What is occurring in the streets of Tehran is greatly misinterpreted by many in the West some of whom still recall similar images of unrest from 1979 when people revolted against the monarchist regime of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
This time, however, the circumstances are entirely different – The demonstrators are not looking to depose the clerical system but demanding that it deliver on its promises of social freedom and equal opportunity. Reformist leaders like Mr. Mousavi, Khatami, Rafsanjani, and Montazeri are all members of the same politico-clerical elite who stand to lose everything from disintegration of the existing system.
What they and their supporters were opposing was the kind of concentration of power in the executive branch as well as the Basij and Revolutionary Guards in the last few years. Their demands before the elections was an end to that continuous slide toward autocratic style of governance.
But it is now evident that gross mishandling of last Friday’s election results has created a massive division within the Iranian population. Repressive measures against civil liberties and human rights such as use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, arrest of reformist leaders, harassment of students and activists in the days since has only deepened this divide and is now helping isolate the country by giving hostile external elements raison d’être to further demonize Iran in order to impose additional sanctions and raises the likelihood of foreign intervention.
For the sake preserving Iran’s national interest it is crucial that Iranian authorities stop the harassment and beating of all students and activists; release those arrested including reformist leaders; ensure the right to peaceful demonstration, and guarantee the security of all participants.