Despite four years of non-stop pressure, arrests and intimidation, Iran’s dissidents still find ways to show their resilience. Protest messages still ricochet around social media despite Iran’s cyber cops’ attempts to control the Web. Angry graffiti pops up and then quickly painted over by authorities. Mourners at the funeral of a dissident cleric flashed V-for-victory gestures and chanted against the state. But just a look at the sidewalks around Tehran’s Mellat Park shows how far Iran’s opposition has fallen as the country prepares for Friday’s presidential election.
Four years ago, girls on rollerblades sped around the park delivering fliers for the reform camp’s candidate-hero Mir Hossein Mousavi. Emerald-colored head scarves and wrist bands representing Mousavi’s Green Movement were in such demand that bloggers would list shops with available fabric.
This time, there are just a few subdued election placards for candidates considered fully in sync with Iran’s ruling clerics. Security forces and paramilitary volunteers are never far away.
Mousavi and other opposition leader, Mahdi Karroubi, are under house arrest and hundreds more activists, bloggers and journalists have faced detention as part of relentless crackdowns since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 brought accusations of vote rigging and something Iran has not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution: Huge crowds in the streets chanting against the leadership.