Chance to Transform Iran Slips Through Mousavi's Hands?

(AP Photo)
The pictures of determined Iranian protesters no longer lead our newscasts, but the protesters haven't given up.

Every day, somehow, some way, (mostly) young people try to gather and march. Yesterday, there was a brave effort to form a human chain along the length of Vali Asr, Tehran's main north-south avenue.

Here is what happened in the words of someone who was there:

"Beseiged by Basij. I have never seen so many thugs in one street. I am not exaggerating when I say that for every three to five civilians, there was one paramilitary, militia or storm trooper."

"The sidewalks were quite crowded but as soon as more than five people tried to huddle, the groups were broken up. In downtown and midtown (toward the southern end of Vali Asr) I heard people tried to walk in unison but they were beaten by batons and clubs."

On Sunday, a crowd gathered outside Tehran's Ghoba mosque, ostensibly for a ceremony to mark the death in 1981 of a chief justice of Iran. Of course, that was just a cover to discourage the riot police.

The 5,000 people who came were opposition supporters, still outraged by what they believe was a rigged election. One defeated opposition candidate Mehdi Karoubi, was there in the flesh to boost the morale of his supporters.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition candidate, was there too - but only as a voice on the other end of a cell phone pathetically held up to a loudspeaker.

This is not enough.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the renowned Iranian filmmaker now based in Paris, posted a video on YouTube on behalf of the Iranian opposition, addressed to Mousavi.

"Don't stay silent … let us have our orders," he says.

"Don't ask this illegal government for permission to hold peaceful marches … Order us into the streets. Order a general strike … Our common and most urgent need is your leadership."

That is exactly what Mousavi hasn't delivered. An aging revolutionary and now member of the Iranian establishment, he failed to seize the opportunity handed to him by history.

For a few days in mid-June, Mousavi could have forced radical changes onto Iran's Islamic regime. It would have been messy. It might have been bloody. But it could also have been decisive in transforming Iran, giving scope and voice to the millions of Iranians who feel unrepresented.

Instead, Mousavi has remained out of sight.

Today, there is supposed to be a march today to his home. In the words of his supporters, they "believe he is under house arrest, and that is why he has not been able to make an appearance since last week."

Sadly, all the evidence suggests that a crowd of brave and hopefully young people breaching Mousavi's house arrest won't make the slightest difference.
  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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