Violent Protests in Iran

28 Dec

Iran’s Green Movement, supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hussein Moussavi, decided to protest on the holiday, Ashura, a day when Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali @ Karbala in 680 A.D. ( he was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad). The usually peaceful ceremony–as violence is prohibited during observance of Ashura–turned bloody this Sunday, December 27, 2009, as Iranian security forces opened fire on thousands of people gathered in protest of the Iranian government, the re-election of Ahmedinejad, and the policies of the Ayatollah, Iran’s Supreme leader. The death toll has risen to 10 people, including Mir-Hussein Moussavi’s nephew, 35-year old Ali Moussavi Khamene, who was apparently assassinated.

Protesters lit afire police motorcycles, throwing stones and chanting slogans against the Ayatollah, who has lost his moral authority over the people, comparing him to the Umayyad caliph Yazid, who was responsible for Husayn’s death and is seen as a tyrant in Shia Islam.

Killing people on Ashura, shows the extent to which Khameini is willing to go to hold onto his power, the status quo, against the people of Iran.

Below is an essay by Iran analyst, Meir Javendanfar, based in Israel, published on the website Tehran Bureau.

Photo: Reuters

The start of an Iranian intifada


28 DEC 2009 00:56

091227095505_op-ashora-clashes-ap-283.jpg[ analysis ] 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, the demonstrations were less frequent, with quiet periods of seeming normalcy in between.

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

The main factor contributing to the new status quo is the unrelenting policies of the Supreme Leader, which have pitted his version of the Islamic Republic against longstanding Islamic institutions.

This is a battle that he will find extremely difficult to win. In fact, if developments continue in their current form, they can, at a minimum, 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 arranged. Yes, there were members of the opposition who were trying to take advantage of the mayhem, but there were also many genuine mourners who 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 counter productive as well.

And to make matters worst, the very next day, the Supreme Leader’s forces attacked mourners who were attending a ceremony for Montazeri at Isfahan’s Seyyed mosque and members of the public were beaten up inside. 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 done such a thing, 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.

In 1987, to Palestinians, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the deteriorating political and economic situation there formed the nucleus of the political ideology that legitimized the first intifada.

Khamenei’s increasing attacks against the Iranian public, followed by full-scale assaults against mosques and religious members of the community are creating the nucleus of an ideology that is legitimizing opposition, not just in cities, but throughout Iran.

However, ideology is not enough. To succeed, what is needed is to increase the frequency of opposition to the point where the morale of the regime and its forces are sufficiently eroded and they can no longer afford to carry on with their current policies, or even able to function.

Here again Ayatollah Khamenei seems to be helping the opposition. The brutal attack against the mourners at Montazeri’s funeral meant that more people were motivated to turn up in the streets on Tasua (the day before Ashura), as well as on Ashura, which happened to fall on the 7th day of Montazeri’s passing. In fact, small demonstrations have continued in different places since Montazeri was buried.

Further, on Ashura, his forces killed Seyed Ali Habibi Mousavi Khameneh, the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi. It’s very possible that he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, the Mousavi family would be forgiven for assuming that he was targeted for assassination. After all, how is it possible that among thousands upon thousands of demonstrators, he was one of the few who was shot dead? Was he followed from the beginning by an assassination team? Was he marked for death before he left the house? These are possible scenarios that cannot be overlooked.

And now his funeral, as well as the 7th day of his death, are going to provide other occasions that the opposition can use to turn up in the streets to demonstrate. Add to this 15 religious holidays, plus at least five major political ones. Meanwhile, more people are expected to be killed or arrested, meaning more mourning congregations and demonstrations. Put all these dates together and the regime could start facing demonstrations in unprecedented intervals.

Things could get much worse if the opposition turns to public strikes. With violence against the public expected to continue unabated, and Ahmadinejad planning to cut subsidies, which means more economic misery, the regime could in fact add to the attraction of this back-breaking scenario.

More than ever, the future of this regime hinges on Ayatollah Ali Khameni. He can save his regime and keep it in its current form if he learns from his recent mistakes and modifies the way his forces and government reach out to the public. Failure to readjust could turn out to be a very costly mistake.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau


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