[A report about former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s press conference. He indirectly criticizes Khamenei and his role in the way the government runs. He also blames him for crimes related to Kahrizak detention center, where some of the protesters in the 2009 Green Movement were detained, raped and killed. Ahmadinejad also calls for reform in the process of decision making and accountability in the country.]
NARRATOR says: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad implicitly called Ayatollah Khamenei responsible for crimes in Kahrizak, and while criticizing the leader’s interference in government’s affairs, called for reforming these conditions. In a press conference on Wednesday, April 5, Mr. Ahmadinejad first mentioned the necessity of reforming the structure of decision making in the country in general.
AHMADINEJAD calls for reform in decision-making process in the country: But it is true that we want permanent reform in the system of administering the country. We all should want that. No one has said that the current system that is administering the country, this separation of powers, these relationships, this hierarchy of decision making is perfect and has come from heaven. No. People have made them. It has weak points, and these weak points will create bigger weaknesses. If you remember, in 2005 I said that I have entered the prohibited areas of the power. We have to be careful, so that forbidden areas are not created. If such domains are created, then nothing will be left, and there will be no place left for the people. This is a constant effort.
NARRATOR continues: Former president, in response to a journalist about his support for Saeed Mortazavi—who is considered by many as one of the main agents in crimes in Kahrizak—addressed this issue more openly. He first emphasized that he considers the incidents in Kahrizak as crimes.
AHMADINEJAD explains about crimes in Kahrizak: [unintelligible]. In that same month of Ramadan, I had a talk in Tehran Friday Mass Prayer in 2009, in which I addressed the issue of Kahrizak. And I said, “This is certainly a crime, this is corruption, and must be confronted.” But what have the incidents in Kahrizak got to do with the government? What has that got to do with the government? Can you tell me? Is the government in charge of Prisons Organization? Is the government in charge of the law enforcement? Is the government in charge of the judiciary system?
NARRATOR explains the actual process of appointing some of the ministers in the cabinet: Mr. Ahmadinejad was pointing to the fact that the law enforcements are not under the control of the government. But theoretically this is not true, because according to the law, the law enforcements are supervised by the Interior Ministry, and Interior Minister is appointed by the president. But, in fact, Mr. Ahmadinejad is telling the truth, because 5 key ministers of the government are assigned by Ayatollah Khamenei: Ministers of Intelligence, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Culture and Islamic Guidance. Thus, what Ahmadinejad means by saying that the law enforcements are not under the control of the government is that the law enforcements are supervised by the leader, and the leader is responsible for their actions. This is also true about Prisons Organizations and the judiciary system.
NARRATOR stresses how Ahmadinejad blames Khamenei for what happened in Kahrizak in 2009: And as such, Mr. Ahmadinejad implicitly considers Ayatollah Khamenei responsible for crimes in Kahrizak. But when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was questioned by a journalist about the performance of Intelligence Ministry in his own government, he once again implicitly blamed Ayatollah Khamenei, and introduced him as responsible for this ministry’s performance, because it is the leader who actually appoints the Intelligence Minister.
JOURNALIST asks about contradictions in Ahmadinejad’s words and behaviors: Mr. Ahmadinejad, it seems that contradictions are the only things that would never let go of you…. Meaning that you will never get rid of contradictions. You talked about the constitutional law and freedom of the press. In your government, many newspapers were shut down. You pointed out to the person sitting next to you, and said that he had been in solitary confinement for 7 months without seeing the sunshine. Your Intelligence Ministry kept many people in solitary confinements for many months. Well, I have nothing to do with these issues. I want to point out to today’s contradiction. Several months ago, after Mr. Baghai announced his candidacy, you issued a statement, and even after that, in meetings with those who are sympathetic to you, you said that “I will not support anybody, even if he is one of the closest people to me.” Less than a month after that statement, you supported Mr. Baghai. And today you invited him to sit next to you, and then raised his hand and openly announced your support for him. Mr. Ahmadinejad, did you lie when you said last month that you will not support anyone? And if he [Baghai] is disqualified, one of those ways will be that you yourself will run [for presidency] in this election?
AHMADINEJAD claims he wasn’t responsible for shutting down the newspapers: You said…allow me, allow me. You said, “newspapers were shut down in your government.” Did I shut down the newspapers? [unintelligible] How many of them are from the government? I protested to it [shutting down the newspaper]. I took back all the government’s complaints against the press time and again.
JOURNALIST keeps pushing Ahmadinejad: Intelligence [Ministry] was supervised by you.
AHMADINEJAD implicates the leader: Was it [really] under my supervision? Well, think about my answer.
NARRATOR continues: The journalists in the Wednesday press conference did not let go of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and one after the other put him more and more under pressure to make him speak more transparently. Eventually, he addressed the issue of the leader’s interference in appointing the members of the government, asking for a reform in this.
JOURNALIST [“Tamashagaran Emrooz” daily] asks: When they asked you about Intelligence Ministry, you said that “Was I really in charge of it?” They asked about the Press Office, and you said, “Was I really in charge of it?” (I am talking about Mr. Ramin’s time.) well, as a matter of fact, you were president of the country for 8 years. In response to many questions that were critical of you, you just said, “Was I really in charge of it?” Now, let’s imagine that you become the head of the government one more time. During the 8 years that you had the power, you couldn’t defend the constitutional law in these fields. What guarantee is there that you will not come to power and 8 years or 4 years again, and you will not keep saying, “Was I really in charge of it?”
