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Opposition movement still active in Iran

[-/AFP/Getty Images] Iran's main opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi (L) and Mehdi Karoubi (R).

[-/AFP/Getty Images] Iran's main opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi (L) and Mehdi Karoubi (R).

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Analysts monitoring Iran agree that despite the lull in protest activity, political opposition movements have not been smothered. These analysts stress that the opposition will not end, regardless of whether some kind of settlement is reached between the regime and opposition leaders.

Nasser Hussein, a political analyst, told Al-Shorfa that "it might seem to those monitoring the situation outside Iran that the period of calm that the Islamic Republic witnessed during the last two months, after the protest movements which broke out on June 10th of last year, is an indication that the opposition movement has been smothered, especially following remarks by opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi suggesting his acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's presidency."

However, "things aren't quite what they appear to be," Hussein said. "We can look back to the history of the revolution which overthrew the Shah's regime and brought the Islamists to power."

He added that "even if a settlement is reached between the two wings, the hardcore extremist wing holding on to power, represented by the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei, and the reformist and opposition wings, represented by former president Mohammed Khatami and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, this does not mean that the opposition will end, as long as the real causes that gave birth to this opposition movement are not dealt with. These causes are manifested in the economic, political, cultural, and social arenas inside Iran."

Hussein said that these problems are "deeply rooted and they cannot be addressed superficially while the root causes are ignored. This will leave the smoldering embers burning under the ashes, ready to burst into flames when the right conditions are present."

Eli Hedmos, a journalist who monitors Iranian affairs, told Al-Shorfa that "the opposition movement in Iran is still there, despite the fact the momentum in the streets has subsided because the security agencies such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij paramilitary forces and the police clamp down heavily on them."

According to Hedmos, "The opposition in Iran doesn't currently have a clear leading figure. There are opposition leaders like Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohammed Khatami, and they are the reformists who have left the system. But they have said repeatedly that they do not want to overthrow the regime, and they agree on the principle of wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist) and the Islamic republic system of government. They have demands for reform, such as ending the Guardian Council of the Constitution's oversight on the electoral process and the guarantee of the freedom of the press."

"On the other hand, there is a significant segment of the opposition that does not want this system," Hedmos said. "This can be understood from their slogans calling for a secular democratic republic, even their opposition against the principle of wilayat al-faqih. It is feared that one day they might come out of their leadership positions and lead a bloody popular movement."

Hedmos added that the opposition constitutes a minority in the parliament, which has 200 representatives for the conservatives and 65 for the reformists, which means that they do not have any weight. The reformist movement has been there since the time of former President Mohammed Khatami, but it was unable to achieve anything. Despite the popular support that Khatami enjoyed, he was unable to face the system.

"It is true that the Iranians have democracy, institutions and rotation of power, but on the other hand they have unelected institutions that do not allow them to realize anything, such as the 'Guardian Council of the Constitution' and the 'Expediency Discernment Council', in addition to the waliy faqih (jurist guardian) and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, and the Revolutionary Guards who control the power centers of the state," said Hedmos.

As for interfering with Internet access, Hedmos said that "this is definitely taking place. Even in democratic countries, the state does not hold back from monitoring these means of communication, so what would the situation be like in a country with a regime such as the one in place in Iran?"

"The agencies not only monitor the internet, the emails and the cell phones, but they also jam communications and shut them down. This has been admitted by Police Chief General Ismail Ahmedi Muqaddam. The police even set up a special unit to monitor activities related to satellite broadcasting systems, their main objective being to go after the reformists."

Hedmos added, "Currently, this is seen as the most effective weapon against the opposition as it makes it difficult for the people to communicate via the internet and email as well as cell phones, in addition to banning foreign media broadcasts under the pretext that they work for western intelligence agencies."