Yazid was the killer of Hussein, the son of Ali, whose death the Shi’ites lament on Ashura. That the Iranian crowds would be chanting this suggests that this is a Shi’ite vs. Shi’ite affair — Sharia adherents battling other Sharia adherents and jockeying for the mantle of Islamic purity. Given Iran’s flirtation with secularism under the Shah, it’s possible that if Obama had come out strongly in favor of the protesters from the beginning, this could have gone in a different direction — but that is yet another missed opportunity for him. “Aides to Iran’s Opposition Leaders Said to Be Arrested,” by Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi for the New York Times, December 29:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Iranian authorities arrested a number of opposition figures on Monday in the wake of violent protests a day earlier, Web sites reported, including three top aides to the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi and Ibrahim Yazdi, leader of the banned Iran Freedom Movement….
“What has happened to this religious system that it orders the killing of innocent people during the holy day of Ashura?” Mr. Karroubi said in a statement, according to the opposition Jaras Web site….
On Sunday, thick crowds marched down a central avenue in Tehran, defying official warnings of a harsh crackdown on protests as they chanted “death to Khamenei,” referring to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has expressed growing intolerance for political dissent in the country….
Protests and clashes also broke out in the cities of Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz, Arak, Tabriz, Najafabad, Babol, Ardebil and Orumieh, opposition Web sites said….
The White House condemned what it called the “unjust suppression” of civilians by the Iranian government on Sunday.
“Hope and history are on the side of those who peacefully seek their universal rights, and so is the United States,” said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council….
“This is the month of blood, Yazid will fall,” the protesters shouted, equating Ayatollah Khamenei with Yazid, the ruler who ordered Imam Hussein’s killing….
“Ashura is a very symbolic day in our culture, and it revives the notion that the innocents were killed by a villain,” said Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of the Iranian Parliament who is a visiting scholar at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “Killing people on Ashura shows how far Khamenei is willing to go to suppress the protests.”…