“People are like fire nowadays. Whatever Ahmedinejad does it will be worse. Saturday morning the city was in shock. Now in the coming days you’ll see a change.” -Mohsen Makhmalbaf
The post-election struggle in Iran continues to unfold. Al Jazeera, which has been more conservative in its reporting of allegations of voter fraud than western news organs, reports that tens of thousands have come out in Tehran to support Mousavi in a rally that was supposed to have been cancelled.
This morning, Mousavi called off the rally after reports emerged that riot police would carry live ammunition and would be ordered to open fire at will. Nonetheless, Mousavi announced that he would go to the protest site anyway to ensure that his supporters remained calm. Everyone showed up, making this demonstration the largest since the disputed election. Al Jazeera reports that the rally was largely peaceful, with reports of scattered gunfire. A second rally is called for tomorrow.
BBC and Al Arabiya have been kicked out of the country, facebook and twitter are still down, and today the website Tehran Bureau, which has been publishing eyewitness reports from Iran since the election, is inaccessible from the U.S.
The next few days will be crucial to the political future of the country. If Mousavi supporters stand down or are unable to build a large scale protest movement that resonates throughout the country, Ahmadinejad will quickly cement his victory and scare dissenters into political silence and defeat. Government forces are clearly worried. Khameini broadcast a message over national radio yesterday every fifteen minutes, calling on Mousavi and his supporters to contest the election results in legal appeals, not in the streets. Last night, dormitories at Tehran University were raided and over 100 students detained. Additionally, several hundred leading opposition figures, including former president Khatami’s brother, have been detained since the election.
It seems to me that the regime needs to walk a thin line in tamping down the opposition. A Tiananmen-style massacre might spur a wider domestic movement and would certainly set back the nation’s position on the world stage and as Mid-East powerbroker.
The rally today and the continuing shouts of Allahu Akbar from the rooftops of Tehran each night suggest that Mousavi supporters have not thrown in the towel and that the opposition will continue to grow in strength and organization. The continuing Islamic flavor of the protests is a good sign that this is not simply a movement of the so-called “Gucci revolutionaries” and the secular middle-classes.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Hamid Dabashi’s 2000 article, “The End of Islamic Ideology.” In his characteristically overblown prose, Dabashi describes the youth generation that we hope will emerge to topple Ahmadinjed:
Chafing under two decades of a medieval theocracy, the young people in particular have no enduring memory of the Islamic Revolution and by all accounts could not care less about that piece of historical amnesia. They are the harbingers of a new dawn in Iranian history, vanguard of a whole new visionary recital of the possible, heralding the beginning of a fresh defiance. They have successfully learnt to forget, if not forgive, their parental paralysis.