Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Iran protests: deserted streets one year on

By Lindsey Hilsum

Updated on 12 June 2010

One year on from the disputed Iranian presidential elections, the streets of Tehran are almost deserted today, it seems, apart from clusters of riot police and basij militia on motorbikes, writes Lindsey Hilsum.

Iran protests (credit:Reuters)

Helicopters hover overhead. The Iranian government was determined to stop any protests on the first anniversary of the disputed presidential election, and the two opposition leaders, Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, withdrew their call for demonstrations, fearing bloodshed.

Last night, people stood on their balconies and shouted Allah Akbar – the footage I've seen shows a few lights in the darkness, and you can hear dozens responding as one man leads the cries. That's about all people dare to do.

While the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran estimates that 450 people are still in prison as a result of the clampdown on political activities, the exact number is impossible to know as arrests are often not documented, and families left in the dark.

"The secrecy surrounding these arrests makes it easier for interrogators to resort to torture and other ill-treatment, including rape, and mock executions, in order to extract forced "confessions" which are used later as evidence in trial," says Amnesty International, in a new report. Amnesty says at least 115 people have been executed over the past year.

More on the Iranian protests from Channel 4 News:
- Rallies mark Islamic revolution day
- Basij member describes election abuse
- Ahmadinejad: 'Iran is solid and united'

Many of the young activists who adopted the colour green and demonstrated last year, uploading footage onto Youtube and Facebook, have fled and are now living in exile.

The Green Movement is split – I was just reading an activist website which has posted a blacklist of other activists, accusing them of being "suspect" and "government spies".

I met an exile the other day who assured me that he was going to unite all the anti-government forces outside Iran and start a new revolution. He assumed Iran's fractious and divided exiles would agree to his leadership – even though he hadn't bothered to ask them. Such are the perils of exile politics.

The Green Movement has been suppressed for the moment, but it's not necessarily over. The forces and passions which led to the initial outburst of anger on the streets this time last year haven't gone away, they've just been pushed under by brutality and the inexorable machine of state power.

At some point, another event will spark it off again. After all, there were major demonstrations and riots against the Shah 15 years before the Revolution which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979.

One year on, the streets of Tehran are quiet apart from the basij, but that doesn't mean nothing has changed.   

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest International politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Living with the Taliban

Taliban on the Afghan frontline

A rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline.

Pakistan appeal


Actor Art Malik on why he is fronting the DEC's flood appeal.

Tackling Taliban IEDs


Bomb disposal soldiers on lonely walk to defuse bombs.


Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.