During an address marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, President Hassan Rouhani, in a nod to recent protests that rocked Iran, warned about the dangers of not listening to criticism about the state of the country. “The previous regime, which thought that its rule would be lifelong and its monarchy eternal, lost everything because it did not listen to the voices of criticism, advice, reformers, the clergy, elders and intellectuals,” Rouhani said while visiting the shrine of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which overthrew the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Rouhani continued, “The previous regime did not listen to the voice of people’s protests and only listened to one voice, and that was the people’s revolution. For a government that only wants to hear the sound of revolution, it will be too late. A government must listen to the voice of the people’s advice, demands, criticism and protests.”
Some users on Twitter criticized the president as if he was putting the responsibility of listening to the people’s demands on other people and organizations and that his administration was not a part of the government. Of course, this fact is likely not lost on Rouhani either. However, despite Rouhani’s attempts at modest reforms, the final power in Iran is with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the bodies whose heads he appoints, particularly the judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). While at times Khamenei has approved structural reforms, he and the bodies under his responsibility have been either opposed to wider social and economic reforms or have often been slow when it comes to them.
Under Iran’s current political climate, the president would not directly address the supreme leader about the dangers of ignoring criticism. However, other individuals, particularly former officials, have no need to show the same level of restraint. Former presidential candidate and parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under house arrest for six years, recently wrote an open letter to Khamenei criticizing him for a variety of issues in Iran.
“For three decades you have been at the head of the system, and you still speak as if you are in the place of an opposition,” Karroubi wrote. “During this three decades, you have put to the side an important segment of the original revolutionary forces in order to implement your own policies, and today you are facing those policies.”
In addition to general criticisms, Karroubi also addressed other issues, accusing Khamenei of turning the Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with supervising and electing the supreme leader of Iran, into a body that now operates under the supreme leader’s office. Karroubi also accused Khamenei’s son Mojtaba of having undue influence and using both the IRGC and Basij organization to commit election fraud in both the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections. On the economy and recent protests, Karroubi wrote that a few government institutions control half of the country’s wealth with no supervision over their activities.
Karroubi, along with Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, were put under house arrest in 2011 for contesting the 2009 presidential elections, which they claim were fraudulent.