'I am not afraid of martyrdom,' Iran opposition leader Mousavi declares
The Iranian opposition leader responded to demands for his arrest and execution yesterday by saying that he was ready for martyrdom.
At the end of a week in which his nephew was killed, top aides were arrested and regime supporters demanded his death for sedition, Mir Hossein Mousavi declared: “I’m not afraid to be one of the people’s martyrs in their struggle for their just demands.”
Referring to the scores of opposition activists killed by security forces since June’s disputed presidential election, Mr Mousavi added: “My blood is no redder than theirs.”
In an unusually outspoken statement on his website, Mr Mousavi, defeated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in what his supporters insist was a rigged election, denounced the Government’s violent crackdown and insisted that restoring civil liberties was the only way to resolve the “crisis” facing Iran.
Quoting Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, he said that murdering protesters would only strengthen the opposition’s resolve: “Kill us, we will only become stronger.”
Mr Mousavi has faced intense pressure in recent days to call off seven months of civil disobedience by the so-called Green movement.
His nephew, Seyed Ali Mousavi, was shot dead during massive demonstrations last Sunday in what opposition activists believe was an attempt to silence his uncle. He had already been fired as head of Iran’s Academy of Arts. This week the regime has arrested scores of prominent reformists, including three of Mr Mousavi’s top aides and his brother-in-law.
On Wednesday state-sponsored rallies in Tehran and other cities chanted “Death to Mousavi” and heard repeated calls for him and Mehdi Karoubi, the other opposition leader, to be charged as mohareb, or enemies of God, for which the Sharia punishment is death.
A previously unknown group of vigilantes vowed to kill the opposition leaders unless the courts took action against them and, that night, the state news agency IRNA reported that the two leaders had fled Tehran to escape the people’s wrath — a claim that was swiftly denied.
At Friday prayers in Tehran yesterday the hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati kept up the pressure, demanding that the “heads of sedition” be swiftly punished.
Yesterday’s statement was Mr Mousavi’s response. “An order to execute, murder and imprison [opposition leaders] won’t resolve the problem,” he said. “Assuming you impose silence through arrests, violence, threats and muzzling newspapers and websites, how can you remedy the people’s changed attitudes towards the regime? How can you address its lack of legitimacy?”
He demanded the release of political prisoners, a free press and the right to demonstrate peacefully. He denied wanting to overturn Iran’s constitution, saying: “We want an honest and compassionate government that considers diversity of opinion and the popular vote to be opportunities, not threats.”
Addressing the regime’s charge that he is a puppet of the West, he mocked Mr Ahmadinejad for congratulating President Obama on his election victory. “We are neither Britons nor Americans,” he said. “We have not sent congratulation cards to the leaders of major powers.”
Mr Mousavi’s statement was slapped down by Ahmad Khatami, another hardline cleric. “There is no crisis in the country. You are creating a crisis. Stop it,” the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.