Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Shift, Iran's Protesters Demand New Republic

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Shift, Iran's Protesters Demand New Republic

Article excerpt

At the end of a rocky week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to quash mounting evidence of a rift with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, claiming they were "like father and son."

"The efforts of ill-wishers to insinuate such doubts is fruitless, and they will surely take such wishes to their graves," said Mr. Ahmadinejad. "This road is blocked to the devils."

Demonstrators flooded the streets of Tehran on Thursday in large, countrywide protests. But in a development signaling a new stage in the confrontation, they adapted the Iranian Revolution's most famous slogan - "Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic" - to their latest demand, shouting instead: "Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic."

"Before, the demand was just for a rerun of the elections, but since yesterday, people are running a step ahead and asking for more," says Masih Alinejad, a Tehran-based reformist journalist, in a telephone interview. "They're also becoming divided. Some people still want [defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein] Mousavi, but others are demanding more than just a rerun of the elections: They now are calling for an Iranian rather than an Islamic republic."

What exactly an "Iranian republic" would look like remains unclear. The main message was discontent with the current system.

"The regime's behavior is increasingly driving people into a fury," says a human rights activist in Tehran who was reached by phone and could not for named for security reasons. "But now, with thousands in jail and tens of people killed, the people no longer just want a rerun of the election."

A video uploaded on Youtube from yesterday's clashes showed a T- shirted protester squaring up and standing his ground against a helmeted policeman who repeatedly struck him with his metal baton. Gunshots can be heard during the video, which ends with what appears to be a policeman shooting a flare-gun in the direction of the protester.

What will happen if regime is discredited?

With neither side showing signs of backing down, some observers fear that the Revolutionary Guard will step in to crush dissent, but in the process completely discredit the Islamic Republic in the eyes of the people - thus leading to a power vacuum or totalitarian regime. …

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