Tehran Tries to Catch its Breath after Eleven Days of Riots and Protests

By Dialogo
June 24, 2009

Tehran, 23 June (EFE).- Today Tehran is trying to catch its breath after eleven days of riots and protests in opposition to the results of the June 12 elections, denounced as fraudulent by the opposition. Both the Grand Bazaar, the economic centre of the capital, and the main commercial thoroughfares were filled with their characteristic bustle and ambiance this Tuesday. “There’s been a lot of talk about striking, but the truth is that the economic situation prevents it. Due to the crisis, we cannot afford to close, even if we agree with the protests,” a cloth seller in the south of the capital explained to EFE. A few meters further east, Hamid, a waiter in one of the most famous and busiest restaurants in the enormous Tehran market, affirmed that today was the first day on which long lines of diners had returned. “During the last few days the bazaar people scarcely showed up. There are many followers of the president here, but the majority supports (opposition leader Mir Hossein) Mousavi. The crisis has an effect, but there’s also the fear that if they close their shops, they might find them destroyed,” he said. Further north, on Vali-e Asr Street, the scene of protests during the last week by the opposition, which is demanding a repeat of the elections, the rhythm of daily life, marked by the slow and congested traffic, had also returned to normal. “It’s true that activity had decreased, but only during the afternoons,” admitted a seller of dried fruit near Mellat Park. The presence of members of the security forces on the streets has also declined, although it is still greater than usual in some locations in the city. Dozens of members of the Basij volunteer Islamic militia continued motorcycle patrols and remained deployed with sticks and iron bars along the southern part of Vali-e Asr Street and in Haft-e Tir Square, where the opposition tried to demonstrate again on Monday. Riot police equipped with black shields and clubs controlled centrally-located Vanak Square, where gatherings have taken place in recent days. The strong police presence, together with the absence of revolt’s leaders from the streets, has managed to quiet down the movement of protest, although it has taken hold among the population. “We’re going to keep fighting. Maybe in another way, with other tactics, but this isn’t over,” a member of Mousavi’s party explained to EFE. A woman who preferred to remain anonymous on account of the delicate situation, but who has been an active participant in the protests, states that the problem is not only exhaustion, but also that many “see no reason to risk their lives if the leaders don’t show their faces and come out onto the streets as well.” The regime further cracked down on the protests on Monday with the intervention of the Revolutionary Guard, the elite corps of the Iranian armed forces. Known as the Pasdaran, they answer directly to the supreme leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and they have the best arms and equipment. Groups of Revolutionary Guards were deployed for the first time on Monday in centrally-located Haft-e Tir Square, where around a thousand people tried to carry out a protest. Another factor contributing to the decline in demonstrations has been the fact that neither Mousavi nor the other defeated reformist candidate, Mehdi Karrubi, has been seen in public since they attended Khamenei’s sermon on Friday. In an unusual initiative, the supreme leader used the country’s most prominent public platform to demand an end to the protests and to warn their leaders that they would be responsible for any resulting “bloodbath.” Even so, thousands of members of the opposition came out onto the streets the next day for a protest that ended with scenes of pitched battle, around five hundred detentions, and at least a score of fatalities. Since then, both Mousavi and Karrubi have tried to keep the flame of protest alive with statements and harangues on the Internet. T he legal ways for protest - the only ones that Khamenei will allow - are also about to be exhausted. The Guardian Council affirmed last night that it had not found irregularities serious enough to annul the electoral process. “Fortunately, we have not found any traces of massive fraud in these presidential elections. There have not been serious violations. Therefore there is no possibility of annulling the balloting,” council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhoda’i emphasized. Despite everything, the seeds of discontent remain alive: last night, like every other night for the last week, the revolutionary cry “Allahu Akbar” once again tore forcefully through the Tehran night and was only silenced by bursts of gunfire in several locations in the city.