Iran’s Anniversary: The Opposition Tries to Thwart a Crackdown

Thirty-one years since the downfall of the U.S.-supported Iranian dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlavi, the Islamic Republic has developed a formula for celebrating the anniversary of the revolution. The government buses in massive crowds from all over the country, who then parade down Tehran’s avenues, which are decorated with patriotic-themed paintings by schoolchildren, while crack military units perform maneuvers and politicians make rousing speeches laced with anti-American rhetoric. But this year, Iran’s opposition movement wants to change the script.

The opposition leadership has called on its supporters to use the occasion — which this year falls on Thursday — to continue the series of protests that began after the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential election in June. But with the Iranian government’s declaring in advance that no mercy will be shown to anyone who tries to disrupt the official celebrations, the stage is set not just for a battle over the streets of Tehran, but also for the legacy of the Iranian revolution. (See pictures of the rise and fall of the Shah of Iran.)

Both Iranians and the outside world will be watching how events unfold on Thursday to see just how much life remains in the opposition movement months after the government began cracking down on public displays of dissent. Knowing this, the Iranian government has spent weeks trying to prevent a large opposition turnout. Internet and text-messaging serv…

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