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June 8, 2005
Iran Faces Soccer Riots After World Cup Win

Reuters reports massive celebrations and rioting in Teheran and elsewhere in Iran after the Islamic Republic's soccer team won a place in the World Cup finals by beating archrival Bahrain earlier today. The blog Regime Change Iran has posted a number of reports by its internal sources that claim the celebrations have transformed into political demonstrations that threaten to topple the mullahcracy, either by accident or design:

Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital Tehran after the match, filling the night air with volleys of firecrackers, whistles and horns. State media reported similar scenes in cities across the country.

"Hello victory, hello World Cup. Iran is on its way to Germany," said Mohammad Reza Sadeghi, a shopkeeper in eastern Tehran.

Some took the opportunity to flout the Islamic state's strict moral codes. Young men and women danced together in the streets and some women briefly took off their headscarves, mandated by law, and waved them in the air.

Such behavior was last witnessed in the soccer-mad country when it qualified for the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

"I wish I could go to Germany to support my team. But they would not issue visas for us. They think we are terrorists," said Karim, a young man wrapped in an Iranian flag.

A large security operation was deployed and police blocked many main streets to try to prevent traffic snarls as thousands took to their cars to join the celebrations.

But though the mood was mostly joyous rather than tense, there were sporadic clashes between a hardline volunteer militia and revellers in eastern Tehran. A Reuters reporter saw at least three injured young people.

RCI regularly uses students and insiders to get stories out of Iran that the media either can't cover or fail to confirm. In this case, the number of reports from their partners at SMCCDI just means it's easier to start at the top and keep scrolling. I've reviewed the wire services and the major dailies, which have put tomorrow's editions out to the RSS feeds, and the international papers. So far, no one has confirmed that the nature of the riots have changed from soccer fanaticism to political operation, but from the Reuters report, the mullahs have obviously decided to take precautions against the latter.

Keep checking with RCI tonight and tomorrow, as they will have the latest updates from the inside. In the meantime, we have Michael Ledeen to remind us that the same mullahs who fear the passions of the soccer riots have done their best to kill any passion for the political choices given to them in their upcoming sham elections, disqualifying those candidates who honestly oppose the dictatorial rule of the Supreme Council and demand reform:

The cheerless creatures who rule the Islamic republic of Iran have developed a particularly wicked use of torture. Not only do they use the full panoply of physical and psychological horrors on their captives, but they then send the victims back into their homes and neighborhoods for brief periods of parole or medical leave, so that their friends and families can see with their own eyes the brutal effects of the torture. The clear intent of this practice is to intimidate the population at large, to break the will of would-be dissenters and opponents, and to maximize the effects of the victims themselves, for the brief respite from the pain of the prisons is mercilessly accompanied by the certainty that the agony will soon resume. ...

One of the most prominent dissenters and a distinguished journalist, Akbar Ganji, was given a week-long medical leave from Evin Prison in Tehran, and on Monday he gave an Internet interview that may well prove fatal. He called for a general boycott of the make believe elections for the presidency, scheduled for the 17th of the month, and urged the Iranian people to engage in large-scale civil disobedience.

We are faced with a personal dictatorship, the dictatorship of (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei, he said. Khamenei has ruled for fifteen years and wants to rule for life. I oppose this and I say that this contradicts democracy. Ganji called for Khamenei himself to submit his dictatorial rule to a public ratification. He must take part in a free election, should the people vote him in he can rule and should they reject him he must step aside.

Following the interview the head of the Evin Prison announced that Akbar Ganji had to return at once.

In eight days now, the Iranians will go to the polls to elect parliamentary candidates from a handpicked slate of toadies approved by the Supreme Council. In that regard, the Iranian elections have no more credibility than the Soviet single-candidate elections at which we used to openly scoff. And yet not one Western nation has yet to declare the elections the farce that they so obviously are.

Why? For the same reasons we have pretended that Abbas' election in the Palestinian Territories last January was valid, despite the eleventh-hour rule changes that removed most of the identification requirements designed to prevent fraud and multiple voting. It suits our present political needs to have these people in power. It's the same old reliance on realpolitik rather than the new emphasis we supposedly have on democratization.

We need to stop sheltering the Iranian mullahcracy and support the raging democratic impulse building up in Iran. A truly democratic Iran, freed from the Great Satan rhetoric that fuels the global terrorist networks, replaced by a representative and moderate government that admires the US and wants to work with America, could tip the GWOT inexorably to the West. The West needs to seize the opportunity. Read all of Ledeen's excellent essay.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 8, 2005 10:04 PM

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