Iranian Security Forces Block Opposition Protest Against Year-long House Arrest of Leaders
February 15, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On February 14, Iranian security forces surrounded Azadi (Freedom Square) and Enqelab (Revolution) Street in Tehran in order to prevent opposition supporters from protesting the yearlong house arrest of former speaker of parliament and senior cleric, Mehdi Karroubi and former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi. According to Reuters, the opposition website, Kaleme, reported that there was a “minor clash between security forces and people in Enqelab street.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the turnout for the protest march was relatively small, however on both Monday and Tuesday night, loud chants of “Death to the dictator” emanated from rooftops across Tehran.
One year ago, the two applied for official permission to hold a rally in support of the Arab Spring revolutions. The Iranian government refused their request for permission to hold a rally, but thousands of people across the country took to the streets anyway. Although both figures rarely appeared in public appearances and limited their activities since the Green Movement was crushed in 2009, the security forces did not want to take any chances and placed them under house arrest just before the February 14, 2011 protest.
The BCC reported that in January 2012, the deputy speaker of parliament, Mohammed Reza Bahonar, revealed that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sanctioned their detention. The Iranian opposition was enraged upon learning this, evidenced by online reactions to the news. One user asked “What kind of a dictatorship is this... How could the judiciary give in to such an order? It’s ridiculous!”
The BBC’s Persian service has been collecting opinions on the opposition leaders recently. It seems that even amongst those Iranians who oppose the government, there is disagreement. Seyyed from Khomein, Iran wrote in an e-mail, “Mousavi and Karroubi... failed to keep up with people's demands… They put protesters off by calling on them to return to the political ideals of the Islamic revolution and the ‘golden era’ of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.” Another Internet-user, Leila Behzad, offered criticism, writing that “Leaders should be ahead of the crowd.”
Since being placed under house arrest, Karroubi and Mousavi have only been allowed to speak to immediate family members. Nobody knows the conditions in which they are being held or where they are being held. According to the BBC, Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh occasionally passes on messages from her husband to the public such as: "The road ahead will be long and dangerous. But the people have legitimate and deep-rooted demands and as society reaches political maturity the future is looking bright."
Pressure is mounting ahead of the parliamentary elections set for March 2nd. The last round of elections held in 2009 was tainted by the perception of overt rigging in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some Iranian opposition figures are calling on the public to boycott the vote to further discredit the regime.
For previous news on Iran, please see:
UN General Assembly Adopts Resolution on Iran
Reuters - Opposition reports security clampdown in Tehran
The Wall Street Journal - Iran Activists Bid for Protest Revival
BBC - Iran's opposition struggles without detained leaders