06/11/2010, 00.00
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A year later, Green wave rippling no more

Arrests, torture, raids, summary trials and executions have crushed Iran’s protest movement, a cause without a real leader. An Ahmadinejad aide prepares to run in the next presidential elections.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – The contrast could not be any greater. A year ago, millions of Iranians had taken to the streets across the country, putting their lives at risk, to protest against rigged elections won by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Tomorrow, a year after what was the greatest challenge to Iran’s 30-year-old theocratic regime, no one is likely to wear green, the colour that came to embody the pro-democracy movement.

Months of repression, arrests, torture, raids, summary trials and executions have taken the steam out of the movement. Still, its leaders, former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, have urged their supporters to conduct “peaceful demonstrations” on the anniversary.

A report recently released by Amnesty International has a grim story to tell. Titled From protest to prison: Iran one year after the election, the document describes in detail the aftermath of the disputed elections. We find scores of journalists, students and political activists behind bars, but they are not alone; lawyers, university professors, former political prisoners and members of ethnic and religious minorities have felt the brunt of the crackdown as well.

According to opposition groups, at least 80 people died in Iranian streets and prison because of last summer’s protests. The actual number of victims could even be much higher though. Currently, at least six political prisoners are scheduled to be executed, sentenced as mohareb (enemies of God) for their role in the demonstrations. So far this year, Amnesty has reported 115 executions in Iran.

A hard-pressed Green leadership

The regime’s relentless onslaught against its opponents has prevented the Green wave from developing a stable leadership. For Karrubi, the Green movement is effectively leaderless and lacks organisation. "If this movement had a leader acceptable to the people, the authorities would quickly eliminate [him]," he recently told opposition website Rah-e Sabz.

Karrubi and Musavi have repeatedly emphasised their adherence to Khomeini's principles whilst holding fast to their claim that last year's election was stolen.

In an interview this week published on his website Kalemeh, Musavi, who was prime minister under Khomeini in the 1980s, said he was unable to "hide my attachment to the imam” (Khomeini).

However, the reformers’ strategy has been slammed by Khomeini’s successor, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who labelled reformers as heretics and even ridiculed Khomeini’s grandson, Hassan Khomeini, for openly supporting the Green wave against Ahmadinejad.

Paradoxically, “pro-reform” leaders swear allegiance to Khomeini, which hard-liners dismiss as phony, whilst many of their own supports reject the regime. Yet, they remain important because of their potential to build bridges to members of the elite privately unhappy with Khamenei's leadership, said Professor Ali Ansari, director of the Institute of Iranian studies at St Andrews University.

Eyes on the next elections

As the anniversary of last year’s election comes up, eyes are already turning to the next poll, even if it might not even take place.

The net in fact is full of rumours about who will run in 2012. According to Tabnak, an Ahmadinejad aide, his chief of staff Esfandiari Rahim Mashaei, might declare. He is rumoured to be preparing a “vast campaign” for the next presidential election, the 11th since the founding of the Islamic Republic, by buying advertising space on pro-government newspapers and opening an office in Qom to cultivate ties with the powerful Shia clergy.

Among conservatives seen as Ahmadinejad critics, parliamentary (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani is discussed as a possible candidate for the 2012 presidential vote. Larijani ran in the 2005 presidential vote, but placed sixth.

A candidacy by Khomeini’s grandson Hassan is not likely, partly because he has shown no interest in getting into politics. However, despite opposition from hard-line clerics and the supreme leader who do not like him, Hassan Khomeini would be the perfect poster boy for the reformist camp. He would hardly be excluded by the Guardian Council, the body that determines who can run for office and who cannot.

As usual, everyone is waiting to see who gets Khameini’s support. In the meantime, the head of the Judiciary's human rights office, Mohammad Javad Ardeshir Larijani, was quoted last month as saying that it was" a pity" that the president in Iran could only have two consecutive terms because "Ahmadinejad's performance has been better in his second term than in his first."

Such comments have led to speculation that the Iranian establishment might try to give Ahmadinejad another term by changing the constitution or orchestrating other measures that could include a referendum.

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