Fletcher Christensen explains why this is a big deal:
- First of all, the most obvious point to most Western readers: Ali Mousavi is the nephew of one of the principal figures in the Green movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi is the man who lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in what was widely (and internationally) seen as a clear case of election fraud.
- More important, I suspect, is the fact that Ali Mousavi was Seyyed, an acknowledged male descendent of the Prophet. Remember that Iran is an overwhelmingly Shi'a country, and home to over 1/3 of the Shi'a Muslims in the world. The Shi'a tradition attaches special importance to the family of the Prophet. (There's much more I could say on this topic, but my knowlegde is rather limited beyond this point, so I'll simply encourage anyone interested to do their own research on the Seyyed online.
- Lastly, this killing occurred on the Iranian national holiday of Ashoura - a day set aside to celebrate the martyrdom of the son of the first Shi'a Imam, a man who was Seyyed himself. I hesitate to say too much about this - I recommend that you visit the two links above to get a better idea of what this holiday means. The short of it, however, is that the martyrdom of Seyyed Ali Mousavi, coming on today of all days, will inevitably evoke deep and abiding comparison to the martyrdom for which the day is commemorated. Both men were killed standing up against what they saw as an unjust regime.
CatM, discussing why cable has so little coverage of Iran right now, notes the following:
Meanwhile, Iran may be on the verge of a revolution, and the ripple effect from a regime change in Iran would be huge. It could lead to further destablilization in the Middle East, with war spreading outside its borders; or it could lead to a positive turn in relations between the US and Iran or even Israel and Iran. That just might be something worth canceling one's vacation for, and it is far more interesting than what Sarah Palin said on Facebook the other day.Juan Cole adds:
From Iran, Sullivan has reports of police refusing to fire on protesters as ordered; protesters are no longer cowering from the Baseej but instead the Bassej are cowering from protesters. Protests have gone from peaceful to increasingly violent, with attacks against the Baseej and security forces, including setting fire to Baseej buildings and possibly obtaining arms. As the Daily Dish points out, it was gaining access to munitions that contributed to the success of the 1979 Iranian revolutionaries.
More than 10 protesters have been killed in the streets in the past 24 hours, including Mousavi's nephew. Protesters have spread beyond Tehran, with hundreds of thousands apparently taking to the streets.
For the regime to create a member of the Mousavi family as a martyr on Ashura was most unwise. Shiite Islam even more than traditional Catholicism thrives on the blood of martyrs.O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us, unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Junior or middle-ranking Ayatollahs favorable to the ideas of Montazeri show up in a number of these reports about protests in provincial cities, suggesting a generational split in the clerical corps and trouble for Khamenei ahead.
Iran's political crisis is far from over, even though the opposition has little hope of coming to power as long as the security forces remain firmly behind Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.