Iran's Vote Critics Remain Defiant Despite Crackdown
By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
It began as a silent march to mark the 10th
anniversary of the 1999 student uprising that shook Iran and was violently
suppressed by authorities.
But the scattered rallies on July 9 quickly turned into the most significant
mass demonstration in the Iranian capital since security forces last month
crushed opposition protests against the presidential election that even
conservative clerics have come to denounce.
Many people clapped their hands and honked their car horns in downtown Tehran.
Some chanted slogans in support of Iran's former prime minister and main
presidential challenger, Mir Hossein Musavi.
Iranian authorities eventually fired tear gas to disperse what eyewitnesses said
were thousands of pro-reform protesters at a number of different locations in
But the message was clear, according to one 23-year-old demonstrator who spoke
to RFE/RL. "We're here and we're still upset, and we will keep protesting," the
'We Live And Fight'
France-based journalist Hossein Bastani, a member of the editorial board of the
online publication "Rooz," says the protest is significant even though the
numbers involved were much smaller than the hundreds of thousands who took part
in last month's demonstrations.
"The postelection repression has been maybe unprecedented since the 1980-88 war
with Iraq," Bastani said, "so the fact that so many people came to the streets
-- despite the crackdown -- indicates the protests that have been created in
Iran after the June vote are not going to be easily controlled by the
A woman who took part told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the crackdown had made some
people even more defiant and determined to continue their protests, which she
insisted was their right.
"We don't need [authorities] to give us permission," she said. "They rule the
way they want and we live and fight."
She said one of her young relatives had been arrested two days after the
election that critics claim was rigged in favor of incumbent President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad, simply because he possessed a statement by Musavi.
"Is Musavi from the moon? [His candidacy] was confirmed by the Guardians
Council. A 21-year-old student has been in jail for almost a month," the woman
said. "I'm a mother who is terribly upset; these are all my children."
Street protests were also reported other parts of Iran, including in northern
Bastani and other analysts say the protests in
Iran are likely to continue in different forms and at unpredictable times and
But they also say the diminishing numbers might indicate that the protest
movement could fade away if opposition leaders lose steam.
As if to preempt such fears, some Tehran residents insisted to RFE/RL that the
"God is great!" chants were louder than usual over the capital within hours of
the July 9 street protests.
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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