My Iranian friend, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, who currently works in London for BBC Persian and featured in my book The Blogging Revolution when we were together in Iran in 2007, writes that this week’s mass protests across the Islamic Republic signal a shift in focus of the opposition;
It is clear that Monday’s demonstrations in Iran came as a big surprise to both the government and the leaders of the opposition Green Movement.
The fact that people were willing to come out onto the streets in defiance of the security forces showed just how much anger there still was against the government among some sections of the population.
It also underlined the emptiness of the government’s claims that the Green Movement was a spent force.
Since the brutal suppression of the protests triggered by the disputed June 2009 presidential election, the authorities have maintained the line that there is no powerful opposition movement in Iran.
As Monday’s protests were unfolding across the country – and opposition websites were buzzing with news from the streets – state media were continuing to report that all was quiet.
Like their counterparts in Cairo and Tunis, the opposition supporters who have been out on the streets of Tehran this week are overwhelmingly members of the Facebook generation.
Footage of the protests in Tehran was captured on mobile phones
But while the protestors in Egypt had both their own military and the US administration behind them, this is not the case in Iran.
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By isolating the Green Movement’s leaders from its young support base, the government might paradoxically have pushed the opposition onto a much more radical course”
The powerful Revolutionary Guards are leading the fight against any dissent against the government.
And expressions of support from President Barack Obama will allow the government to accuse the opposition of being “traitors who align themselves with Israel” and suppress them.
The renewed opposition protests this week have given Green Movement supporters a new sense of hope, but it is clear that the movement is still far from bringing about the kind of fundamental changes which we have seen in Egypt or Tunisia.
However, some observers both inside and outside Iran have noted that the opposition is beginning to change.
Many of the slogans being chanted by protesters on Monday were aimed against the very top figure in the Iranian establishment – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Some were burning pictures of him and even calling for his death – something which would have been unthinkable before the 2009 election.
By isolating the Green Movement’s leaders from its young support base, the government might paradoxically have pushed the opposition onto a much more radical course.
While Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi are still seeking changes within the current system, the increasing anger that was evident on the streets this week shows that some opposition supporters may no longer be satisfied by “reform” and now seek a “revolution”.