OpinionIran in the World PressIranian opposition and authorities draw battle lines

Iranian opposition and authorities draw battle lines

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ImageUPI: Ever since Iran's revolution which saw the Shah ousted on Feb. 11, 1979, its anniversary has been celebrated by the Iranian regime by way of a show of force. However, this year promises to be a totally different affair. United Press International

By TARSEM KING
UPI Outside View Commentator

ImageLONDON, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Ever since Iran's revolution which saw the Shah ousted on Feb. 11, 1979, its anniversary has been celebrated by the Iranian regime by way of a show of force.

However, this year promises to be a totally different affair. Only last year Western media was provided direct access to the events of Feb. 11, 2009, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a rousing speech to the militant core of the Iranian regime.

As the militant element of Iran chanted in a disturbingly systematic fashion in support of its leader, no one then could have imagined that 12 months on the Iranian regime would be preparing itself for widespread anti-government demonstrations on the anniversary of the revolution which could shake the entire foundations of the regime.

Now, as we enter the last days before D-Day on Feb. 11, 2010 — Thursday — both sides are drawing their battle lines in preparation for what promises to be a historic day for the Iranian people. Historic to such an extent that whispers among the opposition movement indicate a belief that following on from unprecedented anti-government demonstrations during the holy Shiite festival of Ashura in December, protests on the anniversary of the revolution will shake the core of the regime beyond repair.

There are clearly similar concerns among the Iranian leadership that these whispers could become reality and in a strange twist of fate 31 years on from the 1979 revolution, the day that symbolizes this regime will this year mark the beginning of its end. With this undoubted fear in mind the Iranian regime has set about taking drastic action to try to limit protests.

The regime has now turned its attention to execution as its latest tool to attempt to maintain control over a population seeking change.

Following the expedited execution of two individuals accused of taking part in demonstrations, nine others have been sentenced to death for being "mohareb" (an enemy of God) due to their ties to the main democratic opposition group People's Mujaheddin of Iran. As Iran's judiciary chief vowed to have "no mercy against mohareb grouplets," the regime has conclusively indicated that anyone who gathers Thursday for anti-government demonstrations can expect execution as their punishment.

In defining Moharebeh as "(waging war on God) through supporting the PMOI and having links with it; organizing gatherings and collusion with the intention of committing offenses against the security of the country … publicity activities against the state establishment and in favor of the enemies," the Iranian regime has made clear that it fears the PMOI, Iran's largest organized opposition, most of all.

The Iranian people have shown at recent demonstrations in which there were direct calls for an end to the supreme rule of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, they no longer fear this regime or its suppressive measures. Death is something that the Iranian protesters now see as a price that must be paid for freedom and democracy.

In the lead up to Feb. 11 the international community must show support for the Iranian people's democratic ambitions and human rights. Whether one feels that direct support for the protesters is constructive or not, silence against the crimes committed by the Iranian regime is simply unacceptable. World leaders must very publicly show their support for the Iranian people's democratic demands while condemning the executions of supporters of the PMOI.

The Iranian people can bring about democratic change. Now rather than legitimize the crimes of the Iranian leadership by continuing dialogue and diplomacy, we must end ties with the Iranian regime and instead build relations with the real future of Iran, the Iranian people and their opposition movement.

Tarsem King, of West Bromwich, England, is a member of the British House of Lords and also a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.

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