Often in the West we focus on the persecution of Jews and Christians in Iran. While the discrimination they face is real, there is a much stricter persecution of Islamic sects who are considered to be heretical. Examples are Sunni (depending on the political climate), Baha'i and various Sufi orders.
Egypt tries to appease the protest movements by firing a large amount of police officers:
It's no secret there's an ordinary power grabbing game going on in Iran. Not only are individuals fighting for a share of the power pie, they're fighting for a share of power for their faction as well as their position. In Iran's complicated power structure all begins and ends with the Supreme Leader (Khamenei), but how it trickles down to ministries, committees, councils, (secret) police, military factions, etc. is a constant fight that's been heating up in the last months.
Notably there's the Revolutionary Guard, a military force with considerable economic clout since it's a major share holder in many companies and has its own airstrips, ports, etc, that has decide to tell what candidates or even what number of people from a certain faction are allowed to run. It's not clear what they will do when candidates they don't want on the ballots run (other than the usual talk of blood in the streets), but that the organisation permits themselves such statements is indicative of the position they have or believe they should have:
Sadly in this power game the chips are often issues that have a deep impact on regular Iranians. For instance women will face a lot of harsh regulations when it comes to what they're allowed to watch, or how they're allowed to dress. An excellent write up about this is provided by Tehran Bureau:
But apart from the impact these social and political policies have it's important to realize the discussion is had in the Iranian political landscape between staunch orthodox principalists and politicians who advocate a more liberal view when it benefits their political agenda. If there are politicians and clerics with a principally more liberal view they are sidelined and marginalized.
Case in point is Ahmadinejad's opposition to gender separation in Universities and his opposition to the amount of power the Supreme Ruler. Even in the pseudo-democratic system of Iran the agreement was that the Ayatollah should remain impartial in the election process. When Khamenei obviously sided with Ahmadinejad after the 2009 elections there was not a peep from his camp about abuse of power. In that particular election struggle the sly Rafsanjani sided with the reformist candidates. Today we see reformist Rafsanjani claiming it's a shame that Ahmadinejad opposes the gender separation.
In the crazy political arena of Iran, some Iranians might well decide that Ahmadinejad is the candidate of modernity and reform (only a short while ago he promised each Iranian family a plot of land of 1000 square ft. to build their own villas in addition to opposing the power of both Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guards, the stricter rules for women) forgetting that in previous struggles he was a champion for the issues he currently (seemingly) opposes.
The sad reality is that with this struggle and the players involved, all outcomes will be a continuation of a desperate situation for Iranians, or things getting worse.
I am one of those atheists who believes the various Islamic currents can be reformed. In fact I already see a lot of the reform happening. One of the leading figures in this movement is Irshad Manji, an activist for moral reform in the Muslim world. In her site she offers for free translations into various languages (including Persian) of her book "The Trouble with Islam Today":
Ghaffar Khan was a pious Muslim, but vehemently opposed to the partition of Pakistan, the oppression of women, and many other ills that plague the Muslim world today. He was a staunch pacifist and suffered both under the Brits as well as the Pakistani Muslims.
How great would it be if the youth of today would walk with pictures of Ghandi and Ghaffar Khan side to side.
I'm not sure what to think about the referendum. Do the reforms proposed by the king go far enough? Hardly, but is it a total decoy to fight off further protests, or is it a genuine step towards democracy?
On Mid East Youth a little article about a survey taken in Tunesia on LGBT issues: