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Reformists Gather To Press Rouhani On House Arrests, Economy

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani meeting with Mohammad Reza Aref and other reformists. File photo
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani meeting with Mohammad Reza Aref and other reformists. File photo

In a rare meeting earlier this week with President Hassan Rouhani, members of his reformist political block criticized the president, demanding he intervene to end the house arrest of fellow reformists, create a more significant role for the vice president, and oversee better economic management.

“President Rouhani was reminded of the necessity of keeping his presidential campaign promises,” mid-ranking cleric and former Interior Minister Abdullah Nouri told Mehr News Agency (MNA) April 19. “The outcome of the meeting depends on Rouhani’s reaction. In other words, the ball is in Rouhani’s court. He is the one expected to respond positively to civil society’s demands.”

In addition to Nouri, in attendance at the meeting at Rouhani’s residence were former President Mohammad Khatami, current Vice President Ishaq Jahangiri, and former speaker of the parliament and the head of the Supreme Leader’s Inspection Office, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri.

The group criticized Rouhani for Iran’s poor economic performance and called on him to tap Vice President Jahangiri’s managerial expertise to help improve the country’s economy. Jahangiri holds a PhD. in industrial management and is viewed by the reformists as an under-utilized resource in the Rouhani administration.

Rouhani was also taken to task for not doing more to end the house arrest of reformist politicians who challenged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential elections and protested his controversial victory in what became know as the Green Movement—five months of popular demonstrations that left several dead and hundreds arrested.

Among those still under house arrest are former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard.

In February 2011, Karroubi and Mousavi, along with their wives, were confined to their houses after they called for street demonstrations in solidarity with the Arab Spring pro-democracy movements in Egypt and Tunisia. Fatemeh Karroubi was later freed, but the other three remained under house arrest.

In a speech at his non-profit institution, BARAN, Khatami spoke directly to Rouhani, saying of the house arrests, “The problem should be solved. Go and tackle it.” [WHEN?]

Khatami is not the first prominent figure in the reformist camp who is not satisfied with Rouhani’s passive approach regarding the house arrest of the Green Movement’s leaders. Earlier, Parliament’s First Deputy Speaker Massoud Pezeshkian had also lambasted Rouhani for “not doing enough” to end the house arrests. “National harmony will never be achieved unless the house arrest is lifted,” Pezeshkian said.

“We are into the eighth year of the house arrests,”Karroubi’s wife Fatemah, a former MP herself, noted on a website promoting the Green Movement, Kalemeh. “It is sad that Rouhani has not taken any steps toward securing the rights of house detainees, ignoring his promises during his presidential campaigns in 2009 and 2013.”

She further chided Rouhani that with only three years left in his administration, his broken promises are “the root of the people’s despair.”