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Monday, July 06, 2009

Reformist Iranians on Strike. Daily Beast Article

Iran Goes on Strike
by Reza Aslan

AP Photo Reza Aslan reports that opposition leaders in Iran are planning a three-day strike to be carried out under the cover of a religious holiday. The revolution, it turns out, is far from over.
A massive sandstorm swept into Tehran Monday morning, blanketing the streets in a dark and dreamy haze. The tops of buildings, where, last night, the protest calls of “God is great!” rang out for the 21st consecutive day, are barely visible. Most of Tehran’s bustling downtown appears abandoned. The air quality is so bad that people say it is difficult to breathe. An eerie calm has descended upon the city.
Perfect weather for a strike.
Monday is the start of an unusual three-day Islamic holiday called Itikaf. Sometimes translated as “seclusion” or “retreat,” Itikaf is a time when particularly pious Muslims cloister themselves inside homes or mosques for a period of intense prayer and deep spiritual reflection. It is a practice that the Iranian regime has long encouraged the country’s citizens, particularly the youth, to take part in, usually without much success.
“Let them beat us in the mosques if they dare,” said one. “Let them beat us while we are fasting and praying.”
But this year, supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are planning to take up the government’s appeal for religious observance. Mousavi’s Web site has called on Iranians to use the state-sanctioned holiday to launch a three-day, nationwide strike and boycott of businesses and banks in hopes of re-sparking the popular demonstrations that brought the country to a halt two weeks ago.
“The regime likes to defend its religious practices,” an aide and close confidant of Mousavi (who wants to remain anonymous for his own protection) told me. “We will use their religion to launch a widespread strike, to save Mousavi, and to annul the elections. [Itikaf] is something the regime has encouraged for years, so they can’t fight it.”
The practice of Itikaf allows Muslims to refrain from appearing at work, without facing any consequences. Indeed, it allows people to simply disappear from public without need for explanation. It also allows for mass assembly inside mosques, homes, and other gathering places—the equivalent of a peaceful sit-in (thus far, locations of the gatherings have been kept secret but organizers tell me there is hope that at least Mehdi Karroubi, the other reformist candidate, will join one of the gatherings). Mousavi’s Facebook page recommends using the religious holiday not only to refuse to go to work but also to refrain from spending any money and even to pull money out of state-run banks for “religious” reasons.
According to the organizers of the three-day strike, the protesters plan on using the religious observance to test the limits of the regime’s security apparatus. “Let them beat us in the mosques if they dare,” said one. “Let them beat us while we are fasting and praying.”
There is a sense among Mousavi’s supporters that, despite the brutal government crackdown on protesters and the Guardian Council’s confirmation of Ahmadinejad as the next president, the political tide may be turning in their favor once again. A number of powerful conservative figures, including three advisers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—the speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani, former speaker Ali-Akbar Nateg-Nouri, and former foreign minister Ali-Akbar Velayati—have begun to condemn Ahmadinejad’s heavy-handedness in dealing with the election crisis

read rest on:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-07-06/iran-goes-on-strike/2/

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