Oppression in Iran seems tougher than ever, but beneath the surface, cracks are appearing and public anger still burns.
In 80 cities across the globe this weekend, demonstrators belatedly gathered in support of Iran’s voters. But international solidarity has taken a full six weeks since the stolen elections to manifest itself, and many people outside Iran must have wondered whether it was not too late to “make a difference”. Iran’s million-strong post-election armies of protest have been bludgeoned off the streets by vicious militias, cut off from each other and the outside world by a draconian and expensive censorship drive, and terrorised by shootings, disappearances and the open use of confessions obtained by torture.
On the surface, “order” has been enforced. But only on the surface. Inside Iran, public anger still burns, flaring up wherever opportunity presents. At the core of the Islamic regime, a struggle has been unleashed that — by stepping off his pedestal into the thick of the fray — the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has lost his once- undisputed power to bring under control. Far from subsiding, dissent is shaking the regime to its roots.
“The dust of sedition has risen into the air from every corner” and “the elements involved are no longer even concealing their faces,” thundered the hardline newspaper Kayhan last Thursday. “The deceit of the enemy has become mixed with the affection of friends.” With gross and deliberate exaggeration, the article charged “extremists” with “concentrating their efforts on the sole source of indestructible power of the political system” — theological rule under the Velayat-e Faqih — and of using Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the champion of Iranian rights, as their dupe.