The Times names Neda Soltan as the 2009 Person of the Year. A superb choice.
Soltan was killed by Government forces in Iran, during a protest. However the Government has gone even further, with there being some evidence that Seyed Ali Mousavi (nephew of the presidential candidate) was not shot during a street protest, but actually hunted down at his house and killed by the Government as a warning.
Regardless the protests are growing, and the Times explains why:
Iran’s panicking regime is once again seeking to suppress the Green Movement by decapitating it.
Just as it did after June’s hotly-disputed presidential election, it is arresting high-profile reformists, academics and journalists who support the opposition.
It hesitates to detain Mir Hossein Mousavi lest millions of his supporters take to the streets, but it has locked up his brother-in-law and is widely suspected of killing his nephew. It cannot arrest Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel laureate, as she is abroad, but it has imprisoned her sister.
The tactic will prove as futile now as it did in June. Decapitation will not work because the opposition is a bottom-up movement run not by Mr Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, its nominal leaders, but by its grassroots members. It is a massive campaign of civil disobedience.
“Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards still don’t get it,” said one Iranian academic. “The Green Movement is a decentralised popular front run by local cells and local leaderships across the country. The main opposition figures do not control it. They are spiritual leaders, but do not provide any direction in regard to demonstrations or slogans.”
This is the key. You can not decapitate a grass-roots movement. You can shoot and arrest lots of people, but it will just anger more and more people.
Now I’m not saying this will result in the overthrow of the Government, as many in the Government will be happy to kill to remain in power. But their legitimacy as a Government will weaken massively. I doubt they could even go through the pretence of an election anytime soon, and if they do away with elections, then the resistance will have more reason to carry on.