Leaders of Iran

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Hojatoleslam Heidar Moslehi Defends Basij

RFE/RL Iran Report: "KHORRAMABAD: ONE MORE REPORT COMING. So far, 150 people have been arrested in connection with the late-August clashes in Khorramabad between a reformist student group, hardline vigilantes, and security forces, the Luristan Province Law Enforcement Forces chief said at the beginning of October. But questions, accusations, and counter-accusations persist, although two investigatory bodies have released their findings already. The most recent report -- by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) -- has been criticized by hardliners, the earlier state inspectorate's report was criticized by reformists and the SNSC, and a parliamentary report is due in mid-October. And all the contradictory findings by official bodies are undermining public confidence and increasing the masses' cynicism.

The state inspectorate (National Control and Inspection Organization) findings, which were released in mid-September, immediately came under fire from reformist observers (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 September 2000). Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, under whom the inspectorate operates, rejected the complaints and said the report was "valid and well-documented," IRNA reported on 17 September. The next day, he demanded the punishment of those involved in the riots and who destroyed property.

The SNSC rejected the inspectorate's investigation and its mid-September report. The SNSC presented its own findings on 27 September, following an investigation by officials from the Interior Ministry, the Intelligence and Security Ministry, the Law Enforcement Forces, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the Basij Mobilization Forces.

According to IRNA, the report said that the gathering of the Office for Strengthening Unity (OSU, or Daftar-i Tahkim-i Vahdat, the largest pro-Khatami student organization) was licensed but that the place and time were "inappropriate." The report condemned the provincial security council for its failure to plan for contingencies, security officials were condemned for poor crisis management, and the report recommended that IRGC and Basij personnel who got involved in the unrest should face legal action. Speakers at the student gathering were condemned for a "lack of due consideration of the religious and Islamic beliefs of the Iranian nation." State broadcasting also reported on the SNSC's findings, which said that Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh's reference to hardline protesters at Khorramabad airport as "fascists" was conveyed to the protesters themselves by provocateurs. There also were references to a "third current" which provoked some of the unrest.

The SNSC report was criticized by the Supreme Leader's representative to the Basij, Hojatoleslam Heidar Moslehi, in a letter that was reprinted in the 2 October "Jomhuri-yi Islami." He denied some of the allegations about the Basij and the IRGC and asked "what could possibly be the purpose of that report other than tarnishing the image of the [IRGC] and the Basij?" The letter went on to suggest that "certain [unnamed] individuals" are trying to undermine confidence in "revolutionary institutions." IRGC and Basij representatives to the SNSC's investigatory committee pointed out inconsistencies between the committee's findings and the report's final conclusions. In a letter to the Interior Minister that was reproduced in the 3 October "Entekhab," second brigadier-generals Qasem Qajavand and Ahmad Ruzbani said the content and phraseology of the report was changed 34 times, so they "object[ed] to the contents of the published document."

Habibollah Asgarowladi-Mosalman of the hardline Islamic Coalition Association added, in the 4 October "Resalat," that the OSU and the pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party must answer for what happened in Khorramabad. Shiraz parliamentarian Ahmad Shirzad told the 1 October "Iran" that after seeing both earlier reports it was clear that some subjects had been avoided by the investigators. The inspectorate's report was hastily prepared he added, and state broadcasting's coverage of the SNSC report was "totally different from the actual text."

A parliamentary report on Khorramabad is due in mid-October. Khorramabad reporter Abbas Darvand told RFE/RL's Persian Service that the parliamentary investigation found that local Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam Seyyed Kazem Husseini-Mianji, aided by local broadcast media, stirred up trouble. But as Shushtar representative Mohammad Ali Sheikh told "Iran," "there is no single point of reference which enjoys public acceptability." (Bill Samii)"

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