The current show-trials in Iran against reformists are a farce.
The televised “confessions” of Sayyed Mohammad Ali Abtahi, vice-president under Mr Khatami, and Mohammad Atrianfar, a newspaper editor close to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, purporting to establish that Iran has just aborted a western-backed “velvet revolution”, are chilling evidence of how far the theocrats are willing to go.
Their conspiracy thesis is nonsense. Former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani – the arch-fixer and chameleon of Iranian politics – and Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the former prime minister robbed at the polls after an extraordinary surge of support, are the offspring of the revolution. They seek the reform of the Islamic Republic, not to overthrow it. As Mehdi Karroubi, former Majlis speaker and presidential candidate, told the Spanish daily El Pais this week: “Our dispute is about the elections; we are not questioning the system.”
But that distinction is no longer sustainable. Mr Khamenei’s reckless gamble, and the protean movement of pent-up anger and protest it has provoked, have changed everything. The tattered democratic veil of the republic has been torn away and nothing stands between the regime and a young and impatient people, hungry for change, desperate for jobs and despairing of reform.