Tehran: The one-year anniversary of Iran`s disputed election passed quietly on Saturday with little more than a subdued Internet appeal by opposition leaders for supporters to speak out on the Web against government repression.
Fearing bloodshed and calculating that it would gain them nothing, the movement`s leaders called off a day of mass protests, reflecting their increasing powerlessness against the government`s military muscle. Witnesses and the opposition reported a few isolated confrontations in the capital.
"We have to expand social networks, websites, these are our best means," said Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who maintains he was robbed of the presidency through fraud in the June 12, 2009, election.
"These work like an army. This is our army against their military force," he said on his website, Kaleme.com.
The retreat from Iran`s streets and university campuses to the Web is certain to be seen as a victory for the ruling hard-liners and for the armed forces that preserved their grip on power with a harsh crackdown on post-election protesters.
The anniversary passed with no signs of major disturbances or large public gatherings.
Witnesses reported sporadic but minor clashes at Tehran`s Azadi Square between a few dozen protesters and anti-riot police swinging batons.
At Tehran`s Sharif University of Technology, students scuffled with hard-liners and plainclothes paramilitary personnel on campus, according to Mousavi`s website. "Liar, liar," students chanted in a denunciation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Security forces arrested a political ally of Mousavi, Davoud Roshani, and labour union activist Reza Shahabi, Kaleme.com reported.
Authorities were also seen taking one person away near the entrance of Tehran University, where no gatherings were allowed to form, another witness said.
A top police official, Ahmad Reza Radan, said a small number of people were arrested in Tehran, but gave no details, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
In some Tehran neighbourhoods after nightfall, people went to their rooftops and shouted "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," reprising a cry of protest from last year`s unrest.
Hundreds of police were deployed at main junctions in the capital. The government warned that any unauthorised gatherings would be harshly confronted.
The scene was in stark contrast to a year ago.
Then, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest alleged fraud, which they said deprived them of a Mousavi presidency that might have brought a measure of political and social change. Mousavi had campaigned on promises of economic reform, freedom of expression and a review of laws that discriminate against women.
Abuses against detained activists — which the government at least partially acknowledged took place — pushed some opposition supporters to go even further and challenge the ruling clerical establishment itself. But trials — some of which have resulted in death sentences — and threats to put down unauthorised demonstrations have left the movement with nowhere to go.
Even on the Web, Iranian authorities chase them, blocking sites and jamming Internet and mobile phone service at times.