Charlie Rose with Ahmadinejad
Charlie Rose Interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
September 28, 2009
CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me in your words what happened in the election in Iran, and why it resulted in so many people in the street, so many people arrested, so much talk about arrest, torture, death in prisons including children of highly respected Iranians. And are you simply going to leave it to the Judiciary as to what happens now about putting people on trial? Tell me your story of the election and aftermath.
AHMADINEJAD: Well you know that in Iran, elections are real elections. Really completely popular ones.
CR: In contrast to?
AH: Well no, these are elections not controlled by the people. you know very well what I’m saying. There are places where elections are simply a show at the end of the day. In Iran this is just not possible, you can’t carry a show at that level. When the Iranian Revolution happened, Iran established a real republic, over a period of thirty years, we’ve had thirty national elections of various sorts. Our elections system is a popular based system, 100% of it is. Those who enforce, those who carry out the elections are from among the people. Those trusted by people in localities, in towns, in villages, people select these people. They help carry out the elections. It is done with the supervision of the people. There are actually grassroots groups that come together and supervise the elections within a framework defined by the law. And then people go tot he polls. Now in the past election in this time, something new happened which did not have anything to do with our electoral system. It really had more to do by claims made by a few politicians. I want to take you back to 1384 in the Iranian calendar in the last election. If you bear with me I will tell you what I’m trying to get to. In 1384 in the Iranian calendar, the elections took place and the people elected me. Back then, the government in place was behind the person running against me with full force. Even the Ministers in the previous government went to different parts of the country to lead election campaigns for him. And this was really not common and it’s not really looked at very well in Iran culturally in our political culture. The officials of the Interior Ministry took a position against me on numerous occasions in that past election. And they were the ones in charge of holding elections. Now two of the candidates said till the very of the end of first tenure of my office that there were electoral frauds that were carried out at that time. They were the ones who carried out the elections, their own friends, followers and supporters were the ones who carried out the elections. But because they didn’t like the result they basically said the elections were fraudulent. Now all these politicians all managed to come to office in the past in the history of our Revolution in the same election process that was on the ground when I was elected, they became president, they became heads of state, they became parliament speakers. They thought, they were really believing, that people should simply elect them. And if people could not elect them there is probably something wrong with the system. Now all the polls that were carried out before the elections, showed the same result. Maybe a margin of one percent up or down. There were tens of polls carried out. They all showed that Ahmadinejad will win, but they couldn’t accept it. They had organized forces working against…
CR: The people in the streets who didn’t accept, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri didn’t accept it. There was criticism from Rafsanjani. So it wasn’t just a few politicians, it was a range of people.
AH: It doesn’t matter, it matters that what they say has to be right.
CR: But these are young people, sons and daughters…
AH: It doesn’t matter, that is fine. When they start architecting a situation to take control it doesn’t matter what they do cannot determine what is right and wrong. There is a law and there is a truth and that defines what’s right. Now a few people may not like or accept it. I ask you, what is exactly is the purpose of elections?
CR: for the people to choose their leaders.
AH: I got 25 million votes.
CR: Serious questions were raised about that election in Iran, in your country, so much so that the Supreme Leader raised questions himself and asked for investigations, Supreme Leader. And in the end he confirmed you but there were serious questions, you can’t just brush this off. There were serious questions about human rights violations of people. I’m asking you to speak to that, was there? Do you condemn it? And is it time now to be forthcoming about some of those questions?
AH: Please bear with me, please do bear with me. Well Mr. Montazeri actually stood against Imam Khomeini in the early day so the Revolution.
CR: Well many thought he would be his successor.
AH: True, but it was Imam himself who put him aside. Well I mean he stands opposed to the system. He is considered as an opposition in Iran. From our viewpoint, what he says does not have any legal credibility. It’s his opinion. There’s a law that defines things in our country. And if we take the law out there is nothing left. When you say why the judicial system cannot or will take charge of these affairs? Well the questions is if not the judiciary than who, which institution which body is supposed to carry through with these issues? We did condemn what happened.
CR: You condemned what.
AH: Every conflict and clash that there was, some of our fellow citizens were killed, about 30 people. Most of them were actually supporters of the government. Ordinary people, who were in their stores in their cars, who were shopping, who were on their way to a party. These were people who supported the government. Even Mr Ruholamini who lost his son regrettably is one of my own friends. We’re friends. However, this was a pre-staged program and it was encouraged by some people. And an effort was made to put a positive spin on an illegal act. And some British politicians and some American politicians and some media were biased into trying to turn an illegal act into a legal act and that was not right. The purpose of elections is to make sure no one goes on the streets.
CR: The purpose of elections is to make sure no one goes on the streets?
AH: Yes, because the result of elections is meant to demonstrate that the rule of the majority is what carries through. Now without elections people will have to go on the streets to decide who wins and whoever wins on that street fight will then takeover the country. and that’s exactly why we have elections in order to channel the process of popular vote and decide who should lead the country and the person who wins the majority will lead the country. In the end in any election there’s always a majority and a group who is in the minority. now the group in the minority can’t question why they’re in the minority and decide to go on the streets and break windows and set stacks on fire and even send garbage cans on fire I mean what kind of methodology is that, I would say it’s kind of despicable. I have to tell you at the same time there are some politicians in Iran who think that they own Iran because they have a long record.
CR: Are you referring to Mr. Rafsanjani?
AH: It doesn’t matter.
CR: Specifically tell me what you think of Mr. Rafsanjani. Because he is a powerful Iranian, with a long history, and for 20 years he’s been making the Friday speech and he was not allowed to make the speech this year.
CR: What effect did all this have on you? Did it make you more powerful? Did it make you aware that you had to reach out? Did it make you angry towards Mousavi or Karroubi? You are the President of Iran who was elected and governments have recognized you, so how do you feel about all of this?
AH: I was hoping that these things would not happen. I would have liked to see everyone work hand in hand with me to build our country. I do have my complaints of them, I really do. I mean, people vote, if people don’t vote me into office I shouldn’t get angry. Why should I get angry?
CR: Is that what happened? They got angry because they didn’t get votes?
AH: It’s nothing but that. Because the elections were free, everyone said everything they wanted to say. I mean we had free debates before the elections and in fact their campaign was 10 times stronger than mine. But people voted me into office I mean it was people’s decision you cannot punish the people for the decisions they make.
CR: Were there any rapes in prison? have you investigated that? Those accusations that came out of torture and rape and death in prison.
AH: These were basically accusations made by Mr. Karroubi. A group of the Judiciary, within the Judiciary, had held a meeting with Mr. Karroubi and told him to offer the documents and evidence so that they could follow through. Mr. Karroubi said I got angry when they asked me for evidence and I don’t have any documents. You see in Iran we don’t kid around with people, with no one, no matter how senior or how regular a person anyone might be, if anyone violates the law whether inside the prisons or outside it is the responsibility of our judicial system to take care of the case based on the principles of our legal system. Now if an officer, basically there is a dereliction of duty or an officer violates the law, well that’s a separate question and that needs to be dealt with by the judicial system very carefully. But in the large scheme of things, our law our culture, our religious beliefs, tell us that we really have to get to the bottom of all these cases and God willing we will.
CR: Thank you very much. May I also, I know you’ve been asked about this on part of the Washington Post and Newsweek. Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek journalist, a lot of us in this context are concerned about him and his release.
AH: I hope all prisoners are released, I really do hope so. I think that someone should also be concerned about the Iranian nation.
CR: You’re concerned about the Iranian nation? I have many questions I do not want to abuse my time.