The Decade of Naughts was dominated by Bush-Cheney and the War on Terror—which seemed like a post-Cold War proxy for more quagmires like the war against Vietnam. But the decade ended with a hopeful story in what often seemed like a long steady downward skid for progressives.
On the Sunday after Christmas, during Shi’a Islam’s sacred holiday of Ashura, mass protest demonstrations erupted in ten cities in Iran. We might not have paid much attention last week because, after the dramatic first shock of the post-election protests in June, we’ve gotten used to the grainy amateur reports of further demonstrations and nasty government crack-downs on the streets of Iran’s cities.
The demonstrations last week were not simply more of the same, however. Though the government crackdowns were worse than ever, there is heartening news about the opposition. For one thing, according to the New York Times, a number of different video reports showed police and Basij militia removing helmets, walking away from their posts, and refusing to engage the protesters. Also, the protesters were bolder in their opposition, and their defiance against the government forces was more direct.
In the face of fierce and violent government repression, opposition leaders like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have upped the ante on their resistance, despite the fact that officials called on suicide bombers to kill demonstrators and posted photos of protesters asking people to identify them for prosecution. Mousavi, whose nephew was assassinated in the protests, posted a defiant statement on Friday at his website that declared he was ready to sacrifice his life in his campaign to have the disputed June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad overturned. In the face of government reports that he and Mousavi had fled the country, Karroubi insisted they were still at home in Tehran.