BBC Monitoring Service
May 18, 2001
Source: Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, Tehran, in Persian 1630 gmt 16 May 01
[Unidentified presenter] In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. Dear viewers, as you have been informed in news bulletins Mr Ali Afshari, the head of the Political Committee of the Office for Fostering Unity, was arrested on the orders of the Islamic Revolution Court. During his detention Mr Afshari asked to be interviewed in order to express his views on radio and television.
Mr Afshari! This interview is an opportunity for you to express your views. Could you please tell us when and where you began your political activities?
[Afshari] In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. I would like to thank you for having given me this opportunity. I began my political activities in 1374  at Amir Kabir University. I was a member of the central council of the Islamic Association of Amir Kabir University for three terms. I was a member of the central council of the
Office for Fostering Unity for three terms. For two terms and until my arrest I was in charge of the Political Committee.
[Presenter] What was your objective when you asked the Voice and Vision Organization for an interview?
[Afshari] I had a personal interest. I wanted an opportunity to speak about my mistakes particularly because there are many other people who are in a similar position and they could make a similar mistake.
[Presenter] Who are you referring to?
[Afshari] University students. They could follow a similar route. I wanted an opportunity to correct my mistakes and to warn them.
[Presenter] What were your mistakes?
[Afshari] Mistakes such as politicization, radicalism, extreme egocentricity and not clearly defining my stances and opinions.
[Presenter] Could you please tell us whether these were your own mistakes as a person and a member or were they collective mistakes?
[Afshari] Well, these were mainly my own mistakes, but there were also some collective mistakes which I would like to point out.
[Afshari] Before mentioning these collective mistakes, I would like to refer to one point, which was part of my motive for this interview, and that is my concern about the forces seeking the overthrow of the system
and the destructive threats posed by these forces to the national interests of the country, the interests of the states and to our people. The issues of politicization and pragmatism were among the main mistakes.
In recent years or during the period since Khordad 1376 [1997 when President Khatami was elected as president] under the influence of the strategy of pressure from below and bargaining from the top and seeing society as divided into reformist and conservative, university was being used as bandwagon to create social pressure. This means that students were asked to realize their demands by political pragmatism, and participation
in the process of creating social pressure. This strategy, in addition to causing politicization and superficiality in universities, had other negative consequences such as political and social unrest. The atmosphere in universities, in view of the concept of creating pressure, also
affected rallies and meetings, the objectives of which were to exert pressure on the Judiciary concerning journalistic-political activists or attacks against conservative groups or individuals and their stances. It
has also caused political groups and parties to look at universities as clubs and environment to further their own interests, that is to use students and universities as tools for achieving their aims and
[Presenter] What method of approach was adopted by the groups and parties
that you mentioned? We realize that you are now opposed to these groups and do not endorse their methods.
[Afshari]As an example, we can mention the events in Teheran University's dormitory. There are other examples such as the prosecution of the file concerning the Law-Enforcement Force and the cancellation of the proposal to debate the press reform law in the Majlis [the proposed debate was
abandoned following instruction of the leader Ali Khamene'i]. These were some of the problems pursued by the said political parties.
[Presenter] Mr Afshari! you mentioned that a group was planning to topple [the state]. What was the method adopted by this group and what was its affiliation?
[Afshari] The said group was trying to separate universities from the Islamic state and the Islamic doctrine of the system.
[Presenter] You yourself were demanding certain things via the Office to Foster Unity and you were also proposing and directing issues through the Office to Foster Unity. Now you have come to the conclusion that you made grave mistakes as you observed the negative consequences of your proposals. Can you please give us some examples of your activities?
[Afshari] I can specifically mention our meeting in Gorgan where we discussed various issues.
[Presenter] Did you plan the said meeting?
[Afshari] Yes I did at the Gorgan meeting.
[Presenter] What other issues did you discuss at your meetings in the Office to Foster Unity?
[Afshari] For example, during our meeting in Mashhad we discussed a proposal to call for a strike in universities. Another example concerns the performance of the Office to Foster Unity during the events in Teheran
[Presenter] Do you mean that you were the main element in the Office to Foster Unity?
