Election a coup d'etat, says celebrated director


IRANIAN FILM director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, spokesman for defeated opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi, yesterday called on the international community to refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government.

Speaking in Rome, Makhmalbaf said that along with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme religious leader, the president-elect had effected a “coup d’etat” by means of electoral fraud at last week’s presidential elections.

Arguing that every government in the world needs both domestic and international support to survive, he claimed that the street protests of the last week have proved clearly that Mr Ahmadinejad does not have domestic support. It is now up to the international community, he suggested, to forcibly express its disapproval.

“Before these elections, foreign observers were asking if Iran was really ready for democracy. After what has happened, there can be no doubts about Iranian readiness. Rather, we now ask the international community: Are you on the side of democracy or of a dictatorship?”

Paris-based Makhmalbaf, director of The Voyage To Kandahar, has lived in self-imposed exile since 2004, by way of protest against censorship and the denial of basic freedoms. He describes himself as an intellectual called on to act as “the ambassador of a country without a voice”, adding that via intermediaries he is in daily contact with Mr Mousavi.

As an example of the brutality of the Ahmadinejad regime, Makhmalbaf said that 26-year-old Neda Soltani, the student whose killing during a Tehran protest march has gone round the world via the internet, was deliberately targeted and not accidentally killed. Government agents on motor bikes pulled up beside her, he claimed, and shot her in the throat.

Makhmalbaf originally travelled to Rome to call on the Italian government to withdraw an invitation for Iran to participate in a pre-G8 meeting of foreign ministers in Trieste next weekend. Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said that, given that Iran had not formally accepted the invitation, he now considered it cancelled. Italy would have cancelled the invitation in any case, he said.

Earlier this week it was reported that Italy, along with other EU countries, would be willing to open its Tehran embassy to wounded protesters. Makhmalbaf said yesterday that protesters who had appealed to the Italian embassy had been arrested this week outside it.