Opposition Leader Mehdi Karroubi Urges Supreme Leader to “Create the Grounds For Reform”
The 80-year-old former presidential candidate said Khamenei should accept responsibility for the country’s state of affairs and hold himself accountable to the people’s demands.
“Among the leaders of the  revolution, Your Excellency is the only person who has been present in the highest levels of power for the past 38 years,” wrote Karroubi in a letter dated January 30, 2018.
“You were president for eight years and you have been the absolute ruler for almost 29 years,” he added. “Therefore, considering your power and influence over the highest levels of state, you must accept that today’s political, economic, cultural and social situation in the country is a direct result of your guidance and administration.”
Karroubi, along with fellow opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard have been under extrajudicial house arrest for nearly seven years. They have been confined to their homes in Tehran without trial since February 2011 for leading the mass protests against the disputed result of the 2009 presidential election.
Karroubi sent the letter a month after anti-government protests erupted across dozens of Iranian cities, leaving 25 people dead and thousands arrested.
“Recently, you made a correct statement that I thought necessary to discuss with you for the sake of the country’s future,” wrote Karroubi. “You correctly stated that those who have had the country in their hands in the past or present should be held accountable. You have been at the helm of the state for three decades.”
He continued: “You have sidelined a significant portion of the original revolutionaries in order to put your own policies in place. Today you are facing the consequences of those polices. I strongly urge you to create the grounds for reform in order to make all the sectors in the country accountable to the people and lawful institutions. Any delay will be very damaging and in the near future it could plunge the country into a deep crisis that may come at a heavy price for the state and the nation.”
Karroubi, who was hospitalized several times for heart complications in 2017, also criticized the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for interfering in the country’s affairs with the supreme leader’s blessing.
“In the field of politics, a number of IRGC commanders, with the help of the Basij militia, have engineered elections that have only resulted in political instability and a climate of repression aimed at eliminating the rule of the people and its [the state’s] republican foundations,” wrote Karroubi.
He added, “And in the economic field, their monopolies have eliminated auctions for public bids and they have been illegally handed major and strategic industries that have generated historic levels of corruption.”
Karroubi also took aim at the conservative Guardian Council, which vets election candidates and laws for compliance with Islamic tenets.
“I believe in reforming the state within the ideals of the revolution through the ballot box, on the condition that all state institutions are directly and indirectly backed by the will and votes of the people without the state’s patronizing interference,” wrote Karroubi.
The reformist politician condemned the sidelining of the Islamic Republic’s “true” supporters but also reaffirmed his loyalty to the country’s theocratic Constitution. Karroubi made no mention of other oppressed political factions and minorities that do not share the ruling establishment’s interpretation of Islam.
Soon after the letter was published, the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry sent a text message to state-approved media outlets banning them from reporting on Karroubi’s words.
But the ban did not prevent discussion by Iranians on social media.
“Mr. Karroubi’s letter will undoubtedly make the situation harder for those under house arrest. Nevertheless, one cannot help but admire his bravery and fortitude,” tweeted writer Ali Mojtahedi on January 30.
Others complained that Karroubi did not go far enough in his criticisms.
“Mehdi Karroubi’s letter was disappointing. Aside from his usual bravery and frankness, apparently Karroubi, like the man he addressed, has not grasped the message behind the recent protests. His adulation for the Imam [revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini] and his policies was truly discouraging,” wrote political science Associate Professor Ammar Maleki.
“Why can’t you accept that Khamenei is just another Khomeini?” he added.
Conservative commentators meanwhile condemned Karroubi for criticizing the supreme leader.
“Unfortunately, this letter can actually become the motor for the resumption of the riots against the supreme leader in the short run during celebrations marking the anniversary of the revolution [February 2017],” tweeted conservative columnist Morteza Khalafizadeh.