Published on the website of German public service TV channel “ZDF” on 12 June 2010
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

First anniversary of disputed presidential election in Iran

(ZDF, Anja Carmanns)

By Halim Hosny

One year ago, Iranians elected a new president. This day is a special day in the history of the Islamic theocracy, because it marks the beginning of an unprecedented wave of protests against the leadership of the Mullah regime.

To the great dismay of many, the state-run TV on the very night of the election day announced a landslide victory of the ultra conservative incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His opponent Mir Hossein Moussavi lagged far behind. Until the last minute, election observers had predicted a neck-and-neck race. The opposition has not the only one to talk of massive vote fraud since. The event was followed by peaceful protests of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country. Green, the color of the campaign of reformist candidate Moussavi, dominated the streets.

Ruling with an iron fist
Even senior mullahs protested. Although the critics around the powerful chairman of the Expediency Council Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani are still a minority, the sole fact that the inner circle of the leadership is experiencing rifts is in itself an evidence for the deep crisis that the Islamic Republic has been going through since last year.

The elderly revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme authority in the theocratic state. His word is law. From the very beginning, he ostentatiously backed his political pupil Ahmadinejad. He called for a severe confrontation of all daring to protest against the leadership. With mass arrests, show trials, torture, rape, and executions the regime cracked down on the supporters of the reform movement.

Who is the reform movement?
It seems as if this strategy bears fruit. Many young people avoid the streets as much as possible. Recently the moral police has returned to the streets, searching for polished nails or improper hijabs. Those who get caught will be arrested or have to pay heavy fines.

The majority of the 3.5 million students, large parts of the middle class, and intellectuals form the backbone of the movement. They long for more freedom. And Mir Hossein Moussavi, the otherwise rather uncharismatic politician, has become their figurehead. With creative actions and protest marches they repeatedly managed to be present in the streets and in the headlines. Meanwhile, however, this seems to be over. The regime seems to have prevailed, at least for now.

A weakened movement?
The fact that Moussavi and other spokesmen of the opposition have called off the planned countrywide protests on this anniversary on short notice shows that the continuous repression has not failed to be effective. The movement is weakened, and some believe that it is also defeated. Their protests have long withdrawn to virtual spaces – the internet is their network.

The children of the revolution are lively, creative, and imaginative. Whether this is enough to challenge the vast power apparatus again seems questionable today. In order to succeed, the opposition depends on the support of the rural population and the poor. The latter have so far backed Ahmadinejad, and until today this has not changed.

Fewer and fewer people believe in a victory of the green movement. More and more people instead try to flee. The wave of emigration could reach a new peak this summer. The unpopular president will surely not mind.