[Afshari] Yes, I had such a role.
[Presenter] Did everyone in the Office to Foster Unity agree with you?
[Afshari] No there were some people who opposed me.
[Presenter] How did you treat your opponents?
[Afshari] There were always some members opposed or in-favour of various proposals. We did not treat anyone differently. Of course, over the last issue [that is, to call for a strike in universities] there was major
opposition. I made the proposal, but the meeting decided that the matter would undermine the country's national security. Moreover, [the meeting decided that] foreign powers would have exploited the issue for propaganda purposes in their media. That is, the foreign media would have exaggerated
the issue for their own propaganda.
[Presenter] Can you tell us how foreigners have engaged in propaganda against the system?
[Afshari] By reporting the slogans being shouted on the sidelines, which were harsh and offensive, they magnified them in order to sow discord in the system. For example, saying that the student movement is against the system. They gave it extensive propaganda coverage.
[Presenter] How did they reflect it inside the country?
[Afshari] By way of their media.
[Presenter] For example?
[Afshari] Radio. For example the BBC, Voice of America, etc.
[Presenter] Was it reflected by the mass media inside the country?
[Afshari] Yes. They covered it through some of the press.
[Presenter] Considering their stances, how did the press act with regards to the goals of foreigners?
[Afshari] In my opinion, knowingly or unwittingly, some of the press fed canon fodder to the enemies and foreigners.
[Presenter] Where, for example?
[Afshari] For example, one can specifically name the university dormitory incident. Also through the coverage of meetings. Or the press were silent in the face of the insults to the faith and beliefs of the people, or they covered material which could be about the same issues.
[Presenter] In your remarks you referred to the subversive movement. First, in your opinion, in what form is that subversion in the country at present?
[Afshari] The subversive movement has many aspects at present. First, it is non-military. The main reason for it is that military clashes and armed methods against the system have faced defeat throughout the history of the revolution, and the system has shown to be invincible in that respect.
Also, basically, military methods are on the decline in the world today. Cultural change, political subversion and infiltration of the pillars of government, or a combination of all of them, make up the practical methods
of the subversive movement.
[Presenter] Could you discuss the cultural metamorphosis [estehaleh]? How did they use this method?
[Afshari] They used cultural metamorphosis and cultural strategy to attack the religious and the Islamic elements of the system. They spread doubt about the effectiveness of religious government. They said religious
government is unable to meet people's demands or solve the problems faced by the modern progressive world, or that secularism in the modern world is inevitable. In view of the fact that the founder of religious revival in
modern world is his eminence, the Imam [Khomeyni], he has been the target of these attacks. There is a project to eradicate the memory of the Imam through the propagation of views opposed to him. These were the various
types of effort to overthrow the system. There was also an effort to use the media, in particular the press, and the universities and the student movement. They created a certain kind of climate in the press, inside and outside the country. For the administration of this project they tried to
use the students.
[Presenter] How was this done? For example how did they attack the Imam? How did they behave?
[Afshari] The main objective was to spread doubt about religious government and the ineffectiveness of jurisprudence. These acts were contrary with the teachings of the Imam. Basically they questioned the ideas of the Imam. For example in the 13 Aban ceremonies [marking the 4 November take over of the US embassy in Tehran] we didn't chant "Down with
America", we didn't go in front of the embassy, we didn't deal with foreign issue, we only dealt with domestic issues. These were all contrary with the teachings of the late Imam.
[Presenter] Why did the subversive movement attack certain organizations or people in Iran? Can you explain clearly? What is you own opinion, basically? What was the precise goal of the subversive movement, and what
was the level of you collaboration in that respect?
[Afshari] The strength of the system, which has defeated its enemies, lies in its basis in the principle of the supreme jurisconsult, and basically our system is renowned in the world today for its religious nature. For
that reason the subversive movement opposes it. Of course, it is also aligned with global imperialism. After the downfall of the Eastern Bloc the only obstacle in the way of the total domination of liberal-democracy
has been religious thinking and the growth of the Islamic movement in the Middle East. And, therefore, in line with global imperialism, the subversive movement has attempted to weaken it, and ultimately to pave the
way for a secular government.
