Referring to the recent widespread protests in more than 100 cities across Iran, former President Mohammad Khatami has urged Tehran authorities on January 16 to listen to people’s demands and avoid humiliating them.
In a message of condolences for the disaster of the Iranian oil tanker Sanchi, Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005, mentioned the bloody protests in passing.
Sanchi, carrying 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, exploded and sank last Sunday after more than a week listing off the coast of China. All aboard are presumed dead.
“The enemy grabs any opportunity” to damage the country, Khatami said, but “all state institutions must accept their share of blame” for the “shortcomings” highlighted by the recent protests, Khatami said.
Khatami’s comment echoed comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attributing the uprising to the “enemy,” namely the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Khatami called for creating an environment in which people could safely express their wishes and demands without any stammering or hesitation.
The message, published online, also maintains, “Without endangering the country’s stability,” people should be free to hold official institutions responsible, force them to correct and reform their attitudes, and address people’s problems by designing wise and measured plans.
Khatami had previously been criticized for keeping silent through weeks of protests that left more than 20 dead.
Based on official figures, more than 400 people are still behind bars, many of them barred from contact with their families.
In fact, no one knows exactly how many protesters were arrested and how many have been released. Estimates of arrests go as high as 5,000. There are no independent human rights monitors in Iran.
Advocating citizen rights and accusing the ruling system of abuses usually lands activists in jail.
Apparently referring to the detainees, Khatami urged the leaders to avoid adding insult to injury lest people lose their confidence in official state proclamations and the voting system.
Losing their confidence in the ruling system, Khatami cautioned, might lead them to media outlets and groups that do not have good intentions for the country. This is a general reference to opposition and independent voices, which criticize or reject the Islamic Republic.
The former president also took the opportunity to repeat his call for national and social solidarity, which has been repeatedly dismissed as unwarranted by Khamenei.
“Iran belongs to all Iranians and responsible state institutions, who have achieved their credibility and legitimacy from the people, and are accountable to these people. They have the responsibility to respect the people,” Khatami concluded.
Earlier, conservative Friday Prayer leader of the capital, Tehran, mid-ranking clergy Kazem Sadiqi, described the recent protesters as garbage and trash.