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Iranian people refuse to back down despite terror

21 September 2009. A World to Win News Service.

On 18 September Iranians once again poured into the streets to express their hatred for the regime. It has brutally suppressed any kind of opposition for the last six weeks and has not authorized any demonstrations for the last three months, but this time it was faced with a contradiction that meant it could not deny people this opportunity to protest.

Since shortly after the revolution 30 years ago, this date has been called Quds (Palestine) Day. Every year the regime mobilizes thousands of people to march. Supposedly this is in support of Palestine, but in fact it is an attempt to promote the Islamisation of Palestine and the strengthening of their own trend and organizations there. Given this situation, the regime could not prevent the people from marching on this day. But that didn't mean that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the top military commanders and security forces did not threaten the people with the harshest retaliation if they used the occasion to express opposition. They warned that "wrong" slogans would be punished. At the same time, since they knew that many people would come out to protest anyway, they did their best to mobilize their own supporters. They even paid expenses and a little more for people in remote villages and towns to be brought for the pro-regime rallies in Tehran and other large cities.

But the day turned out to be a political failure for the regime. There are contradictory reports abroad about the number of the anti-government protestors in Tehran, but at any rate it seems that the protestors "stole the day" with numbers far larger than expected under the circumstances of extreme repression. Their "daring stunned some observers.... ‘We asserted ourselves and changed the agenda of the day,'" a student told an LA Times reporter (19 September).

Sometimes ignoring pro-government demonstrators and often shouting them down, they took over the large Seventh of Tir Square. Increasingly emboldened by their success, they clashed with security forces as they tried unsuccessfully to march towards Enghelab Square, where the pro-government forces were concentrated.

Anti-regime protests took place in other cities and towns as well, including Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Mashhad, Ahvaz and Uroumeih.

In the previous protests the main participants were young women and men. Given the torture, rape and murder of some of those arrested, the regime expected that parents would not let their children take to the streets anymore. But on the contrary, this time parents and in some cases grandparents joined the protests. People from every section of society came out to denounce the regime and its authorities. They chanted, "Rape and torture don't scare us anymore", "Down with the dictator" and "Rape, crime, death to Velayat-e Faqi" (the “rule of the jurisprudent”, or in other words, both the role and the person of Khamenei).

Another feature of this protest was that the Green movement was more organized than on any previous occasion. (This movement is associated with the reformist faction of the regime, led by the presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, and Mohammad Khatami, president in 1997-2005.) The Greens did play an important role in the first protests after the June elections, but their control over the protests was gradually reduced as the street actions became more radicalised by the rebellious youth. However, this time once again their presence was more apparent, signalled by green banners and t-shirts and some of the slogans. There were more slogans specifically in support of Mousavi and Karoubi, and the organisers led people in chanting "Allah-u Akbar"(God is great) and other religiously-inclined watchwords.

Some dangerous and wrong political slogans such as "Not Gaza, not for Lebanon, I give my life for Iran" were propagated to strengthen Iranian and Persian chauvinism and clearly reject the internationalism that is a necessary part of any movement that serves the basic interests of the people. The chanting of these slogans was organized in Tehran and other cities. These sentiments were also supported by prominent rightwing Iranians abroad who are close to the U.S. That the people are willing to repeat such slogans shows their frustration with the tiring and boring slogans of the fundamentalist section of the regime in defence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. This wrong reaction was also strengthened by persistent rumours that the regime has used Hezbollah militiamen from Lebanon to attack demonstrations. Similarly, when regime loudspeakers blasted out "Down with the U.S.", many people in the crowds responded with "Down with Russia" and China, countries that Ahmadinejad says have supported his regime. This shows how people were spontaneously reacting against whatever they see as favourable to their enemy.

But none of this – even if the rumours were true – can be a justification for such wrong and chauvinist slogans whose effect is to split peoples who share the same just cause and pit them against each other. The people's movement will be strengthened if it takes an internationalist line, supports other oppressed nations and wins over their support, and at the same time struggles against reactionary trends such as Hezbollah and Hamas who are trying to lead the people into the same kind of hell as that established by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

There is no doubt that the masses of the people have a just cause and reactionary elements once again are trying to steal the people's movement. This is why a revolutionary leadership is of such vital importance.

On the other hand there were plenty of good slogans in different locations too, such as "Iran has become Palestine, people why do you stand idly by", "Free all political prisoners", "The blood that is in our veins is a gift to our people", "Palestine! We are in the same situation as you are" and "Death to the dictator".

Members of the pro-regime Basij militia were organised to physically assault reformist leaders like Khatami and Mousavi. There were clashes between demonstrators and Basiji and plainclothes forces. In some cases the Basiji were forced to abandon their motorcycles and run away. Streets were littered with burned-out two wheel vehicles the protestors set on fire. People were arrested too. While the regime confirmed the arrest of 35 protestors, some sources say up to 400 people were arrested.

Overall the participation of a massive number of protestors marked the people's return to the streets. This protest gave a clear message to the rulers that the people have not backed down despite the rein of terror launched by the regime's Basiji thugs and so-called Revolutionary Guards, and the rape, torture and murder of protesters. One of the regime's last and strongest pillars – repression – has lost a great deal of its effectiveness. This could create more fear, demoralisation, infighting and crisis within the regime itself.

This is good news for the people. However the regime will not sit idle and do nothing. It has not used all its cards yet, including its bid for international support. The international summits on Iran scheduled for the next couple of months will give some indication of the relations shaping up between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the imperialists and other big powers.

Overall it can be said that there are possibilities and dangers for the people. What will happen to the movement largely depends on whether the revolutionary and communists forces can come to fore and are able to lead it or at least increase their influence. Otherwise once again reactionary classes will continue to mislead the people and dissipate their movement.