Accessibility links

Breaking News

Tehran Letter: 'Confrontation Is Almost Inevitable'

Tabriz has been "unexpectedly quiet," the author says.
Tabriz has been "unexpectedly quiet," the author says.
It is becoming almost a daily routine to hear and see new and extreme political developments in Iran.

Ever since last Friday, when Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani called for the release of prisoners and for an acknowledgment of the people's vote, there has been a barrage of attacks on him and his supporters.

Then Mohammad Khatami on July 19 called for a "referendum," although the real question is, Who would oversee such a referendum? The sadistic Guardians Council?

The reform movement is turning into a "referendum movement," and if it does there is no turning back.

The government, or rather ruling elite, is using a tactic called "victory through fear," an old method used by invading Arab armies 1,400 years ago, the Vatican during the Dark Ages, Hitler during World War II, and most recently the Israelis.

The text-messaging system is still disconnected in Tehran and the Internet is extremely limited.

And the degree of ruthlessness shown by the guards and the police is becoming so profound that confrontation is almost unavoidable.

Look at how many people are getting arrested, beaten up, or even killed on a daily basis. It has become a routine event for all of us to join rallies, get beaten, and then escape through the alleyways and then scream our lungs out at 10 p.m. every night with chants of "God is great."

Unexpected Twists

The other day was a friend's birthday and we were making our way through the arresting armies and club-waving security guards west from Haft Tir Square into Karimkhan Avenue and then north along Kheradmand Street.

I asked my friend what he wanted for his birthday and he said, "I want a basij; I want to hear his bones crack; I want to see him bleed and remind him that this would not remain a one-way street for long."

From Reform to Referendum; from peaceful demonstrations to violent confrontation; from using Koranic proverbs and quotations to name-calling by the supreme leader; from an unchoreographed civil-disobedience movement to a potentially bloody revolution -- the situation in Iran is pregnant with unprecedented events that may unfold in unprecedented ways.

The system appears to be breaking on a daily basis. The demagogues who believe they are sent by God are increasingly becoming restless as things are not moving forward in the way they envisaged.

There were rumors that 37 army officers who wanted to attend Friday Prayers, dressed in full army uniform and in support of the people, were arrested. There's also a story going around about a Revolutionary Guards officer who is under house arrest and being forced to declare his allegiance to the leader after he refused to order his troops to shoot at a crowd.

Question Marks

In the cities of Qom and Mashhad, the clergy -- once fractured but united -- are drawing battle lines. There are two main groups, increasingly polarized: the "Rohaniate Mobarez" and the "Rohanioun Mobarez" (both roughly meaning "combatant clergy") -- the first grouped around the supreme leader and the second calling for a referendum.

But will things come to a head? Will the movement be able to capitalize on these divisions?

A big question mark hangs over the city of Tabriz. It has been the hotbed of revolution for over 100 years. The breeding ground for the great leaders of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11, such as Sattarkhan and Bagherkhaan, its are people among the strongest supporters of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But while the so-called green movement has been active in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Khoramabad, and several smaller cities, Tabriz has been unexpectedly quiet.

Could it be that the brave Tabrizis have succumbed to the authorities' campaign of fear?

My cousin is married to a Tabrizi and he once told me that "Iran without Tabriz and Tabriz without Iran is unthinkable."

Maybe we have to wait until the dust settles.

Or maybe things are happening so fast that even as I write these words, my history is changing forever.

Ahmad is a pseudonym for a journalist in the Iranian capital, Tehran, who contributed this piece to RFE/RL's Radio Farda