The top leader of Iran’s Green Movement has issued a statement from house arrest demanding those responsible for “ordering and carrying out” the bloody crackdown on protesters to be publicly identified and prosecuted.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who as a top presidential candidate challenged the controversial reelection of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, has been under house arrest since 2011.
Mousavi called the widespread use of force against protesters in mid-November “an obvious crime”. In unprecedently harsh words directed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said, “agents and shooters of November 2019 were the representatives of a religious government” and their “commander in chief” is the “Supreme Leader with absolute powers”.
Mousavi’s statement was issued on Saturday November 30 in the Green Movement affiliated Kalameh website.
The Islamic Republic leadership suddenly tripled the price of gasoline on November 15 and widespread protests broke out across the country. On the second day the government in a comprehensive news blackout shut down internet connection for 95 percent of users in the country.
In the following days as information began to leak out it became obvious that lethal force was used extensively in the first days of the protests. Amnesty International estimates at least 161 protesters were killed, but a person close to Mousavi’s movement put the number at 366.
In his statement Mousavi also says protests “show widespread disillusionment among groups of society who are desperate over conditions prevailing in the country” and adds that the reaction of the authorities of the protests “is completely similar to the pitiless killing of the people” in the summer of 1978 during the Iranian revolution. Analysts believe the decision to fire at protesters in Zhaleh square in Tehran sealed the fate of the monarchy, which was overthrown a few months later.
Drawing more similarities between 2019 and 1978, Mousavi says, “The murderers of 78 were representatives of a non-religious government and the shooters of 2019 are representatives of a religious regime. There the chief commander was the Shah and here today is the Supreme Leader with absolute powers”.
Two days earlier, Mehdi Karrubi, another presidential candidate in the 2009 who had challenged Ahmadinejad’s reelection and is also under house arrest, released a similar statement condemning violence by security forces.
In 2009, Iran witnessed mass protests for weeks, but Khamenei backed the questionable election result in favor of Ahmadinejad. The popular outburst became known as the Green Movement.
Both Mousavi and Karrubi enjoyed widespread support at the time but refrained from urging people to direct the protests at the very existence of the Islamic Republic and try to establish a new form of government. When during the Arab Spring they renewed calls for more protests, both put under house arrest.
The degree of Mousavi’s or Karrubi’s popularity now is not clear, but the protest movement lacks a central leadership. Their statements can be received positively by ordinary people and can carry some weight in putting pressure on Khamenei and his supporters whose legitimacy has been further eroded by the bloodshed.