Analysis: opposition protesters outflank Iranian regime, for now

It seemed as if Iran’s opposition movement had evaporated during the past two months. Nothing could be further from the truth, as today’s huge protests showed. All the opposition lacked was the right opportunity, and Quds Day provided it.

The regime and its security forces could hardly cancel Iran’s traditional annual rally in support of the Palestinian cause, so opposition supporters simply hijacked it.

They turned out in tens - perhaps hundreds - of thousands to express solidarity with the oppressed: not the Palestinians, but themselves. They were protesting not just at the regime’s alleged theft of last June’s presidential election, but at the subsequent killing, torturing and raping of its opponents.

“They needed an opportunity where they could come out in large numbers and outmanouvre the regime, and this provided the ideal opportunity,” said an Iranian analyst. “The whole official day turned into a day of protests against the regime.”
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In recent weeks the regime has quietly cancelled other public events like the commemoration of Imam Ali’s death at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. During August it moved three big football matches out of Tehran, or had them played behind closed doors.

But with the summer ending its problems will mount. The football season has begun in earnest. Students, who are traditionally in the vanguard of Iranian protest movements, are pouring back into the capital ahead of the start of the new academic year next week.

There are rumours that the regime may shut some universities down for a term. It is said to be purging suspect teachers and professors, and increasing the number of basiji - pro-government Islamic volunteers - in schools and colleges.

It is a measure of the regime’s legitimacy that any large gathering of the citizenry that allegedly elected it now threatens its survival.


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