“Head of the Day”: Mehdi Karroubi – an unflinching man of beliefs
Published in “Financial Times Deutschland” on December 28 2009
Source (German): http://www.ftd.de/politik/international/:kopf-des-tages-mehdi-karrubi-unbeirrbarer-ueberzeugungstaeter/50054849.html?src=rss#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss_feed&utm_campaign=/politik
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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.