A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When the Messenger is Silenced

Foreign journalists have been banned from covering demonstrations in Tehran; hotels are said to be surrounded by security forces to keep ordinary Iranians from contacting foreigners. The result is that today's demonstrations are much less visible than yesterday's, as the regime no doubt intended, but also that Dame Rumor is running rampant, which may not work as the government intended. Thus the BBC reports claims that today's demonstration in North Tehran is even bigger than yesterday's, but notes that it can't confirm this. Other reports suggest it's more subdued, in part because Mousavi has warned against clashes with supporters of Ahmadinejad, and the latter pre-empted a planned demonstration in downtown Tehran by calling their own for the same place two hours earlier.

Ayatollah Montazeri, the onetime heir to Khomeini who has been under house arrest for years, has called for mourning for those killed so far. Montazeri is another powerful voice, if he chooses to use it.

I am more and more convinced that arguing about whether the results were rigged is increasingly irrelevant to the situation on the ground: the split down the middle of the ruling establishment is deepening day by day, and however this ends the Iranian government at the end of it all will be rather different, either purged of its moderates or upended by them.

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