Iran's Mousavi issues charter, seeks radical reforms on clerical rule

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 16, 2010; 2:18 PM

TEHRAN -- An Iranian opposition leader and a key dissident called this week for radical reforms in the country's system of Shiite Muslim clerical rule, as they sought to rally a beleaguered grass-roots movement that has been decimated by a harsh government crackdown in the year since the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who ran against Ahmadinejad in the June 12, 2009, presidential election, published a political charter Tuesday that attempts, for the first time, to unite the opposition movement behind a clear set of goals.

The charter emerged a day after dissident politician Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former top Interior Ministry official, issued a controversial letter calling for apologies for what he described as the government's mistakes since the 1979 Islamic revolution, including the killing and jailing of political foes.

Both men proposed radical reforms in the way Iran is ruled but stopped short of urging the abolition of the country's system of Islamic governance.

The proposals come as the opposition marks the first anniversary of Ahmadinejad's proclaimed landslide election victory, which led to months of demonstrations and fierce street battles between security forces and urban protesters belonging to what became known as the Green Movement.

But the opposition movement, named after Mousavi's campaign color, has come to be seen as leaderless and disorganized, with no clear common goals and no answer to a harsh government crackdown that has landed many of its key figures in prison.

Now, Mousavi said, the new charter can be used as a guideline for the movement's supporters. He stressed that the opposition should be nonviolent and adhere to the Islamic Republic's constitution, which he said is not being implemented by Iran's leaders.

Many protesters have said they seek the downfall of the country's rulers, some of them unelected clerics whose powers are enshrined in the constitution. Mousavi's charter tries to soften such demands by emphasizing that the constitution and laws are not "eternal and unchangeable documents."

The movement wants to return power to people through free elections, demands equality for women, minorities and other ethnic groups and promotes "compassionate religion," Mousavi said.

"This document is only the first step, and, during its evolution, the Green Movement will create a better and more complete set of guidelines," Mousavi wrote in the statement distributed on the Internet and in leaflets.

Tajzadeh, one of the main ideologues of the banned Islamic Iran Participation Front, lamented in his letter what he described as dark episodes in the 31-year history of the Islamic Republic.

A former official in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Interior Ministry in governments that preceded the Ahmadinejad administration, Tajzadeh himself apologized for past governmental transgressions, including the mass killing of opponents in 1988, the imprisoning of dissidents in the early days of the Islamic revolution and the ousting of revered religious figures who opposed the new system.

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