Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Then you win.'

Iran protests: live
The Guardian: The numbers at today's rally are hard to gauge, but our correspondent Saeed Kamali Denghan reckons there could be as many as one million people there. He said the demonstration is bigger than Monday's rally. Many are wearing black and carrying photos of those who died. Some carry placards calling for a new election not a recount. The shops on the route are closed in support of the rally, he added. Saeed pointed out that the rally has taken place in South Tehran where Ahmadinejad claimed to have had a lot of support.

Los Angeles Times: A 21-year old engineering student named Ali said he had never heard of Twitter. But he learned about Wednesday's silent demonstration by attending the previous day's march... 'All the websites are shut down,' he said, asking that his last name and his school not be published. 'The phones never work. We find out through word of mouth.'...

On the street, a loose network of organizers appears to guide the demonstrators, cordoning off the marchers from traffic and urging them not to chant slogans or engage in provocative talk with the Basifi militiamen who sometimes stand glaring at the protesters. The impromptu leaders, mostly students and women's rights activists, hide their faces with green bandannas of surgical masks to prevent security officials from identifying them.

Protesters have tailored their message to make sure no one makes blanket calls against the Islamic Republic. Such rhetoric would not only provoke the authorities, but alienate segments of a budding movement that includes a huge cross-section of the nation...

Perhaps more perilous for authorities is the possibility that some soldiers, security officials and Revolutionary Guardsmen might refuse orders to fire on protesters, creating a dangerous rift within the security apparatuses. 'I would never do it,' said Hossein, a 23-year-old member of the security forces who said he and many of his friends at the military base where he serves support the marchers. 'Maybe someone would, but I would never fire on any of these people myself.'

The Basij have now begun to cover their faces... This indicates they are becoming more scared of retaliation from the general public... There have been efforts to identify members of the Basij who have used violence against demonstrators, through facebook and other social networking websites.

Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress: If you were to try to fight the security forces... you'd encourage a more serious crackdown. It's through nonviolent resistance that you heighten the psychological contradictions, and encourage the regime and its enforcers to blink... The brave dissidents are essentially daring the security forces to beat or kill them. The bet is that when push comes to shove, people in the Iranian forces have some humane and patriotic instincts and will recoil from the idea of using mass violence against their fellow citizens. And it's a terrifying bet. We've seen time and again that it's a bet that often pays off, but as we learned in China 20 years ago there are no guarantees.

Translation: First they ignore you, they they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Gary Sick: So who is calling the shots? Mousavi seems to be running along after the crowd, not leading it. But that is probably all that is required to keep the protest in motion. On the other side, the very little evidence we have suggests that the important decisions are being made by the ultra-conservative leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, whose political role has ballooned over the past decade, perhaps in cooperation with their extremists counterparts in the clergy. They are utterly ruthless and ideologically fueled. But nobody is fully in command of events.
Image source here.