19 February 2014

A Brief History of Iran's so-called "Reformists"

“Our position has been and will be clear: Islam, revolution and the Islamic Republic.” – Mohammad Khatami, 12 January 2010 (22 Dey 1388)

“The Green Movement’s main goal has always been to revive the ideals and aspirations of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution." – Mir Hossein Moussavi, 14 February 2011 (25 Bahman 1389)

“I remain faithful to the ideals of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution of 1357.” – Mehdi Karroubi, 14 February 2011 (25 Bahman 1389)


Considering the verbal support given on the anniversary of their house arrest by Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and the U.S. State Department to prominent members of the so-called “leaders” of the so-called “opposition”—Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard—I thought it might be helpful to look again at that exactly their “opposition means”. 

Among the founders of Iran’s “reform” movement are the Butcher of Evin, the Hanging Judge of the Revolutionary Courts, the founder of the hezbollahi, the two founders of VEVAK, the man who suggested the Iranian Cultural Revolution, the first minister of culture and “Islamic guidance”, the man responsible for the Mecca Massacre, and the prime minister who presided over the Cultural Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the unnecessary extension of the Iran-Iraq War, and the Prison Massacres of 1988.

The two quotes above are from the last public statements of Moussavi and Karroubi before the beginning of their house arrest.  It doesn’t sound to me like they are opposed to much of anything the Islamic Republic has done in or to Iran and are seeking a return to the “Golden Age” of the Islamic Republic, when they were in almost complete control and when the regime’s worst abuses occurred and when it perpetrated its worst crimes against humanity.  For Moussavi, Karroubi, Rahnavard, and their allies in the so-called “reformist” movement, this is what they want to go back to.

Moussavi, Karroubi, and Rahanavard have indeed been unjustly held without charge, but there are many, many more persons held in actual prisons, tortured, raped, and executed, much more needful and deserving of the efforts of the above organizations.  And please, people, these three have little interest other than serving their own ambitions, so stop calling them by the designation “leaders” or even “opposition”.

In each and every one of the major atrocities and crimes against humanity, the Followers of the Line of the Imam, now “reformists” were at the forefront: the subversion of the workers movement, the persecution of the secularists, the early purges, the revolutionary courts, the hezbollahi, the Cultural Revolution, the Sepahi, the Basiji, VEVAK, the Reign of Terror, the unnecessary continuation of the Iran-Iraq War, the Prison Massacres, institutionalization of prison rape (really, by fatwa no less), and countless mass murders.  Moussavi, Karroubi, and Rahnavard do not deserve freedom; they should be tried for crimes against humanity before the International Court at The Hague.


In the early days of the Islamic Republic, the faction known as the Followers of the Line of the Imam, or the Maktabis (Radicals), dominated nearly every aspect of the regime.

It included all those who have deceptively rebranded themselves as reformists and also Hojat-al Islam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and, Hojat al-Islam Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

And others, such as Mohammad Beheshti, Morteza Motahhari, Hossein Ali Montazeri Najafabadi, Ayatollah Mohammad Mofatteh, Mohammad Javad Bahonar, Sadegh Khalkhali, Asadollah Lajaverdi, Mohammad Montazeri (son of Hossein Ali), and Mehdi Hashemi.

The undisputed leader of the Followers of the Line of the Imam at the time was Ahmad Moussavi Khomeini, son of the Grand Ayatollah and his chief-of-staff.

Their rivals in the Revolution, and later in the Majlis and government, were usually referred to as the Hojjattiyeh, after a conservative society later dissolved in 1983.

The early years

The earliest important Revolution-era association was the Jame'e-e Rowhaniyat-e Mobarez (Combatant Clergy Association), established in late fall 1978.

Founding included: Beheshti, Motahhari, Mohammad Reza Madavi Kani, Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili, Montazeri Najafabadi, Mofatteh, Javad Bahonar, Hosseini Khamenei, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, and Mehdi Karroubi.

