Iranian opposition defies warning, calls for rally

Iran’s opposition on Sunday renewed its call for a rally
in support of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, despite a government warning of
repercussions if demonstrations take place, a reformist website reported.

In a statement published on Kaleme.com, the opposition
urged its supporters to rally on Monday in central Tehran and accused the
government of hypocrisy by voicing support for the Egyptian and Tunisian
uprisings while refusing to allow Iranian political activists to stage a
peaceful demonstration.

Activists, journalists detained

Wary of a reinvigorated
opposition at home, Iranian authorities have detained several activists and
journalists in recent weeks and opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi was put under
house arrest, apparently in connection with the request to stage the rally.

The statement said
further restrictions on Karroubi and fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein
Mousavi were a sign of the “increasing weakness and fear of the government
about the most peaceful civil and political rights” of Iranians.

In another report,
Kaleme said many university students as well as a reformist cleric group have
promised to attend the rally. But it was not clear whether the rally would
actually take place. Many opposition calls for demonstrations in the past
months have gone unheeded.

Still, the opposition’s
persistence has placed the government in a bind. Iran’s hard-line rulers — who
have also tried to capitalise on the uprising against their regional rivals in
Egypt’s US-allied regime — are seeking to deprive their own opponents at home
of any chance to reinvigorate a movement swept from the streets in a heavy
military crackdown.

Both Mousavi and
Karroubi have compared the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia with their own
postelection protest movement in 2009, which the Iranian government eventually
managed to quash. Mousavi said Iran’s demonstrations were the starting point
for the recent revolts in Cairo and Tunis, and that all the uprisings aimed at
ending the “oppression of the rulers.”

2009
protests in Iran

The
protests that swept Iran in the months after the 2009 vote grew into a larger
movement opposed to Iran’s ruling system. It was the biggest challenge faced by
Iran’s clerical leadership since it came to power in the 1979 revolution that
toppled the US-backed shah.

Hundreds
of thousands peacefully took to the streets in support of Mousavi, and some
powerful clerics sided with the opposition.

However,
a heavy military crackdown suppressed the protests, and many in the opposition
— from mid-level political figures to street activists, journalists and human
rights workers — were arrested. The opposition has not been able to hold a
major protest since December 2009.