Today’s funeral for an influential Iranian leader turned into a protest rally against the regime. It was reminiscent of the demonstrations by the so-called Green Movement that rocked Iran after the country’s controversial 2009 presidential elections. 

Read more than two million Iranians marched into Tehran’s streets to pay tribute to former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. But media reports and video footages circulating on Twitter and Facebook showed many Iranians used the occasion to express their grievances about political and social restrictions imposed on them by the regime. 

Some protestors chanted slogans calling for former presidential candidates and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to be released from house arrest. Iran’s state TV also accidentally  protestors’ chants in support of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, but quickly lowered the volume. While today’s protests were not widespread or bloody similar to the 2009 post-election events, they did not remain entirely peaceful. Some video  showed clashes between protestors and plainclothes agents and others recorded security forces  pro-Green Movement protestors. 

Some politicians also joined the fray. Ali Motahari, the deputy head of Iran’s parliament,  in Farsi: “People’s slogans in Hashemi Rafsanjani’s funeral show that regime officials must address the issue of the house arrest of 88 [2009] opposition leaders sooner.” 

Interestingly, some protestors also chanted “death to Russia” and called the Russian embassy in Tehran “a den of spies” – suggesting that many Iranians do not welcome Iran’s growing ties with Russia. 

Today’s incidents suggest that more than seven years since the 2009 elections, controversies related to the disputed polls and the regime’s subsequent crackdown of the protest movement continue to haunt the Islamic Republic. The two 2009 presidential candidates – and Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard – have remained under house arrest since February 2010 without formal charges or trial. Iran’s hardliners accuse them of attempting to topple the regime – a charge they have repeatedly rejected.

Iran may witness more anti-regime protests in coming months as the country is gearing up for next year’s presidential vote; and as a result, the authorities are expected to further restrict Iranians' political freedoms and resort to harsher crackdowns.