An older and covert organization was the Fedayan-e Islam. That group’s founder had been executed in 1955, but Moussavi Khomeini instructed his followers Sadegh Khalkhali (later known as the “Hanging Judge”) and Asadollah Lajaverdi (later known as the “Butcher of Evin”) to revive the group.

Both now deceased, Khalkhali and Lajaverdi remained staunch Followers of the Line of the Imam for the rest of their lives and were charter members of the later “reform movement”.
The real organ of Khomeinist doctrine that was not exclusively clerical was the Islamic Republic Party, founded 18 February 1979 by the following men:

Mohammad Beheshti
Mir Hossein Moussavi
Ali Hosseini Khamenei
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Mohammad Javad Bohanar
Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili
Hojat al-Islam Hassan Ayat
Mohammad Ali Rajai
Hassan Habibi

Of course, the Party grew and its Central Committee soon numbered many more men. In time, it obtained a monopolistic chokehold on the country of Iran similar to what the Bolshevik Party had in the early Soviet Union.

Almost immediately after its organization, its Central Committee charged later reform movement stalwart Hadi Ghaffari with organizing the Hezbollahi (Party of God), its version of the Nazi Party’s Brownshirts.

Six days before, Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini had tasked Ayatollah Madavi Kani with organizing the Central Revolutionary Komiteh to gain control over the komitehs around the country and purge them of the ideologically unreliable.

Among the later “reformists” who served with the Central Revolutionary Komiteh were Mehdi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami, Dr. Saeed Hajjarian, Dr. Behzad Nabavi, and Hojat al-Islam Hadi Ghaffari.

When Rahbar-e Enghelab (Leader of the Revolution) Moussavi Khomeini announced the organization of the Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution), it was the Mohammad Beheshti and Mohammad Montazeri who oversaw it for the shadow government.

In the first round of the first Majlis elections under the Islamic Republic, the Party was surprised by the showing of candidates supported by it enemies, primarily the Mojahedin-e Khalq. Member Dr. Mostafa Moin suggested ideologically purging universities of elements not sufficiently supportive of their goals.

Holy Councils of Reconstruction were established in each institution, and the Basij-e Mostazafin (Mobilization of the Dispossessed) was established to assist.

The Iranian Cultural Revolution shut universities for two years, purged tens of thousands of liberal and leftist instructors and staff, and replaced of student organizations with “Islamic Student Associations”.

Dr. Moin, by the way, was the candidate for the united reformist front in the 2005 presidential elections, as well as of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front and the reformist Association of Combatant Clerics individually.

The Cultural Revolution Headquarters was established 12 June 1980 with the following men in its ranks:

Ali Hosseini Khamenei
Mohammad Javad Bohanar
Ahmad Ahmadi
Abdolkharim Soroush
Jalaleddin Farsi
Mehdi Golshani
Hassan Habibi
Ali Shariatmadari
Mostafa Moin
Hassan Arefi
Mohammad Ali Najafi
Asadollah Lajaverdi
Mir Hossein Moussavi

Not long afterward, Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded, beginning the Iran-Iraq War. The Followers of the Line of the Imam, with the connivance of their Imam, the Rahbar-e Enghelab, pushed to extend the war even past the eight times there was a serious chance for a cessation of hostilities. They used it to cement their control domestically.

With the advent of the Reign of Terror, Sadegh Khalkhali was returned to his post as Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor, which he held until 1985. The conductors of this early purge, which lasted from Banisadr’s ouster in June 1981 through December 1982, were either Followers of the Line of the Imam or acting on their orders.

Between 3000 and 5000 individuals were murdered during this time.

The split in the regime

Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali Khamenei began forming their own faction in the regime after the appointment of Ayatollah Montazeri as Deputy Leader in 1985. Ahmad Khomeini soon came over to the Hezbollah (Party of God), not to be confused the loose Iranian militia by the same name.

