In recent years Iranians have turned the New Year's celebrations, soccer matches, or even petty grumble against bad university cafeteria food into widespread anti regime demonstrations. These days, clearly Mousavi is steering the crowds in the streets of Tehran.
However, it is the message and not the man that leads: "Freedom", "Democracy", "Equality", "Justice". To the extent that Mousavi remains loyal to these principles, he diverges from his past. And to the extent that he stands against the supreme leader, Khamenei, his president Ahmadinejad, and their theocratic government, Mousavi has the support of people and hence opposition figures and groups.
John F. Kennedy once said "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." Mir Hossein Mousavi, the challenger to the presidency of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was the prime minister to then President Khamenei (1981 to 1989). Under his nine years of rule, the control of the conservatives on the country was tightened.
The Bassij force (the motor cyclist hooligans on the streets these days) and the revolutionary guards were formalized and empowered to suppress the people. Peaceful demonstrations were crushed. Mock courts held trials lasting a few minutes followed by executions. Thousands of young teenagers were arrested, tortured and executed for political charges as trivial as possessing a pamphlet. Under Mousavi's watch a total of 90,000 were executed. Young girls were systematic raped before execution (per a religious decree so their souls would not reach heaven).
Numerous faculty and students (under the banner of the Cultural Revolution) were purged from the universities. Repression of religious minorities intensified. Independent newspapers were shut down. Political activists not affiliated with the ruling ayatollahs were arrested in masses. His government even initiated assassination of the opposition figures abroad. Under his watch a destructive and unnecessary war with Iraq was continued. In the fronts underage children were used as "mine sweepers". Under his government, the regime's aspirations for regional hegemony and export of terrorism were formalized and action plans masterminded. The founder of Lebanon's Hezbollah Ali Akbar Mohtashami was his interior minister. Mousavi's government was directly responsible for the 1983 truck-bombing attacks on the U.S. embassy in Lebanon. His government initiated the Iranian regime's strive for the nuclear bomb. The crown of his government's accomplishments was mass execution of about 30,000 defenseless political prisoners within a few weeks with bodies buried in mass graves. TIME magazine in 1982 described Mousavi as the "most radical in the top leadership" in Iran.
Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard (the author of "Beauty of Concealment and Concealment of Beauty") was key in enforcing the strict Islamic dress code (Hejab) on women. She had a major role in forming "Gasht-e Khaharan-e Zeinab", the female street police units that harass women to enforce "Islamic behavior".
Mousavi's term ended in 1989, when he moved to the low key position of leading an art institute and living the obscure life of an "artist" for almost two decades, with barely any public position or activity on social or political matters. The process of Mousavi's reform (as well as his wife's) remains a mystery, and his remorse absent. However, in an amazing turn of events, weeks before the June 12th Presidential election he surfaced as the reformist candidate and overnight became the accidental poster-figure of reform. Nevertheless, despite his atrocious background, for standing against dictatorship, he should be commended.
As long as Mousavi stands for: "Freedom", "Democracy", "Equality" and "Justice", God's speed.
Professor Kazerounian teaches in the University of Connecticut.