[Editor's note: This is the latest on-the-ground dispatch from our Tehran-based correspondent, who cannot be named because of the increased danger of arrest as the government cracks down on journalists.]
TEHRAN — With cellphone connections disrupted and SMS services shut off by the government, Mousavi demonstrators at the historic rallies in the capital passed the details of their next rally from person-to-person, by word of mouth: Tuesday, 5 p.m., at Vali Asr Square.
There, the imbalance of power between the government forces and the demonstrators was immense and revealed itself not only in hand-to-hand clashes, but in the methods of organization that each side adopted.
The backers of the disputed winner of Friday's presidential election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have all the considerable resources of the state at their disposal, while those of Mir-Hossein Mousavi are left to run a scattershot insurgency campaign.
Of course, government services were as privy to the information as everyone else and Mousavi supporters woke up on Tuesday to find an announcement on state television requesting Ahmadinejad supporters and other patriots to come out to protest the "rioters" — where else, but at Vali Asr Square at 4 p.m., one hour prior to the arrival of their electoral rivals. In the interest of avoiding a potential bloodbath, Mousavi supporters hastily changed plans.
The government rally brought out tens of thousands of people in a demonstration of old-fashioned populist political showmanship. Iranian flags were passed out to the crowd, as were signs that defended the integrity of the election and cast aspersion on the meddling of
America and the "BBC."
A moderator intoned religious songs and urged the crowd to join in, as TV cameras filmed the scene. Their footage would be presumably combined with shots taken from the camera-equipped helicopter hovering above.
Mousavi's supporters on Tuesday worked under entirely different constraints. Having again been denied a permit to rally, and with memories of the previous night's bloodshed, the decision to attend the improvised march in North Tehran became for each individual a personal choice of conscience and there was a palpable fear, a skittishness in the crowd, that was absent the day before. Many people didn't show up, citing fears of renewed violence.
The tens of thousands who did assemble again tried their best to take precautions to avoid becoming the instigators of conflict: this second miles-long rally was conducted, like the first, largely in silence.
And in the absence of state-owned television cameras, the marchers relied on an ad hoc method of documentation — every 30 yards or so, a person holding a pocket-sized digital camera filmed the proceedings around him.
Analysis and background: