Published in “Spiegel” on December 28 2009
Source (German):,1518,669239,00.html

German federal chancellor Merkel has criticized the brutal actions of Iranian security forces, calling them “unacceptable”. She called on the government in Tehran to seek dialogue instead of further escalating the conflict. In violent clashes, at least eight people were killed.

Tehran/Berlin – The federal government has bashed the actions of Iran’s security forces. Federal chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) called on Iran to not restrict nor violently suppress people’s right of free expression in peaceful demonstrations. The leadership in Tehran is called to prevent further escalation and to seek political dialogue. She denounced the violent actions of the security forces against demonstrators as “unacceptable”.

Several people were killed, many were injured in street fights in Tehran and other Iranian cities. “I extend my sympathy to the families of the victims”, said Merkel in Berlin. Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle (FDP) joined the chancellor in her criticism. On Monday he condemned the “brutal actions” of the Iranian authorities. Tehran must comply with its obligations to protect the civil and political rights of its citizens. “The international community will be watching, and will not look away,” said Westerwelle.

Tehran arrests prominent oppositionists
Dissidents on the internet had called attention to the brutal actions of the security forces, and already on Sunday they spoke of several deaths. However, this information was initially not officially confirmed. The Iranian state TV only on Monday announced that eight people were killed in the protests. Other, unconfirmed reports mentioned 15 deaths.

Moreover, Tehran has arrested several prominent opposition members, among them a former foreign minister and several confidants of former reformist president Mohammad Khatami and opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi. Two of the arrested were heads of Khatami’s NGO Baran. Three others are Moussavi’s advisors. This was reported by the website of the oppositional members of parliament, Parleman News.

Also, the dissident internet site Rahe Sabz reported the arrest of opposition member Ebrahim Yazdi on Monday. The report says that Yazdi was transferred to an undisclosed location after he was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry last week, but did not show up. Yazdi had been a Minister of Foreign Affairs shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. He is known as a an acrimonious opponent to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The award winning human rights activist and journalist Emadeddin Baghi has also been arrested.

Corpse of Moussavi’s nephew has disappeared
Thousands of dissidents had taken to the streets on Sunday, using the Shiite Ashoura festival for their protests against Ahmadinejad. The security forces of the government initially fired warning shots into the air, later they used tear gas and batons against the crowds. Eventually, they shot directly at the protesters, according to eyewitnesses and the oppositional web site Rahe Sabz.
Opposition politician Mahdi Karroubi on his website critiziced the actions of the police on Sunday and declared, even the Shah had respected the holy festival of Ashoura. Already in early December, the government of Ahmadinejad had warned the demonstrators that it would resort to “merciless force”.

One of the victims is the nephew of opposition leader Moussavi. According to an advisor of Moussavi, Ali Moussavi died in hospital of his gunshot wounds. However, according to his family, his body has disappeared from the hospital, said Seyyed Reza Moussavi, the brother of the victim, on the website Parleman News. “Nobody takes the responsibility for the disappearance of the body. We can not hold a funeral until we find him.”


Broadcasted by public radio channel “Deutschlandfunk” on December 28 2009
Source (German):

Bahman Nirumand in an interview with Silvia Engels

The Iranian regime is in a situation of entrapment, says Bahman Nirumand. The writer and publicist was born in Tehran and has been living in Germany for many years. He adds, however, that the opposition is also facing threats of fragmentation.

Silvia Engels:
Yesterday, religious Shiites held the festival of Ashura, which for representatives of the Shiite orientation of Islam is one of the most important religious festivals. The opposition in Iran used the ceremonies for more protests against the government of president Ahmadinejad. Foreign journalists were not allowed to cover the events, which is why there are diverging reports on the incidents. What seems certain, though, is that some demonstrators were killed.
Bahman Nirumand was born in Tehran and has been living in Germany and in Iran. Initially, he had protested against the arbitrariness of the Shah regime and had to flee. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979 he returned, but it only took a few years until he had to leave Iran again for his criticism. Currently, he lives in Germany. Good morning, Mr Nirumand.

Bahman Nirumand:
Good morning, Ms Engels.

You still have connections with Iran. What did you hear about the protests of last night?

It is absolutely clear that yesterday’s protests represent a qualitative leap. The behaviour shown by the protesters was much more radical than in previous demonstrations, thus things are developing dramatically, so to speak, advancing at a frantic pace. It is difficult to predict how the situation will continue, what will be the outcome. In any case, I believe that the regime is in a dilemma. On the one hand, they are, in my view, no longer able to finish off with the demonstrations and simply massacre the protesters, although many deaths are said to have occured. However, they do not dare to use the military, because that might cause a rift within the military. They can not give in either, because it is long too late for that. The Iranian regime is in a situation of entrapment.

