Iran debate: Who owns the revolution?
Hard-liners play tough to prevent reformist gains in March 14 vote.
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"Those who claim to be loyal to [Khomeini] should be very sensitive to this order, which was directly given by him," Mr. Khomeini said. Noting that the revolution's leader put great store in the vote of the people, he criticized the initial disqualification of some 2,200 reformist candidates (850 of whom have been reinstated) including another Khomeini grandson. "No one can prevent the people from deciding their future," he said.Skip to next paragraph
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But the hard-line counterattack was swift and unprecedented. A website close to the president's office went after the Khomeini family itself – a target long off-limits. Under the headline, "The Secret of the Red Cheeks of Sayed Hassam Khomeini," the Nosazi website wrote that Khomeini had received a $75,000 BMW and lived in luxury in north Tehran, where he would "never leave" his steam sauna but "have the luck to see the problems of the poor and needy with [his] red cheeks."
The backlash to that was just as fierce. Fellow conservatives warned that allies of Ahmadinejad had gone too far. Kayhan's influential editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, told the president in print: "Beware of infiltrators and enemies [reformists], but mostly [beware] ignorant friends that are more dangerous ... pretending to support you and your government."
Some argue the real problem is rule by one faction, the conservatives, that leaves little room for dissent. "Different views should go to the parliament, [so] we have a clash of ideas and the best one comes out," says Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Iran's leading dissident cleric and once Khomeini's heir apparent, in an interview in Qom. But hard-liners "want the government and parliament to be all the same, the people to be one with them, and they put others aside…. They weaken the revolution and they weaken Islam."
Iranians often blame the clergy for not fulfilling the promises of the revolution. A common 1979 slogan demanded independence, freedom, and an Islamic republic, with explicit expectations of prosperity and a popular vote.
"The owners of the country are not four or five people. The [authoritarian, pro-West] Shah [toppled in 1979] made the same mistake, now they are making this mistake again," said Mr. Montazeri. "Because people saw the opposite of the promises…all this eventually turned to dust."
As the election nears, the former two-time president Hashemi Rafsanjani warned congregants at Friday prayers in Tehran that some "unnatural" factions "directed from outside of the country" were trying "to create division between [Khomeini] and the people."
Anger over the insults to Khomeini's grandson was blamed for the sudden death of Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Tavassoli, the former head of Khomeini's office, who fell dead while making an impassioned speech about it in front of the Expediency Council. The Kargozaran newspaper praised him with the headline: "Defending the Imam until the very last moment." It quoed Mr. Rafsanjani's brother as saying that the ayatollah had died attacking those with "fossilized minds."
"In a democracy, everyone should have a voice, and what is happening to reformists now is not democratic," says Mohammadtaghi Fazel Maybudi, a religious scholar at Mofid University in Qom. "Some of these [hard-liners] are moving against the flow of the world, which is toward democracy."
"At the beginning of the revolution, we went a little too fast, with too many executions, and could have had relations with the US in another way," says Mr. Maybudi. "Now the conservatives are continuing those extremist moves again. I think they will have a negative effect on the nation."
For some clerics, the bitter politicking itself is a betrayal of the revolution.
"The political scene today is becoming polluted with unethical things," says Mohsen Gharavian, a mid-ranking cleric and religious scholar in Qom who studied under a hard-line ayatollah revered by Ahmadinejad. "When a cleric wants to become an MP, he should be ready to have his reputation played with."