- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

TEHRAN | Government opponents shouted “Allahu akbar” and “death to the dictator” from Tehran’s rooftops in the pouring rain on the eve of student demonstrations planned for Monday. Authorities choked off Internet access and warned journalists working for foreign media to stick to their offices for the next three days.

The measures were aimed at depriving the opposition of its key means of mobilizing the masses as Iran’s clerical rulers keep a tight lid on dissent. Government opponents are seeking, nonetheless, to get large numbers of demonstrators to turn out Monday and show that their movement still has momentum.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi threw his support behind the student demonstrations and declared that his movement is still alive. A statement on his Web site said the clerical establishment cannot silence students and was losing legitimacy in the Iranians’ minds.

“A great nation would not stay silent when some confiscate its vote,” said Mr. Mousavi, who claims President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the June 12 election victory from him by fraud.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, accused the opposition Sunday of exposing divisions in the country and creating opportunities for Iran’s enemies.

Iran’s universities have been strongholds of the opposition movement that grew out of the disputed election, and authorities have besieged campuses nationwide with a wave of arrests and student expulsions. The pro-government Basij militia has also recruited informers on campuses to blow the whistle on any opposition troublemakers, according to students.

Despite heavy rain Sunday night, rooftop cries of “Allahu akbar” - or “God is great” - and “death to the dictator” were heard from many parts of the capital, Tehran, on Sunday night. The protest reprised one of the main tactics of the anti-shah movement in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was revived in the days and weeks after the disputed elections.

The rooftop chants had not been heard since the opposition’s last attempt to mobilize, a Nov. 4 rally coinciding with state-sanctioned events to mark the anniversary of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover. That demonstration drew far fewer protesters than at the height of the summer’s unrest. But it still provoked a violent response from security forces.

For weeks after the disputed June presidential election, demonstrations triggered by claims of massive fraud in the vote brought hundreds of thousands to the streets, but the relentless crackdown that followed has taken a heavy toll.

Seeking to deny the protesters a chance to reassert their voice, authorities slowed Internet connections to a crawl in the capital. For some periods on Sunday, Web access was completely shut down - a tactic that was also used before last month’s demonstration.

The government has not publicly acknowledged that it is behind the outages, but Iran’s Internet service providers say the problem is not on their end and is not a technical glitch.

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