The Iranian people continued their strategy of hijacking pro-regime holidays to express their opposition and demand democratic change.
On the days when the regime is supposed to appear strongest, it instead appears weakest.
Liberal Middle East expert Juan Cole marveled at how widespread the anti-government demonstrations were. He described them as being larger than the previous November 4 rallies and only being surpassed by the protests following the “re-election” of Ahmadinejad in June.
These crowds were able to form despite the deployment of thousands of security forces known for their brutality, the closing of schools, the detaining of opposition leaders, and attempts to shut down the information flow with the outside world by slowing the Internet to a near halt and stopping foreign journalists from covering the events. Over 20 mothers publicly decrying the loss of their children were even arrested.
The Iranian people and their leaders matched the regime’s viciousness with equal bravery. The regime admits that at least 200 were arrested (and the real number is probably far higher) and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who challenged Ahmadinejad for the presidency in the rigged election, reacted to attacks on his wife and harassment of him by the Basiji with anger.
The exact quote of what Mousavi said varies from report to report, but the general line was, “You’re agents. Do whatever you’ve been ordered to do, kill me, beat me, threaten me.” The 30 or so thugs later left and Mousavi was able to travel home from his offices to meet up with his wife who had been pepper-sprayed. The story is spreading like wildfire and will electrify the opposition.
The Associated Press reported that the protestors “showed an increased boldness, openly breaking the biggest taboo in Iran, burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.”
According to Juan Cole, the Kurds in Sanandaj and elsewhere joined in, forcing the government to dispatch armored vehicles. Tear gas, intense blasts of water, gunfire, buses and cars with cages attached to detain protestors, steel clubs, knives, bottles and electric batons were all used in an attempt to oppress the people.