The Hezbollah soon gained a majority in the Conservative Clergy Association by alliance with the Hojjattiyeh. In the Islamic Republican Party, however, they were vastly outnumbered them. Fearing the party under the control of Prime Minister Moussavi, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmad Khomeini recommended the Party’s dissolution to the Rahbar-e Enghelab in 1987. He gave his consent.

The Maktabi minority in the Conservative Clergy Association earlier began meeting apart under the overall leadership of Deputy Speaker Mehdi Karroubi.

Still at the head of government, Mir Hossein Moussavi was now undisputed leader of the Followers of the Line of the Imam along with Mehdi Karroubi.

That’s right, in 1988 the Followers of the Line of the Imam were now led by the Dynamic Duo of Prime Minister Moussavi and Deputy Speaker Karroubi.

Karroubi and his associates made themselves publicly known as the Majma-e Rowhaniyun-e Mobarez (Association of Combatant Clerics) on 16 March 1988. Its founders were:

Mehdi Karroubi, secretary-general 1988-2005
Mohammad Moussavi Khoeiniha, secretary-general 2005-2010
Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, secretary-general 2010-present
Mohammad Khatami
Sadegh Khalkhali
Hadi Ghaffari
Hadi Hosseini Khamenei (brother of the current Rahbar-e Enghelab)
Abdollah Nuri
Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili
Jalali Khomeini
Mohammad Hossein Rahimian
Asadollah Bayat Zanjani
Abdolvahed Moussavi Lari
Mohammad Ali Sadoughi
Ali Asqar Rahmani Khalili
Mohammad Ali Abtahi
Majid Ansari
Mohammad Hashemi
Rasoul Montajab Nia
Mohammad Reza Ashtiani
Mahmoud Doa’i
Mohammad Reyshahri

Several months later, on 18 July 1988, the Rahbar-e Enghelab ordered that the previously issued fatwa ordering the execution of every Monafeqin (Mujahedin-e Khalq) in Iran’s prisons, and another for the execution of the majority of the Mortads (leftists) should be carried out immediately and swiftly.

Sometime before, he had introduced his plan months before, to these six men:

Ali Hosseini Khamenei, President of the Islamic Republic
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of the Majlis
Mohammad Khatami, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance
Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili, Chief Revolutionary Justice
Mohammad Moussavi Khoeiniha, Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor
Ahmad Khomeini, the Leader’s chief-of-staff

The Rahbar-e Enghelab personally assigned implementation of the fatwas to Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor Moussavi Khoeiniha, future secretary-general of the reformist flagship Association of Combatant Clerics.

As Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance future “reformist” President and party leader Khatami was heavily involved with the prison massacres, as was Moussavi Ardebili, who has been retired from political life since Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini’s death.

Mir Hossein Moussavi was Prime Minister at the time.

Mehdi Karroubi was Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, current Secretary-General of the Association of Combatant Clerics, was Minister of the Interior.

Mohammad Reyshahri was Minister of Intelligence.

Saeed Hajjarian was Vice Minister of Intelligence and National Security for Political Affairs.

The massacres lasted from 20 July 1988 through 10 April 1989. Between 4500 and 33,700 were murdered.

In 1991, Behzad Nabavi revived the Sazman-e Mojahedin-e Enghelab-e Eslami (Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization). It had earlier fallen apart due to the same ideological conflicts which had doomed the Islamic Republican Party.

Exile and return

In 1992, then President Hashemi Rafsanjani used the Council of Guardians to disqualify Maktabi candidates from running in elections for the Majlis, which they had controlled since its beginning.

For the next eight years, they were shut out of power.

Soon afterwards, Saeed Hajjarian formed the Center for Strategic Studies to plan for a return to power for the Followers of the Line of the Imam and came up with the idea of a “reformist” movement as a way of getting back into power.

