With just over a week left in the current Persian calendar month of Bahman, three significant anniversaries promise to provide the Iranian pro-democracy movement with a massive shot of adrenalin. Thursday marks Revolution Day, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution; the commemoration of the martyrdom of the revered Shi’a saint Imam Hassan falls two days later, and two days after that marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of yet another honored Shi’a saint, Imam Reza.
Normally, the Iranian government would encourage people to celebrate and lament in the streets on these days. Not so this year.
In addition to denoting the penultimate month of the Persian calendar year, the word bahman also happens to mean avalanche in Persian. And this Bahman could very well set off the avalanche that ultimately topples, or at least permanently transforms, the so-called Islamic Republic.
Since the disputed presidential election in June, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory despite widespread allegations of fraud, the Iranian opposition movement has used government and religious holidays to build momentum. As such, this Bahman promises to be like none other. Opposition leaders have encouraged demonstrators to come out in force to express their continued support for the “Green” pro-democracy movement.
The potential backlash from the anticipated anti-government protests cannot be underestimated. On Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei promised to deliver a “punch in the mouth” to opposition protesters who have the gall to show up for future protests.
But this isn’t some new tactic. The regime has been warning people, ordering them to shut up, stay home and stop wearing green since June. All to no avail.
Granted, many Green supporters have been legitimately frightened by the baseless arrests and detentions, not to mention the beatings, torture, rapes, murders, show trials and executions for which the self-proclaimed Islamic Republic has become infamous over the past eight months. Nevertheless, countless others have continued to ignore the warnings and show up en masse in the streets of Tehran and other major cities across the country.
And they will continue to do so with even greater gusto in these last days of the month of Bahman.
Revolution Day is intended to celebrate the success of the Islamic Revolution over Western imperialism and the influence of what Ayatollah Khomeini liked to call “westoxification.” Indeed, many Iranians have poured into the streets for 30 years to do exactly that.
This year, however, promises to be different. The streets will likely be packed and full of “revolution” talk as always, but the message will be one of subversion, not celebration.
That message will only intensify as the opposition movement continues to use Islam to combat an increasingly un-Islamic regime during the days following Revolution Day, particularly those days closing out the month of Bahman and commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hassan and Imam Reza.
Avalanches aren’t uncommon in Iran, and they can be deadly. There is a popular Persian saying that whoever has the biggest roof will have the most snow, and the current Iranian regime has built an enormous roof over the past three decades. It will not be easy to take down, and there will likely be more innocent lives lost along the way, but the snow is now piling up and the roof is beginning to cave.