The opposition supporters nervously smoked cigarettes in the kitchen as loud music blared from the empty living room. A student, a businessman, a writer and an artist had planned a victory party but instead were mourning their defeat.
“It’s all over,” said the student, a young woman in a sleek black dress. “Our only option is to leave the country.”
After their planned show of strength largely fizzled Feb. 11 in the face of heavy security for state-sponsored celebrations of the Islamic revolution’s 31st anniversary, activists in Iran’s political opposition have been left demoralized, wondering how to revive a movement that many hoped would lead to a more open society, greater personal freedoms and fairer elections.
Those attending the dissidents’ get-together contemplated the reasons for their defeat as they sought to answer the question, “What now?” Some admitted that they had been afraid to join anti-government protests scheduled to coincide with the anniversary rallies. Others said they had tried to go but faced thousands of armed security forces who blocked streets. All agreed that the opposition’s failure to make an impact during the state-backed demonstrations represented a huge blow for the grass-roots movement. Each spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.