Iranian Officials Call for Reformist Participation in Elections
In a speech to a group of students on September 11, former Iranian president and reformist Mohammad Khatami stated his belief that reformists should participate in the coming presidential elections. Khatami’s website quoted him as saying that “participating in the election is a right, and we will make every effort to ensure this right is not taken from anyone.” Later, moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of Iran’s Expediency Council, echoed Khatami’s sentiments, saying that “free and open elections would solve many of the current problems” facing Iran. Khatami and Rafsanjani’s comments came after conservative groups announced that reformists should not be allowed to run in the June 2013 elections unless they denounce their past decision to side with the opposition amid the controversial 2009 elections.
On September 11 the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor sentenced to death in 2009 after being accused of apostasy. On September 8 the Iranian Judiciary acquitted Nadarkhani of recent charges of “banditry and extortion,” in addition to the apostasy charge. The United States welcomed the news, but released a statement saying that “the status of religious freedom in Iran” remains grave despite the pastor’s release.
In other news, Canada closed its embassy in Tehran on September 7, ordered Iranian diplomats to leave Canada, and severed all diplomatic ties after accusing Iran of being “the most significant threat to world peace.” Iran’s top diplomat responded, saying that Canadian officials had “nothing substantial against the embassy,” and called the act “unwise, uncivilized, and hostile.” The suspension of diplomatic ties came as Iran’s currency hit a record low against the U.S. dollar, with a posted exchange rate of 25,650 rials to one dollar on September 10. Iranian officials met behind closed doors to discuss what measures should be taken to tackle the rial’s fluctuation, but have not yet released a statement.