After the worst violence in Iran since the protests following June's disputed presidential election, the opposition movement appears to be entering a new phase: it is shaking the pillars of the Islamic republic. As Iranians marked the Shiite holiday of Ashura on Sunday, eight people were killed in clashes between pro-reform protesters and security forces. The National reported on Monday: "Unable to instil paralysing fear into the opposition, the regime increased the stakes by fulfilling its threats a 'merciless' response to continued demonstrations. "They had been reluctant to create martyrs, which would lead to a new cycle of mourning and mass protests. But fear trumped caution yesterday as the regime responded to mass demonstrations by inflicting the heaviest casualties in months." Reports emerged yesterday that the authorities were continuing to round up dissenters, RFE/RL said. "After Iranian police said they had detained about 300 people, an opposition website, Parlemannews, claimed ... seven prominent oppositionists were among them, including three aides to Mir Hossein Musavi and prominent human rights activists Emad Baghi and Ebrahim Yazdi, a former foreign minister. "Ali Keshtgar, a Paris-based political activist, tells Radio Farda that the violence seen on Ashura is unprecedented in Iran's modern history, and that the clerical establishment has undermined its religious claims. "The violence was carried out 'by an establishment that claims it is a supporter of religious tradition,' Keshtgar says. 'We had never witnessed in the past 100 years a government shooting at people on Ashura. This government did it.'" The Middle East analyst, Meir Javedanfar, wrote: "At the beginning of the current period of opposition, which started soon after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection, quiet periods of seeming normalcy occurred between what were less frequent demonstrations. "Judging from the events of Ashura, however, the protests now seem to carry the potential to turn into a full-scale civil disobedience campaign, not unlike the first intifada the Palestinians initiated against Israel in 1987. Such an uprising will mean continuous periods of strikes and civil disobedience, as well as more confrontations between members of the public and security forces. "The main factor contributing to the new status quo is the unrelenting policies of the Supreme Leader, which have pitted his philosophy of the Islamic Republic against longstanding Islamic institutions. "This is a battle that Khamenei will find extremely difficult to win. In fact, if developments continue in their current form, they can result in significant changes to the structure of his regime, or more drastically, lead to its total demise. "His decision to allow the Basij to mount an attack on mourners at Ayatollah Montazeri's funeral was one factor leading to the spread of opposition in rural areas, faster and more efficiently than any campaign the reformist camp could have orchestrated. Yes, members of the opposition tried to take advantage of the mayhem, but also many genuine mourners had come to pay homage to a Grand Ayatollah. To Ayatollah Khamenei's forces, they were all the same. To allow attacks against the residents of a holy city where the seeds of the 1979 revolution were planted was not just dead wrong from a religious perspective, it was politically counterproductive as well." Iason Athanasiadis wrote for The Christian Science Monitor: "The young, unemployed college graduate joined Sunday's bloody anti-regime protests in Tehran even after an army friend of his warned him that Iran's security forces might use live rounds. After several hours on the Iranian capital's smoky streets, he returned home in a daze. " 'People took the fight to the police in several places, attacking them with stones for the first time,' he said, asking that his name not be used. 'We saw them overturn a police jeep and set it alight.' "The pace of change in demonstrators' attitudes has accelerated, he said. " 'We started [in June] with peaceful silent protests but then slogans got more radical,' he said. 'At first, all we wanted was "our vote back," then "our presidency," and when there was still no answer we demanded "Death to the Dictator".'" The Times reported that he brutality of the security forces was condemned around the world. "David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, praised the courage of the protesters and called on Iran to respect the rights of its citizens. Even Russia, one of Iran's main trading partners, called for restraint. "Those killed yesterday included Seyed Ali Mousavi, nephew of the opposition leader, who was shot in the chest. Tehran was rife with speculation that he had been assassinated in order to send a message to his uncle, and the Government moved rapidly to prevent his death becoming another rallying point for the opposition. "Last night security forces ringed the hospital where his body was taken. Today they used tear gas to disperse protesters who had gathered outside. Later it emerged that they had removed his body and taken it to an undisclosed location." Interrupting his Hawaii vacation, the US President Barack Obama said: "The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death. "For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran's great and enduring civilization. "What's taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It's about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away. "As I said in Oslo, it's telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. "Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people." In The National, Michael Theodoulou noted the impact of the recent death of Iran's leading dissident cleric. "Hossein Ali Montazeri's death has left the Iranian regime stunned and reeling. The grand ayatollah's passing at the beginning of the religious mourning month of Moharram galvanised an opposition movement that the regime, despite its repressive muscle, has failed to crush six months after the disputed re-election of the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "For those wondering who could possibly fill Montazeri's shoes as the regime's most potent clerical scourge, the authorities betrayed their fears by providing a swift, if unofficial, answer that few would dispute. "After Montazeri's tumultuous funeral in Qom last Monday, hundreds of plainclothes militiamen ransacked the premises of his close friend, the Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei. There was no surer sign that the regime believes he will become the opposition's new spiritual leader: like Montazeri, the 72-year-old cleric is an outspoken champion of democratic values in an Islamic system."
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