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What the People Think in Silence - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Regarding the recently held elections in Iran, we are confronted with two views.

According to the government, the 12 June 2009 presidential election mobilized 40 million of the 46 million citizens who are eligible to vote. Of these, twenty-five million are supposed to have voted for the incumbent [president] while Mir-Hussein Mussavi is credited with 13 million votes. Mr. Karrubi’s vote is set at around 300,000, fewer than the number of cancelled ballots.

However, a vast section of our society has a different view. Here, people wonder whether the number of those eligible to vote was not closer to 52 million. They also wonder whether 40 million did really take part in the polls. They ask: was the difference of votes between the president elected by the government on the one hand and Mr. Karrubi, on the other, so great?

There are dozens of other questions. For example, why is it four and a half months later, the popular movement is not fading away?

I believe that, both in imposing the results of the election and in dealing with the popular movement, the government has not achieved its desired results.

The government’s argument is that the election has proceeded in accordance with the law, from the process of nomination to that of dealing with the protests through the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution. However, this narrow, legalistic approach weakens any government, including the government of the Islamic Republic.

The government should know that the trust it has lost cannot be restored by forcing its critics into silence or even “confessions” and taqiyyah (dissimulation) under pressure.

One of the golden rules of government is to make sure that the people’s outer and inner realities are the same. If people hide their true feelings out of fear, we would have a society in which an explosion is being prepared behind a calm surface.

The government claims that its critics are violating the constitution. However, a closer examination would show that it is the government that does not respect the constitution. Our constitution allows for peaceful demonstrations. However, the authorities regard such demonstrations as “threats to national security”.

It seems that, 30 years after the revolution, some people have decided to create a one-party system – one based on a single armed party. In such a system they would then divide citizens into “those who are with us” and” those who are against us.”

The same logic is used to prevent the release of political prisoners. However, filling the prisons with opponents is always a sign of desperation. It is also possible that some people are thrown into prison for settling personal scores. Such acts of revenge are contrary to the national interest. A successful ruler in any system of government is one who reduces the number of his opponents and increases the number of his supporters each day.

My guess is that if Mr. Khatami had become a candidate, he would have drawn very few votes from among the conservatives. Mr. Mussavi, however, was able to appeal to many conservatives and fundamentalist voters, thanks to his electoral platform. The way the elections have turned out has disappointed many of those who came forward to revive the values of the first decade of the revolution.

There was a time when opposition to the regime was limited to the monarchist movement and some terrorist groups. Today, however, even some of the closest forces to the system are classified as opposition. Those who do this do not realize that the system, by constantly losing supporters, may one day find very few people on its side.

We see people being arrested and accused of working with this or that foreign personality and power. Does this mean that our government is so repulsive that so many forces that were in the service of the people have become alienated and attracted to foreigners?

Has our regime become so weak that it fears even the color green? Is it so weak as to consider peaceful marches, without any slogans, a security threat?

The government claims that the opposition has lost its popular support. If that is, indeed, the case, why don’t you allow them to organize peaceful public marches? If the ban is lifted, we shall soon find out whether or not the opposition has really lost popular support.

It is natural that many should suspect that the real reason for the ban is that the government knows that the opposition is the majority.

The events of the past few months have had a heavy cost for the country. However, they have also helped change the way our people see the nation’s internal and external problems.

The government should think of its long-term interests and its own survival by changing its behavior in accordance with the wishes of the people.

* Ayatollah Abdollah Nouri served as the Minister Interior in the administrations of Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami. Many regard him as the most popular leadership figure in the so-called “pro-reform” movement.