Opposition in Iran: New Confrontations Ahead

2010/06/02

Published in German weekly newspaper “Zeit” on 2 June 2010
Source (German): http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2010-06/Iran-Jahrestage?page=all
(An article from Tagesspiegel)
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

With the anniversaries of Khomeini’s death and the disputed presidential elections ahead, the regime in Tehran is facing a new trial of strength with the opposition.

They called for a protest rally in Tehran: Iran's oppostion leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi (left) and Mehdi Karroubi

by Martin Gehlen
Recently during prime time, in the state TV program “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”, an Iranian regime cleric sneered at the Green Movement, claiming that it resembles a “trampled snake”. “Currently it is calm. But it is waiting for the next opportunity.” Indeed: A leaden calm has descended on the country. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohammad Khatami are maintaining a low profile.

The regime seemed to once and for all have gained the upper hand in the worst domestic crisis since the founding of the Islamic Republic. Now, however, reformist politcians are getting ready for the next trial of force that could present Iran with a second politically hot summer.

Friday will mark the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the state. The week after that, on July 12, follows the first anniversary of the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This week, the regime plans to rally 2 million supporters for a huge celebration on the premises of the Imam Khomeini shrine near Tehran – a new opportunity for the green supporters to be present. Ali Khamenei himself will lead the Friday mass prayer, almost a year after his last public appearance in the central prayer hall at Tehran University, when he unconditionally defended the results of the presidential election and openly threatened the opposing candidates Moussavi and Karroubi.

They, however, still seem unimpressed, even though all of their closest staff members have meanwhile been detained. They called for a protest rally in Tehran on June 12 and applied for a respective permit with the provincial governor. Together with former president Khatami they call for fresh elections, release of all political prisoners, and free media.

Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a demonstrative act, once again had the speech he held at the Friday mass prayer that he lead in July 2009 uploaded to his website. The trust of the Iranian people was “lost” and must be “regained”, and “the elections left a bad taste in everybody’s mouths”, he then said in the presence of Moussavi.

“There are still enormous internal political tensions”, says Thierry Coville, French Iran specialist at the Paris-based “Institute for International and Strategic Relations”. A large part of the public services is demotivated, since civil servants don’t see any political perspective, he says. While the green movement as a result of the severe pressure has been put on the defensive, the “the initial discontent amongst the population is still on a high level, and very widespread”, he adds.

Apart from the unresolved political conflicts, the desolate economic situation has also contributed to this. Only recently, Ahmadinejad’s appearance in the oil city and seaport of Khorramshahr was interrupted by a protesting crowd chanting “we are unemployed”. The President’s appearances are usually tightly stage-managed; slogans are limited to “Allah is great” or “down with USA and Israel”. However, inflation has reached double figures, the official unmeployment rate is 11 %, in reality it is more than twice as high. Looming economic sanctions of the UN Security Council could further exacerbate the situation.

Opposition leader Moussavi denounced the social situation saying that Iran is currently witnessing “a decline of investment, increasing corruption, and the spreading of lies and incompetence”. Workers are not being paid, factories are forced to introduce short-time working or are shut down completely. Mehdi Karroubi seconded this on his website, stating that “Ahmadinejad was not chosen, but appointed – he lacks any legitimacy.”

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