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Iran's Ex-President Warns Of A Cycle of Violence Between People And Government

Mohammad Khatami, known as a reformist politician was Iran's president from 1997-2005. FILE PHOTO

Ex-president of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Khatami, has warned that people in Iran might resort to violence as an answer to their state of hopelessness and despair. He has also warned that a "cycle of reciprocal violence between the people and the government" could occur in the clergy-dominated Iran.

In an "online speech", the mid-ranking cleric reiterated that the community may "express its dissatisfaction through violence to get rid of frustration and despair. Khatami has argued that the government for its part may resort to reciprocal violence and create an unending cycle.

"The cycle will cause more hatred and violence on both sides, creating numerous complications", Khatami insisted.

Khatami has been largely banned from appearing in the tightly-controlled Iranian media and in public events since 2017, but it seems the hardliner-dominated regime occasionally allows him to speak out of political expediency.

While the former President warns on "reciprocal violence" almost all anti-establishment protests in recent years have been heavy-handedly suppressed by the country's security forces and intelligence agents.

In recent years, human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned harsh crackdowns on protests in Iran. One of the bloodiest episodes of unrest occurred last November, leaving thousands of casualties.

Almost six months after the mid-November uprising that shook Iran for almost a week, the Islamic Republic government still refuses to officially announce the number of people killed. Reuters estimated that 1,500 protesters were killed by security forces.

Numerous videos and photos showed the people were unarmed and security forces used military weapons against pockets of protesters. Islamic Republic officials have so far admitted that about ten of its security forces were killed in the protests.

The country’s ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also described the protesters as "thugs", supported by Iran's last royal family, including the former Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi who lives in exile.

Nonetheless, even several members of the so-called reformist camp within the Islamic Republic ruling circle expressed concern that the mid-November unrest was a protest to "lack of civil liberties" in the Islamic republic.

Following the protests, a renowned Islamic theologian, Abdul Karim Soroush, warned in a speech that there would be an increase in violence by protesters and even a group of people might take up arms if the government did not address their tribulations and demands.

With Iran’s economy in deep crisis due to U.S. sanctions and recently under more pressure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some fear renewed protests in the coming months.

Referring to a barrage of conservative attacks on his old proposal for "national reconciliation", Khatami maintained that had the offer been accepted, the situation would have been better, today.

Mohammad Khatami's plan for national reconciliation was categorically rejected in February 2017 by the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Some people talk about national reconciliation; however, that does not make sense to me," Khamenei said, sarcastically adding, "The people are already united. So why do you talk about reconciliation? Are the people against each other?"

Almost a year after Khatami's proposal was insolently rejected, tens of thousands of protesters poured into more than 100 cities across Iran in December 2017-January 2018, chanting slogans against the twin camps dominating the country.

"Reformists! Fundamentalists! Your days are over!" they roared.

At the same time, Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs, Hossein Zolfaqari, acknowledged that the January protests were the reflection of the people's will to leave all political factions of the country behind.

Although economic issues triggered the protests in late 2017 and early 2018, the main slogans of the protesters were directly against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, the government, the clergy, corruption, and mismanagement.