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Next flash point in Iran face-off: Friday prayers

Ahead of a sermon by Mousavi supporter Hashemi Rafsanjani, protesters have taken their fight off the streets – including trying to crash the electricity grid by turning on kitchen appliances en masse.

By Iason AthanasiadisCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / July 13, 2009

Iranian worshipers perform Friday prayers at the Tehran University campus on July 10.

Vahid Salemi/AP



Though street demonstrations in Tehran have largely died out under the government's strict security measures, Iran's protest movement is gearing up for a big showing at Friday prayers this week – an action that would mark the hijacking of a conservative bastion by the media-savvy opposition.

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Meanwhile, passive resistance includes trying to crash the electricity grid by turning on home appliances at appointed times and creating power surges, or stuffing newspapers into Islamic charity boxes reputed to contribute to the upkeep of ideological militias involved in suppressing the protests.

Following two weeks during which the government prevented the sending text messages, many Iranians are trying to affect text-messaging profits by boycotting the medium altogether.

"People are still continuing their support, but it has been moved from streets to homes. People are changing their lifestyles to support the cause," says Pouya, an office worker reached by phone who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. "And there's still a lot of violence on the part of the ninja turtles [heavily armored, black-clad riot police] who ... wear masks that cover their faces."

Top military official vows to continue crackdown

The regime has signaled it will not back down. More journalists were arrested in recent days and the commander of the Joint Armed Forces pledged Sunday to continue the crackdown until order is restored.

"Some may think that by protesting and chanting their slogans against us we will back down, retreat, and give up," said Gen. Sayyed Hassan Firouzabadi, according to the state-run Fars News Agency. "We are ready to sacrifice our lives as we showed during the time of the Sacred Defense [the Iran-Iraq war]."

The next flash point in the face-off is expected this Friday during prayers at Tehran University when Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential former president, will be leading them for the first time since the election a month ago.

A strong supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mr. Rafsanjani – a pillar of the regime for 30 years – has emerged since the contested June 12 election as one of the key figures in a power struggle with Iran's supreme leader and his allies, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mohsen Rezai, a conservative presidential candidate who finished third in the June 12 elections behind Mr. Mousavi, warned Sunday night of "disintegration" of the Islamic regime. In a statement on his website translated in part by the Los Angeles Times, he emphasized the imperative need for unity that he had also cited in withdrawing his initial legal challenge to the election results last month.

Call to reformists: Flood Friday prayers