In a dual strategy of repression and counter-mobilization, Iran’s embattled regime has arrested hundreds of opposition activists following the recent Ashura protests, while rallying conservative forces against the democratic Green movement. Some reports even suggest that the hardline Revolutionary Guards Corps is preparing a coup.
Thousands of government supporters at a Tehran rally called for the death of Green movement leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the hanging of anti-government protesters.
The pro-regime Coordination Council for the Dissemination of Islamic Ideology called for protests denouncing the Ashura demonstrators. Public sector workers, schoolchildren and some industrial workers were reportedly bussed in and compelled to attend.
Emad Baghi, winner of the Martin Ennals Award for human rights, is among those arrested, along with Dr. Nushin Ebadi, sister of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi; women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi; Somayeh Rashidi an activist in the One Million Signatures Campaign; and democratic advocate Heshmat Tabarzadi.
“These names may be hard to keep track of,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “But so, once, were those of Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Sharansky.”
“If the government continues to opt for violence, there very well may be another revolution in Iran,” Tabarzadi recently wrote. “One side has to step down. And that side is the government – not the people.”
The speaker of the Majlis, Iran’s Parliament, Ali Larijani, has called for the “arrest of offenders of the religion and the harshest punishment for anti-revolutionary figures”.
Velayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists) is a pillar of the Islamic Revolution, said Larijani. If not for velayat-e faqih, Iran would have lost the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.
Unlike the movement’s putative leaders, many in the Green opposition are convinced that the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed, and are agitating for a democratic secular republic.
It is not only the Ashura day protests but the thousands of acts of daily dissent and civil disobedience that confirm that the Jonbesh-e Sabz, or Green Movement, is “alive and thriving” writes Tara Mahtafar of Tehran Bureau and Inside Iran.
This “far-reaching movement encompasses a vast swathe of Iranian society”, she argues, as reflected in families of political detainees who continue to demand the release of their relatives; the Mourning Mothers solidarity group holding weekly vigils; and factory workers barricading highways.
Tehran City Council has asked the Central Bank to withdraw money from circulation because so many bills are ‘defaced’ with dissident slogans, including many that are run through printers to be imprinted with the face of Neda Soltan.
The democratic West has denounced the repression under way in Iran, but rhetoric is insufficient, Iranian democrats argue, when European states in particular have consistently prioritized trade over confronting the regime:
[S]ix months after the emergence of powerful yet peaceful resistance that is bringing down one of the most brutal dictatorships of our age, the international community still has not been able to put the needs and wishes of the millions of freedom-loving Iranians at the center of its Iran policy. Words of solidarity mean nothing if they are not followed by tough action.
The international community’s inertia has prompted an international network of expat Iranians called United4Iran to start a campaign aimed at mobilizing international opinion through a postcard campaign targeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the winner of June’s disputed election; and Revolutionary Guards leader Mohammad Ali Jafari.
“The diaspora wants to play a role in bringing the violence to an end,” said an organizer. “We are highlighting the human rights situation in Iran and the three figures that are behind it.”