Regimes which came about through a revolution, often know this too well and are experts in dampening the sparks or carefully letting off the steam before everything boils over. Islamic Republic which came about through a revolution and understands its mechanism very well, is perhaps one of the most skillful operators in quickly dampening the spark.
In the last year alone, we have seen three examples of this. In February this year thousands of Iranians, encouraged by the successes of Tunisian and Egyptians, poured into the streets, At least two people were confirmed to have been killed by Islamic Republic's security forces. The outrage felt against the hypocrisy of a regime, which was claiming to champion the Arab Spring, yet killed its own people for sympathising with the people of Egypt and Tunisia could have reached the boiling point. Instead the regime hijacked the funerals and claimed the two were killed by protesters! Families of the victims were put under enormous pressure to stay silent. When friends of Jale Sane, one of the victims, released his pictures wearing green wrist bands and standing next to Ayatollah Montazeri, the spiritual leader of the Green Movement, the regime responded by saying 'Jale was one of our undercover agents, who shopped the opposition members for us'.
Jale's family members were either forced to keep their silence, or those who did talk, were kidnapped or imprisoned. Of course the truth finally emerges but the immediate spark is avoided.
Another example was when the 54 year old Haleh Sahabi, was kicked and punched by security forces during her own father's funeral. The thought of this devout Muslim woman being kicked and punched by security forces which caused her death at her own father's funeral stirred the strongest of emotions in most Iranians. The regime quickly pretended to be whiter than white as if they had not imposed any restrictions or security crackdown on the funeral. State TV talked to the hospital staff who all toed the official line and said, Haleh had died of a natural heart attack, while ignoring all the witnesses who were at the funeral and witnessed the assault on Haleh.
The most recent example is that of Somayeh Tohidlou. Again a devout Muslim woman whose only crime for falling foul with authorities was her skillful campaigning for Moussavi, one of the approved candidates by the establishment itself. When Somayeh posted a heart wrenching statement of the humiliation she felt when her lashing sentence was carried out, the outpour of emotions was instantaneous and significant enough to gather further momentum. Her namesake with another Somayeh, the seventh convert to Islam, who was lashed and tortured to death, stirred the emotions even further. So much so that it is reported none of the female guards accepted to carry out the lashing and Somayeh was flogged by a male guard. The establishment sensed danger and the pro-government newspapers quickly denied she was ever lashed at all. No one however, believed the lies of pro-government news sites like Raja News. BBC Persian then came to the help and dampened the spark by saying they had talked to one of Somayeh's family members who told them the lashing was symbolic and did not cause too much physical pain.
The regime's intentions are blatant and obvious; to further humiliate the resistance while avoiding the spark which could consolidate the people into yet another push. Fake executions, one of the favourite punishments of prisoners in Iran can best describe these 'symbolic' punishments. A prisoner is made to believe it is the last seconds of his life, all the stage is set, the procession and the hanging gallows are all made to look real. The guards enjoy the fear and the trembling shown by the prisoner and mock the victim in order to break the spirit. It may all be 'symbolic' but the pain of humiliation which breaks the spirit is too real.