It has been 10 years since people took to the streets in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election, fuelling protests that became known as the Green Movement. Throughout the last decade, people have repeatedly judged and analyzed the events of those June days. Some people view it as a turning point in Iranian history and a prelude to popular protests in the Islamic Republic. Others believe it was an impulsive and futile rebellion by the reformists that helped the regime prolong its life for a good many years to come. Supporters of the Islamic Republic refer to it as “the Sedition,” an event that was guided by the “enemies of Islam and Iran.”
Mohammad Taghi Rahbar is a two-term representative to the parliament, interim Friday imam of Isfahan, cultural advisor to the Iranian parliament and a member of the central council of the Combatant Clergy Association, a loosely organized but influential coalition of conservative clergymen. IranWire asked him about the Green Movement and the unrest following the 2009 election.
It has been 10 years since the 2009 presidential election and the series of protests that followed it. Do you think that the Green Movement or, as you call it, the Sedition, is over?
I believe the danger of the Sedition is over. Some people made a mistake and there is no doubt that they are now remorseful. They either made a mistake or they were deceived. I hope these individuals have come to their senses and are apologizing to God and to the nation. Today we do not see any root or branch of what went on. So the Sedition and those events have gone away.
But the leaders of the Green Movement are still under house arrest. Don’t you think that as long as they are under house arrest, it’s not possible to say the Green Movement is over? Shouldn’t the government make a decision about them?
I leave this to the authorities. I have no specific opinion about it and we should leave the decision to qualified authorities. We support and accept any decision by them.
Supporters of the Green Movement claim the 2009 election was fraudulent and offer some evidence for this claim, including speeches made by a handful of Revolutionary Guards in 2009 at private gatherings, which have been published by the media and online in recent days. Don’t you think it’s possible that cheating went on in the 2009 election?
Look, I have not seen these videos and I am not going back to 10 years ago. Doing this would be like pouring fuel on the fire. It’s better to leave this in the past where it belongs. In any case, what happened was a bad move and the enemy took advantage of it. Whether there was fraud or not, let us leave it aside. Now it's better not to fan the flame of such arguments.
Don’t you think that if, instead of using force and suppressing the protests in 2009, had the government responded to the protests in a reasonable and acceptable way then the protesters in early 2018 would have found other ways to express their political and economic complaints? And people would not have lost their lives?
These things happen in every country. There is no doubt that in other countries their regimes would have responded more harshly to protesters. I believe the Iranian regime treated protesters with moderation, it respected their dignity and saved their lives. When such a thing happens and blood is spilled, of course the enemy takes advantage of it. This is not something that you can easily ignore.
As I said, I do not want to get into such arguments. Suffice to say that the regime treated them in moderation. Anywhere else the response would been gallows and firing squads. At least in our country they respected their dignity. Things happened but I want to tell you that reopening this subject benefits nobody — not the country, not the regime and not those gentlemen. We better leave this to judicial authorities so they can decide whichever way they want.
But this subject is still a live topic for a part of the society or, at least, for a part of the political system. The reformists still believe that the 2009 election was fraudulent and the court is now processing a case against Mohammad Reza Khatami [the younger brother of the former President Khatami and a reformist politician, who has claimed that ballot-stuffing occurred during the 2009 election]. Don’t you think claims by the reformists — who are part of the system — must be heard?
I must point to a more important Issue. I believe that today, when we are facing foreign enemies, we must declare a ceasefire in the civil war between the reformists and the principlists. We must not fight each other. We are all in the same tent and we are all standing around the same flag. I believe that we must try for coalition, cooperation, harmony and reducing tensions. Today we need harmony and cooperation more than ever.
I must also point out that not every reformist agrees with such moves. There might be some who are extremists. I socialize with many reformists and we are friends, the same way that I am friends with principlists. I believe these tensions must be eased and those events should be investigated in their own right. But today unity and solidarity are more important than anything else.
As a principlist and as a member of the Combatant Clergy Association’s council, why don’t you give the same advice about moderation, solidarity and unity to the judiciary so that, for instance, they might be less harsh at the present time? Why, contrary to your advice, is the judiciary is not taking steps to reduce tensions?
I do not interfere in the affairs of the judiciary and the decisions of judicial authorities. Nor do I make comments about them because my views would be unprofessional and not based on an understanding of the law. But my advice is that today we must remove tensions and safeguard our unity and solidarity. If there are disagreements why do we not sit down and talk it over together? What would be wrong if the principlist leaders and the reformist leaders gather together and talk like brothers? We were all in the same trenches. After all, anybody who is in the regime follows Velayat-e Faqih [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist]. They support Imam’s goals and Imam’s directives. We might have differences of opinion but we can talk about them and come to an understanding. At the moment, we need to talk among ourselves. But, I repeat, I do not interfere in judicial affairs and I leave these to the judiciary.
In recent days reformist figures such as Mohammad Khatami and Mostafa Tajzadeh [former President Khatami’s interior minister] have said that, under the current conditions, people will not go to the polls in the next election. What is your opinion?
Look, I believe we must not lose hope. Let us not inject people with despair. People are wise when it comes to their national, human and religious duties. People will come. We must not preach despair. I believe we must give hope. God willing, people will come forward in the next election. We must not make pessimistic predictions. People will certainly go to the polls.
Secret Speeches Suggest IRGC Rigged 2009 Election, June 12, 2019
The Guards Need “the Sedition" to Survive, September 16, 2017
Will Iran's Green Leaders Ever be Free?, June 2, 2017
View from Iran: The Green Movement, June 23, 2015
What Happened to the Green Movement?, June 19, 2015
The Legacy of the Green Movement, June 18, 2015
MPs Push for Trial of Green Movement Leaders, January 7, 2015