Iranian publicist (in Germany) criticizes state of things in Tehran

2009/12/28

Broadcasted by public radio channel “Deutschlandfunk” on December 28 2009
Source (German): http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/interview_dlf/1094596/

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.

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

Nirumand:
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.

Engels:
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?

Nirumand:
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”]

Engels:
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?

Nirumand:
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.

Engels:
What do you expect for the next days?

Nirumand:
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.

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