Iran claims that opposition supporters defaced pictures of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to increase the pressure on the opposition Green Movement. But protesters charge it's a set up.
Of all the sanctities in the Islamic Republic, few are more sacred than the memory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of Iran’s 1979 revolution. So desecration of his image – as shown repeatedly on state-run TV in the past week, and blamed on protesting students – has prompted outrage in Iran.
Prosecutors on Monday announced several arrests, vowed there would be “no mercy toward those who insulted” Khomeini, and claimed that “one of them has confessed.”
The “incident” is being used by arch-conservative elements of the regime to ramp up pressure on reformist opponents – which is exactly why students deny it ever took place, and say it was concocted to discredit them and the Green Movement.
But the flare-up – with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warning that a “hurricane of the revolutionary anger of the nation” is coming – tells much about the state of mind of Iran’s regime after six months of protest over a disputed election, analysts say.
“They are trying to make a big deal out of it,” says Ali Ansari, the director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland. “But this idea that Khamenei can now raise the masses against the opposition on the basis of this one picture – this is exactly what [reformers] are arguing against. They are saying: ‘We have created idols of our clerical leaders.’”
“If anything, most people instinctively feel that this has been generated by the government itself anyway,” says Dr. Ansari. “That’s very revealing. Hardly anyone doubts that this has been stitched-up by the government.”