The Hard-line Regime Is Taking No Chances

Iran’s clerical regime has not dismantled the emergency committee set up to handle the crises and demonstrations sweeping the country last month – even though the fourth anniversary of Iran’s massive student riots came and went on July 9 without too many upsets.

This week, the emergency committee convened under Yahya Rahim-Safavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards and security chiefs, after concluding that the full weight of protest demonstration is still to come and the government would be well advised to stay on the alert and continue to throw its enemies into prison.

This week it was the turn of journalists. Security chiefs were not deterred even by the outcry from the Canadian government and international organizations over the death from torture in Revolutionary Guards dungeons of Zahra Kazemi, a photojournalist with dual Iranian-Canadian citizenship. They had another 22 journalists picked up over the past several weeks to join the dozens already behind bars.

Students too are filling the prisons, scores rounded up from universities across Iran, some snatched by Revolutionary Guards death squads in the dead of night. Their families, clueless about their fate, have been cautioned by the government to call off protest action and sever contacts with foreign media and international human rights groups if they want to see their loved ones alive.

The emergency committee has drafted detailed plans for the mass arrests of all leaders of the so-called reformist camp – in all, some 60 prominent members of parliament or politicians, who have signed critical letters and petitions against supreme leader Ali Khamenei threatening the ayatollahs’ regime with collapse if the repression goes on.

The government was particularly incensed by an open letter the students association addressed to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. Students’ plans to stage a sit-in at UN offices in Teheran were called off under dire threats from the security authorities. Despite all these measures, the students are pressing ahead with underground activities to more closely synchronize the protest action carried out in the different universities. But with school out for the summer and dormitories closed, student protests will have to be put off for at least two months.

Meanwhile, Iranian teenagers – a sector of the population plagued by an unemployment rate of 50 percent – are preparing neighborhood protests. They are learning how to make Molotov cocktails, deal with tear gas and ambush the security forces. They have also discovered how effective alleyway ambushes can be.

In recent demonstrations, gangs of teenagers took to chanting anti-government slogans and then dashing into a side alley where their pursuers were attacked by dozens of their friends lying in wait. Plainclothes Islamic vigilantes riding motorbikes against demonstrators were tripped by barbed wire the young protesters strung across these alleys to defeat pursuit.

Senior cleric and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in his last Friday prayers sermon in Teheran that the regime had overcome the crisis by taking only minimal measures.

“We still have many forces available to deal with the situation if it worsens,” he said. “The Revolutionary Guards, elite anti-riot squads and even the army itself,” he warned.

The Iranian military has for the past two decades kept mostly out of political affairs. Dissidence is usually suppressed by the brutal Revolutionary Guards. However, it was discovered this week that a small number of army men in tiger-striped uniforms were called in to suppress some of the most intense protest action.

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