Iranian regime followers stage show of strength
By Laurent Maillard
TEHRAN — Hundreds of thousands of government supporters took to Iran’s streets on Wednesday in a show of force against the opposition, with a senior cleric telling their leaders to repent or be declared enemies of God and face death.
Television footage showed crowds in areas including Tehran’s Enghelab Square, chanting slogans and waving pro-regime placards.
“O free-willed leader, we are ready, we are ready,” they shouted in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The rallies were called in response to a series of opposition protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed June re-election.
Opposition websites reported some state-owned factories laid on transport to the rallies, and traditional bazaars were closed in some cities.
Hardliners have reacted angrily after thousands of opposition supporters used Sunday’s climax of Ashura, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest days, to protest, condemning the demonstrations as “desecration.”
“The offensive slogans have made the pious Iranian nation sad and the Zionist world happy, and in practice they as pawns of the enemies have furnished a red carpet for the foreigners who are aiming at the nation’s security,” the government said in a statement.
“The knowledgeable people of Islamic Iran will once again put the lackeys of global oppression in their place and will blind the eyes of sedition.”
Public prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie told a closed session of parliament that opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi “are on the wanted list,” ILNA news agency reported, citing MP Hassan Norouzi.
In some of the strongest language since the election, a senior conservative cleric told opposition leaders to “repent” or be declared “enemies of God” and face the death sentence.
Without naming anyone, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda told a Tehran rally that “millions of people here are telling the heads of the sedition that since the supreme leader still keeps open the gate of repentance for you, then in a deadline that should be set by the judiciary you must repent and return to the path of the leader.”
Alamolhoda, a member of the Assembly of Experts which selects the supreme leader, added: “If you do not, then this people and the regime will confront you as mohareb (enemies of God).”
Those convicted of the offence face the death penalty.
“We are warning for the final time those who were defeated in the election to distance themselves from the anti-revolutionaries, since if they do not they will face the revolutionary wrath of the Iranian people,” a statement read out at the end of the rally said.
This warning was clearly directed at defeated presidential candidates Mousavi and Karroubi, as were placards at the rallies.
One placard read: “Mousavi is a murderer. His execution is a must.” Another said: “Karroubi the illiterate is Mossad’s agent,” a reference to the secret service of Iran’s arch-enemy Israel.