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News | Calls for Silent Protests Tuesday Put Regime on High Alert

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

13 Feb 2012 09:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

WhistlePoster.jpg9:30 a.m., 24 Bahman/February 13 As noted here, the Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope has called on the Iranian people to silently march and protest on Tuesday, 25 Bahman/February 14, the first anniversary of the nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations that led to the extralegal detention of Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi, under conditions of severely restrictive house arrest that continue to this day. The call came after 39 prominent political prisoners issued a statement that called on the people to focus their efforts on freeing Iran's political prisoners, in particular the leaders of the Green Movement.

Amnesty International has called on the government to allow the demonstrations to be held. The human rights group's statement declares,

Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to respect freedom of assembly and allow peaceful demonstrations in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran on 14 February 2012, amid fears that the authorities may once again use excessive use of force to quell protests, as has happened in previous years.

The demonstrations -- called by the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope -- mark the one year anniversary of demonstrations called by opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, in support of the people of Egypt and Tunisia which were brutally repressed and left at least two people dead.

Amnesty International also reiterated its call for the immediate release of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been held under unofficial house arrest since 10 and 14 February 2011 respectively. Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is also held, while Mehdi Karroubi is currently held on his own and has been denied any contact with his family since the day after he told his wife in December 2011 that he believed the upcoming parliamentary elections would be fraudulent.

Prominent imprisoned journalist Isa Saharkhiz has called on the people to participate in the silent demonstrations, "giving a firm message to the government that dictatorship should end." A group of former Majles deputies have also issued a statement that asks Iranians to take part in the silent marches as a way of expressing their demand that all the political prisoners be freed. Others have called on the people to express their concerns with current political conditions on February 14, including, for example, by blowing on whistles.

The Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, a leading reformist group that was outlawed by the hardliners after the June 2009 presidential election, has issued a statement that calls on the people to march silently "to protest the house arrest of Mousavi, Karroubi and Dr. Rahnavard, the terrible state of the economy, [and] the ruling dictatorship," and "to oppose economic sanctions and warn about the possibility of war."

Four hundred and two political activists, journalists, and human rights advocates -- including the author -- have issued a strongly worded statement, calling on the people to join the "freedom campaign" and try in any way that they deem appropriate to help secure the release of the leaders of the Green Movement. Twelve Green-aligned groups have also issued a statement, asking the "Green activists" to do what they can to release the Green Movement's leaders from house arrest, declaring, "The government knows very well that the people's dissatisfaction with its dictatorship has continued." On Saturday evening, the 33d anniversary of the Revolution, the political detainees in Evin Prison's Ward 350 shouted "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein!" (Oh Hossein [Shiites' Third Imam, a most revered figure in Iran], Mir Hossein). Reports indicate that many of them have been interrogated in recent weeks in reaction to their support of the protest calls.

Iranians around the world have also declared their readiness to participate in solidarity protests, with marches scheduled in Italy, France, Malaysia, Turkey, and the United States. And the calls to protest are not restricted to Tehran and the opposition in the diaspora. In Mashhad and Tabriz, Iran's second- and fourth-largest cities, Green Movement supporters have urged people to march on Tuesday. Large social networks with tens of thousands of members have echoed the calls. In the south-central city of Kerman, at least 30 people have already been arrested after calls were issued there for demonstrations. In Khuzestan, at least 49 people have been arrested, and reports indicate that in many other provinces political activists have been summoned by the Intelligence Ministry and warned about participating in the planned demonstrations.

Although the government has routinely declared for nearly three years that the Green Movement is "dead" -- despite the continued arrests of journalists, political figures, university students, and labor movement activists -- all indications are that it is highly concerned about the potential for the demonstrations, particularly just three days after the anniversary of the Revolution and less than three weeks before the Majles elections. Reports from Tehran indicate that the capital is already saturated with uniformed and plainclothes security forces, who are stopping people on the street and searching through their belongings. There are rumors that bombs may be set off in Tehran in an attempt to scare the people from taking part in the marches. Over the last week, it has become almost impossible to use Gmail and Yahoo Mail in Iran, and the government has increased its efforts to block diaspora-based Persian-language satellite television stations.

Morteza Tamaddon, governor-general of Tehran province, has declared that the Islamic Republic is fully prepared and "has equipped Tehran with a complete security system" to greet demonstrators, adding, "We have experienced such calls repeatedly after the 2009 sedition [the phrase used by the hardliners to refer to the Green Movement], but this general call is only propaganda by the counterrevolutionary opposition." The very fact that Tamaddon feels compelled to publicly assert that the government is prepared for the marches indicates the depth of its concern.

During the demonstrations last February 14, 2011, which were called for by Mousavi and Karroubi, two young people, Saneh Jaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari, were killed. Mokhtari's family has said that they have been barred by the government from holding any memorial for their son.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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