A One Night Stand?

Or a lasting call for change?


A One Night Stand?
by Setareh Sabety

In Tehran Monday the crowds were in the thousands -- much more than expected by most of us, but sporadic. It seems like security forces managed to keep anyone from staying in one place long enough to make it a huge center. I can only rely on my own eyewitness sources since there is so much disinformation from fringe groups like the MKO and ultra-Monarchists floating around the Internet. Most of my sources said the crowds were in the thousands. One said there more than a hundred thousand.

Security forces were large in numbers and presence. One of my sources claimed there were more security forces than she had ever seen before. She also said that there were pro-regime groups waving pictures of Khamenei. The security forces used electric batons and tear gas. My sources also all claimed that more "Marg bar Khamenei" (death to Khamenei) was chanted than any other chant. But one has to be careful, two video clips, at least, that were widely circulated, were from 2009 and had a voice-over chant of Mubarak, Ben Ali etc. My sources claimed there were vans where those arrested were taken. I have not seen one picture or video that shows one point of huge gathering. It seems there were several points of protest with one especially large one at Sadeghieh in central Tehran.

What is certain is that the numbers surprised all and were bigger than expected. My sources were all hopeful, though one was scared and shaken by bassiji behavior and the use of teargas. The role of social media, while important, is slightly exaggerated. I saw no one tweeting from Iran really, certainly not from the protests. Maybe Facebook helped in some of the organizing. But at the height of the 2009 uprising less than 0.2% were using twitter from Iran even after everyone changed their location to Iran for safety of the protestors. With mobile phones cut off and no sms for much of the routes it would be difficult to organize with Internet on the ground.

Significant also was the house arrest of Reformist leaders, Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi. This gives them added revolutionary stature. But it seems like yesterday was not really about them. Very few pro-Mousavi or Karroubi chants were reported. Whatever happens next, it seems like the crowds have moved beyond the reformist agenda and are asking for regime change. This could be the result of Egypt and Tunisia's inspirational contagion. Iranians usually see themselves as superior to others in the region -- especially Arabs -- and the fact that the latter achieved in a few weeks what former has wanted for so long may have inspired and pushed the Iranians into action. Also, many distrust the reformists who themselves have shady records of service with the Islamic regime, so in fact moving towards an anti-regime stance may bring more to the opposition's fold. The more people feel like this is their struggle for getting rid of the hated theocracy the more they are going to show willingness to risk life and limb. Rarely do people risks lives for reform, but they do tend to do it for real change.

What remains to be seen is if this movement will spread to the working classes who are increasingly dissatisfied because of economic conditions brought about by pressure from subsidy cuts as well as international sanctions. The success of the opposition movement relies less on the Internet than on the support of workers and the Bazaar who have so far not gone on strike to show their support for the opposition, despite repeated calls for them to join the movement after the fraudulent election results were announced in June 2009. Also important is whether or not the momentum gained from yesterday's protests can be maintained despite the regime's brutal crack down that is sure to continue. But if Iranians inspired by cries of change all around the region keep the zeal they showed yesterday they could surprise us again. When it does come it will be the first revolution against an Islamist regime and as such it will set a great and important precedent for the region and the world.

First published in www.HuffingtonPost.com


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more from Setareh Sabety

Excellent point: Working class and Middle class

by Siavash300 on

Aside from not having clear leadership in 2009, silent of bazari and working class were another factor in failure of green movement. The green movement was limited to upper middle class, educated and elite of our society. Almost all of demonstration were in northern part of Tehran. It didn't go further than pole chobi. We never saw any unrest in Shosh, rah ahan or javadeyeh area. It didn't go deep to cover bazaris or oil refinary workers or Iran Khodro workers. Oil refinary workers are bones of our economy system and main force for social change. They  didn't go on strike. On the other hands, the middle class with religion tendency such as bazari never closed their shops in support of 2009 movement. Now, in light of U.S sanction these 2 segments of our society may get involved. In that scenario barbaric republic of mullahs will end in a heart beat. However, Ms. Sabety, you shouldn't forget that national front was as guilty as MKO or other parties in bring these monsters to power in 1979.

Payandeh our Aryan Land Iran

Long live Crown Reza pahlavi, the legit king of IRAN

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I have some good friends who are "Bazari". One of them told me his family had heavily financed Khomeini in 1979. Now they regret it deeply and are sorry they did it. Not all Bazari are pro IRR. 

Yes I already said people should be weary of them. However they are businessmen first. They do not like the sanctions. They also don't appreciate being shaken down by IR. My friend's family was squeezed for millions of dollars by the IR. That is the "thanks" the good Ayatollah gave them for their support. The good news is that IRR has alienated its natural allies. They are so greedy as to dig their own graves. I say "Good". Let them get their allies mad. The more the merrier because it puts us all in the same boat.


"if we rely on them, we

by Bavafa on

"if we rely on them, we might as well give up all hope that someday Iran will be free of the Islamic regime"

I agree that we, people, ought not to rely on the bazzari, though their participation should be welcomed by the people. They have been an instrument for the Iranian politics/regime for far too long and examining the Iranian politics/regime whether before 79 or after that does not show any glorious system for freedom and democracy.

I also think they (bazzari) are first business men before they are religious, so if they see their position of strength is in any jeopardy, then they will not hesitate to turn against the Mullahs.


