Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fresh Iranian Protests Inconclusive for Opposition

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fresh Iranian Protests Inconclusive for Opposition

Article excerpt

A showdown between Iranian authorities and the opposition centered on Friday's annual Quds Day celebrations appears to have resulted in a draw, enabling the leadership to maintain the upper hand they have enjoyed of late.

Traditionally, Quds Day - so-called after the Arabic name for Jerusalem - is a time to protest the oppression of Palestinians. But this year, the opposition had aimed to shift the focus to those who protested the June election en masse before strict security measures largely shut them down. Many pro-reformists were hoping a large turnout might reinvigorate the movement and bring it back to the world's attention.

Thousands turned out in the first major rally in two months, defying the Supreme Leader's ban on antigovernment demonstrations. But it was not a decisive victory for the opposition, which in many cases was blocked from joining the tens of thousands who turned out for official Quds demonstrations, according to an Associated Press report from Tehran.

Defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and former president Mohammed Khatami, who joined the parallel opposition protests, were reportedly attacked.

While many opposition protesters reportedly wore their signature color of green, eyewitnesses say that in some areas it was hard to tell where demonstrators stood politically.

"It's hard to know who was who, as people seemed afraid to speak with fellow demonstrators," says a middle-aged investment analyst, contacted by phone in Tehran, who attended a demonstration near Tehran University. "I tried to initiate conversations with a few guys younger than me, but they didn't want to talk."

The lack of a decisive victory for the opposition may buoy the government in this round of post-election conflict, but Iranian authorities gave several clear indications leading up to Friday's celebrations that they are still concerned by the country's growing opposition movement.

First, they replaced the traditional Quds Day prayer leader. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani - a founding father of the Islamic revolution who is now aligned with the opposition - was sidelined in favor of hard-liner Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, who most recently called for the arrest and possible execution of election protesters and organizers. …

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