Iran observers say you can tell the Islamic republic is getting ready for more street protests when the Internet is disrupted and the text-messaging system is down. And dozens of activists and intellectuals are being arrested preemptively.
And that's what has been going on in Iran recently, ahead of one of the most important dates of the Islamic republic -- the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Internet disruption is reportedly so bad that even a television moderator complained about it during a live program
on the state-controlled broadcaster. The moderator, who said that since last Monday the Internet has been down in Iran, seemed to be questioning the officially stated reason for the disruption.
Iran's communications minister, Reza Taghipour, has said that the reason for the reduced Internet speed in recent days is the damaging of an undersea optic-fiber cable across the Persian Gulf between the Iranian port of Jask and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates due to shipping traffic and anchoring.
The Internet in Iran -- just a temporary outage?
But most observers and the opposition believe that the government has disrupted the Internet in order to limit communications ahead of the February 11 anniversary of the 1979 revolution and anticipated street protests. Members of the opposition Green movement have been using the Internet and text messaging to organize protests and spread the news and also inform the world about the events in Iran.
"I don't understand why our Internet cables are just lying in the Persian Gulf and whoever is around kicks them, cuts them, and goes away," the television moderator said, adding that "this is what we imagine from the statement by the Telecommunications Ministry."
On Sunday, Taghipour said Internet connections will remain slow this week and that the breakage will be repaired by next week and that Internet speed will be back to normal.Cleaning The Streets
Other measures also being reported that are apparently aimed at preventing protests by the opposition include warnings to opposition members not to take to the streets on February 11, and new trash dumpsters.
A video has been posted on opposition websites
that shows how in central Tehran plastic dumpsters are being replaced by tougher metal ones. During the street protests of recent months, protesters were seen setting dumpsters on fire and using them as shields between themselves and security forces.
The replacement of the dumpsters could be an attempt to counter street protests and prevent protesters from setting them on fire.
Another video posted on opposition websites
shows loudspeakers being installed on Vali Street, where demonstrations are expected, apparently in order to dampen the voices of the opposition protesters.
The government is also reportedly deploying over 10 000 security forces to confront opposition activists.
Threats And Warnings
Since last week dozens of student activists and journalists have been arrested in what seems to be a move to create fear among the people and prevent antigovernment protests.
Can the security forces now see through protesters' masks?
On February 7, the head of Tehran's Revolutionary Guard, Hossein Hamedani, warned
that the Basij militia forces will not allow any group "to confiscate" the February 11 state demonstration for the anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
Last week the commander of the police forces, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, also warned "lawbreakers" and said that the police will confront anyone threatening national security, crossing red lines, and insulting that which is sacred.
Hard-line blogs have also been issuing warning to the Green opposition movement.Here
, a revolution anniversary poster on a hard-line blog that seem to warn the opposition that it will be crushed. "On February 11 we will be waiting for you," it says, adding that the "Iranian nation" will deal with "the rioters" in the streets.
Citing "reliable sources," another blog reported
that government programmers have designed a new computer program that allows the identification of the faces of people who attempt to hide them with masks, as some opposition protesters have done during the street protests.
The blog claims that modern cameras that have entered Iran "suspiciously" and are being distributed among the Basij forces, who plan to use them on February 11.
Meanwhile, the hard-line Fars news agency
reported today that a petition with 1 million signatures calling for the arrest and trial of the leaders of the "sedition" was delivered to judiciary officials. The move seem to be part of measures aimed at creating fear among Green movement supporters.
Despite all the threats, warnings, and ongoing crackdown members of the opposition have vowed to take to the streets on February 11.
Last week, opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi said defiantly that the 1979 revolution has failed to achieve most of its goals, including eradicating the "roots of tyranny and dictatorship." Musavi also said that "rallies and nonviolent demonstrations" are the people's right and that the Green movement will not abandon its peaceful struggle.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari