After Sunday clashes in Iran, 'Green Movement' supporters take stock
Following Iran clashes on Sunday between Green Movement supporters and Iranian security forces left at least 10 people dead, reformists say hundreds of supporters have been arrested. Now supporters of change are speculating about what comes next.
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A galaxy of disparate and overlapping causes and social groups -- human rights advocates, discontented clerics, women’s groups, students, and unemployed workers -- now make up the Green Movement's base. These groups have united on the streets of Tehran and half a dozen major cities to shout anti-regime slogans and defy the security forces in protests that have become more regular since Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri died on Dec. 20 at the beginning of the Shiite holy month of Muharram.Skip to next paragraph
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“This is a classic Iranian protest movement led by creative chaos more than anything else,” said Randjbar Daemi, an Iran analyst and Phd candidate in Contemporary Iranian History at London University. “We’re getting into the final stage of the confrontation and the ruling clique is waving all pretences of respect to faith, tradition, and memory goodbye. Muharram is a month of truce so the authorities in Iran are violating everything. It’s a regime that is feeling and smelling its own demise, ready to embark onto anything in order to avoid the sinking ship from capsizing.”
The death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and the beginning of a forty day period of mourning known as Ashura has galvanized the Green Movement. Monday was declared a day of mourning for Sunday’s dead and the opposition is calling for a national strike.
The absence of a clear leader has troubled Western analysts seeking to understand the fledgling Green Movement. Former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are its titular heads but government pressure and threats of arrest and trial block them from taking to the streets. In their place a slew of young student leaders, online organizers, and a keenly engaged diaspora are powering the movement forward.
“Mousavi is doing well so far, I can’t see him losing the leadership to others outside the country,” said Mr. Salehi-Esfahani. “He has wide appeal and will probably have to fight elements inside the Green Movement who’re pushing for overthrowing the Islamic Republic rather than reforming it.”
“The student organizations at major universities are still the most organised fora, but the youths have found other organizations that appear to be non-political, such as associations of painters and calligraphers, where the news of planned actions and slogans are passed along,” said Nader Uskowi, a Washington-based Iran analyst who works for the US government among other clients. “The students and the youths are still the engine of the movement but it is rapidly spreading to other segments including parents who are actively supporting their children."