Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is being tested in his recent statement supporting the right to protest, with one of the country’s leading political organization seeking a permit for a public rally in Tehran on March 5.
In a letter to Rouhani, the National Front set out its plan to mark the anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was removed in a coup backed by the US and Britain in 1953 and then imprisoned and held under house arrest until his death in 1967.
“The National Front wishes to invite the people of Tehran to a public gathering where they can listen to the Front’s views and suggestions at this sensitive juncture of Iran’s history,” the signatories wrote.
Protests over political and economic issues escalated from December 28 and spread across Iran for weeks. After they ebbed, Rouhani said that he understood the reasons for demonstrations, while following the regime’s line of portraying the protesters as misled by foreign-backed agitators who hijacked the rallies and pursued violence.
The National Front’s letternreminded Rouhani of his proclaimed commitment to protect and enforce the Constitution, asking him to order the Interior Ministry to permit the March 5 rally “on any square in Tehran”.
If Rouhani endorses the permit, it could set up a showdown between his Government and the hardline judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani. It could also put pressure on the Supreme Leader to intervene.
After the mass rallies in 2009 over the disputed Presidential election, Ayatollah Khamenei stepped in to declare the protests illegitimate. When former President Hashemi Rafsanjani defended the right to gather, he was stripped of his role in Tehran Friday Prayers and put under legal and political pressure by other regime factions.
Three of the leaders of the Green Movement in 2009 — Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both candidates in the Presidential election, and Mousavi’s wife, academic and artist Zahra Rahnavard — remain under a strict house arrest imposed in February 2011. Other activists and political figures are still imprisoned.