Over the past several days in Iran, the regime has consolidated steps it has been taking for months now towards putting Iranian opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi, under a type of permanent house arrest–a method that it has used in the past to silence individuals that it can’t just eliminate (due to their stature–like the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri) for fear of the reaction it might incur.
On February 20th, during a day of planned opposition rallies (where at least tens of thousands showed up in numerous cities across Iran), a video surfaced showing the entrance to the alleyway leading to the Mousavi residence in the neighborhood of Pastor in Tehran blocked by a metal gate:
The reports that followed indicated an escalation in the regime’s moves on the opposition.
And it is a bold and calculated one, but with the potential to backfire on the regime tremendously (as already calls for opposition protests have been made to protest the arrests… more on this shortly).
Here is some of the calculus behind the regimes’ moves to arrest the opposition figures: the regime likely thinks that by cutting off the “heads” of the opposition, they can stop the protests–at least they think its worth a try. For about a year, street protests did not reach the scale of what we saw following the 2009 disputed presidential election, but then protesters burst back onto the scene on February 14, and on February 20, of this year in large numbers, the stated purpose being solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings, but in reality to show that Iran’s opposition is both alive and capable of posing a challenge to the regime. This frightened the regime because it is trying to spin the uprisings as being “Islamic” in nature. So what to do? Arrest the leaders so they can’t call for more protests. But how does the regime think it can get away with this. Pretty simple, but very risky. The regime is banking on world attention being on the uprisings in neighboring countries, while it deploys massive numbers of security forces in the Iranian streets to intimidate people so that they won’t come out while the regime makes moves against the opposition figures.
It is a bold move, but in the opinion of the author, a stupid one.
The nature of the opposition movement in Iran is that it is a horizontal and relatively flat structure–a social network that has the capability to rapidly disseminate information, reaching a huge number of people. And one that also has links with the world’s media, some of who have over the past 2 years now, figured out the regime’s game, and so will tell the story of what is happening in Iran.
The regime just posed a huge challenge to the opposition with the house arrests.
And the opposition has responded.
A group calling itself the Green Path of Hope Coordination Council, with advisors linked to both Mousavi and Karroubi, has called for the next protest to be on 10 Esfand, March 1st, to “protest to the continued, illegal house arrests of the two loyal companions of the Green movement of Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi”:
The Council for the Coordination of the Green Path of Hope Calls for Further Nation-Wide Demonstrations on March 1st, 2011
February 25th, 2011 – In response to a calling by the youth and political and social institutions, The Council for the Coordination of the Green Path of Hope has issued its 4th statement inviting the nation of Iran to demonstrations from Imam Hossein to Azadi Square in Tehran and in all main squares across other cities in Iran, this Tuesday March 1st, 2011 (Mir Hossein Mousavi’s birthday) in protest to the continued, illegal house arrests of the two loyal companions of the Green movement of Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
The complete content of this statement is as follows:
In the name of God the Merciful,
Following the warnings by the social and political organizations within the Green movement and in particular by the passionate reformist youth within the Green movement to the authoritarian government of Iran regarding the continued, illegal house arrest of the leaders of the Green Movement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and their spouses, the Council for the Coordination of the Green Path of Hope in keeping with the legitimate demands of the nation of Iran, invites all freedom seeking citizens to protest the continued house arrest and imprisonment of the leaders of the Green Movement, this Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 [10 Esfand 1389], coinciding with the birthday of the great Mir Hossein of the Green Movement. The demonstrations will begin at 5:00pm and we will gather and march from Imam Hossein to Azadi Square [in Tehran] chanting “Ya Hossein… Mir Hossein” and “Ya Mehdi, Sheikh Medi”, raising our voices to demand the release of our Green leaders. The demonstrations will also take place in the main squares across other major cities in Iran.
In the event that our voices are silenced and the illegal house arrest and imprisonment of the Green leaders continues, in addition to other methods [of civil disobedience] to be announced by the Council in its next statement, we are also calling upon all Green companions to participate in decentralized, nation-wide protest on Tuesday March 15th, 2011 [24 Esgand 1389] coinciding with ChaharShanbe Souri. During this undoubtedly difficult time, we ask all Green supporters to continue focusing on raising awareness [within our society] and to patiently endure the hardship and ill-treatment imposed upon us by the coup forces in power; hardships designed to continue the dire status quo and impose tyranny on the people of our nation. Together we will find a new path and better future for all Iranians, ensuring that our long traditions and the divine right throughout our history to be victorious and demand justice continues.
The Council for the Coordination of the Green Path of Hope
A commonly used analogy now, since the opposition proved to the world, with the 25 Bahman (February 14) protests that it is nowhere near defeated, is that the movement for freedom Iran is “a marathon, not a sprint.”
The people of Iran have suffered under a tyrannical and cunning regime for 32 years. The regime is extremely entrenched, with a power-base that is diffuse, distributed and ideological. It is a monster, but one that has begun to lose its grip.
The marathon to be rid of it is well under way.