The crowds are forming again.
Protests erupted again today in Iran.
Violent clashes erupted today in downtown Tehran between more than a thousand determined young men and women chanting, “Death to the dictator” and “God is great” and security forces wielding truncheons.
The screams of a woman being beaten could be heard from nearby buildings, a witness said. Business owners could be seen hustling protesters into their buildings to shield them from plainclothes officers and anti-riot police who fired tear gas canisters.
Passing drivers and motorcyclists honked their horns and flashed the “V” sign in support of the clumps of demonstrators. At least one trash bin was set afire, a witness said, sending a plume of black smoke rising as dusk approached.
Many of the demonstrators wore surgical masks to protect their identities from cameras stationed at adjacent buildings. They could be seen escaping into side streets and regrouping as shops quickly were shuttered.
Some witnesses said pro-government Basiji militiamen also could be seen wearing masks to hide their faces from digital cameras.
Protesters chanted in support of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was defeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in disputed elections last month, and urged the security forces to join them.
It’s not over.
The news from Iran has been depressing since the thugs who run the government cracked down on the Iranian protesters, but more and more evidence surfaces that the Iranian government has lost legitimacy with much pf the public.
The most important group of religious leaders in Iran has called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.
The statement by the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.
“This crack in the clerical establishment and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”
Despite the brutal crackdown by Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and their fascist thugs, the reform movement is united in opposition to the Iranian government.
Iran’s reformist opposition on Wednesday delivered a co-ordinated message to Iranians, declaring the government of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad illegitimate and encouraging supporters to challenge it.
A statement by Mir Hossein Moussavi, the opposition leader who says the June 12 election was rigged in favour of the hardline Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, followed similarly defiant calls by Mosharekat, Iran’s largest reformist party, and Mehdi Karroubi, the second reformist candidate.
Mohammad Khatami, the former reformist president and a strong supporter of Mr Moussavi, also joined the chorus warning that the regime, with its “poisonous propaganda” against protesters and its security crackdown, was waging a “velvet revolution” against the “people and the system’s republicanism”.
The concerted effort came two days after the Guardian Council, the constitutional watchdog dominated by hardliners, confirmed the election result. It underlines the determination of the opposition to undermine Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s presidency.
A huge security crackdown has restricted the opposition’s ability to organise protests, but the refusal of reformist leaders to accept the election result could discourage western governments from dealing with Mr Ahmadi-Nejad.
“From now on we have a government which will be in the worst conditions in terms of its relations with people because the majority of society – and I am one of them – will not accept its political legitimacy,” Mr Moussavi said.
Hopefully their courage and determination will be rewarded.
Roger Cohen has a stunning piece about the fighting in Iran, and the bravery or ordinary Iranians fighting their brutal regime.
The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”
A man at my side threw a rock at him. The commander, unflinching, continued to plead. There were chants of “Join us! Join us!” The unit retreated toward Revolution Street, where vast crowds eddied back and forth confronted by baton-wielding Basij militia and black-clad riot police officers on motorbikes.
Dark smoke billowed over this vast city in the late afternoon. Motorbikes were set on fire, sending bursts of bright flame skyward. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.
He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.
Cohen believes that the momentum is with the protesters.