no cameras or eavesdropping and that no one else but I or he is present in the meeting. Secondly, that I am offered the chance to address the people live on national television.”
In a last ditch attempt to convince Mousavi to withdraw his long-held stance, Khamenei’s son pointed out that “the country’s position is very critical.” A disappointed Mojtaba Khamenei is said to have left the meeting “discontented.” Jaras does not elaborate further on the details of the meeting.
Sources have told the Green Voice of Freedom that the meeting between Mousavi and Khamenei’s son did indeed take place. Meanwhile, “an informed source” who spoke to the BBC’s Persian service also confirmed the Jaras report.
On 22 February 2012, Kaleme, a website close to the veteran politician, reported that in a recent telephone conversation with his family, Mousavi reaffirmed his unwavering positions in the face of the regime’s unrelenting pressures and scare tactics. The site said that one striking aspect of this phone call was that despite the months-long absence of any contacts between the opposition couple and the outside world, Mousavi repeatedly stressed that “Nothing has changed.” He reportedly uttered these words even before greeting his children whose voice he had not heard for months.
“My daughters, know that I am not backing down from my previous stand,” Mousavi reportedly assured his children, while adding that it was “possible, due to certain reasons,” that the authorities would move to curb his very limited family contacts even further.
Human rights groups maintain that the ongoing house arrest of Mousavi, Karroubi and Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard is against international conventions as well as Iran’s own constitution.
Iranian officials have in the past stated that Ali Khamenei authorised the opposition leaders’ house arrest. In late January, conservative lawmaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar acknowledged Khamenei’s role in the decision-making process. He also admitted that following the outbreak of street protests in June 2009, he and other senior officials tried to negotiate with Mousavi and convince him to cease his opposition towards the regime and “return to the revolutionary front,” a request declined by Mousavi.
“Khamenei bears the ultimate responsibility for these house arrests, which indeed are nothing short of a kidnapping,” believes Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Khamenei is operating above the law of the land, and the intelligence and judicial apparatus are tools of repression in his hands, operating with impunity and without any regard for the law or the constitution,” he noted.
It is still unclear if Khamenei fully approved of the meeting between his son and Mousavi or whether Mojtaba was acting on his own initiative.
Very little is known about Mojtaba Khamenei, who is believed to be a seminal figure in the Islamic Republic. During the 2005 presidential election, Karroubi accused the young Khamenei of being involved in rigging the vote in favour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who eventually won in the second-round runoff of the race.
The report about Khamenei’s attempt at reconciliation comes days before the Islamic Republic holds parliamentary elections, two and a half years after the disputed 2009 presidential race. For the first time since the Revolution, all major reformist factions will be boycotting the vote.
In a statement last Thursday, the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, the most important decision-making body within the opposition Green Movement, called on Iranians to stay at home on Election Day. In addition to a full boycott, it invited the Green Movement’s supporters to make their presence felt in public spaces on the eve of parliamentary elections (1 March), with the purpose of “raising awareness” about the illegitimacy of the parliamentary race.
Nader Hashemi, an Assistant Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and author of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future, told GVF that “while the rest of the region is moving in the direction of democracy, the regime in Iran moving in the opposite direction.”
“The truth that everyone knows, including leaders of the Islamic Republic,” he continued, “is these upcoming elections will not be free and fair. How can they be when the opposition Green Movement is boycotting them?” He predicted that the forthcoming elections would “resemble elections under Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. They are stage-managed elections meant to give the impression that the regime has political legitimacy. Evidence that these elections will be a farce and that voter turnout will be low can be seen in many places. For example, Mohammad Reza Naghdi, head of the Basij force—two weeks before the elections—has already congratulated the people of Iran for the ‘epic’ participation in the elections!”