memri
February 13, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3580

In Iran, Protest Movement, Regime Prepare for February 14 Demonstrations

February 13, 2011
Afghanistan | Special Dispatch No. 3580

On February 12, 2011, the Iranian regime rejected the protest movement's request for permission to stage demonstrations in support of the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, planned by movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for February 14, 2011. Ignoring the ban, the movement's coordination committee has called on its supporters to take to the streets anyway.[1]

In anticipation of the demonstrations, the regime has arrested associates of the protest movement leaders, issued public announcements warning Iranians not to participate in the protests, increased media oversight, and blocked Internet access.[2]

The regime's concern is that the mass demonstrations in support of the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings will turn into demonstrations against the Iranian regime itself. This fear was reflected in a statement by Iranian Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi, who at a ceremony at Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) headquarters claimed that Western intelligence agencies were looking for a disabled person to set himself on fire in Tehran, in order to spark a popular uprising there – following the model of events in Tunisia and Egypt.[3]

It should be noted that the Iranian regime's policy vis-à-vis protest movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami has so far focused on isolating them politically and denouncing them publicly, and on measured persecution of them and their families, who have been subjected to house arrest, physical assaults, destruction of property, unexpected searches, and restrictions on their movements. Senior regime officials have explained that the regime has intentionally refrained from prosecuting or executing the protest movement leaders and their relatives, so as not to turn them into martyrs, which could spark another wave of protests like that of 2009.[4]

On February 11, 2011, some 70 high-ranking regime officials, including Majlis members, lecturers at the universities and religious seminars, and former IRGC members, issued a statement announcing the establishment of a steering committee to coordinate the suppression of the protest movement, called the Ammar Headquarters. The headquarters' declared goal is to ensure complete obedience to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and to the principle of velayat-e faqih (the "rule of the jurisprudent").[5] Among these officials were associates of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, such as Qassem Ravanbakhsh, an associate of President Ahmadinejad and of his religious mentor Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi, as well as Alireza Panahian, who heads Khamenei's leadership think tanks at several Iranian universities, and who has repeatedly called for the execution of Mousavi and Karroubi.[6]

The Khandaniha website assessed that the committee's aim is to pressure the Iranian leadership to prosecute, or even execute, the protest movement leaders.[7]

It should be noted that as part of its coverage of Revolution Day, February 11, 2011, the Iranian news agency Fars, which is close to the IRGC, published a photograph of demonstrators holding pictures of Mousavi and Khatami with nooses around their necks (see above). In addition, at Revolution Day rallies in Tabriz and Yazd, participants signed a petition calling for prosecuting Mousavi for his alleged responsibility for the 2009 riots.[8]


Endnotes:

[1] Kaleme (Iran), February 13, 2011.

[2] The website of the Iranian student movement reported that over the last few days, the regime has arrested at least 16 political and social activists identified with the protest movement, among them several associates of Mousavi and Karroubi. www.daneshjoonews.com, February 12, 2011; www.sahamnews.com, February 13, 2011.

[3] Fars (Iran), February 12, 2011.

[4] Iranian judiciary head Sadeq Larijani rejected calls for legal action against the heads of the protest movement, explaining that doing so would serve their cause by turning them into martyrs. ILNA (Iran), February 9, 2011.

[5] Fars (Iran), February 11, 2011.

[6] See clip in Farsi of Panahian calling for the execution of Mousavi and Karroubi: http://www.lenziran.com/2011/02/12/amar-organization-for-execution-of-karoubi-mousavi/.

[7] www.khaandaniha.com, February 12, 2011.

[8] Fars (Iran), February 11, 2011.

Share this Report:

MEMRI
2020 End-Of-Year Campaign