IRAN: Opposition and hard-liners get ready for 22 Bahman confrontations
Iran's hard-line government and the green-themed opposition are gearing up for another confrontation Thursday, this time on the 22nd day of the Persian calendar month of Bahman, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
This weekend the Coordinating Council of Reform Front, a coalition that brings together 17 moderate political groups, called on supporters to head to the streets Thursday, traditionally a time of pro-government rallies.
"We’ll come on 22 Bahman to show that the green movement is intertwined with national and religious values and it insists on its rightful demands stipulated in the constitution," said a notice in Persian posted to several websites.
"We’ll come to make our voices heard by our comrades, friends, rivals and enemies -- to tell them that the green movement is independent, and it will spare no efforts to revive and protect the values, implement the law, ensure liberty for the nation and save the society. ... We’ll call for return to ideals and principles instead of jail, violence and confrontation with the nation."
Supporters of the opposition have issued a list of suggestions about what protesters should bring, wear and do Thursday.
Still, many wonder what will happen. Will the protesters come out en masse? Or will the government be able to squelch any opposition demonstrations with a combination of dire threats, harsh police tactics and deafening loudspeakers?
"We oppose hooliganism, disturbing public order and insulting religious sanctities," police chief Brig. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said, according to the Persian-language PGNews.ir. "I've already said that police will no longer tolerate lawbreakers. ... Police feel obliged to confront anyone threatening national security, insulting sanctities and crossing red lines."
Ahmadi Moghaddam also warned that police have "highly sophisticated security systems" that allow them to "identify anyone calling for rioting through text messaging."This weekend, security forces arrested seven people allegedly cooperating with "counterrevolutionary satellite networks and Zionist media," according to a statement broadcast by state radio.
"Some of them had been officially recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency," the statement said. "They had relayed news to their bosses and instigated riots. They were expected to carry out similar programs on Feb. 11 before leaving the country for the United States."
Iran's prosecutor-general, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, told Fars News this weekend that the Tehran prosecutor's office is now "handling the complaint lodged by a group of lawmakers" against opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the latest in a series of threats to have him and other opposition figures arrested.
But a wave of mass arrests of activists and journalists and the threats have failed to silence opposition voices. The Kargozaran party, which supports the relatively moderate cleric Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, issued a statement condemning the government.
"Undesirable and bitter events plunged Iran into unrest," said the statement, published by the Iranian Students News Agency. "A large number of those who were celebrating 31 years ago their contribution to the triumph of the Islamic Revolution have unfortunately been arrested or pushed into isolation."
The statement demanded that the government "respect basic freedoms and civil rights, and tolerate political activism within the framework of the law."
Otherwise, it warned, "people's demands and political differences will be followed up in the streets."
Opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, who ran and lost against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in last summer's disputed election, lashed out this weekend at the mass detentions of activists and journalists during a meeting with the families of prisoners.
"Such behaviors are irrational and mismanagement of state affairs has plunged everyone deep into surprise," he said, according to his website, Sahamnews.org. "The continuation of these behaviors will be detrimental to the regime."
He said the accusations of connection to foreign-based opposition groups were an attempt by hard-liners to "revive these dead grouplets."
He vowed to secure the release of prisoners regardless of the restrictions imposed on him and his colleagues.
Meanwhile, hard-liners showed no signs of brooking compromise.
Extreme right-wing lawmaker Ruhollah Hosseinian, told ISNA that the critics of the government had no place in the system. "They are in no position to be taken into account," he said.
The extremist cleric Ahmad Khatami told the Iranian Labor News Agency that there was no middle ground in the current political crisis.
"Today, we have only two fronts and no third front is recognized," he said. "The first front brings together the revolution and people. The second front regroups the United States, Britain, Zionists, hypocrites, monarchists, communists, fugitive singers and dancers. There is no third way."
Photo: A poster promoting Feb.11 protests. Credit: Only Mehdi blog