Iran: Opposition gears up for 10-day showdown, possible Mousavi arrest
Pro-government supporters are calling for the arrest and execution of Mousavi as Iran heads into a 10-day religious holiday. But the opposition is optimistic that they have ample opportunities to promote a cause they say is growing.
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Fear of 'Yazid' label has made authorities cautious during Moharram
In the past, sensitivities about being branded “Yazid” have meant state authorities exercised a lighter touch on policing on the streets, for couples caught holding hands, for example. Instead of being arrested, they might be simply hurried on their way.Skip to next paragraph
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“They have all the tools of repression: the money, the guns,” says Mehtari. “[But] it’s impossible for the regime to stop people. If they slap one person in Tehran, they will be Yazid.”
“This show of force [on Friday] is intended to show the public that they [the regime] are many in number, hence inducing fear on the other side and discouraging them from coming out when a big even happens,” said one close observer in Tehran.
“TV has dedicated hours and hours of airtime to say: ‘The judiciary is obliged to carry out the will of the people, and arrest the heads of sedition,” he adds.
On Friday, the Tehran crowd heard: “The judiciary should confront people who continue this sedition … with the maximum punishment,” said Mohammad Hossein Rahimian, a representative of Ayatollah Khamenei, according to Fars News agency, as translated by Reuters.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Sadegh Larijani, meanwhile, gave this warning two days earlier: “I say to leaders of the sedition that we have enough evidence against you,” ILNA news agency quoted him saying. “If the regime has shown tolerance until now, don’t suppose that we do not understand.”
Larijani said the opposition leader actions were “contrary to national security” and a “clear crime,” according to a translation by Agence France-Presse. Their statements allowed “Western countries to make out that the government of the Islamic Republic was in disarray.”
Why Iran has held back from arresting top leaders
But the advent of Moharram – which Shiites have marked for centuries with dramatic public passion plays called Taziyeh – complicates the picture for the authorities.
The top tier of opposition leaders have not been arrested yet, it is widely believed, because the scale of the backlash would be unpredictable.
“The moment when the regime holds guns against its own people – that’s the end of dialogue,” says Mehtari.
Even outside Iran, there are dangers for those who criticize the regime. In Turkey, Iranian agents – who, like the Iranian asylum seekers, do not need a visa to enter – have stopped him twice on the street and told him to shut up, because “we know how to deal with you.”
Another asylum seeker, 21-year-old Maryam Sabri, was recently assaulted on the street in central Turkey after dark by two suspected Iranian agents, who slapped her so hard she fell, then kicked and beat her just two days after she repeated in a BBC interview her claims of being raped four times in detention.