Iran opposition leader compares supreme leader to Shah
Photo shows Iranian reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi waving to the media during a late night press conference after polls closed in Tehran.
AP, Dubai, United Arab Emirates :
A long-detained opposition leader in Iran on Saturday compared a bloody crackdown on those protesting government-set gasoline prices rising under its supreme leader to soldiers of the shah gunning down demonstrators in an event that led to the Islamic Revolution.
The comments published by a foreign website represent some of the harshest yet attributed to Mir Hossein Mousavi, a 77-year-old politician whose own disputed election loss in 2009 led to the widespread Green Movement protests that security forces also put down.
Mousavi's remarks not only compare Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the toppled monarch whom Khamenei to this day refers to as a tyrant. It also suggests the opposition leader views the demonstrations that began Nov. 15 and the crackdown that followed as a potentially similar last-straw moment for Iran's Shiite theocracy as the 1978 killings represented for the shah.
"It shows people's frustration with the country's situation. It has a complete resemblance to the brutal killing of people on the bloody date Sept. 8, 1978," Mousavi said, according to the statement published by the Kaleme website long associated with him. "The assassins of the year of 1978 were representatives of a non-religious regime, but the agents and shooters in November 2019 were representatives of a religious government."
There was no immediate response from Iranian officials nor state media, which has been barred from showing Mousavi's image for years.
The protests that struck some 100 cities and towns across Iran beginning Nov. 15 came after Iran raised minimum gasoline prices by 50%. The subsidy cuts, which the government said would help fund cash handouts to the poor, come as Iran's economy suffers under crushing U.S. sanctions following President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Iranians immediately began demonstrating and protests quickly turned violent, seeing gas stations and banks attacked. Online videos purport to show Iranian security forces shooting at demonstrators.