Reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref distinguished himself from the other candidates yesterday in his television interview by mentioning the name of former presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest without charge for two years for contesting the 2009 presidential election.
Aref said that “Preventing the insults will be one of my serious plans. I will prevent insults against the previous presidents and prime ministers such as Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Rafsanjani, Mr. Khatami and Mr. Ahmadinejad. If someone insults me I won’t respond, but I won’t allow anyone to insult others.”
After the 2009 election Mousavi, along with Mehdi Karoubi, were mercilessly attacked by hard-line media and officials. In August 2010, Iranian officials asked media to no longer mention Mousavi and Karoubi by name and to stop publishing their photos. Officials began referring to them instead as the “leaders of the sedition.” Aref is the only candidate to mention Mousavi by name in his TV interview thus far.
Aref, who was the communications minister under Reformist President Mohammad Khatami, began his TV interview with Iran’s Channel 2 by saying, “I want to say hello to the Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim — both Shia and Sunni — guests.” When asked why he chose to run, Aref said, “I sensed danger. I am worried about a break in the country. I am worried about the progress of the country.”
Aref attacked Ahmadinejad’s record and rhetoric. “Today’s condition is the result of eight years of the Principilists being in power,” Aref said. He continued, “The group that won, instead of congratulating the people, called them ‘dirt’ and ‘dust.’” In a speech after the 2009 election, Ahmadinejad derided the Green Movement protesters with these terms.
Aref addressed the “security environment” that has taken over parts the country, in particular the universities, and the effect it has had on the youth. “We’re all at fault for what has happened the last few years and we haven’t been accountable to the younger generation,” Aref said. “In every household where the discussion of politics takes place there is a fight between the first generation of the revolution and the third generation of the revolution. And it’s my fault and the fault of the first generation.”
Aref said that one of the problems facing Iran today is that the Principilists had consolidated control but, he says, “Certainly they’ve come to the conclusion that they can’t manage the country without the Reformists.” Aref also said that he would completely “follow the law with respect the rights of Iranians, especially minorities, according to the constitution,” adding that he will “include them in my administration.”
Of the nuclear issue, Aref said, “It’s a political case.” He continued, “From the beginning, our purpose was to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and we will never come short of this. But this case has become political and now it calls for a political solution. We have to improve our foreign relations and build consensus in the world.”
Although the nuclear program is under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, many candidates have criticized Ahmadinejad for his harsh rhetoric and lack of diplomacy on the world stage in the last eight years. Most candidates believe a more diplomatic approach and better relations with foreign countries can not only solve disputes over Iran’s nuclear program, but improve economic conditions as well.
“In addition to diplomacy,” Aref added, “we have to take advantage of other things such as scientific diplomacy, exchanges between scientists and professors and students, cultural exchanges, media exchanges, athletic exchanges and most importantly, we have four million Iranians outside of the country who are our cultural ambassadors. … We have to make it easier for foreigners to come and go. We can’t view this from a security perspective. We can’t view a professor who comes from a foreign country as a spy. We should find uses for his abilities.”