Two former senior officials in Iran have called for political change in the Islamic Republic in light of the protests triggered by the death of activist Mahsa Amini while in police custody last year. The 22-year-old died while in the custody of the morality police in Tehran, having been arrested on the pretext of not adhering to the strict dress code.
"What is evident today is widespread discontent," said former President Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005. "We need to use non-violent civil society methods to force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms." Unfortunately, he added, there is no sign of the ruling system's desire for reform and avoiding the mistakes of the past and present. "Nevertheless, the people are sick of the current [political] system."
In December, Khatami expressed his support for the protests. He stressed the need not to "put freedom and security against each other" and to acknowledge the "wrong aspects of governance in Iran."
Meanwhile, opposition figure and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi expressed his belief that, "Iran and Iranians are in need of and ready for a fundamental transformation, the borders of which were drawn by the Woman, Life, Freedom movement." Local media reported his website statement widely yesterday.
Mousavi served as prime minister between 1981 and 1989. He referred in his comments to the main slogan raised by the protesters who have taken to the streets since 16 September last year.
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The former prime minister said that the protests are taking place amidst "interdependent… economic, environmental, social, legal, cultural and media crises." He called for a "free and fair referendum on the need to draft a new constitution" and for Iran to get the message that the current political system is "unsustainable".
The 80-year-old Mousavi was a candidate in the 2009 presidential election, which resulted in the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When he and the other candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, condemned the widespread election fraud they led protests known as the Green Movement. The two dissidents and their wives have been under house arrest since the beginning of 2011.
"Iranians have the right to make fundamental revisions in order to overcome crises and pave the way for freedom, justice, democracy and development," added Mousavi. "The leaders' refusal to take the smallest step towards realising the rights of citizens as defined in the constitution… has discouraged the community from carrying out reforms."