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As Iranians passed the one-year mark of a tumultuous and historic year, an unimpressive and rather quiet June 12 anniversary left many wondering what happened to the disenchanted Iranians. Regime threats, issued weeks in advance against protesters engaging in anniversary demonstrations, succeeded in deterring some. However, from its initial moments, this movement was remarkably forged by hundreds of thousands of courageous Iranians who have not let government intimidation discourage them. Journalists, analysts, and politicians questioned the movement’s strength and survival, wondering if President Ahmadinejad, the clerics, and their Revolutionary Guard had succeeded in quashing the masses.
The people of Iran tell a different story. Rather than pouring onto the streets and surrendering to the brutality of regime forces, the Iranian people say they have voluntarily taken a step back. The one-year anniversary of Iran’s fraudulent election has seen a transformation in the Iranian people and consequently, their ongoing movement.
“What’s the point of demonstrating when we are putting up our finest and most intellectual minds to go up against conscienceless guards to be shot at?,” asked Maryam, a 34-year-old radio producer for Iran’s state media in an early morning phone call to Tehran. “People have given up too much over the last year and have since changed their strategy,” she said in her native Farsi.
Maryam is politically active and socially in tune with the changing ambiance in Iran. She wants regime change for her country. An Iran that is secular and democratic is what’s best for everyone, she said.
Among friends, Maryam is considered to be bold, courageous, and even “crazy” for speaking out openly against the regime. Yet, she could not even use her real name in this interview.
Like many Iranians, Maryam had friends who were arrested and beaten during the protests. She quickly became upset when remembering some of these instances and changed the topic. Iranians have learned a very valuable lesson over the last 12 months, she concluded. They realized that they could be more efficient staying home.
In early 2003 a large Internet poll of students of the Amir Kabir University (the second most prestigious university in Iran) was conducted by the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat, the official student umbrella group. The result was posted on the university's student Web site until they were ordered to remove it. In the poll only 6 percent of the students said that they supported the hard-liners, whereas 4 percent said they supported the reformists within the regime.. A mere 5 percent said they supported the return of the former monarchy. Of most significance, 85 percent of the students said that they would support the establishment of a secular and democratic republic.74 Although one cannot extrapolate from the sentiments of university students the attitudes of the entire population, one can appreciate the extent of the unpopularity of the fundamentalist regime among important segments of the population.