Iranian Regime Outlaws Planned Protest in Tehran, As Both Sides Invoke the Egyptian Uprising

February 14, 2011 - 5:07 AM

Iran protest

Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, standing center, addresses supporters at a demonstration in Tehran on Thursday, June 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Ghalam News)

(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s political and religious leaders continue to hail the popular uprising that brought down Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, but the regime also outlawed a planned demonstration in Tehran on Monday, anticipating that alongside solidarity with the Egyptians, protesters will call for similar changes at home.

Accusing the government of hypocrisy, pro-democracy activists planned to go ahead despite the ban and despite a security clampdown in recent days in which a prominent opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, was placed under house arrest.

A statement posted on the Web site of another opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, urged people to join the march in the capital on Monday afternoon and to eschew violence.

The statement said the pressure being placed on opposition figures showed “the growing weakness and fear of the ruling autocrats regarding any civil and political movement – however peaceful.”

Both sides in Iran have embraced and sought to appropriate the protest wave in Egypt and Tunisia.

The clerical establishment, which long regarded the Mubarak government with disdain and shunned diplomatic relations with Cairo, linked the Egyptian uprising to the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979, and painted it as a defeat for Iran’s most reviled foes.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier called it part of an “Islamic awakening” inspired by the 1979 revolution, while deriding Mubarak as a “servant” of Israel and the United States.

Iranian lawmakers who demonstrated on Sunday in support of the Egyptian people used the occasion to call for the downfall of the U.S. and Israel, according to a report in Tehran Times, the “mouthpiece” of the Islamic revolution.

Promoting the same line, a top Iranian military officer, Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, told a ceremony that the “awakening” marked the end of Westerners’ “hegemony” over Muslim nations.

“Egyptians’ rights have been denied and their human dignity has been ruined over years, [but] this victory caused Egypt to restore its human dignity,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the state broadcaster IRIB on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the opposition “Green Movement” has drawn comparisons between events in Egypt and its own anti-government drive following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009, a protest campaign that drew a violent regime response.

Opposition figures point out that Egyptians in 2011 were demanding some of the same changes that Iranians were pushing for two years ago – greater civil liberties, an end to corruption and the removal of a leader whose legitimacy was widely viewed as suspect.

Karroubi and Hossein Mousavi earlier informed the Interior Ministry of plans for a rally on Monday to show support for Arabs demonstrating against their governments, but the ministry on Sunday said they would not receive a permit to create “disturbances.”

“By announcing that they will not allow opposition protests, the Iranian government has declared illegal for Iranians what it claimed was noble for Egyptians,” National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said in a brief White House statement Sunday.

“We call on the government of Iran to allow the Iranian people the universal right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and communicate that’s being exercised in Cairo,” he said.