AHMADINEJAD answers: First of all, do not forget that the main guarantee is people’s votes. Second, as I explained in the first part, one of the things that must be done is reforming the decision-making system. Or do you think that whoever can do whatever he wants, and then the president is responsible for that?
JOURNALIST says: Well, in those 8 years…. Let me ask my question.
AHMADINEJAD says: Allow me…
MODERATOR asks the journalist to keep quiet: You asked your question. Now let him answer.
AHMADINEJAD explains the paradox of accountability and power in Iran: You must know the existing structures in administering the country. That is why I said one of the basic reforms is in the country’s decision-making system. And this exactly corresponds to what you said. Well, if I should be accountable for the deputy minister’s performance, I must be able to choose him myself. Ministers mustn’t be held responsible and accountable to different people and places. If someone else imposes something on them, should I be accountable? This must be legally reformed. Pay attention please…whatever…. Legally, it is not always necessary to go to the parliament. It might require the interpretation of the constitutional law, it might require reformation of the constitutional law, it might require some ordinary law, or it might require national reconciliation. There is not just one way of doing it. Well, this is what I have always believed in. And now you are returning this back to me? Besides, in the previous government, I was the most accountable. I was the most accountable one, even when in cases when the issue wasn’t related to me.
AHMADINEJAD gives examples in this regard: Do you want me to give you an example? In 2010, a bill passed in the parliament, according to which all president’s powers in oil affairs were taken away from him. Then later in 2012, something has happened in oil [sector], now they say that the president should be held accountable. Well, accountability and power should be proportionate. You took away the power and gave it to someone else. Now why are you asking me? Or in the legislation for the 5th [Development] Plan, the power to appoint and depose the Governor of Central Bank and Money and Credit Council was taken away from the president. This power was preserved in the Expediency Discernment Council and was later given to the current government. It means that from late 2010, 2011, 2012 to August 2013, we did not have the legal power over Central Bank and Money and Credit Council. Then something happened in the banking system, and they say Ahmadinejad should come and be accountable. These are the problems.
AHMADINEJAD continues: Yes, we can attribute any incident to anybody we want. Yes, we can do that. But can we live like this? Can we be then accountable to God? Can we reform the conditions like this? Wherever there is power, there should be equal accountability. It is not possible to have powers in one place, and accountability at another place. This creates problems. We do not want to fight with anybody, or be adventurous. We want to reform with the proper method. We want to reform with a logical method. And we will follow this to the end. God willing.
JOURNALIST makes fun of those who have invited some people to applaud for Ahmadinejad in a press conference: Well thank you. Let me first thank the moderators of this press conference. In
addition to the journalists, photographers and cameramen, they have invited the same number of people for applauding! Well, no one applauds in a press conference!
MODERATOR says: Well, let them applaud. You ask your question. Let them applaud you as well. Please ask your question.
JOURNALIST asks: Dr. Ahmadinejad, given the fact that the supreme leader, to prevent the polarization of the [election] atmosphere, had told you to not to enter this domain, and the fact that Mr. Raisi most probably will run in this election (I don’t think principlists can have a candidate other than Mr. Raisi.), which polarizes the atmosphere with Mr. Raisi on one side and Mr. Rouhani on the other side, don’t you think your running for presidency can break this polarized atmosphere? (And that is because you said at first that you don’t have a plan. You are used to not announcing your plans, but you might have plans for later.) Don’t you think that, on the contrary, your presence can break this atmosphere that has become polarized? Thank you.
AHMADINEJAD responds: Thanks. First let me say something. We should all respect each other. We should all be respectful towards each other. There are some who like these words and applaud them. How can you say that in the world and in other conferences, they did not clap? How can you say that? When we spoke in New York, they clapped. Ten times. And they will still applaud us. This is expressing one’s opinion. I want to ask this dear friend to respect all. Well, you can applaud for whoever you want. Are we going to be upset? When you asked me a question, did I get upset? Why should I get upset? We have gathered here to reach more understanding and a common ground.
AHMADINEJAD asserts: We have not come here to take stance and impose our ideas on others. You ask questions. I have talked to the media more than anybody else in the history of the country in the world. They come and easily ask. Now somebody applauds. Do we get excited? Or if they say something [that is against us], do we get angry? No. It is not like that. You ask your question and I am at your service. Well, the first part of your question was a little in contradiction to the last part. You said that the supreme leader recommended to me: “Do not run [for presidency] so that it [election] doesn’t become polarized.” Right? And then you said that it has already become polarized. And you named some people. Does our entering the election make it with two poles or three poles? Then that’s it. It is not against the supreme leader’s opinion, right?
JOURNALIST asks again: How about you yourself?
AHMADINEJAD says: You say I should come too? Well, I have come here. And now I am at your service. I am your humble servant. I am your humble servant. I am the humble servant of all– those who applaud, and those who don’t. I am your servant. We are a nation. And I swear to God that we all should live together. We are all different. You can’t find two persons among the people who are exactly the same. This is on behalf of me, Mr. Mashai, and Mr. Baghai.