Serious threats imposed by the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary guards did not stop thousands of protestors from marching in the streets of Tehran last Sunday. The protestors wanted to make it clear that the post-election momentum has not dissipated.
Security forces barricaded the city’s main roads to prevent the opposition from gaining force as plain clothed and uniformed guards spread through streets using aggression and, in some reported incidents, violence to deter the demonstrators.
Sunday’s protests commemorated the murders of political activists Dariush Forouhar and his wife, Parvaneh, who were viciously stabbed to death in 1998. The Forouhars were the founders and leaders of the Hezb-e-Melat-e Iran, or the Nation of Iran Party, that openly criticized the Islamic regime.
Protest organizers arranged small-scale protests in various corners of the city to begin in the morning and to march toward the Forouhar home, located in central Tehran, in the late afternoon. Before protesters could get close to their neighborhood, riot police had already closed off the area with metal blockades.
“My parents and many like them died in the name of freedom for the people of Iran,” said Parastou Forouhar, the daughter of the slain couple, in a phone interview while Revolutionary guards were still vigilantly loitering outside her parents’ home Sunday night.
Parastou and her brother Arash, who flew into Tehran from Frankfurt, Germany, where they currently live, visit their parents’ home every year on the anniversary of their deaths.
“I want to keep their memory alive and to keep the momentum of the Iranian opposition going. We have to remember the crimes of this regime,” she said.
Loud cheering and the chanting of political slogans could be heard blocks away where demonstrators had been stopped, she said. Regime guards had ordered her and her family to not leave the house all day.
Reports indicated that students protesting at Tehran University Sunday had a sizeable turnout but were contained by police and not allowed to leave campus. Similar reports came from the University of Shiraz, though not confirmed.
Riot police and Islamic security forces have repeatedly warned protestors not to participate in demonstrations, threatening arrest and severe repercussions. Yet, since the upheaval that followed the contested June 12 elections, the Iranian opposition, lacking the authority to stage its own demonstrations, has used holidays and commemorative days to organize and protest in the streets, universities and in various cities across the country.
Since June, the regime has feared that large-scale protests will potentially disrupt and cause significant damage to the Islamic Republic’s stronghold. The violence and demonstrations that erupted following the elections were the most impressive display of disenchantment and frustration by the Iranian people since this regime has been in power.
“Despite all the threats, the people of Iran are not giving up and have shown us that they will fight for their freedom and for human rights to the very end,” said Roozbeh Farahanipour, political activist and demonstration organizer, who is currently in Los Angeles communicating with constituents on the ground in Iran. “The people are more eager than ever to expose the crimes of the regime and to undermine them at any cost.”
Of the thousands arrested during the election upheaval, over 100 activists were on trial. Just last week, five of those defendants were sentenced to death while 81 received prison sentences of up to15 years. During the protests, 69 demonstrators were killed, according to the opposition, although the Islamic Republic says the number is only 30.
“The regime might believe that they are making an example out of these innocent protestors, but in reality, they are only proving how inhumane and violent they are and fueling the people to keep going back out onto the streets to overthrow this government,” Farahanipour said.
Currently, protest organizers and activists are planning wide-ranging demonstrations to take place December 7, encouraging Iranians to stage demonstrations on Iran’s annual Students’ Day.