Let us have a look at the state of the power struggle that goes on within the Iranian leadership. Some months ago it was already noticeable that there were quite different views about the course within the establishment. What are your observations? Is there still a power struggle going on behind the scenes?

Yes. This power struggle had started already prior to the elections in June and is now continuing, to an extent that this establishment, this leadership is actually disrupted. There is no clear leadership anymore. Considering that presidents, speakers of parliament, members of parliament, persons who used to be in key positions, today belong to the opposition, considering that a president like Khatami can not even finish his speech because he is interrupted by attacks of the Hezbollah – on Sunday he had to quit his speech and leave the room – you can no longer call this a leadership of the state. The radicalism displayed by Ahmadinejad again yesterday is like a cry of despair. [translator’s note: literal translation would be “cry in the woods”]

Mr Nirumand, let us also talk about the other side then, since the opposition is probably in the process of radicalization, something that you mentioned before. Comparing today’s protests with those of June, people might not take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands as before, however, those who take to the streets are prepared to face violence, and act violently. Is the opposition facing its fragmentation?

Yes, this is a huge danger, for as you know: Mir Hossein Moussavi, the former prime minister and defeated candidate for the elections, as well as the other defeated candidate, Karroubi, they used to be the leaders [of the opposition], and they had repeatedly emphasized that they operate within the framework of the constitution, that they actually just call for reforms and demand free elections. They expressed demands that fit in with the framework of the constitution. In yesterday’s protests, however, we saw clearly that the direction [of the people’s demands] goes beyond the system, the protests directly attack the revolutionary leader Khamenei, and people want a different system.

What do you expect for the next days?

Probably there will be attempts to establish a consensus within the opposition. Nobody knows if these attempts will succeed. On the other hand, the leadership – or what is left of it – will have to find ways of coping with the situation. Iran is now in a very difficult situation, this is true both for the opposition and for the leadership, and we have to wait and see how things will develop. I do not think that anybody can make specific predictions right now. In addition, there are several international issues, the foreign policy, that have now reached a dead end as well. Therefore, it is very difficult to make a definite statement about Iran’s future at this point.

Published in “Financial Times Deutschland” on December 28 2009
Source (German):

Serial of Financial Times Germany “Head of the Day” – the driving forces behind the news: portraits of figures from politics and economy

By Silke Mertins

He is the only reformist politician in Iran who still dares to publicly condemn the actions of the regime – a dangerous tightrope walk, for Karroubi is facing massive threats. His combatants have already been arrested.

In his white turban, the light brown robe, and the neatly trimmed beard, Mehdi Karroubi does not quite resemble a challenger to the Iranian regime of the mullahs. In fact, however, the 72 year old reformist politician these days turns out to be a tenacious opposition leader, moreover, practically the only opposition leader in the entire country.

The government “released a group of barbarians on the people,” he indignantly stated on Monday. Ironically, on the highest Shiite holiday, the feast of Ashura, the government has shed the blood of their own people, he fulminated after the violence against opposition demonstrators. This was something that not even the Shah dared to do, he said.
Comparing Iran of today with the time of the Shah is a sheer formidability in the Islamic Republic. All the more remarkable that Karroubi, of all, dared to say this. After all, his associates and advisers have already been arrested, his offices were destroyed, and his small newspaper was closed.

And still, the theologian from western Iran, who was the speaker of parliament under the reformist president Khatami twice, is not easily intimidated. Unimpressed, he blames the security forces of torture and rape of detained opposition supporters, and now is facing imprisonment.
Imprisonment is something that Karroubi can relate to. Under the Shah – who in Iran is the epitome of evil – he was imprisoned nine times. Most likely he himself experienced rough methods of interrogation and torture. However, Karroubi is of a different stamp than most people. What gives him strength is not only his conviction that we – like Imam Hossein, who was commemorated on the day of the Ashoura festival on Monday – must suffer for our beliefs. His detentions have taught him that it is possible to survive such a nightmare.

His active role in the Islamic Revolution makes him immune to some degree. Until now, the regime does not dare to touch an old man who is so closely connected with the founding of the Islamic Republic. His arrest could be a spark to trigger an explosion.

Nevertheless, calls for his arrest and detention are getting louder within the hardliner camp. In court, he dryly countered, he would have a suitable opportunity to speak about the atrocities – atrocities that “let the Shah look good.”
Karroubi, who stands for a widening gap between the opposition movement, the masses on the streets, and the leadership, is far from giving up. Twice already, he campaigned as a presidential candidate. Should there be another chance in Iran for free elections, he would undoubtedly run for office again. Karroubi is a man of beliefs.