The rise of Khatami

In the spring of 1996 I was dismissed from college. The impact of the dismissal was so hard on my psyche that I became mentally disarrayed and socially disconnected for a while. The only thing I was seeing was to work hard, make money and flee from the hell hole.

A year later at the end of one of those long and tiring days, one of my close high school friends called and asked if we could meet to see how things going on with us. At the same time I knew that there was every Wednesday night gathering at our old high school math teacher, Mr. N’s house. Bunch of geeky looking and politically active old classmates and college students were meeting there talking about nothing but politics.

My friend and I set the time to meet there. I remember the timing; it was couple of weeks before Iranian presidential election. Nategh Noori’s was the front runner for the conservatives. His chances were high because he was from Khamenei’s close circle carrying the blessing of the Islamic Republic Guard Corps, Iranian intelligent service, conservative businessmen in bazaar, multimillion dollar cartels such as Bonyade Mostazafan, and Bonyade Ponzdahe Khordad, various conservative factions and characters and the list went on.

When I got to my teachers house they were already in the midst of a hot debate. I could barely recognize my friends through the thick cigarette smoke. I lit a cigarette and drifted into the discussion by listening. I don’t remember all the details about that night but I remember one thing. I was hearing over and over a name that was not known to me until then. They were talking about Khatami. The discussion sounded like a joke to me. Khatami had no chances what so ever against Nategh who had all the support form the people who had all the power and money. He could not win even in his wildest dream unless by a revolution. Knowing Iranians, I knew they were tired of revolution. They’ve seen one and pretty much have regretted it.

I was closely watching Khatami’s speeches from that point on. Although at the time it seems to be impossible to shatter the image of Nategh who was claiming to be the new era’s Reza Shah, but I decided to take my chances and as an individual play my last card in order to defeat the conservatives’ cause by at least one vote.

There was one thing in Khatami’s campaign that would make me hopeful. Nobody had ever dared to publicly announce that was going to normalize the relationship with the west. That was his campaign’s main thyme and it was bold, original and controversial.

As a young former student I loved it. So I got together with my friends and tried to make a strategy to mobilize as many people as we could. Oddly enough we didn’t know that the same thing was gong through other’s minds all over the country. It was 15 days left to the election that we started to talk passionately about Khatami in the public and private gatherings, buses, taxis, bakery lines, shopping centers, and coffee shops, with the friend and strangers.

The more we talked the more we were hearing back from others. Public opinion at the beginning was very skeptical about the voting and that was the key factor that conservatives were counting on. They knew that by discouraging public to vote, their candidate would have a greater chance to be elected through their small but dedicated base. Doesn’t it ring a bell, especially to our American friends looking back at the year of 2000?

For example my mom had never voted for anybody in the IRI regime even for the most popular man in Iranian politics, Mr. Banisadr, but my fifteen-day begging campaign and brainwashing finally crushed her will.

The days leading to the election almost every body was talking about a man that nobody had ever noticed him until then. People were hungry for change and Khatami seemed to have all the appeal to satisfy that hunger. Rafsanjani and his supporters also got into the race and stimulated their base to support Khatami. There was a new blood flowing into the nation’s veins. Khatami and Rafsanjani’s campaign was also the first political campaign that hired marketing specialist to steer their limited financial resources more effectively.

On the day of voting, people were lining up at the ballot boxes hours before the opening. There was no way we could definitely tell who they were going to vote for. The next couple of days were crucial. People were nervous and feared that conservative might tamper with the ballots. At the end of day, Rafsanjani with his interior minister appeared on TV at the election command center and required the ministry to be protective of the people’s vote.

Khatami to his friends and enemies disbelief won the election with a land sliding victory. The morning after his victory we heard that it was on the major European papers the headline: revolution, Iranian style, at the ballot boxes >>>PART 2: The fall of Khatami

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