In 1997, his ally Mohammad Khatami was elected President. In 2000, control of the Majlis returned to the Maktabis.

The so-called reform movement proved a disappointment and a failure.

Primary organizations of the “reformists”, or Followers of the Line of the Imam

Daftare Tahkeeme Vahdat (Office for the Consolidation of Unity), founded 10 September 1979

Majma-e Rowhaniyun-e Mobarez (Association of Combatant Clerics), founded 16 March 1988

Sazman-e Mojahedin-e Enghelab-e Eslami (Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization), founded 1979, dissolved 1985, revived 1991

Center for Strategic Studies, established in 1992

Jebhe-e Mosharekat-e Iran-e Eslami (Islamic Iran Participation Front), founded 23 August 1998

Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, established 2000

Etemad-e Melli (National Trust Party), founded 2005

Rahe Sabz Omid (Green Path of Hope Party), founded 2009

Kaleme News (attached to the office of Mir Hossein Moussavi Khamenei)

Saham News (attached to the office of Medhi Karroubi)



Tahavol-e Sabz

Leading reformist figures with a brief outline of their careers

Council of Islamic Revolution, 1979-1981
Political Secretary of the Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1981
Central Committee member of the Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Editor-in-chief of the Islamic Republic, 1979-1981
Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1981
President of Cultural Revolution Headquarters, 1981
Prime Minister, 1981-1989
Rahbar-e Enghelab’s representative to the Mostazafin Foundation, 1981-1989
President of the Economy Council, 1982-1989
Expediency Discernment Council, 1987-present
Senior advisor to President Hashemi Rafasnjani, 1989-1999
Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, (1996-present)
Senior advisor to President Khatami, 1997-2005
President of the Iranian Academy of Arts, 2000-2009
Presidential candidate, 2009
Leader, Green Path of Hope Party, 2009-present

Hojat al-Islam MEHDI KARROUBI :
Combatant Clerics Association, 1977-1988
Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Central Revolutionary Komiteh, 1979-1980
Chairman, Martyrs’ Foundation, 1979-1992
Chairman, Imam Khomeini Relief Committee
Chairman, Housing Foundation Majlis Deputy, 1980-2005
Deputy Speaker of the Majlis, 1985-1989
Chairman of the Pilgrimage Foundation, 1985-1990
Secretary-General, Association of Combatant Clerics, 1988-2005
Speaker of the Majlis, 1989-1992 & 2000-2004
Presidential candidate, 2005
Secretary-General, National Trust Party, 2005-present
Presidential candidate, 2009
Central Committee, Green Path of Hope Party, 2010-present

Co-founder, Women’s Society of the Islamic Revolution, June 1981, founded in support of the
ongoing Cultural Revolution
Chancellor, Al Zahra University, 1998-2006
Central Committee, Green Path of Hope Party, 2009-present

Hojat al-Islam Mohammad Khatami:
Combatant Clerics Association (1977-1988)
Central Committee, Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Central Revolutionary Komiteh, 1979-1980
Majlis Deputy, 1980-1982
Islamic Republican Party supervisor of Kayhan, 1981-1982
Cultural Revolution Headquarters, 1980-1983
Minister of Culture and Guidance, 1982-1992
Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, 1983-1992
Director of Cultural Affairs, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1982-1988
War Propaganda Headquarters, 1982-1988
Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, 1982-1988
Association of Combatant Clerics, 1988-present
Head, National Library of Iran, 1992-1997
President of the Islamic Republic, 1997-2005
Islamic Iran Participation Front, 1998-present
Chairman, Central Council, Association of Combatant Clerics, current
Chairman, Central Council, Islamic Iran Participation Front, current

Hojat al-Islam Mohammad Moussavi Khoeiniha:
Combatant Clergy Association, 1978-1988
Central Committee, Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Islamic Republican Party representative to hostage-takers, 1979-1981
Deputy Speaker of the Majlis, 1980-1985
Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor, 1981-1982
Chairman of the Pilgrimage Foundation, 1982-1985
Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor, 1985-1989
Association of Combatant Clergy, 1988-present
Secretary-General, Association of Combatant Clergy, 2005-2010

