Iran begins mourning cycle that could deepen unrest

Istanbul, Turkey – Thousands of people took to Tehran’s streets Thursday after security forces disrupted a crowd gathered to commemorate fallen protesters. Some demonstrators were arrested and police used teargas to disperse crowds.

Despite some conciliatory moves by the regime on Wednesday, the faceoff between the Islamic Republic’s pragmatic and hard-line factions shows no sign of abating.

Thursday’s demonstrations erupted after a ceremony marking the end of an emotionally charged 40-day mourning period for demonstrators whom the opposition says were killed by security forces on June 20. Among them were Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman who has since become the symbolic face of the opposition movement.

Such ceremonies can potently blend ritual mourning with politics – and they helped bring down the Shah 30 years ago. In 1979, when antiregime activists gathered to commemorate the 40th day after the death of a comrade, protests often erupted around the event – leading to the killing of more demonstrators and another cycle of mourning and protest.

The current regime appears eager to head off such public mourning.

“There is a huge crowd out planning to march from Mosala [an enormous half-built mosque in central Tehran with Iran’s highest minarets] to Vali Asr Square,” says a protester on the streets of Tehran, wh… >>>

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