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Omid Memarian interviews ABOLHASSAN BANISADR, Iran's first post-Revolution president
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Aug 24 2010 (IPS) - Responding to pro-government critics, Iran’s defiant opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has said several times in recent months that he would reveal “untold secrets” from his tenure.
Abolhassan Banisadr, Iran’s first president after the Islamic Revolution, who now lives in France, told IPS that he believes Mousavi’s life is danger. “Many people who have had access to the regime’s secrets or who have tried to reveal them have been murdered,” he said.
Last month, Banisadr published what he says is Mousavi’s 1988 letter of resignation on his website, Enghelab-e Eslami. The letter was addressed to then-President Seyed Ali Khamenei, now Iran’s Supreme Leader. Neither Mousavi nor any of the Iranian government authorities, including the Office of the Supreme Leader, has reacted to the letter’s contents.
In the letter, Mousavi explicitly speaks of terrorist activities carried out abroad and about which he claims his cabinet was not aware. In a part of the letter, Mousavi explains his reason for resignation as his inability to carry out his responsibilities, saying:
“The operations abroad… take place without the cabinet’s knowledge or orders. You know better [than me] of their catastrophic and undesirable consequences for the country. We are informed only after an airplane is hijacked. We learn only after a machine gun opens fire on a Lebanon street and its sound can be heard all over. I am informed only after explosives are found on our pilgrims in Jeddah. Unfortunately, and against all the losses these actions have brought to the country, the likes of these operations could take place at any moment or any hour in the name of the cabinet,” Mousavi’s letter reads.
Recently, on the occasion of Reporters’ Day in Iran, he addressed a group of newspaper editors, journalists, and families of arrested journalists. “We must view the 1988 events through their own historical vantage point and then ask whether the cabinet had any knowledge about these events or not? Did it play a role? Was it possible at all for it to interfere? Is there any mention of the cabinet in the documents and rulings?” said Mousavi.
Banisadr, who was elected Iran’s first president in 1980, fled to Paris after he was impeached by the Iranian Parliament in 1981. In an interview with IPS, he addressed the authenticity of the letter, the dangers facing Mousavi after he threatened to reveal secrets, and the importance of revelations of 1988’s mass political executions in Iran.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: How did you gain access to this letter? A: This letter was published in 1988. We asked our friends to research its authenticity. They told us that it was authentic. Mousavi has not refuted its authenticity during all these years, either.
Q: What was the aim of those who leaked the letter to you? A: We speculated at the time that the letter was leaked from Mr. [Ruhollah] Khomeini’s office [a leader of the 1979 Revolution]. Of course Mousavi himself could have leaked it. Or it could have been through Mr. Khamenei, in order to make Mousavi look bad to Khomeini for revealing the regime’s secrets.
Q: Several government officials have said amid political struggles that there are secrets they do not wish to reveal. How do you think the revelation of these secrets would impact Iran’s internal politics? A: Several people have been murdered in order to prevent the publication of certain secrets. For example, several people were murdered around the “October Surprise”, or the story of the secret dealings about the release of American hostages. Inside Iran, Mr. Mehdi Hashemi, Mr. Omid Najafabadi, and their colleagues were murdered because of the information they had and published about the “Irangate Affair” [also known as Iran-Contra].
Q: Why would Iranian authorities be concerned about what Mousavi might have to say? A: It would destroy their legitimacy on the national level as well as the regional level among Islamic nations.
Q: There is mounting pressure on Mousavi for speaking about the 1988 political executions. How might revelations regarding one of Iran’s darkest periods be costly for him? A: It is definitely dangerous. Mr. Mousavi’s importance to this regime is not more than Ahmad Khomeini’s importance [the late son of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]. Ahmad Khomeini had a lot of information – his own son called him a treasure chest of the regime’s secrets. When he started to make noise, he was eliminated. I believe, just as I did myself, that instead of threatening to say or do things, he must spit out the information spontaneously. This might guarantee him his life, because if they want to touch him then, the people of Iran and the world would say that he was taken out because he revealed the secrets.
Q: Why has Mousavi’s letter’s authenticity not been denied by Iranian authorities? A: Because it is real and authentic. If they say they did them [the incidents described], it would prove that the world was right in calling them a terrorist government. If they want to say they didn’t do them, it would make the world laugh, because these actions did take place. The only thing they have said in the past is that renegade agents have done some things and the regime itself was not in the know. Now an individual who used to be the prime minister at that time is saying that the regime did know and the agents were carrying out orders.
Q: Why hasn’t anything happened to Mousavi yet, even though his nephew was shot dead during the post-election period last year? A: The most important reason is that Mr. Mousavi and Mr. [Mehdi] Karroubi were presidential candidates when that huge electoral fraud took place and the protest movement was formed to object to the election results. This movement was not only in Iran. It engaged the public opinion of the world.
Q: But a lot of people were killed and it was said that organisations such as the M.E.K. or the rioters killed them. A: Those people did not have the same clout as these two presidential candidates who persisted even after the elections. Arrests would not bring a lack of credibility – instead, they would bring credibility.
A text was recently published on behalf of Mr. Khamenei, saying that these two can be arrested anytime he wants, but that he is looking for a chance to convince people that these two [Mousavi and Karroubi] are not what they seem.
Q: What if a subject like the mass executions of 1988 could be comprehensively discussed in Iran? Considering the fact that Ayatollah Khomeini is not alive now… A: It would have an important impact. Mr. Khomeini’s handwritten note exists in which he says to execute the prisoners with a “yes” and “no” answer on a question. Three people are known to have been assigned to do the task. There were also people who encouraged Mr. Khomeini to do this, even though he did not need much encouragement, because he had the motivation. Who were they? Mr. Khamenei was the president, and Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani was the speaker of the Parliament [Majlis].
So, it is obvious that these two did not make the slightest objection to that crime. Were they among the ones that encouraged this, and convinced Mr. Khomeini to commit such a crime? Clarifying this issue is very important. Why? Since now one of those people is the Leader, and another is the Head of Assembly of Experts and the head of the Expediency Council. Mr. Mousavi was the prime minister. Did he know or not? Was he in agreement or not?
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