The New Iranian Intifada

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 28, 2009

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Yup, the protest genie is out of the bottle:

An Iranian-style intifada seems to be in the making.

At the beginning of the current period of opposition, which started soon after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial reelection, quiet periods of seeming normalcy occurred between what were less frequent demonstrations.

Judging from the events of Ashura, however, the protests now seem to carry the potential to turn into a full-scale civil disobedience campaign, not unlike the first intifada the Palestinians initiated against Israel in 1987. Such an uprising will mean continuous periods of strikes and civil disobedience, as well as more confrontations between members of the public and security forces.

[. . .]

This is a battle that Khamenei will find extremely difficult to win. In fact, if developments continue in their current form, they can result in significant changes to the structure of his regime, or more drastically, lead to its total demise.

His decision to allow the Basij to mount an attack on mourners at Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral was one factor leading to the spread of opposition in rural areas, faster and more efficiently than any campaign the reformist camp could have orchestrated. Yes, members of the opposition tried to take advantage of the mayhem, but also many genuine mourners had come to pay homage to a Grand Ayatollah. To Ayatollah Khamenei’s forces, they were all the same. To allow attacks against the residents of a holy city where the seeds of the 1979 revolution were planted was not just dead wrong from a religious perspective, it was politically counterproductive as well.

To make matters worse, the very next day, the Supreme Leader’s forces attacked mourners attending a ceremony for Montazeri at Isfahan’s Seyyed mosque, where inside members of the public were beaten. The Basijis also tried to assault Isfahan’s former Friday prayers leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Jalaleddin Taheri, who had arranged the ceremony. However, his supporters protected him.

If the Shah had committed such an affront, one could have attributed it to his brute dictatorial secularism. But for the Supreme Leader of an Islamic Republic to order violence against Islamic institutions means turning against the very establishment that formed the foundation — or the very DNA — of the current regime.

Read on for more analysis; the Frontline piece points out that since the Islamic regime is in the business of making martyrs, it is inadvertently serving to further the protests, which will latch on to mourning periods for those killed to further the level of resistance against the regime.

More here, and here. Those who recall the slogans that were used against the Shah ought to find the following passage a trip down memory lane:

One video showed a group of protesters setting an entire police station aflame in Tehran. Another showed people carrying off the body of a dead protester, chanting, “I’ll kill, I’ll kill the one who killed my brother.”

And the following has to be chilling for the regime:

There were scattered reports of police officers surrendering, or refusing to fight. Several videos posted on the Internet show officers holding up their helmets and walking away from the melee, as protesters pat them on the back in appreciation. In one photograph, a police officer can be seen holding his arms up and wearing a bright green headband, the signature color of the opposition movement.

Oh, and while I hate to keep having to ask this question, where is Barack Obama?

UPDATE: How very charming:

Reporting from Beirut – Iranian authorities dramatically intensified a crackdown on the country’s burgeoning opposition movement Monday, rounding up political activists and seizing the corpse of one leading opponent’s nephew, along with the bodies of other victims of weekend violence, in an apparent effort to stem further protests.

[. . .]

The media furor over the seizing of the corpse of Ali Habibi-Mousavi, — opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s nephew who was allegedly shot by security forces or allied militias during massive anti-government Ashura protests Sunday — highlights the potential pitfalls for the Iranian establishment. Analysts reached in Tehran said authorities probably seized his body to prevent demonstrations from forming around his funeral. Instead, authorities came off as gruesome and heartless.

“Unfortunately, they have taken the body of my brother from the hospital, and however much we search, we can’t find the body,” his brother, Reza Mousavi, told a news website. “No one is accepting responsibility for the body or is accountable.”

A report by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said Habibi-Mousavi’s body and those of four other victims of the day’s violence had been taken away for “investigation” by the police, citing no sources.

This is how desperate the regime has become; it has resorted to grave-robbing in order to preserve its political viability. The mind reels.

Meanwhile, it is nice to see that the international community is speaking out against the violence perpetrated by the regime against its citizens. Mirabile dictu, Barack Obama is among those who has found his voice. Will wonders never cease?

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