Iran opposition leader vows to continue struggle

Iran`s opposition leader pledged to continue the struggle against the government.

Last Updated: Jun 12, 2010, 23:06 PM IST

Tehran: Iran`s opposition leader pledged on Saturday to continue the struggle against the government, even though the mass protest on the anniversary of last June`s disputed Presidential election has been called off.

Mir Hossein Mousavi said the opposition will "continue our peaceful methods" to resist a government it decries as fraudulent. But the leader`s subdued tone also reflected the movement`s indecisiveness and powerlessness in the face of a violent government crackdown.

Mousavi and another top opposition figure, Mahdi Karroubi, on Thursday called off the plan to take to the streets on the anniversary of the June 12 balloting, citing fears of violence and concerns for the lives of the protesters.

The anniversary passed with no signs of major disturbances or sizable gatherings.

Witnesses reported sporadic but minor clashes at Tehran`s Azadi Square between a few dozen protesters and anti-riot police swinging batons.

Security forces were seen taking one person away near the entrance of Tehran University, where no gatherings were allowed, another witness said.

The opposition says at least 80 protesters died last year in street clashes between security forces and protesters in the postelection turmoil — Iran`s worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The authorities have put the figure at around 30.

Hundreds of police were deployed on main junctions Saturday. The government, which had warned that any unauthorized gatherings Saturday would be heavily confronted, said the extra deployments were part of regular maneuvers in Tehran.

Since last June 12, the opposition has claimed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected through massive vote fraud and that Mousavi was the rightful winner. It rallied for months against the election results but was met by a heavy government crackdown.

Mousavi`s statement Saturday said that while the opposition "may put off its presence in one arena," it will persevere through other ways — a reference to staying away from street gatherings and attempting to find alternative ways for a political struggle.

The statement on Kaleme.com cited Mousavi as saying that spreading the truth about the nature of Iran`s ruling establishment was the most potent weapon for the opposition now.

"We need to spread awareness, this is what they fear," Mousavi said. "This is their vulnerable point. If we can spread awareness, there will be a huge popular force behind the demand for change."

He urged Iranians to distribute films, photos, video clips and cell phone footage of what`s really going on in the country.

"We have to expand social networks, websites, these are our best means," Mousavi added. "These work like an army. This is our army against their military force."

As with Mousavi`s statement on Saturday, dozens of Web posts and proclamations against Ahmadinejad and the ruling system are issued each day — but all they amount to is words against muscle.

The Iranian leaders appear to be far more secure on the anniversary of the election than during the tense weeks after the vote last June, when hundreds of thousands of protesters followed Mousavi through Tehran streets after allegations of massive ballot fraud to sink his Green Movement.

Now, Mousavi and Karroubi`s backpedaling is likely to be interpreted as another win for the Islamic state and its key protectors, led by the Revolutionary Guard and its network of paramilitary units known as the basij.

But the past year has not been without moments of deep change for Iran — a year ago, it would have been unthinkable to chant slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters in Iran. The chants are now common and have punched holes in the political firewall that once separated the theocracy from the people.

At the same time, Iran`s rulers have retrenched and handed more control to the Revolutionary Guard, resulting in a far more aggressive hand at home and a less compromising attitude aboard — including a hard line over Iran`s nuclear program that brought a new fourth round of UN sanctions this week.

Bureau Report