Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Iranian Expediency Council, harshly criticized the regime for denying freedom of speech and banning political parties. Addressing a meeting of political activists who were denied the right to run in the upcoming elections, Rafsanjani warned the regime that its coercion would lead to a low voter turn-out, hinting that this would generate social unrest. The address, delivered in November-December 2015, was posted on Rafsanjani's personal website on January 23, 2016.
Following are excerpts:
Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: We expect a significant presence of our university [students] in politics, in the elections, in [state] administration, and in social progress. However, the [students] are oppressed, I'm sad to say, and this is very bad. Young Muslims study, and most of them gain an education at their own expense. At the very least, they should be allowed the freedom to express their opinions.
Iran has security thanks to its people. The people are still loyal to the revolution, but we need to understand… The decision-makers who are making the wrong decisions need to understand that if the people, especially the young and the educated, become indifferent, the security [of our society] will not remain as if it is today. The indifference of the people is a grave danger. How do people become indifferent? One [reason] is the elections. If they realize that a choice is being imposed upon them in the elections, they obviously will not [turn out to vote]. Ever since our first elections, all our referendums over the years have been free. The vast majority of the people participated in them, with a turn-out of 99%, [declining] to 60-70%. We always had [a high turn-out], but [political parties] that have recently been formed in the country have been denied permission to be active in the elections. They can only vote. The [ideological camp] is interfering [in the elections], and this might slowly lead to the danger of indifference in the country. Who allows us [to toy] with the fate of the people? We were all born free, and nobody can tell us what to think. They can only guide us.
[The ideological camp] is only deluding itself, but the people are educated and discerning, even if we give them [our] analysis, they will not disregard their own.
In my view, the Islamic regime should give its people freedom, without coercion, threats, restrictions, and false arrests. Let me read you some of the dictates of Imam Khomeini, so that you can see that he said that the people should be allowed to handle their own affairs. [He said] that there should be no eavesdropping and no false slander. [He said:] Do not humiliate the people, do not take their honor lightly, and respect the rights of the people.