Bloody battle for the truth in Iran
Published in “Die Welt” on December 27 2009
Source (German): http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article5646704/Blutige-Schlacht-um-die-Wahrheit-im-Iran.html#reqRSS
By Stephanie Rupp
Renewed protests of the opposition in Tehran ended in brutal battles with security forces. Deaths have been reported, among them that of a nephew of opposition leader Moussavi. The protesters above all demonstrate against the disputed presidential election in June.
“This month is the month of blood”, the protesters chanted in many places throughout Tehran. The cautious join the vivid mourning processions, beat themselves on their backs with chains, answering “The blood will triumph over the sword of Yazid”.
Thus, for fear of being attacked by the basij militia and the omnipresent police forces, they fit in with the official commemoration ceremonies for the Shiite martyr Imam Hussein, who was killed by the Umayyad caliph Yazid I. in 680 AD.
At the same time, the festival of Ashoura calls for the overthrow of Yazid. This year, however, some courageously respond to the call by chanting “Seyyed Ali will fall” – referring to Ali Khamenei, the religious leader of Iran and head of the regime.
However, some people did take resistance to the streets quite openly. Thousands of supporters of the Green Wave of the officially defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi used the most important of all Shiite festivals to stage new protests. Moussavi himself lost his 35 year old nephew Ali today, the son of his sister. He apparently was shot by policemen.
At the same time, seven days after the death of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, many people seized the opportunity to commemorate their religious idol who died one week ago. These rallies had been strictly banned.
Obviously, the regime wanted to inhibit that Montazeri – a former ally of the founder of the Republic Rouhollah Khomeini – would be placed in the vicinity of the martyr Hossein. After all, Montazeri had declared in several Islamic legal opinions that the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been rigged and was not legitimate, had called the regime an illegitimate dictatorship, and explicitly justified the peaceful protests.
Where thousands of protesters gathered in the early hours of this Sunday of Ashoura, pro-regime basij militias on motorcycles roared by, hitting passers-by with batons and chains. Very often they attacked women. Revolutionary Guards fired shots into the air, tried to disperse the protests. In many places there were fierce clashes with many casualties. Waste bins were on fire, the smoke was supposed to mitigate the effects of expected tear gas attacks. It mingled with the smoke of the so-called Esfand that is burned in the religious ceremonies in order to expel all evil.
With noon and the climax of the ceremonies approaching, more and more people flocked to the streets. Some of them just watched the ceremonies, however, countless people had prepared themselves to exploit the opportunity for new protests. Numerous sms and e-mails had been circulating, calling the people to participate in new protests. It was often difficult to distinguish religious mourners from protesters, many things were mixing.
[for embedded videos, please refer to the original article]
Those loyal to the government use the idea that Imam Hussein sacrificed himself as a martyr in order to emphasize their readiness for martyrdom for God and for their leader, Khamenei. People who fought for the Islamic Revolution remember their courage in sacrificing their blood for Khomeini, if necessary, and thus, for God. In the war against Iraq, the system used the idea of martyrdom, which enabled them to recruit many volunteers and send them to the front.
Men who returned from the war with severe battlefield wounds often declared they had rather died as martyrs, but God had denied them the honor. The students of today, however, when thinking of Hossein’s martyrdom, remember that their brothers and sisters lost their lives in the streets fighting the current repression, and have become martyrs of the movement – like 26 year old Neda Agha Soltan, who has just been elected Time Magazine’s international “person of the year 2009″.
Around noon, near Amir Kabir University, violence escalated: Reliable oppositional sources reported at least four deaths, one of them a young woman who had been shot in the back. Later, it said that at least eight people died. Independent verification is impossible due to the limited coverage.
„That we have new martyrs on this of all days, on Ashoura, that especially proscribes violence, makes me speechless”, says a young woman, an engineer from Tehran. And a teacher, who describes herself as religious and conservative, says, the fact that the reformist former president Mohammad Khatami on Saturday was beaten by basij militias during his speech in the Jamaran Mosque, once used by Ayatollah Khomeini, shows “that things have come to a pretty pass.”
All pictures in this article: AP/AFP