Dr. Saeed Hajjarian:
Central Committee, Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Central Revolutionary Komiteh, 1979-1984
U.S. Embassy hostage taker, 1979-1981
Vice Minister of Intelligence and National Security for Political Affairs, 1984-1989
Chairman, Institute for Strategic Studies, 1992-present
Political advisor to President Khatami, 1997-2005
Central Council, Islamic Iran Participation Front, 1998-present

Hojat al-Islam Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur:
Office of Islamic Liberation Movements, 1979-1984
Bureau of Assistance to the Islamic and Liberation Movements of the World, 1984-1985
Minister of the Interior, 1985-1988
Lebanon desk, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1988-1989
Association of Combatant Clerics, 1988-present
Majlis Deputy, 1990-present
Secretary-General, Association of Combatant Clerics, 2010-present

Ayatollah Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili:
Combatant Clergy Association, 1978-1988
Central Committee, Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor, 1981
Chief Justice, 1981-1989
Association of Combatant Clerics, 1988-1989
Expediency Discernment Council, 1987-1989

Hojat al-Islam Sadegh Khalkhali:
Leader, Fedayan al-Islam
Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor, 1979-1980 & 1981-1985
Majlis Deputy, 1985-1992
Association of Combatant Clerics, 1988-2003

Dr. Behzad Nabavi:
Central Revolutionary Komiteh, 1979-1985
Central Committee, Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Founder, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution, 1979-1986
Spokesman for the U.S. Embassy hostage takers, 1979-1981
Founder, Intelligence Office of the President, 1980
Economic Council, 1980-1988
Minister of Industry and Mines, 1985-1989
Central Committee, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, 1991-present
Deputy Speaker of the Majlis, 2000-2004

Dr. Mostafa Moin:
Central Committee, Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Cultural Revolution Headquarters, 1980-1983
Majlis Deputy, 1982-1989
Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, 1983-present
Chancellor, Shiraz University, 1979-1982
Minister of Culture and Higher Education, 1989-1993 & 1997-2000
Minister of Science, Research, and Technology, 2000-2005
Presidential candidate, 2005

Hojat al-Islam Hadi Ghaffari:
Combatative Clergy Association, 1978-1988
Central Revolutionary Komiteh, 1979-1988
Islamic Republican Party, 1979-1987
Supervisor, Hezbollah, 1979-1988
Association of Combative Clerics, 1988-present
Majlis Deputy, 1988-present
Chair, Al-Hadi Foundation, 1997-2005

Fatemeh Karroubi:
Deputy Minister for Social Affairs, 1997-2005
Secretary-General, Islamic Association of Women, 1997-present


My disparagement of the reformists in the Islamic Republic of Iran is limited to the level of national leadership.  These “leaders” believe their followers exist to provide them with power and influence.  In contrast, most of the reformists below that level, the “mid-level management” as it were, sincerely want a better life for the citizens of Iran.  They believe their position exists to provide the people, all Iran’s people, with freedom.  In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a paraphrase of one of William Wallace’s speeches in “Braveheart”.


For more information on the Iranian Revolution and the early Islamic Republic, see my “Outline of the Iranian Revolution and the early Islamic Republic” at http://notesfromtheninthcircle.blogspot.com/2011/06/outline-of-iranian-revolution-and-early.html

See also:

The Myth of Autocracy, by Nuray Mert


Ms. Mert's excellent article is about Turkey and the political situation there, but has truths that inspired me to repost and slightly rewrite this article.  Without the Followers of the Line of the Imam who in the 1990's whitewashed themselves as "reformists", Khomeini never would have become the absolute autocrat that he was and the Islamic Republic not as complete in its tyranny.

No comments: