- Tens of thousands of young people have taken to the
of Iran in the past week, causing some of the worst violence in the history
of the 22-year-old Islamic revolution.
- The youths both boys and girls used two World Cup
qualifying fixtures as an excuse to reclaim the streets and assert their
hunger for Western culture and freedoms.
- In Tehran, the young people braved tear gas and blows
from the security forces to cavort to the sound of the Western pop star
Sonique, blaring from radios. Girls blew hooters at Islamic vigilantes
armed with staves while their boyfriends fought riot police with stones
and homemade explosives.
- Shock at a 3-1 loss against Bahrain on Sunday sparked
two nights of nationwide protests and the crowds returned to the streets
on Wednesday following a 1-0 victory against the Emirates.
- "What we're witnessing are the sort of
which preceded the last months of the Shah,'' said a senior Iranian analyst
who wanted his name withheld.
- Dozens of banks have been burned and cars overturned
as the authorities set up special courts to try more than a thousand
officially denounced as football hooligans.
- But the chanting of the crowds has been overtly
Youths taunted groups of brutal Islamic vigilantes known as Bassiji,
for holy warriors, and chanted zindibad azadi [long live freedom].
- The 11 September attacks have boosted pro-Western voices.
Iran has emerged as one of the few Muslim states where people have taken
to the streets in sympathy with the US.
- Conservatives remain suspicious that expressions of
hide a broader agenda of counter-revolution. Earlier this month in Mohseni
Square a part of Tehran so Westernised that Iranians call it the 51st
state of America police used clubs to disperse a crowd of mourners,
elderly women, holding a vigil for the New York attacks.
- Hard-liners say that the war in Afghanistan marks the
final stage in the military encirclement of Iran. In addition to the US
arsenal in the Persian Gulf, Washington now has thousands of troops close
to Iran's eastern border with Pakistan and to the north in
- Western efforts to bring back the exiled shah of
are arousing fears of a similar plot to restore a shah to Iran. In silent
protests on Sunday, demonstrators in Mohseni Square claimed Reza Pahlavi,
the son of the ousted late shah, as their spiritual leader.
- Opposition satellite TV channels beamed from Los Angeles
have stoked a growing nostalgia for the monarchy. In a belated effort to
muzzle the royalists, the Islamic vigilantes have swooped on the rooftops
of northern Tehran confiscating hundreds of satellite dishes.
- But popular pressure has already extracted concessions
from the ayatollahs. While women are still barred from attending football
games, they now occupy the front desks in Iranian hotels and strut the
streets holding hands with their boyfriends.
- Opposition to the great Satan of the US has given way
to tacit support for the attack on the Taliban and an official policy of
"active neutrality'' in the American bombing. Iran has also undertaken
to rescue any US airmen downed in Afghanistan.
- Newspaper editorials have openly appealed to the clerics
not to waste the opportunity to mend relations with the US and have called
on President Khatami to join the alliance.
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