Khatami blocked from attending Mandela funeral

Reuters

Former president Mohammad Khatami arrives to vote during the Iranian presidential election in northern Tehran June 12, 2009.

Article Highlights

  • In practice, the security forces continue to control the movements of many prominent regime officials.

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  • Both Khatami and other prominent reform-leaning politicians found their passports revoked.

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  • Khatami served as Iran’s president between 1997 and 2005, even if he was largely constrained by the Supreme Leader

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Mohammad Khatami, perhaps the Islamic Republic’s best known reformist, served as Iran’s president between 1997 and 2005, even if he was largely constrained by the Supreme Leader and the regime’s hardline militias in the wake of the 1999 student uprising. During his successor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first term as president (2005-2009), Khatami became an increasingly vocal voice of dissent against Ahmadinejad’s often caustic hardline antics and rhetoric. In the wake of the 2009 post-election unrest, however, such criticism from within the regime became too great for the Supreme Leader and his allies to tolerate. Both Khatami and other prominent reform-leaning politicians found their passports revoked and/or their adult children jailed in order to control their actions and to temper their statements to foreign media.

While the June 2013 election to the presidency of Hassan Rouhani heralded, according to some analysts, the return of the reformists, in practice the security forces continue to control the movements of many prominent regime officials. In the selected excerpt Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the founding editor of many of the regime’s flagship papers, describes how his own travel ban was recently lifted, but how the ban remains on Khatami because, he says, of the complexity of protocol. That the impetus for the query about travel status was Khatami’s desire to attend the funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela is an irony that will not be lost on Iranians who rightly or wrongly liken the detention, harassment, and restrictions so many former officials endure to those once borne by the South African dissident-turned-leader.

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  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


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