Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Civil Unrest Iran's New Reality

Four days after the disputed presidential elections, prominent supporters of "defeated" candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi are bracing for a harsher backlash once the international media spotlight has moved on.

Numerous pro-reform government officials have already been arrested, reportedly including the brother of former president Mohammad Khatami, and there is still confusion surrounding the whereabouts of Mousavi himself.

Speaking of Khatami, who dropped out of this year's presidential race to support his friend Mousavi, the "landslide" margin of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's purported victory is similar to that of Khatami's two sweeping electoral successes - in 1997 and 2001.

For the Mousavi campaign, which has rejected the official results as fraudulent and urged that they be annulled, the notion that Ahmadinejad genuinely mirrored Khatami's overwhelming popularity is risible.

As analyst Amir Tahiri has observed, Ahmadinejad purportedly won more votes than anyone in Iran's history.

"If the results are to be believed, he won in all 30 provinces, and among all social and age categories. His three rivals, all dignitaries of the regime, were humiliated by losing even in their own hometowns," he wrote.

"We are outraged," said one pro-Mousavi protester in the capital on Sunday, shrieking her protest. "My parents did not fight against the shah for my generation to experience life under another dictator."

"There is only one voice now, Ahmadinejad's. Clearly, they are waiting for all the journalists to leave Iranian soil to commence a purge. Until then, Ahmadinejad will sit back and smile."

In this, the 30th anniversary year of the Islamic Republic's overthrow of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, traces of that revolutionary past have indeed re-emerged in the riots and chaos that followed the contested election outcome. Iranians have again transformed Teheran into a battle zone, chanting a familiar slogan associated with the end of the Pahlavi regime, "Death to the dictator," in vast numbers.

"A bomb has been set off in our country, changing everything," claimed another pro-Mousavi protester, his face covered in a Reformist green bandana.

"What makes me angry is the fact that they did not even try to cover up the election fraud; they rubbed it in our faces. But what terrifies me is the enormous amount of power Ahmadinejad wields as president.

"There's a rift in our country now, a rift similar to that in Egypt and Lebanon," this young man continued, before running over to join a group of fellow youngsters throwing stones at security personnel. "Our government will fall apart… We need to let people know what is happening here."

In Teheran's surreal current climate, Ahmadinejad's supporters, dressed in black, chant religious celebrations of victory, while disenchanted voters stage street protests.

Some here say the once unified theocracy will never be the same, and that civil unrest and segmentation are the new reality.

Ahmadinejad's second term, they say, will see disunity among the powerful clerics, and new reformist coalitions challenging the political influence of the military and Ahmadinejad.

That Iran will become a more militarized regional threat is obvious, they say. But will Iran prove capable of executing its goals under Ahmadinejad, or will it find its regime challenged by internal conflict and disunity?

Those are the questions now being asked - questions that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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