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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Iran's (accidental) Mandela
Mir Hossein Mousavi probably didn't set out to become the leader of the next Iranian revolution, but today, he finds himself a central protagonist in what looks for all the world like a struggle for the soul of Iran. The would-be president, who hasn't been seen in public for a disturbing amount of time and is essentially under house arrest, has the potential, at least on the surface, to become Iran's Nelson Mandela. That's both good news and bad news. The good news is that it means that eventually, he could win. The bad news is that it took Mandela more than 27 years.

The former hardliner who became a reformist during (and mostly after) the disputed election of 2009, defied his captors today. From the BBC:

Iran protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he holds those behind alleged "rigged" elections responsible for bloodshed during recent protests.

In a defiant statement on his website, he called for future protests to be in a way which would not "create tension."

... A BBC correspondent in Tehran says the statement is a direct challenge to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

... "I won't refrain from securing the rights of the Iranian people... because of personal interests and the fear of threats," Mr Mousavi said on the website of his newspaper, Kalameh.

Those who violated the election process "stood beside the main instigators of the recent riots and shed people's blood on the ground", Mr Mousavi said, pledging to show how they were involved.

Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the "recent pressures on me" that are "aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election".

He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.

"My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested," said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.

"These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere," he added.

Of course, there are differences, and the Mandela analogy isn't perfect (it never is.) For one thing, Mousavi is acting with at least the tacit support of very powerful insiders and leading clerics, including would-be "supreme leader" replacement, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and former president Mohammed Khatami, and perhaps the speaker of parliament, who apparently was one of the 180 out of 290 members of Iran's parliament who snubbed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "victory party" this week. Mandela had no such official quasi-sanction. Still, like Mandela, the movement created in part by him has grown beyond Mousavi's person, to become an organic thing on its own, with his leadership, even in what looks like incarceration, combining with the support of people all around the world to give his supporters courage. And courageous they are.

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
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