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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Green was Valentines day in Iran?

No blog yesterday, too much going on for me to really adequately cover until the reliable and the unreliable could be at least nominally sorted from each other. As it stands, parties on both sides of the riot shield stand to benefit through lies and exaggerations – all information needs to be regarded as at least marginally suspect, initially. That being the case, the fact that most groups of protesters are doing their best to document the events on the ground through videos, photos, and personal accounts, while the governments in question are actively suppressing all not-official communications doesn’t really incline me to be all that receptive of the “official” narratives.

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Iran was the big one, yesterday. If the green movement couldn’t mobilize people in the aftermath of Tunisia and Egypt, the movement could pretty much be considered dead. Fortunately, they hit the streets in a big way, with protests and demonstrations reported in almost all of the major Iranian cities, with crowds as large as 350,00 in Tehran – I can’t vouch for that number, of course, but they certainly seem to have crossed the six-figure mark. Some videos here.

The government’s response was forceful and violent, with tear gas, clubs, rubber bullets, propaganda, and knives sending a clear message – they want this stopped immediately. Whether it will stop is hard to say. Many of the young male protesters stayed in the streets through the night, and the government was reportedly using controlled neighborhood blackouts to stage raids on the various pockets of protesters.

The outcome of yesterday may simply be the clear message that the Green Movement is still alive, but they have shown their hand. Given that the government is executing, on average, one political prisoner every eight hours, the green movement will have to start publicly growing very quickly or the government will grind it down with sheer ruthless brutality.

Violence by the government may have been mitigated by the presence of Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who was beginning a three day visit to Iran, but the government will probably start ratcheting things up even farther. Some members of the Iranian parliament have already publicly called for the execution of opposition leaders Mousavi and Karoubi.

Frankly, I think the Shiites are about to hit the fan.


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Bahrain – I was mildly surprised by the size of the protests in Bahrain. They were certainly not big enough to be a threat to the government yet, but if they show growth then we could see some dramatic events very soon. The government certainly took the protests seriously, moving riot police into the streets. Conflagrations between protesters and police punctuated the day, with “rolling battles” taking place across the city. It looks like they government is just trying to control the situation at this point, with a mind towards a rapid resolution. (there have, however, been two deaths by police attack, which will not help the government calm things down)

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Algeria – Things are still happening, but the degree to which they are happening depends on who you talk to. According to the government, a few hundred protesters marched in the capital and a few dozen were arrested due to their unruliness. According to the protesters there were more than 10,000 protesters (a number that they later revised downwards to merely thousands) with hundreds, or possibly more than 1000 arrested.


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Yemen – Protests have continued to grow here as well, despite accommodating gestures by the government. As long as the crowds don’t feel the need to retire at 1:30 in the afternoon for their daily qat chew this shows no signs of stopping.

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Sorry for the brevity of this post, more analysis will come later tonight or tomorrow morning.

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