Reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh

Iran’s Regime Harasses Activists Who Support Call For Referendum

Tuesday, 03/14/2023

Jailed reformist activist Mostafa Tajzadeh says his cell was raided by prison guards because he is supporting a referendum to change the constitution in Iran. 

In an open letter from prison addressed to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Tajzadeh said that his cell, which he shares with two other political prisoners – Saeed Madani and Hossein Razzagh -- was attacked because all three expressed support for the proposal by opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi for the referendum. Tajzadeh, a former deputy minister, protested that during “the unusual and long search” security forces confiscated some of his and Madani's personal notes. 

Tajzadeh and his cellmates, as well as a few other political prisoners, including Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Iran former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, issued a statement in February, saying, "they will do their best to advance this proposal and a peaceful and non-violent transition to a completely democratic and developed Iranian structure." “The only way out of the impasse for the government is to surrender to the right of the people to determine their own destiny,” read the statement.

In his letter to Khamenei, Tajzadeh said, "You repeatedly claim that your opponents have the right to criticize you,” but "I have been sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison in two cases for criticizing your performance.” "Why are you so afraid of a referendum”, he asked Khamenei, underlining that confiscation of personal notes is a clear violation of laws and regulations of the country’s Prisons Organization.

Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard casting their votes in June 2009

In a statement early in February, Mousavi, a presidential candidate in 2009 who became an opposition figure and was put under house arrest, said Iran needs “fundamental change” based on “Woman, Life, Freedom” and a referendum on the constitution. Since he published the statement, his house arrest has become stricter. Mousavi was put under house arrest in 2011 because he challenged the highly suspicious presidential re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Referring to government violence against protesters, Mousavi said the rulers of the Islamic Republic are not willing “to take the smallest step to meet the demands of the people.”

Mousavi implicitly repeated what exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi and other opposition figures have been demanding since last September, when the ‘Women, Life, Freedom movement’ started following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini – transition from the Islamic Republic. Pahlavi has acknowledged Mousavi’s call for a referendum

Iranians have been hotly debating the need to form an opposition council to manage the protest movement and plan for transition to a new form of government. After months of unorganized opposition to the regime concurrent with protests and strikes, prominent activists abroad united and established a framework of coordination. Inside the country no such move is possible because of repression. The group, which calls itself the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom in Iran, announced its existence in February.

Earlier in March, they issued a Charter of Solidarity and Alliance for Freedom, also called the Mahsa Charter. 

Exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi, Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and Canada-based activist Hamed Esmaeilion, as well as US-based author, journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi and Secretary General of Komala Iranian Kurdish party Abdullah Mohtadi say the charter would lay the foundations for realizing the aspirations of protesters in Iran and gain international support for isolating the Islamic Republic.

The charter has been met with admiration and support as well as antipathy and criticism. Some people have denounced the charter saying it is not patriotic enough. However, the prominent opposition figures have called on people to put differences aside, saying that the charter is only a framework and a starting point for cooperation.

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