On the heels of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, large numbers of Iranians defied ominous threats from their government, taking to the streets to express their own aspirations for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
The demonstrations were the largest since Ashura in 2009, with the Associated Press and Washington Post estimating that “tens of thousands” of Iranians were in the streets. While critics of the Green Movement have often tried to portray it as confined to Tehran or even just north Tehran, today’s protests were occurred all across the country. The BBC reports that there were demonstrations in Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz, while Tehran Bureau reports there were also protests in Kermanshah and Rasht.
Chants rang through the streets of Iran, including one proclaiming “Mubarak, Ben Ali, it’s your turn Sayyed Ali [Khamenei]!”
Despite cynical statements of public support for the revolutionary protests in Egypt, the Iranian government deployed thousands of security forces and reacted brutally to the demonstrations in their own country, calling them illegal attempts to stage “riots”. Opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were placed under house arrest and prevented from joining the demonstrations, while tear gas was fired into crowds and protestors were arrested and beaten by riot police. And at least one person is confirmed dead in Tehran, according to the BBC.
No one yet knows if this portends a revival of the demonstrations that rocked Iran’s establishment after the June 2009 elections, but it is clear that while the Green Movement may be bruised and battered, it is in no way dead. We would all be wise to remember that, regardless of whether Iranians are risking their lives to demonstrate for their rights.