Echoes of 1978-79

The sheer size of today’s protest in Tehran takes one back to the heady days of the revolution itself to find anything similar – and therein lies the real problem for the Ahmadinejad camp. At the start, according to our Twitter friends, people were advised to carry pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini as “protection” and the word was that the demo was to be as silent as possible, so that it could not be construed as “political”, since a political demo had been banned. But looking at later TV video, it appears this stricture eventually went by the wayside.

Other points worthy of note were that the riot police stood silently to one side and that the protest was attended by all the “moderate” leaders: Moussavi, the two Khatami brothers, Karroubi. A rare show of unity that I doubt the hardliners had bargained for.

I cannot emphasise how much of a watershed I think this represents, however the regime eventually reacts. Up to now, with the original troubles of the revolution, then the massive loss of life in the Iran-Iraq war, and the seeming omnipotence of the clerical groupings, the people I know seemed cowed and resigned to their lot. I never imagined that frustration would build up to such a level that they would ever throw caution to the wind and demonstrate their anger. I imagine I am not the only one to be shocked at what has happened. This is a little more than the outpourings of a football crowd that Mr Ahmadinejad referred to on Sunday.

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