Published online 8 July 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.642

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Iran presidential candidate speaks out, part 2

Former science minister and 2005 presidential contender Mostafa Moin answers additional questions about how the international science community can help Iran.

Biomedical researcher Mostafa Moin was a reformist candidate in Iran's 2005 presidential elections, following which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president. In a 2006 interview with Nature, Moin, a former minister for higher education and for science, argued that building a stronger civil and democratic society in Iran was key to the country's scientific development and it becoming a knowledge-based society. In an exclusive interview, he discusses where the current situation leaves those ambitions. Here are his answers to questions that did not appear in our print magazine.

The demands of the people now seem to have moved beyond allegations of vote-rigging to now echo the initial aspirations of the 1979 Islamic Revolution — for civil rights, including greater justice, freedom, democracy and equality. Is that the case?

Exactly. The typical slogans chanted by the protesters were calls for a return to the freedom-loving, justice-seeking and ethical and spiritual ideals of the 1979 revolution. The manner in which the recent elections were held, and its serious social and political consequences, mark a turning point in the relationship between the people of Iran and its government. People, and the young generation in particular, feel that their intelligence and personality have been insulted, and that their votes have been subject to treason by means of lies and deceit. The consequences of this will become apparent in the relatively near future.

Progressives, including academics, were purged in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, and to a lesser extent again under Ahmadinejad. Have they reasserted themselves during the current crisis, and played any significant role?

Students, young academics and the educated strata of Iranian society have played a major role. Alongside their protests against political constraints and election violations, students also protested against this purge of their professors. All Ahmadinejad's rivals in the presidential elections have also denounced the massive and illogical purge of the country's scientific and managerial elites.

Reformists have in the past criticized US funding and support for regime change as being counterproductive, and playing into the hands of opponents of reform. What do you think of US President Barack Obama's handling of the current crisis, and his overtures towards Iran?

During its long history, the Iranian nation's self-esteem and generosity means it has not needed or sought outside help. Moreover, history has taught the Iranian people to be suspicious of foreign interference — by the major powers in particular — in its internal affairs. So far, the positions and approach taken by Obama, a politician and academic, have been much more realistic and sober than those of his predecessor, and can be considered as a start towards bigger practical steps. 

Click here to see part one of this interview and farsitranslation2.pdf">here for a Farsi translation.

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