During a Dec. 11 speech at Tehran University, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami publicly criticized his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for imposing questionable economic policies and suppressing democracy. The New York Times reported that Khatami’s criticism of his opponent was “unusual because of its high visibility at a site of youthful dissent.” Students who demonstrated against the president last year remain jailed for their protest.
Oddly, Ahmadinejad seems to welcome dissent in one circumscribed sphere: his copyrighted “official blog” (below), where visitors are invited to comment. “D. Dubois,” an American, suggests: “Why not loosen up the language a little for the American readers? And could you tell us a little about your home life and your family and what your daily routine is like.” Another American visitor to the site is more blunt: “I think you are an evil leader. Freedom and tolerance are necessities in this day and age, and the fact that your country kills intellectuals, journalists, minorities, etc. is horrible and deeply disturbing.” A third American is supportive: “Mr. President, I agree that the Islamic Republic of Iran has the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes because everyone knows that oil will not last forever.” But the majority of favorable comments seem to originate outside the United States. One admirer, apparently from Japan, writes: “I do believe that Iran, a great civilization of the world, would not do anything that will harm the world peace and harmony. I fully understand that it is American greed that is making the whole world unstable.”
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