Iran opposition leader missing as tensions rise
A main leader of Iran’s opposition was reported missing on Thursday and both the opposition “green movement” and Iran’s hardliners issued calls for street rallies, escalating tensions after the re-emergence of street protests and their brutal suppression on Monday.
The daughters of the missing opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, told an opposition website that they had had no word from either of their parents since Tuesday and feared they had been detained. Security forces have surrounded their home, and all communications have been cut.
On Wednesday, the website of another opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, reported that the house of his eldest son had been raided and damaged by security officers seeking to arrest him.
Calls have intensified from Iran’s Parliament and judiciary for the prosecution of both men, who have been accused repeatedly of waging war against God, a crime that carries the death penalty. This week, as the opposition revived in solidarity with uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, law markers in Parliament called for them to be hanged.
An opposition group, the Green Path of Hope, issued a call through the opposition website Jaras for supporters to take to the streets on Sunday to remember the deaths of two protesters in this week, as well those of “other martyrs of the green movement.”
The opposition’s Monday rallies were met with a forceful response from Iran’s security forces, which include not only police officers but also plainclothes members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and the paramilitary Basij group.
The government’s supporters have been called to rally after Friday prayers at Tehran University. According to the website of the state-run TV news service, IRINN, the rally will be held in order that the “revolutionary people of Tehran” can show their “hatred, rage and disgust” at the re-emergence of the kind of opposition rallies — hardliners say “sedition” — that followed the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
Conflicts flared for a second time on Wednesday, when members of the Basij paramilitary force clashed with students at Tehran Art University as they gathered to remember one of two students killed during earlier protests. Witnesses reported that pro-government forces surrounded the campus and beat and arrested students.
The two sides both tried to claim the student, Saaneh Zhaleh, as a supporter. Iran’s authorities had reported that he was a Basiji and had been shot dead by armed anti-government protesters. Opposition websites published pictures of him attending a meeting of reformist students, and said state media had doctored his photograph to give him a more conservative hairstyle.