THE tens of thousands of supporters of Iran’s Green Movement who agitated for democracy in the centre of their capital, Tehran, on February 14th were supposed to have been brought to heel long ago. The leaders of the Islamic Republic have spent the past year celebrating the defeat of a “sedition” that represented, so they claimed, no more than a tiny minority of deluded and treasonous Iranians, egged on by their paymasters in the West. In the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, society had been “vaccinated” against these “germs”.
The protesters were answering an invitation from their two main leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to march in honour of the freedom-seekers of Egypt and Tunisia. Having put the pair under house arrest, the authorities were apparently caught out. The protesters, indistinguishable from ordinary commuters, were able to gather in large numbers and begin marching, mostly in silence, before the security forces responded.
Their intervention lacked nothing in brutality. Police and members of the baseej militia, using truncheons and tear-gas, waded into groups of protesters. Later the authorities made the outlandish claim that the marchers had fired live bullets, killing two members of the security forces. Eyewitnesses said that the police did the firing and that the two victims were protesters. By nightfall, side-streets off the march route recalled the most dramatic scenes of agitat… >>>