Iran – 40 days since Neda’s killing
(Picture Credit above: LA Times)
As LA Times reports:
Protesters swarmed Tehran’s main cemetery and fanned out across a large swath of the capital Thursday, defying truncheons and tear gas to publicly mourn those killed during weeks of unrest, including a young woman whose death shocked people around the world.
As has been noted by several pundits, this is an important development in Iran, the 40 day mark after a person’s death is an important point of mourning for Shi’a muslims and was a key rallying cry for protesters during the revolution of 1979. This was always going to be a test to see if the protest movement could maintain momentum in the face of government brutality and repression, whether it was more than just a flash-in-the-pan.
So has that been successful? LA Times reports further:
The scale and reach of Thursday’s protests, which also erupted in at least four other cities, appeared to catch security forces off guard. After initially bloodying some of the mourners arriving at Behesht Zahra cemetery, many of them young women dressed in black and carrying roses, officers stepped back. They mingled amicably with protesters, and in one case even accepted flowers from them.
While numbers are, as usual, hard to come by, most are reporting thousands/tens-of-thousands – a far cry from the original protests in the immediate aftermath of the election (estimated in the hundreds of thousands) but evidently enough to ‘catch security forces off guard’. As has been noted earlier by this blog, the key to this drama is going to be played out in the halls of power of Qom and Tehran (and will take some time), not on the streets, however having some popular support that is vocal and visible will certainly help the cause of the reformists.
Some other interesting developments include the increasing criticism being levelled for the heavy handed tactics employed by the security apparatus against protesters. This could be a measured response from government mouthpieces to satisfy the potential anger among Iran’s population (and to ensure the dead protesters are not successfully converted into martyrs nationwide) or it could be an honest acknowledgment of the violence.
Juan Cole reports that Friday’s edition of Jumhuri-yi Islami (Islamic Republic) [a conservative newspaper and a government mouthpiece] carried an article criticizing the deaths in prison of some protesters who had been arrested, his thoughts are as follows:
The call for the punishment of security men who abused prisoners to death, on the part of a hard line newspaper, is remarkable. The condemnation of extra-judicial punishment is likewise not what you would expect from a Khomeinist organ (but that is what this newspaper is). But note that one of the protesters alleged to have been killed in prison was the son of a prominent campaign activist for the hard line former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohsen Reza’i, one of the presidential condidates who initially, at least, protested the way the June 12 presidential election was conducted. When you off the children of prominent hard line politicians in jail, it does not go unnoticed.
It’s possible that in the wake of these renewed protests and continued denunciation of violence and oppression by various elements in the reformist establishment, and on the streets, that we may see further condemnation from the conservative side. Personally, I would say, something from Khamenei is expected, perhaps at his next public appearance. My guess is that he will probably try to appease both sides (as he has been trying to do with little success up to now).
A note on the Ahmadinejad-VP scandal, I did not get a chance to follow it properly as I was travelling at the time so I will not be writing about it, but for anyone interest, tehranbureau has a pretty good rundown and analysis.