Ex-President Denounces Iran’s Government

Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, made a fiery speech Sunday against the government, accusing its leaders of trying to smear their enemies and purge them from public life with “fascist and totalitarian methods.”

The speech by Mr. Khatami, a leading reformist, came a day after his ally, the losing presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi, called on supporters to deepen their protest movement, in his first major statement in weeks.

Together, the two statements, posted on the Internet by opposition Web sites, made clear that opposition leaders — much like their hard-line foes — are girding supporters for a long-term battle to be waged as much through ideas and quiet social organizing as through the public protests that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election on June 12.

Both Mr. Khatami and members of the group he addressed, the Islamic Society of University Professors, expressed deep concerns about threats to academic freedom in the coming school year. On Saturday, after days of calls by conservatives to purge Iran’s universities of professors and curriculums deemed “un-Islamic,” the government announced the start of a high-level investigation on how the humanities are taught.

The conservatives appear to be planning a broader campaign that goes beyond university studies. On Saturday night, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a group of artists and cultural professionals that Iran was embroiled in a “soft war” against internal enemies. Anyone in the field of culture must now recognize important distinctions between “friends and enemies,” “attack and defense” and “explanation and propaganda,” the ayatollah said.

His speech echoed another one Friday night by the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Muhammad Bagher-Zolghadr, who outlined the distinction between “hard war” and “soft war,” in which “the enemy is everywhere.” He warned that the West, with its sophisticated media outlets, is better equipped for soft war than Iran.

The new emphasis on ideological warfare came as signs emerged that hard-liners might be relinquishing some of their more overt weapons, at least for now. A report on the pro-government Web site Jahan News said that what are now highly publicized show trials of groups of reformists will proceed on an individual basis and behind closed doors. There have been reports that the new head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, was opposed to the continuation of the trials in their current form.

At the same time, the government clearly remains concerned about the possibility of renewed protests. The authorities have canceled a number of public events associated with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in recent days, apparently out of fear that they could turn into opposition rallies. Last week, the annual Ramadan “Night of Strength” celebration at the immense shrine to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini outside Tehran was canceled for the first time in 20 years. Mr. Khatami had been scheduled to speak at the event, and it was canceled under pressure from Iran’s security and judicial establishment, opposition Web sites reported.

Several smaller Ramadan dinners organized by reformists were canceled on orders from the authorities. And the annual mass prayer event to mark the end of Ramadan is being moved from its usual place, in a vast Tehran prayer hall, to a smaller location.

Although street protests have subsided, opposition leaders have made it clear that they are not giving up the option of direct political confrontation. In his statement on Saturday, posted on kaleme.com, Mr. Moussavi called for more public rallies — large and small — and for more of the nightly rooftop calls of “God is great” that have infuriated the authorities.

He also outlined a series of mostly familiar demands: an investigation of the election, which he and other opposition leaders say they believe he lost because of extensive fraud; an investigation of crimes carried out during the violent crackdown afterward; revised electoral laws; and guarantees of freedoms of assembly, speech and press.

Yet like his conservative counterparts, Mr. Moussavi also spoke of the need to deepen his movement with a “social approach, not only a political approach.” And he suggested that the opposition movement, despite its apparent weakness in the face of arrests, trials and intimidation, had won substantial moral victories.

“Despite the regretful, bitter developments of recent days,” Mr. Moussavi wrote, “people now have timeless convictions that are miles more important than the election of one man.” ROBERT F. WORTH in nytimes.com, September 6, 2009

Note: Iran is a country with a great culture and history. Deserves a (much) better governement and freedom to allow the creativity of it's brave people, specially it's courageous, intelligent and well educated women.