[Presenter] Mr Afshari. On the whole, what methods did this subversive movement, which is being discussed, adopt?
[Afshari] In order to become operational they had adopted methods such as civil disobedience or active resistance. However, before I explain the operational concept, I will refer to the preparations that lead up to such methods. As I have said before, the aim of the subversive movement is to
separate the Islamic revolution from its ideology, to terminate the socio-political life of the system of the supreme jurisconsult. Therefore, it first points out the impracticality of the religious government with false arguments about the contradiction between the Islamic and republican concept and between religion and freedom. Then unreasonable expectations,
outside the capacity of the constitution, are encouraged and publicized. Therefore, all the cases mount up. And since organizations which support the Islamic aspect of the system resist expectations which are outside the
framework of religion and the religious culture of society, and do not allow them to be fulfilled, the wave of expectations and their lack of fulfilment will naturally make the atmosphere favourable for the movement
to go beyond the framework of the system.
Here, by way of interviews inside and outside the country, the way is paved for planting the seeds of doubt about the constitution; that, basically, the expectations of the people are not fulfilled by the constitution; that it [the constitution] lacks the capacity for reform in order to fulfil the expectations of youngsters of today, in particular. Unreasonable expectations are publicized. Clashes between the various
sectors of the system are followed up, as it were. And so is hostility in factional rivalries. These are issues that are followed up, and theories are formulated for the overthrow plan to become operational.
For initial operational requirements it was necessary to declare that there was a political deadlock in the legal and political structures of the system. In other words, reforms were said to be impossible because of
the system's legal structure. Then they tried to use public opinion to advance their objectives. This was done through various means such as active resistance which called for the involvement of the people, particularly the young people. But to have civil disobedience or active resistance you need to have a social movement. The only existing active social movement in Iran was the student movement. Therefore, we tried to attract students as the elements for this social policy. The students were supposed to provide the support for the active resistance and the civil disobedience.
[Presenter] What were the subversive elements - the so-called national-religious movement, the Freedom Movement of Iran - expecting to gain from the student movement?
[Afshari] Their objective was to encourage mistrust towards religious government, the legal and political structures of the system, and the history of the system in particular the teachings of the late Imam and the war period. They said these were the dark ages. They wanted to say that the system could not become democratic. They wanted to radicalize the student movement and to push it outside its legal framework. They wanted to encourage social disturbances. This is what they wanted from the student movement. Their ultimate objective was to separate the student movement from the system and to use the students as pawns in their game.
[Presenter] What was the aim of the subversive tendency in changing the constitution? How far did they want to go?
[Afshari] They wanted to change the character [of the system] into a non-religious one. To reduce the Islamic characteristic of the system. They didn't want a role for the Guardian Jurisconsult in the system. They didn't believe in this principle and said so openly. They encouraged mistrust in system and said Guardianship was a principle in connection with minors and not ordinary people. They said that people don't need a guardian and, thus, the principle of Guardianship is irrelevant.
[Presenter] Could you tell us something about the relationship between the student movement and the political parties?
[Afshari] The student movement always followed the parties and was misused by them.
[Presenter] Mr Afshari! You took a radical position at a meeting in Gorgan. Could you tell us what were the aims of the meetings. Furthermore, who was the architect of the meeting and what was the agenda?
[Afshari] The Gorgan meeting involved the political officials of the Islamic Associations of Students. I was the organizer and the agenda was to formulate a new strategy for the reforms. Prior to that meeting there was the impression of a deadlock because the Majlis had failed to be
effective and because the press laws were changed. There was the idea that the new strategy could deal with this problem. At the Gorgan meeting the border between reforms and revisionism, i.e. metamorphosis, was destroyed. It was said that the reform movement could contain revisionism and metamorphosis. Structural reforms were accepted. In other words it was not only some aspects of the structure, for example a change among Majlis deputies or a change of the heads of the executive power that were being sought. It was said that the structures themselves should change on the basis of a balance between the elected and non-elected bodies. It was said that the elected bodies don't have sufficient weight in comparison with the non-elected bodies. Other issues which were discussed were the nature and the speed of the reforms as well as constitutional change.
