- Associated Press - Sunday, February 13, 2011

 

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran’s opposition on Sunday renewed its call for a rally in support of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt despite a government warning of repercussions if demonstrations take place, a reformist website reported.

In a statement published on Kaleme.com, the opposition urged its supporters to rally on Monday in central Tehran and accused the government of hypocrisy by voicing support for the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while refusing to allow Iranian political activists to stage a peaceful demonstration.

Wary of a reinvigorated opposition at home, Iranian authorities have detained several activists and journalists in recent weeks, and opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi was put under house arrest, apparently in connection with the request to stage the rally.

The statement said further restrictions on Mr. Karroubi and fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi were a sign of the “increasing weakness and fear of the government about the most peaceful civil and political rights” of Iranians.

In another report, Mr. Kaleme said many university students as well as a reformist cleric group have promised to attend the rally, but it was not clear whether the rally would actually take place. Many opposition calls for demonstrations in the past months have gone unheeded.

Still, the opposition’s persistence has placed the government in a bind. Iran’s hard-line rulers — who also have tried to capitalize on the uprising against their regional rivals in Egypt’s U.S.-allied regime — are seeking to deprive their own opponents at home of any chance to reinvigorate a movement swept from the streets in a heavy military crackdown.

Both Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi have compared the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia with their own postelection protest movement in 2009, which the Iranian government eventually managed to quash. Mr. Mousavi said that Iran’s demonstrations were the starting point for the recent revolts in Cairo and Tunis and that all the uprisings aimed at ending the “oppression of the rulers.”

The protests that swept Iran in the months after the 2009 vote grew into a larger movement opposed to Iran’s ruling system. It was the biggest challenge faced by Iran’s clerical leadership since it came to power in the 1979 revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.

Hundreds of thousands peacefully took to the streets in support of Mr. Mousavi, and some powerful clerics sided with the opposition.

But a heavy military crackdown suppressed the protests, and many in the opposition — from midlevel political figures to street activists, journalists and human rights workers — were arrested. The opposition has not been able to hold a major protest since December 2009.