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Right COP

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I agree they are too near to the Islamists.  Very good point.



More demonstrations planned for this saturday, Esfand 1st.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on


Sounds deeper than a one night fling to me!

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."


Yes, the bazaaries

by Cost-of-Progress on

"The success of the opposition movement relies less on the Internet than on the support of workers and the Bazaar who have so far not gone on strike to show their support for the opposition,...."

It is indeed greatly dependent on the action of bazaaries, the keepers of the antiquated system of commerce in Iran. However, if we rely on them, we might as well give up all hope that someday Iran will be free of the islamic regime. The bazaaris are integrated into the regime and their religious stance reinfoces the regime. Unless the economic situation becomes even more desparate, I don't see them getting in on the action.

Besides, will the bazaaris support a secular system in Iran? Centuries of dominance by religious establishment in Iran who basically ruled side by side of monarchy from the Saffavids to Ghajars tell us that would be a tall order.

May the forces of nature have mercy on Iran and her people.




hamsade ghadimi

thank you ms. sabety for,

by hamsade ghadimi on

thank you ms. sabety for, in my opinion, a realistic analysis. 

a few points: 1) i agree with you that the role of social networking is exaggerated.  i find it curious that the telephone lines to both karoubi and mousavi were supposedly cut off but mousavi's website, kaleme, was up and running with up-to-the-minute news on the protests. 2) i agree that mousavi and karoubi are safe now but for diffferent reasons.  they may have learned a thing or two from the fate of ghotbzadeh and yazdi, 3) i find it disheartening that some like to settle mosadegh era scores in times like this.  it is apparent that some of the shahollahis have no interest in a united front against the regime.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Pas-e-pardeh & Mash Ghasem

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


It is a fact that the National Front had a giant hand in tearing down the Shah. It is also a historical fact that they walked away. They handed Iran over to Khomeini. No way around this so let us accept reality and then move on.


Karoubi/Mousavi are safer now than they were a month ago.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

They are not tried and jailed by the regime so far due to Khamenei's fear of a popular backlash.

Let's not forget that Karoubi/Mousavi have a solid support base amongst the middle to upper class, educated and religious sections of Iranian society. The same sections of the society who supported bani sadr/bazargan 30 years ago. These forces , have been the back bone of the green movement so far. 

But this is not to say that the poor, working classes are happy with the regime, far from it! The next phase of green movement should be to engage the working classes and seek their support through massive , crippling industrial actions.

As for the working classes themselves, they can only find their right place in Iran's democratic movement through theie own political party, the party of the working classes. 

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Setareh jan for a great article

by Anahid Hojjati on

A far as movement spreading to working class and Bazar, compared to 2009, we are in better shape. There have been unrest in factories and Bazar in the last year which we did not have in 2009 or at least I don't know of. It is just a matter of connecting the unrest in those two segments of population to the movement.

Mash Ghasem

Pas pardeh, sorry to burst your bubble but

by Mash Ghasem on

Gen. Fardost did a lot more damage than N.F. could have ever imagined, he practically thought the mullahs how to run the country. Not to mention SAVAK's hand in glove cooperation with Hojatieh, and...why do I sometimes feel you're skating on very thin ice?


Javid Shah!

by pas-e-pardeh on

Ms. Sabety,

With elequence, for years, you have spoken about democracy in Iran for the future, and nostalgia for Mosadegh and the National Fron in the past. 

It is a fact that national-front supporters took their revenge on Shah in 1979.  That in itself is alright, in some ways.  But, then they handed the country over to the mullahs.  They didn't stand and fight for the form of government they sold the nation.  They tore down and system and then just walked away. Why? 

Let National Front supporters accept responsibility for bringing Khomein to power in 1979 first, then opine about Iran's future.  

G. Rahmanian

A One Night Stand!

by G. Rahmanian on

I guess as they say, "Experience is the mother of wisdom."


Maybe im a cynic

by fidelio5 on

but I just cant imagine this regime folding simply because of protests.
The basij and revolutionary guards are so complicit in the crimes against Iran, that they highly incentivized to oppose any change. In retrospect its obvious the Egyptian military was pushing for Mubarak's exit, probably because they resented his sons appointment as heir. NO such element exists in Iran. As I cited the Pasdaran are a reactionary force.

I wonder if all this eventually will lead to armed resistance. I certainly hope so. I just cant take another generation's hopes and dreams smashed in the 'HOPE' of peaceful change. Sometimes you have to avoid the void of hope.

Jahanshah Javid

Pleasant surprise

by Jahanshah Javid on

The extent of Monday's turnout was indeed a surprise to all sides. For thousands to show up in the streets without a clear leadership or organization is proof that the people are not giving up their call for change. Drastic change.

Based on the YouTube videos, the slogans were much more radical compared to last year's protests. There few examples where people shouted slogans in support of Mousavi. Instead we heard many more who denounced Khamenei by name and compared him to ousted dictators in Tunisia and Egypt.

Also you are right about the exaggerated role of social media inside Iran on the day of the protests, with severe limitations on the use of the internet and mobile messaging.

The question now is, what will happen next. The regime is determined to make it harder on Mousavi and Karroubi to communicate their messages. It is even closer to carryout its threats to arrest them.