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Emboldened By Egypt, Iran’s Opposition Leaders Call for Permission To Protest

A composite photo of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi (right) and Mehdi Karrubi
A composite photo of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi (right) and Mehdi Karrubi
Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi have called on officials to allow the opposition movement to hold street protests, saying that even in Egypt people are able to demonstrate.

“Today in Egypt – despite the tension and violence – protesters have been given permission to demonstrate to show which side has greater support. Therefore, we believe that if in Iran the opposition were given permission to demonstrate, it would become clear which side has a popular base and support.” The “Kaleme” website quoted the two as speaking at a meeting on January 31.

At the meeting, which was held at Karrubi’s residence, the two praised the uprising of the Egyptian people and said “dictatorships would sooner or later be annihilated.”

A senior aide to Musavi, Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, who is currently in Europe, said the Iranian leaders should allow the opposition movement to hold peaceful protests on the anniversary of the 1979 revolution so that it would become clear “whether the Iranian establishment is in a better position than Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunis.”

Arjomand told “Kaleme” that people in the region have demonstrated they want to decide about their own future through the creation of democratic governments.” He said in another interview that millions would show up if the government did not use force against the protesters.

A student activist (unnamed) reacted to Musavi and Karrubi’s January 31 comments with frustration: “Musavi and [Karrubi] really don’t know that the Egyptian people didn’t ask for permission to protest?”

Musavi and Karrubi in the past have demanded official permission for holding demonstration, but their demands were ignored by Iranian officials.

A Tehran-based observer told Persian Letters he believes that under the current state of repression, even if opposition leaders call for protest, not many people would likely participate. "The price of protesting in Iran has been very high and the momentum is gone," he said.

More than a year after the crackdown that followed the 2009 antigovernment protests, a number of political activists, intellectuals, and students remain in jail. Others say they are being threatened and pressured by the authorities.

Musavi said in his January 31 meeting with Karrubi that the “high number of executions” in the country had resulted in an atmosphere of fear.

“Has the execution of about 300 people in a year had any achievement other than the creation of fear and concern in the society and international isolation?”

The Iranian opposition leaders called for an end to executions that are being carried out quickly, without the completion of the judicial process and without the knowledge of the families of those put to death. They also blasted authorities for not returning the bodies of those executed to their families.

They also expressed concern over the economic situation in the country which they said is pressuring mainly “the deprived classes of the society”.

“These days, even the most basic economic activities such as transferring money for business have become a nightmare.”

Musavi and Karrubi blamed the “adventurous and controversial” policies of the Iranian government for the situation.

Last week, Musavi criticized state media and officials for ignoring the real reasons behind the upheaval in Egypt, while subtly likening it to the situation in the Islamic Republic.

“Unfortunately, the interests of the ruling ideology in Iran do not allow the realities to be revealed as they are. The preachers of the obedient public outlets fail to pay any attention to the corrupt and despotic methods of the present-day pharaoh of Egypt, who has created an explosive situation in his country by arrests, forced confessions, framing people, and looting the nations through gangs and organized groups of people surrounding them. They do refer to the ‘wrath of the people” of Egypt, but they never explain that this ‘day of wrath’ has come about as a consequence of inefficiency and corruption at the highest levels of state, extravagance and wasting people’s funds, censorship, shutting people down, executions, and lining up gallows to create fear in people. “

He added: “pharaohs usually hear the voice of the people when it is too late.”

Musavi’s comments contrast with those made by Iranian officials and state-controlled television that has portrayed the recent upheavals in the Arab countries as a struggle for Islam and a revolt against Western puppets.

Yet, both sides seem to believe that citizens protesting in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries have been inspired by Iranians.

Musavi has said the 2009 protests against the disputed reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad inspired citizens in the Islamic countries.

Iranian officials, however, say the inspiration for the current uprisings is Iran’s own 1979 revolution.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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