Not the End of the Opposition, but a Slap in the Face for the Minister
Published in Austrian daily “Der Standard” on 11 June 2010
Source (German): http://derstandard.at/1276043699636/Ohrfeigen-fuer-Minister-statt-Ende-der-Opposition
Saturday marks the anniversary of the disputed presidential elections – protests were called off.
But the opposition is as strong as before. It is avoiding confrontations and playing for time.
On the eve of the anniversary of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the Iranian regime had planned to demonstrate force and unity. The elections that took place on June 12 of last year had caused the largest protests in the 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, and the celebrations on the 21. anniversary of the death of Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini came at just the right time to stage a celebration of unity. But it did not turn out that way.
Revolutionary Guards units from all over the country were ordered to travel to Tehran with kith and kin to gather at Khomeini’s tomb. They were supposed to be millions, but only around 100,000 showed up. When Khomeini’s grandson was greeting the guests at the shrine of his grandfather, supporters of Ahmadi-Nejad heckled him to prevent him from delivering his speech. The reason: After the disputed elections he had openly sided with the opposition and described the presidential elections as rigged. He cut short his speech, his family left the event in protest.
For the opposition, this incident of last week, that was broadcast on TV live, was another opportunity to declare that the president still has a problem of legitimacy. Despite arrests and executions, the opposition has gained ground in all strata of the society.
By the regime is now very aware about how strong the opposition is, despite all repressions. For days now, the regime’s nervousness is apparent. Armed security forces are patrolling all intersections in Tehran and other cities, trying to prevent people from gathering in groups.
Protests planned by eight opposition groups were banned. Opposition leaders MirHossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi called off a planned major demonstration in order to prevent bloodshed. Zahra Rahnavard, Moussavi’s wife, in an open letter called on the government to change its course and accept the people’s wish for more democracy. She also demanded the release of arrested protesters who have been imprisoned for months.
The opposition purposely avoids all confrontation and plays for time. And indeed, the differences among the conservatives seem to be bigger than ever. The leaderships of the government and the parliament accuse each other of violating the constitution, each group refers to itself as the true advocate of Khomeini’s heritage.
Since the family of the founder of the Islamic Republic sided with the opposition, the spiritual leader and his entourage have lost their exclusive right to Khomeini’s heritage. After the dissent on the anniversary of his death, the rifts among the conservatives became apparent even to ordinary people in the most remote areas of the country.
A founding member of the Imam-Khomeini shrine hit Mostafa Najar, the Interior Minister, in the face – in front of the eyes of thousands of pilgrims and the cameras, when the latter attempted to prevent Khomeini’s grandson from delivering his speech. Even though the Saturday protests were called off: It is going to be a hot summer in Iran. There are enough reasons to fuel new confrontations.
(N. N.* from Tehran/DER STANDARD, printed edition of June 12, 2010)
* For security reasons we can not disclose the name of our correspondent.