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IRAN: Tehran residents speak up about protests and opposition movement

March 7, 2011 |  6:24 am

Protesters-in-Tehran3What do Iranians think about the confrontation between pro- and anti-government forces that continues to dominate the country's political discourse?

Babylon & Beyond spoke to people on the streets and in the mosques of Tehran to canvas opinion about recent protests in the Iranian capital, the opposition movement and its leaders.

Those interviewed also were asked whether they thought protests might escalate or were losing momentum.

Amir, 50, businessman:

"The demonstration on March 1 was in Engelab and Azadi avenues and they were more than I had expected. But the difference was the plainclothes police who were among the groups of demonstrators. ... As soon as [the protesters] dared to chant slogans, they were arrested and taken away to the waiting buses. I have watched videos ... about the demonstrations in Shiraz and Isfahan and other cities. The demonstrations will be escalating if the suppressive militia lets up and is a bit lenient."

Mohammad, 46, Koran teacher: "I think the sedition is not going to escalate in the future. Of course, sedition is a mixture of right and wrong, and it is difficult to discern right from wrong. I think the people who voted for Mousavi and Karroubi are distancing themselves from them -- especially those who are faithful Muslims and want a religious state here. Mousavi and Karroubi have used their supporters as a bridge to reach to their goals. Now people are realizing the reality."

Hamid, 54, bookseller: "I am pessimistic, and the demonstrations seem to be diminishing in size. As you can see, the number of demonstrators diminished in the protests Feb. 14, Feb. 20 and the latest, March 1. People like me think that it is not worthy to take to the streets and be beaten up or arrested or killed for the sake of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi and ex-President Mohammad Khatami. We need new goals to fight for. Otherwise, we have to revise our protest methods, and I believe we need militant groups to fight in parallel to our peaceful demonstrations to exercise our pressure on the regime."

Emad, 27, engineer and salesman: The demonstrations are shrinking in size and number, but I think as soon as the economic dissatisfaction becomes more of a factor, demonstrators will be able to mobilize people for bigger protests. But the next time, the leadership will be out of reach for Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Javad, 43, businessman in Tehran's Grand Bazaar:  England, the U.S. and Israel are behind the sedition. The Feb. 14 unrest, especially, indicated that the sedition leaders are under the influence of Britain. People who were among the 13 million who voted for Mousavi are now disillusioned and are realizing the ill intentions of the sedition leaders. For sure, the sedition will diminish.

Shahram 24, pharmacology student: Sixty percent of our faculty are pro-Mousavi and pro-Karroubi, but only a very tiny group of us is ready to take to the streets to protest. One thing is sure: I was in the demonstration on March 1 but not for Mousavi or Karroubi. Not at all. We are subversive. We are against the whole system.

Naser, 48, teacher : One of my students was arrested on March 1 but was freed after a few hours by law enforcement. I think the Basiji militia and police were lenient and more divided than before. So I hope that the protest will gain momentum.

Mehdi, 27, student studying for doctorate in philosophy: Some friends who were supporters of and voted for Mousavi and Karroubi are now distancing themselves from them. ... In short, the majority of Iranian society is religious, and those who want to raise the banner of secularism and separation of state from the mosque are mistaken, and that is why I think the sedition or green movement or whatever you call it is diminishing. But I think the sedition will remain and will be problematic in the future.

Mostafa, 40, unemployed: Before Feb. 14, the green-movement websites tried to depict the regime as lacking power to suppress and crack down and wooed people to take to the streets. But on Feb. 20 and March 1, the wooing and lulling techniques failed. I personally do not want to end up in jail, and I am looking for a better life and to get a job to earn my living. So I am with the protests as long as they are easy and promising.

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Anti-government protesters out in the streets of Tehran on Feb 14. Credit: Payvand website

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