Commentary: Presidential candidate Karroubi attacked by police


Published in “Der Standard” (Austria) on November 6 2009, 12:58

Former Speaker of Parliament was rescued by his body guards, his car was demolished


Arrest during the demonstration

Only several days after the large demonstrations of November 4, the whole extent of the brutality used by the police and security forces against peaceful protesters in Tehran and many other major cities in Iran has become evident. What is clear, though, is why the authorities cracked down on the protests: The demonstrations should by no means form a scenery for foreign news agencies and TV channels.

At every intersection, in every street leading to the American embassy – where the official, state-organized demonstration in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the American embassy took place, which the opposition used for their own purpose – the authorities had placed police forces, some of them armed, that were supported by plain clothes security personnel. Only people who had been officially recruited to take part in the demonstration outside the embassy building were allowed to pass. Moreover, several opposition supporters had already been arrested prior to the demonstrations.

Protesters outmaneuvered the police
However, the new tactics of the security forces was identified in time, and as a result the protesters were also using tactics. They gathered in small groups at all intersections in central Tehran, and when the armed police forces approached them, they hid in buildings and stores. The police all the more brutally confronted all those who were not able to flee.

Karroubi attacked


Already on 23. October Mehdi Karroubi was attacked by government supporters. At that time, police forces shielded him.

Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi was prevented from participating in the demonstration. The art gallery, where he was staying prior to the demonstration, was surrounded by the police, and he was not allowed to leave the building. Former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karroubi, another candidate in the rigged presidential elections in June, did not make it to the demonstrations either – on leaving his car due to a heavy traffic jam on the highway about 10 km away from the American embassy, he was directly attacked. His body guards were able to bring him to safety, but his car was demolished by the security forces. For the first time, the protesters were more radical in their demands; in their slogans, they called for an overthrow of the spiritual leadership and demanded democracy.

Like so many times before in the recent months, the demonstration was organized on the internet. It is becoming more and more evident that the “Green Movement” is about to become independent, and meanwhile can do without a leader. Moussavi and Karroubi are still symbolic figures, however, the movement in itself and the way it operates is being organized by separate units that are independent from each other and communicate only via the internet.

The radicalization of demands is confronting Moussavi and Karroubi with enormous problems. Although they are figureheads of the movement, they are not capable of exerting influence on the masses or calming them down. Despite the radicalized slogans, it is obvious that the protesters are seeking to avoid any direct confrontation with the security forces and wish to express their demands in a civilized and peaceful manner at any rate.

In addition to the universities, where demonstrations are organized almost daily, schools have recently also started to be hot spots of growing protests against the current situation: On Wednesday, in many schools students refused to attend classes and chanted slogans urging the principals to allow discussion rounds in schools.

Civil disobedience
Apparently, the movement is gaining popularity and meanwhile covers almost all layers of the society. Civil disobedience is supported by the masses as well. For example, it has become a daily routine that drivers stop in the middle of Tehran’s city freeways to let protesters write their slogans on the road. On arrival of the police, drivers warn the protesters by honking their horns.

In less than two months, the Shiite month of mourning, Moharram, will begin and offer new excellent opportunities to organize gatherings. Since the opposition does not get permissions to stage demonstrations, they take advantage of the traditional governmental celebrations and anniversaries to display their strength. New occasions emerge almost every day.

Since the Green Wave was started, almost no member of the government has been able to show up in public or in the universities without being booed or confronted with slogans. Behind the scenes, some voices are recommending to establish a balance between the regime and the movement. This school of thought is led by the formerly powerful ex-president and head of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who presents himself as the figure of balance. He seems to be one of the few people who understand what is in store for the regime in case the movement turns radical. However, he does not succeed in his efforts, because neither side is listening to him anymore.

(M.M. for from Tehran, 6.11.2009)


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