Mousavi has been on the IRI political scene from its onset. He helped lay the foundation for the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and had a direct role in overthrowing the Shah of Iran. Directly after the Revolution, he was appointed foreign minister and then promoted to prime minister. Mousavi served as prime minister for eight years, during which time he signed off on a record number of executions. He headed a “Cultural Revolution” which meant the shutting down of universities for four years in order to turn secular institutions into Islamic ones. Mousavi authored a bill that made hejab or headscarves mandatory for women. In 1982, he was appointed to Hezbollah’s leadership council and led the country through its war with Iraq. He was able to control opposing views and dissenters in the aftermath of Iran’s revolution by completely censoring speech and press.
Compounding Mousavi’s complicit political accounts are the familial ties he shares with present and past regime clerics. Mousavi is the grandson of Khomeini’s paternal aunt and cousins with the current Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini. Mousavi grew up in Khameneh, the same town in which Khamenei lived and where both names are derived. Mousavi’s full family name is Mousavi-Khamenei. So that both he and Khamenei could be in the political arena, one used one name and one used the other.
Karoubi’s involvement with Iranian politics shares similarities. A political dissident under the Shah’s government, Karroubi became head of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee and the Martyr’s Foundation shortly after the Revolution. His reputation preceded him during his stint as head of the Martyr’s Foundation. He was infamous for his affairs and indecent conduct with the widows that would come to the foundation seeking help and benefits. While Karoubi considers himself a reformist, during his first term as speaker of Parliament, he was among the maktabi or “radical” faction of the majlis, the Parliament, who opposed the policies of then-President Rafsanjani.
The Iranian opposition that came onto the streets of Tehran February 14 was not out to get votes back or to support the Green Movement’s reform candidates. The slogans demanded an end to the regime and the establishment of an Iranian Republic. One of the more popular slogans was, “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran.”
The regime has fervently cheered on the uprisings in the region, claiming that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 influenced and inspired demonstrators in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and others. More evident is the encouragement that the Iranian people have taken from their neighbors. Particularly watching Egypt, a country as influential in the area and one that is comparable in its population, topple their autocratic ruler of three decades in 18 days has stirred the Iranians to do the same. Reform and so-called ‘moderate’ candidates, previously deemed an intermediate step to true democracy, are now seen as another government trap.
The uprisings in the region have likewise influenced the American Administration and policy makers who have replaced old values of “moderate” and “reform” with “revolution” and “regime change.” Playing a major role in popcorn revolutions across the area, the U.S. State Department will inevitably have to soften its view on the Iranian anti-regime platform and groups supporting the cause.
It may not have been in the cards for Iran to experience significant political change in 2009 as its people courageously filled the streets. To use the biblical quote, “To everything there is a season,” and the regime can only go on for so long evading global responsibilities and crushing the demands of its people. Equipped with experience, knowledge and discernment between reform and revolution, the Iranians may now be able to achieve political change.
Perhaps this is their season.
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