Iran opposition leader says reform movement alive

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi said on Sunday the reform movement was alive despite pressure from the clerical establishment which he said was suppressing students, his website reported.

Mousavi’s remarks, a day before Iran plans to commemorate the killing of three students in 1953 under the former Shah, may encourage his supporters to hijack the state-organized rallies to revive anti-government protests.

“Let’s say you suppressed students and silenced them. What will you do with the social realities?” Mousavi’s Kaleme website quoted him as saying, in a clear reference to wide arrests of students in Tehran and other cities in the past few days.

“You (the authorities) do not tolerate the student day rallies. What will you do on the following days?” Mousavi said, suggesting that street-protests will continue.

Iran’s presidential vote returned hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power with a wide margin. But his reformist opponents cried foul and thousands of people took to the streets in the biggest anti-government protests in 30 years.

Authorities deny vote-rigging and portrayed the post- election unrest as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the state.

Police and elite Revolutionary Guards have warned that any “illegal” rally will be fiercely confronted on Monday.

The opposition, which relies on its websites or mobile phone text messages to reach its supporters, has called on people to gather on Student Day on Monday near Tehran University, where the main state-rally will be held. Internet connections have been slowed or completely down in the past days.


Iran on Saturday banned foreign media from reporting on the planned rallies on Monday. Journalists working for foreign media have been banned from reporting from December 7 to December 9.

Reformist website Mowjcamp has warned of the possibility of clashes between security forces and demonstrators on Monday.

In September, opposition demonstrators clashed with government backers and police at annual pro-Palestinian rallies. Security forces also clashed with supporters of Mousavi in Tehran on November 4 during an anti-U.S. rally.

Mousavi said suppressing the nation would not keep Ahmadinejad in power.

“After all these pressures, the (reform) movement has not ended...Believing that someone could rule the people despite their will is just a hallucination,” Mousavi said.

“The nation cannot tolerate their votes being stolen.”

The election dispute also exposed deep rifts within the normally opaque political and religious establishment.

Influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of Ahmadinejad who challenged the poll results, accused Iran’s hardline rulers of “silencing any constructive criticism by closing the door on any criticism.”

“The situation in the country is such that constructive criticism is not accepted,” Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA news agency on Sunday.

“Those who demonstrate or protest must express themselves through legal means. Leaders must also respect the law.”

The reformist opposition says more than 70 people were killed in post-election violence. Officials say the death toll was half that and included Basij militiamen.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi