Iran: The Regime And The Opposition Grapple Anew

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 12, 2010

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Today, the regime in Iran marked its 31st anniversary; both with pro-regime demonstrations and speeches, and with efforts to shut down reformist protests. These efforts included attacks on Mehdi Karroubi, the reformist leader, as well as the detention of the granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini, and her husband–both of whom are active in the reform movement. And that’s not all:

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters who were trying to march toward Azadi Square as they chanted “death to the dictator,” the opposition Web site Rahesabz reported. Police and Basijis on motorbikes swept toward central Tehran, where protesters and security forces clashed in several locations, it and other opposition Web sites reported.

Riot police fired paint-filled balls after several hundred protesters began to chant opposition slogans in Sadeqieh Square, about a half-mile (one kilometer) from the huge pro-government gathering, witnesses said.
Witnesses say there were no apparent injuries among the protesters.

The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from authorities. Foreign media were only allowed to cover the ceremonies in the square and the speech by Ahmadinejad, with photographers bused to the site and then away. There is an explicit ban on covering opposition protests.

Iranian authorities again tried to squeeze off text messaging and Web links in attempts to cripple protest organizers. Internet service was sharply slowed, mobile phone service widely cut and there were repeated disruptions in popular instant messaging services such as Google chat.

But several Iranians reached by The Associated Press said some messenger services, including Yahoo!, and mobile phone texting were still sporadically accessible. Many Internet users said they could not log into their Gmail account, Google’s e-mail service, since last week.

“We have heard from users in Iran that they are having trouble accessing Gmail,” Google said in a statement. “We can confirm a sharp drop in traffic and we have looked at our own networks and found that they are working properly.”

Opposition members went on roof tops late Wednesday and shouted Allah-u-Akbar (“God is greatest”) in protest – echoing similar cries after the disputed June election as well as anti-shah protests more than three decades ago.

Once again, it is appalling that the people who perpetrate these outrages actually run a country.

It is difficult to say much about what has happened in Iran today, given the fact that foreign media were only allowed to cover pro-government demonstrations, and did not have the opportunity to investigate the activities of reformists. One thing is for certain, however: The protests themselves have staying power. Some days, the protests will be more visible than others, but just because the reformist movement may be quiet for certain periods of time, does not mean that the movement has been defeated. Anyone who examines the history of the reformist movement knows that it has been taken for dead on multiple occasions, only to show observers that it has more than enough life still left in it. For that matter, anyone who examines the history of the Islamic Revolution will know that the revolutionary movement when through periods of relative quiet and inactivity in its struggle against the Shah. That didn’t stop it from winning out, now did it?

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