Tehran’s anxiety in the face of the anti-America day
Published in “Die ZEIT” und “Tagesspiegel” on November 3, 2009
By Martin Gehlen
Annually on 4th November, Iran celebrates the takeover of the US embassy in 1979. But this of all times – on the 30th anniversary – the opposition is planning to stage demonstrations as well.
The American hostages of that time remember him as “particularly disgusting”. Today, he himself is being held – in Evin prison, as an opposition member. 30 years ago, Mohsen Mirdamadi was one of the three ringleaders of about 400 students who in 1979 on November 4 at 11:30 a.m. seized the American embassy in Tehran and took hostage all diplomats. The 52 hostages were released only after 444 days. This was the end of the probably most expensive and momentous political action in the history of the Islamic Republic.
Thus, the West did not lift a finger when Saddam Hussein attacked his neighbor in 1980 and forced an eight-year war upon him. The diplomatic relations with the US were terminated in 1980 – a fact that significantly contributes to Iran’s isolation on the international stage. In Iran, however, the 4th November has been an occasion for marches of “death to America” and hateful speeches year after year, staged with revolutionary routine in the streets around the former US embassy which today serves as a training center for Revolutionary Guards.
And on this 30th anniversary, of all times, everything is different. Mirdamadi, the student hero of the past, these days is being put on a show trial at Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. For years he has been promoting a detente in the relations with the United States, and he blames president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that his government is gradually turning into a dictatorship. The prosecutors, on the other hand, accuse him of planning an overthrow and want him, along with several other reformists, to stay behind bars for years.
“The greenest day of the year is approaching”, wrote opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi recently in his 14th internet statement since the disputed presidential election in June. According to him, the 4th November should remind everyone that “ruling belongs to the people”. Therefore, the supporters of Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two reformist candidates, are preparing to again use the opportunity offered by the official calendar of anniversaries of the Islamic Republic, to entirely green and entirelly legally take to the streets. The Association of Combatant Clerics, of which former president Mohammad Khatami is a member, also called on the people to protest peacefully, however, warned the people “not to resort to violence even when being attacked”.
For the hardliners are also mobilizing. The pro-government Basij militias announced they will activate three million uniformed forces for the rallies in Tehran to overwhelm the opposition by sheer outnumbering. “They are all misguided people who want to trample down the achievements of the Revolution”, said Mohammad Saleh Jokar, commander of the Basij. The deputy head of Iran’s police pointed out that every “illegal gathering” will be answered with harsh and determined action.
And finally, on Tuesday, the supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei addressed Washington with a new rhetoric salvo. “Each time they show a smiling face, they hide a dagger behind their backs”, he said. The ayatollah warned the opposition not to take “evil action against the government”. The regime would not stand by “if the red carpet will be rolled out for the United States.”
(This is an article from the “Tagesspiegel”)