The struggle of wills in Iran shows no sign of ending with the appeal by Mehdi Karoubi for a day of mourning on Thursday; a new challenge for the president and the establishment that supports him to cope with.
The regime now appears truly split; the arrest then freeing of former president Rafsanjanii’s daughter Faezeh Hachemi at a pro-Moussavi rally, and her father’s support for him is symbolic of disarray creeping into the cleric’s ranks. Analyst Firouzeh Navahandi is watching it all unfold from safety abroad: “It’s a power struggle we are witnessing in Iran. Ok, there’s always been one, but this is an ultimate expression of it, as no real political power struggle is possible in an Iranian context, where the political structure forbids it, so what we have had instead is an incessant struggle between personalities.” The oldest dissident member of the shi’ite clergy, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, also called for three days of mourning. Being one of the architects of the 1979 revolution did not protect him from the political winds when they turned; under house arrest in Qom for years, he says “opposing the demands of the people is forbidden by religion.” Navahandi thinks there is something different in the air: “It seems to me that it’s the first time, and this is interesting for Iran, that demands for the separation of church and state are coming from the people, from the bottom up, and that wasn’t so in the 20th century, when all attempts at secularisation were top-down efforts, and they all failed.” The election campaign showed the world Iran’s young, urban, and female populations coming centre-stage, and the protests have shown their quiet discipline. But for how long? Navahandi is not particularly optimistic: “I fear the situation will either degenerate out of control, or will be massively repressed. The movement has no leaders, and that’s its weakness. Unoffical leaders are hard to find in today’s Iran. This isn’t really a revolutionary movement with a well thought-out programme of policies and clear demands.”