In the newly formulated strategy there was a stress on the use of public opinion and its mobilization for the cause of the reforms. This was done within the context which I have already explained. The reforms were said to be the manifestation of the opinion of the various social classes. There were criticisms of idea that the leaders of the system, i.e. the heads of the three branches and the leader, could sit together and interpret the reforms. People were said to be legitimate interpreters of the reforms. Reform from the top was said to be a failed experiment. There was a wrong analogy, and I was responsible for it, that there was a resemblance [between the reforms from the top] and the White Revolution of the Shah and the People. I should use this opportunity to apologize to the eminent leader and the brave Iranian people, particularly the honourable families of the martyrs. The Gorgan meeting had an important impact on the country's political climate. It radicalized the universities. It also prepared the way for aggressive measures by those seeking to overthrow the system because it approved certain policies such as the need for structural reforms, opposition to reforms from the top, non-distinction
between reforms and metamorphosis.
[Presenter] Mr Afshari! Prior to the Gorgan meeting the Office for Fostering Unity organized a meeting in Mashhad. Could you tell us something about the objectives of this meeting? Who was the architect of this meeting?
[Afshari] On the basis of its charter the Office for Fostering Unity has to hold a meeting every month for all the officials of the Islamic Associations. The Mashhad meeting was routine. But it coincided with the leader's speech about the press. His excellency's speech created an extraordinary climate at the meeting and it focused everyone attention on the press. There I suggested the closure of universities as a countermeasure to the closure of the press. Initially these issues were discussed in the political committee of the meeting. Furthermore the main part of the open discussions were in criticism of the leader's stance. Unfortunately, some of these criticisms took an extremist position and an insulting nature.
[Presenter] This was at the official meeting?
[Afshari] Yes this was at the official Mashhad meeting. After discussions and decisions about the various suggestions we openly argued about the recommendations that were made in connection with the closure of the newspapers. The aim of the recommendations was to encourage protests in favour of the press and to make the closure of the press costly [for its opponents]. This was to be implemented through agitation on university campuses and collection of signatures in defence of press freedoms. Once this phase was successfully implemented the following phase was to have been implemented at a particular time with the coordinated closure of classes. Meetings were to have been held on the campuses in defence of the press freedoms. Free student discussions were to have been organized in defence of the post-2-Khordad newspapers and in criticism of the stances taken by the leader towards the press. These methods and the subsequent social pressures were aimed at promoting resistance against the closure of the newspapers.
[Presenter] What would have happened if this [policy] had been implemented?
[Afshari] It would have had dangerous consequences if it was implemented. It would have encouraged a confrontation between the student movement and the leadership of the system. This would have weakened the leadership and, subsequently, the national security and the strength of the system. Furthermore, in view of the propaganda policy of the forces seeking the overthrow of the system and their effort to encourage confrontation between the universities, the system and the person of the leader, it would have strengthened these forces and the enemies of this country. It would have disturbed the tranquility and the academic atmosphere of universities. It would have also damaged the students themselves.
[Presenter] Mr Afshari it is known that you had a meeting with the political officer of the Canadian Embassy. Could you elaborate?
[Afshari] Yes. A meeting was held with the political officer of the Canadian Embassy upon her request. The lady made a telephone contact. It was after the sixth Majlis elections at the beginning of the new year. In early Farvardin 1379 [month beginning 20 March 2000]. We had a short meeting and she asked some questions about the sixth Majlis and the election plans of the Office for Fostering Unity.
[Presenter] Were these issues the main axis of your discussions?
[Afshari] Yes. This was it: The policies of the sixth Majlis, the policies of the Office for Fostering Unity. I answered the questions.
[Presenter] Why did they invite you?
[Afshari] Her motives are not known to me.
[Presenter] Mr Afshari, how do you feel about this [TV] interview?
[Afshari] As I said at the beginning I requested it.
[Presenter] Is there any issue that hasn't been discussed?
[Afshari] No I don't think so.
[Presenter] Is there any other particular point?
[Afshari] No there isn't.
[Presenter] Thank you.
[Afshari] Thank you.