Messages and news reports out of Iran today suggest that many people are remembering an anniversary — the anniversary of student uprisings 10 years ago, in 1999. To some people, those protests offer perspective on the demonstrations in recent weeks over the disputed June 12 presidential election.
Consider this e-mail from a young student in south central Iran:
"Today is the 18th of Tir and there are demonstrators out in the streets. Most likely, security will be at an all time high. ... Today will be an important day on Twitter, it is being used."
(Click here to see some of the Twitter messages.)
Ten years ago, on the eve of July 9th, a group of Tehran University students demonstrated to protest the closing of a reformist newspaper. The student movement at the time was a major force for change and on that night, government agents attacked a student dormitory — prompting widespread street demonstrations for the next few days. The hardline elements within Iran's judiciary, revolutionary guard and the media were fighting back against the reformist agenda of President Mohammad Khatami.
Messages today indicate plans for demonstrations throughout the country — although one e-mail message from northern Iran indicates that protesters are more cautious this time:
"Everybody I know has gone out with a car. 2,3 person a car. they feel safer in a car and take picture while in it . they turn on headlights or blew horns . streets full of cars prevents bikers from attacking."
As a result of the 1999 government crackdown, the student movement was severely damaged. Many of its leaders were eventually arrested and according to the Associated Press charged with "engaging in direct and scandalous propaganda against the political system in Iran and its Islamic element."
This morning, the Facebook wall of a young woman in Iran says that: "If I rise, if you rise, everyone will rise."
How are Iranian protesters feeling? I asked one of my e-mailers. The response:
"I'm in between good and bad, first because people do want to bring about change by any method, but it will take time, and also bad because of the confrontations that are bound to happen... I was a 16 years old high school student on the 18th of Tir 1378, my question is how much effect will a people's movement have? Should the people accept the conditions now and settle down or should they continue to protest?"
Should the protesters continue to raise their voices? I posed that question in an e-mail to Ali Afshari, one of the leaders of the 1999 student movement. He's now at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington. His says yes, though "success" may not come anytime soon. The protests, he says, haven't been well-organized. But, they are "effective for forming a successful protest in the long-term."
As for the news from Iran, the AP writes this hour from Tehran that "hundreds of young men chanted 'death to the dictator' and fled baton-wielding police in the capital Thursday as opposition activists sought to revive street protests despite authorities' vows to 'smash' any new marches. For much more of NPR's coverage of events in Iran, click here.
Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Ramin Mostaghim, a Tehran correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, told All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel a few minutes ago that about 1,000 people took part in today's protest and that police tried to intimidate the protesters — but otherwise took little action:
There will be more from Robert's conversation with Mostaghim on today's ATC. Click here to find an NPR station near you.
(Davar is supervising senior producer of NPR's Weekend Edition. The names of those she has been communicating with aren't being disclosed to protect them from reprisals.)