Tehran police shoot dead four protesters, reports claim

Dec 27, 20090 comments

Elderly man among dead, claims reformist website, as security forces clamp down on holy day marches across Iran

Robert Tait, Sunday 27 December 2009 11.22 GMT Iran-protests-policeman-b-001At least four people were reported dead today after Iranian security forces opened fire on opposition protesters who took to the streets in Tehran for a religious ceremony. The shootings took place in the Iranian capital where tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered for the Shia Ashura ceremonies and to voice anger at the government. The reformist website, Rah-e Sabz, reported that an elderly man was among the dead after being shot in the foreheadin Valiasr crossroads in Tehran city centre. Three others were said to have been shot nearby at Kalej Bridge in Enghelab Street. Rah-e Sabz, citing witnesses, said crowds held up the elderly man and started chanting slogans against Iran‘s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Crowds also prevented security forces from taking away those wounded in the shootings. According to other eyewitness reports, members of the hardline Basij militia attacked demonstrators with daggers and knives. Disturbances were also reported in Isfahan and Najafabad, where the Rah-e Sabz described the situation as “severe”. Najafabad, the birthplace of the dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died last Sunday, has witnessed several outbreaks of unrest in the past week. Today’s religious ceremonies – marking the 7th century death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hossein – coincides with the ritual seven-day mourning ceremonies for Montazeri, who had repeatedly criticised the government and denounced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election last summer as invalid. Ashura ceremonies commonly feature vast crowds of people marching and beating their chests in memory of Imam Hossein, who is seen as a martyr against oppressive government. But this year the opposition had pledged to use its voice to continue opposition to the government. Effectively they have tried to turn the ideological tables on the Islamic regime by tying their cause to Iran’s religious traditions. The authorities have responded by warning of a huge crackdown. Hospitals and emergency services have been put on alert to expect large-scale casualties. The government’s warning appeared to come true today, with reports of black plumes of smoke rising above Tehran. Police helicopters were also said to be hovering overhead. However, the authorities are taking a huge risk in using lethal force against protesters during the Islamic Moharram, during which war and bloodshed is deemed to be religiously haram or forbidden. Fatal casualties could further undermine the regime’s claim to be the guardians of Iran’s Islamic faith. It also raises the likelihood of a series of mourning cycles, as required by Shia tradition. It was such a mourning cycle that fatally undermined the Shah’s regime when it tried to suppress demonstrations in 1978. Source: