Iranian opposition hits the streets in face of shah-like brutality and pro-government rallies. Khamenei's tactics only highlight his illegitimacy.
The dogged courage of pro-democracy protesters in Iran was on full display Thursday, the latest in a string of demonstrations against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei since last June’s rigged presidential elections.
Thousands took to the streets despite organized pro-government rallies and the many tactics of fear used by a regime that is ever more isolated by its acts of violence – in the name of God – against peaceful democrats.
The latest fear tactics include executions of demonstrators, arrests of top intellectuals and rights activists, detention of a group called Mothers in Mourning (mothers of political prisoners), and torture of detained protesters. Such atrocities simply remind Iranians that this regime, whose leaders helped overthrow the shah 31 years ago, has now reverted to the shah’s brutal methods to keep power and quell dissent.
That irony is fuel for more protests. It also compels many leading Muslim clerics to call on Mr. Khamenei to compromise.
The other critical aspect about the demonstrations is that they remain largely leaderless, relying instead on Twitter and other digital communications to build a network of ongoing dissent. That makes them harder to suppress. In addition, countertactics such as writing slogans on currency bills keep alive the ideals of freedom and democracy far beyond the capital. Many of Thursday’s protests were in cities outside of Tehran as well.
The regime’s use of violence only highlights how much Khamenei can no longer claim the mantle of religious authority as supreme leader over Iranians who demand that the highest authorities be elected by the people. He is on the losing side of a widening contradiction between democracy and theocracy (or the regime’s interpretation of Islam as dominant in secular life). That contradiction was not resolved during the 1979 revolution and is the main reason for Iran’s turmoil today.