As the second act of the post-electoral drama unfolds in Iran, internal weaknesses are exposed more clearly than ever before. Behind the facade of victory lie deep divisions among the top clergy about what an Islamic government should be composed of and how it should treat its citizens.
Ayatollah Ali Montazeri – who is not a state official but has great religious authority in Iran – addressed “top officials” directly when he wrote: “At least have the courage to admit this is neither an Islamic state nor a republic.”
The former head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, addresses the head of the powerful expediency council: “Mr Rafsanjani, you did not perform your Islamic or revolutionary duties.” Ayatollah Mojtahed Shabestary, an influential conservative cleric, says in the Friday prayers in the north-western city of Tabriz: “People are awaiting the trials of the leaders of the riots and if they do not repent they must receive the harshest punishment.” Clearly the Islamic daggers are no longer hidden. Behind the long black cloak the second act shows the clergy in full fighting spirit, and thus reveals a regime falling apart from within.
It is seen as a regime that is happy to lie and deceive, to detain and torture, to threaten to kill to get false confessions, and to do all that in the name of Islam. Ayatollah Mehdi Karoubi, who was a presidential candidate, speaks directly of show trials, torture and rape of the detainees in prisons. He demands an investigation and threatens to bring witnesses to give evidence, but his accusations have been rejected. Former president Khatami rejects all accusations, saying they had made a mockery of Islamic justice. Rafsanjani calls for “rational” thinking.
But most symbolically, the regime’s weakness was revealed in its treatment of Saeed Hajarian – the main strategist of the reform movement. Hajarian who survived an assassination attempt in 2000, is partially paralysed, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. Despite that the regime fears him. He was made to confess that he was the mastermind of the post-electoral rallies. Someone else read out his statement in court because he is unable to speak.
Montazeri is right to say this is neither an Islamic state nor a republic. But then it was Ayatollah Montazeri who designed the Islamic Republic’s political structure that called for the full power of the supreme leader, thereby automatically contradicting the idea of a republic. Those contradictions ignored 30 years ago will increasingly reveal themselves in the months ahead.