Monday, June 15, 2009

Editorial: Iran’s Popular Movement Enters New Phase

The death of a Mousavi supporter in today’s anti-government rally in Tehran at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s Basij militias, with several others seriously wounded, opens a new chapter in the growing social and political movement that is gripping the country. The government wants to scare people into submission. And Mousavi’s leadership will now be severely tested. The question is: Can he maintain the movement’s momentum under the threat of armed action on the part of the government and its militia?

Mousavi needs to ask Khamenei and the government to immediately order the Basij militia to pull out of the streets and order the police to be present during these demonstrations to prevent such attacks and engage the Basij if necessary. The supreme leader and the government are responsible and accountable for the maintenance of the people’s safety and security. Such demand from a government that came to power as the result of peaceful marches and gatherings at the very same Azadi square three decades earlier should be regarded as a minimum request. Mousavi needs to engage Khamenei publicly and force his hand to order the pull out of the Basij militias from the streets.

Mousavi also needs to maintain the current momentum by declaring a general strike throughout Iran to protest the Basij killing and demand that Khamenei orders the force out of the streets.

The general strike would also restore a period of calm for Mousavi and other leaders of the movement to plan further mass marches in Tehran and other major cities in the upcoming days. The Guardian Council is scheduled to investigate charges of election fraud brought by Mousavi and other presidential candidates. It is paramount for the movement to maintain its momentum, forcing Khamenei to annul the election results indirectly and through the Guardian Council. His order to the Council earlier today to investigate the charges was an indication that he is pondering such a move.

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