Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Iran's democratic movement and its newest martyrs

By Anonymous visiting scholar

Muslim women protest in Tehran street

Thousands of Iranian protesters in Tehran and other cities demonstrated Monday, Feb. 14 to support Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. But the demonstrations quickly switched their focus to the Iranian regime itself, protesting what they claim was the fraudulent reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Monday’s protest was the biggest since the disputed 2009 presidential election.

The following day, Tuesday, members of the Iranian Parliament called for the two reformist opposition leaders — Mir Hosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi — to be prosecuted and sentenced to death for their role in leading the protests.

Muslim women protest in Tehran street
Protesters for democracy, in Tehran

The government warned foreign journalists not to report on the demonstrations, so most of the news came from websites and Facebook pages set up by the democratic forces known as the “Green Movement.”

Though the violent response succeeded in limiting the duration of the demonstrations, for some of the participants it helped sustain the sense of democratic possibilities unleashed by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.

“I feel really good that the Green Movement has new energy,” commented Hamid, a 35-year-old filmmaker in an interview from Tehran. I got new energy; the Green movement is still alive!

“Thousands of people they came out although the security was very tough and aggressive they were beating up everybody old, young, men and women,” Hamid added. ‘I knew when I decide to go to demonstration I might be killed, but it was worth it!”

Nazi, a 22-year-old student at Tehran University, commented by phone from Tehran:

“It’s a refreshing. Although I was beaten up, I am happy that we could go out and shout. I am very hopeful for our future, we all know dictators they have to go in Egypt, Tunisia or Iran…

“We fight for our right and democracy! I am ready to be killed for my country and for freedom! I was in the streets from 2 to 8 p.m.  and I am getting ready to go for the funeral of the student who was killed on Monday.

“Many of my classmates have already been arrested and many more are being arrest.”

"Mubarak, Ben Ali, now its time for Seyed Ali!" protesters in Tehran shouted, referring to the deposed presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, and Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

As the crowds gathered in Tehran’s Enghelab and Azadi avenues, riot police and government-sponsored plainclothes Basiji beat protesters and threw tear gas, according to eyewitness accounts and YouTube videos.

Unidentified motorcycles indiscriminately opened fire on the crowds. Sane Jaleh, a Kurdish student at the Art University of Tehran, and Mohammad Mokhtari, 22, were officially counted among the dead according to government propaganda news agency, Fars. Other demonstrators sustained gunfire injuries according to official reports.

Mohammad Mokhtari
Mohammad Mokhtari, with quote from his Facebook page asserting his willingness to "die standing."

Fars reported that 1,500 demonstrators were arrested transported to the notorious Evin prison. Police and security authorities have refused to respond to inquiries by families of the detainees.

The Basij government militia of Tehran University announced the memorial service for Sane Jaleh to take place at the University on Wednesday. The government claims that Jaleh was Basij and shot by protesters. A Basij identity card was posted online by the government to support the claims. No perpetrator was named in the case.

According to Kalameh web site, Sajad Rezaee, a classmate Sane Jaleh at the University, refuted the Basij claims that Jaleh was active in the campaiagn of Mousavi during the election. A photo on the Internet — showing Jaleh with Ayatolah Ali Montazeri (a serious critic of the regime in the religious city of Qom) — is evidence that he was not with Basij.

Razaee asked people to participate in his friend and classmate’s memorial service, saying Saneh Jaleh is a martyr of the freedom and Green Movement.

According to Daneshjoo News (an Iranian student website), many students in Tehran’s Sharif University were beaten up by university security forces during the students’ campus protest. Many they were arrested, it said, and an injured student was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Opposition leaders Mir Hosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi were placed under house arrest, beginning on Sunday, to prevent them from participating in Monday’s rally.

Officials composed a list of 1,500 detainees who have been transferred to the Evin prison.

On Tuesday morning, according to a human rights website, members of a special police unit attacked and beat the families of detainees, who had come to the Revolutionary Court in Tehran for news of family members arrested during the Monday protest.


  • New York Times (English)
  • Daneshjoo News (Farsi)
  • Kaleme (Farsi)
  • Mehdi Saharkhiz's News Blog (Farsi, with Facebook section in English)
  • Iran Green Voice (Farsi)