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In Iran, silent protests even more silent this time

February 14, 2012 |  3:33 pm

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- Opponents of the Iranian government called for a silent protest on Tuesday, one year after opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were placed under house arrest.

The pair were arrested last year after their supporters took to the streets in support of the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, prompting clashes with security forces. Silent protests have been used by opposition activists before.

But Tuesday’s protests were so silent that they seemed to be overshadowed by Valentine’s Day, an indication of just how successful the government has been in suppressing the so-called Green movement.

Still, state security was ready for any trouble. Riot police were deployed in the side streets leading to Enghelab Avenue near Tehran University.

Police presence was thick in front of the university gates -- but student protesters were not. Several hundred silent protesters marked the event by walking on the sidewalks near the university for two hours. Some cars tooted their horns to show solidarity with the silent protests.

It was almost three years ago that Iranians protested the 2009 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling the results rigged. The government cracked down and labeled the protests -- the largest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution -- the product of foreign agitators.

Iranians will vote next month in parliamentary elections that are the first national polls since the disputed 2009 vote.  Few reformist candidates are expected to be on the ballot.


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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut