Over the last few days, an obscure play, in a student journal with a circulation of less than 150, has become a major source of political debate and upheavals in Iran. Fatwa (death sentences) are issued by clerics against its authors, bazaars are closing down in major cities such as Tehran, Friday prayer leaders cry and encourage mass hysteria against the student writers of the play, in scenes Iran hasn't seen since the publication of Satanic Verses.
It is alleged that the 12th Shia Imam has been insulted in this play. As many have pointed out, if it wasn't for the exaggerated reaction of the fundamentalists and their hysteric behaviour, very few people would have ever been aware of this play and its content. The question is what are the aims of the fundamentalists in pursuing such an issue.
The answer must lie in their failure to unite their forces and defend "true Islam" following the student demonstrations of July 99. In an echo of the Shah's generals who kept saying "had we killed the first batch of demonstrators we wouldn't have witnessed the revolution," clerics and Friday prayer leaders kept saying last week "if the authorities had killed the protesters when the religious leader khamnei and his predecessor Khomeini were insulted, we wouldn't have seen such disrespect for the 12th Imam".
In a clear attempt to restrict freedoms and go back to the bad old days of severe dictatorship, another cleric questioned why the country needed so many papers, and journals: "Surely two papers are sufficient to cover the opinions of the Muslim nation!"
Many have considered the attacks of the last few weeks against the liberals, the press and student leaders the worst of the last few years, yet it now looks as the danger from the right is over, for the time being. That the fundamentalists, even using their last weapon, the 12th Shia Imam (who has disappeared and will only appear to save the world), have failed and even the most senior cleric Khamenei has heard the "voice of protests" and realises that the tide of opposition cannot be reversed simply by bringing up religious relics.
With the opening of the universities in the last few months before elections to the Majles, with rising unemployment and increasing hardship for the working class, the prospects for protest against the regime are very high. Threats of execution and political repression have not worked and both factions of the regime are weary of the dangers ahead. However, the student movement needs to find its allies amongst the working class, whose independent protest against sackings, low pay, lack of payment of salaries and so on has been widespread.
The combined struggles for democracy, a decent wage and class struggle can and will bring down Iran's Islamic republic. Governments who have decided to support this regime in its dying days , such as the British Labour Government should be wary of the anger of Iranian people.
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