By Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Monavar Khalaj in Tehran
Iran’s opposition Green Movement is seeking to capitalise on the youth protests that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak to re-energise its supporters by calling for a rally on Monday to express solidarity with Egyptians.
Iran’s rulers have strongly backed this year’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt by labelling it an Islamic movement against western-backed dictators and likening it to the 1979 revolution in Iran
However, the Islamic regime in Tehran, which faced the biggest unrest against its rule after a disputed presidential election in June 2009, is seeking to block Monday’s demonstration and has labelled it a conspiracy by its opponents.
Hossein Hamedani, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard, said his forces would crush any possible protests on Monday. Kayhan, the hardline newspaper, threatened the Green Movement supporters with death.
The judiciary has vowed to practise no tolerance and urged all Iranians to join Friday’s rally on the 32nd anniversary of the revolution. Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the president, said in a speech, it was Egyptians’ “right” to be “free” and choose their rulers. He insisted that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt would lead to a “new Middle East” where the US and Israel had no place.
Iran’s regime has embarked on arrests and threats in a move to prevent any revival of street protests after Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two main opposition leaders, urged the government last week to issue a permit so Iranians could rally in support of protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Mr Karroubi has been under house arrest since Thursday, unable even to see his children with limited access to telephone, according to opposition websites.
There were no reports on any new restrictions on Mr Moussavi other than the semi-house arrest he has been enduring for months.
At least eight reformist politicians and journalists, including a former minister of welfare who is also the brother-in-law of Mr Moussavi, have been detained since Wednesday.
It has been about a year since the last major post-election street protests in Iran. Tehran responded to seven months of protests with a brutal crackdown that saw thousands arrested and dozens of people killed.
Supporters of Mr Moussavi and Mr Karroubi on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts have started encouraging people not to be scared of any crackdown. Iran’s reformists regret that they faced much more brutality in Iran in comparison with Egyptians and Tunisians.
Mr Karroubi said “the worst and most brutal methods were adopted against Iran’s opposition but the violence in Egypt was normal for a dictatorial regime”.
The US has rejected Iran’s official stances toward Egypt. “For all of its empty talk about Egypt, the government of Iran should allow the Iranian people the same universal right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate in Tehran that the people are exercising in Cairo,” the White House said on Thursday