Monday, December 28, 2009

Days of Iranian Discontent

After a simmering period of relative quiet, the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities have erupted in violence in the wake of a crackdown by the regime against protesters. Among those killed was a nephew to opposition leader Mirhussein Mousavi in what was considered to be an assassination by the regime.

Information from within Iran remains sketchy given that the regime has done all it can to prevent the flow of information, but twitter and other nontraditional media sources are getting the stories out. The regime's thugs are using extreme violence to put down the demonstrations, but the Iranian people aren't sitting back and taking it.

Not even arrests to Mousavi's aides are going to stop the ongoing demonstrations. After all, the murder of Mousavi's nephew is likely to be a rallying point; he will be seen as a martyr to the cause. His death also shows just how far Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are willing to go in maintaining their iron grip on power.
The opposition cleric and reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi also lashed out at the authorities for using deadly force during Sunday’s nationwide protests, in which 10 people were reported to have been killed.

“What has happened to this religious system that it orders the killing of innocent people during the holy day of Ashura?” Mr. Karroubi said in a statement, according to the opposition Jaras Web site.

The death of Ali Moussavi, a 43-year-old nephew of Mr. Moussavi, became another flash point between the police and demonstrators.

The police used tear gas to disperse a group of mourners who gathered outside the Tehran hospital where Mr. Moussavi’s body had been held, the Nowrooz Web site reported. A prominent opposition figure said that the younger Mr. Moussavi was shot to death by assassins on Sunday, and that the authorities took his body to prevent a funeral ceremony.

A 27 year-old journalist who was reporting on the street clashes Sunday was also reported missing. Redha al Basha, who was working for Dubai TV, has not been heard from, said a spokesman for Dubai TV. Mr. Basha was last seen surrounded by security forces in Tehran, witnesses said. The decision by the authorities to use deadly force on the Ashura holiday infuriated many Iranians, and some said the violence appeared to galvanize more traditional religious people who have not been part of the protests so far. Historically, Iranian rulers have honored Ashura’s prohibition of violence, even during wartime.
Taking Mousavi's nephew's body to prevent a funeral procession will likely itself provoke further violence. Like they did during this past summer's violence, the regime is trying to claim that the protesters are anti-Iranian terrorists who are being spurred on by the West (and the US).

The violence started over the weekend following the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Montazeri was one of the major leaders of the original Islamic Revolution, but had become a serious critic of the regime. The regime imposed martial law and that got those seeking to mourn the death of Montazeri, and even those who didn't, upset. The violent crackdown surprised many, particularly because the funeral and the current violence is occurring during the Shi'ite observance of Ashura.

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