Violence and Hope Continues in Iran
Jill Marie Parillo
June 24, 2009
The most important thing to note at this time is a growing rift between power players in Iran and that violence towards protestors is intensifying.
Ayatollah Khamenei warned citizens not to gather to mourn those killed so far in protest, and told Mosques not to open for ceremonies. One of the key leaders of the 1979 Revolution, Ayatollah Montazeri spoke out against violence inflicted on protestors by Khamenei’s Basij saying that it was against Islamic law and called for three days of mourning (June 24, 25, and 26). Montazeri is a high level cleric who was close to the beloved former Supreme Leader Khomeini. If the current Supreme Leader fell from power, Montazeri is one of the first in line for the job. (Pictured here is Montazeri and Khomeini, who is on the bed)
As I mentioned in a former post, the Supreme Leader in a speech 19 June strongly aligned himself with President Ahmadinejad against Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani is very powerful in Iran. He became President of Iran in 1989, after being the primary fund raiser for Supreme Leader Khomeini during his exile and speaker of the Majles (Iran’s Parliament) for nine years (1980-89). Rafsanjani is now Chairman of the powerful Expediency Council. Although, he is often communicating Iranian nuclear policy to the West, the current President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has far less influence and power than Rafsanjani had as President.
President Obama responded again June 23 to the violence on protestors and, as was suggested in a recent piece by Dr. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, condemned the violence. President Obama said:
“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.”
The U.S. President was more opinionated in these comments, compared to his last remarks on June 20, but is still being careful not to give Iranian conservatives a reason to blame America for the unrest in Iran. Obama said that some in the Iranian government are “accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election…This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose.”
Today June 24 there was a protest at Baharestan Square in Tehran, where people were beaten to death. Few details have emerged, but this may turn out to be one of the bloodiest days yet.
Security forces are still at all the main squares, foreign embassies, and hospitals in Tehran. Tehran University is closed. Three days of mourning for the victims is taking place now.
The Guardian Council, overseen by the Supreme Leader Khamenei, is looking into the legality of the election results. The Council declared that in 50 cities more votes were counted than were registered voters, but they are still gathering information.
Hard to say what will happen next. Protesters are still shouting Death to Khamenei and Down with Khamenei when they protest, but there are fewer protests than last weekend. However, they are getting more violent, as protestors are being beaten and taken away in van loads. Fewer protests do not mean supporters of a more democratic system in Iran are satisfied. They are more likely organizing online and deciding how best to get their voices heard in the near future.
The power play between Rafsanjani and Khamenei is surely not over. Rafsanjani’s daughter was recently jailed, but not for long. Obviously Rafsanjani still has influence and power in the system. His Council could remove the Supreme Leader from power. Rafsanjani also has influence on the Revolutionary Guards and may be telling commanders to decide now whose side they are on. President Obama repeated part of what he said June 4 in Cairo on US-Muslim relations. It sums up the reason this is not over-- “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”