Violent Protests in Iran Carry Into Second Day

Dec 9, 20090 comments

Picture 73Iran’s broadest and most violent protest in months spilled over into a second day on Tuesday, as bloody clashes broke out on university campuses between students chanting antigovernment slogans and the police and Basij militia members. As the scale of Monday’s demonstrations became clearer, Tehran’s police chief announced that204 people had been arrested in the capital, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported. The clashes took place on campuses in cities across the country, as students and opposition members took advantage of National Student Day to vent their rage despite a lengthy and wide-ranging government effort to forestall them. The violence continued Tuesday on the campus of Tehran University, where security forces were using tear gas and arresting students, according to reports and video clips relayed through Twitter and Internet postings. There were protests at large squares near the university as well, witnesses said. Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that the clashes began after groups of progovernment students carrying pictures of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, clashed with protesters on campus. Monday’s protests marked a striking escalation in direct attacks on the country’s theocratic foundation and not just on the June presidential elections, which the opposition has attacked as fraudulent. The new violence came as Iran’s chief prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejehi, warned of even harsher measures if the protests do not cease. “So far, we have shown restraint,” Mr. Mohseni-Ejehi said, according to Iran’s official IRNA news agency. “Anyone who in any way endangers security must be dealt with.” On Monday, protesters burned pictures of Ayatollah Khamenei, and even the father of the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. They held up Iranian flags from which the “Allah” emblem, added after the revolution, had been removed. The protests were timed to an official holiday commemorating the killing of three students by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s forces in 1953. Students have held a central role in the insurrections of Iran’s modern history. On Tuesday, the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi — who was prevented from attending Monday’s demonstrations — had a tense standoff with angry security men who had surrounded his office, according to opposition Web sites. As Mr. Moussavi was leaving his office in a car, dozens of men on motorbikes, some wearing masks, blocked his way and chanted angry slogans against him, the Gooya News Web site reported. Against the advice of his security team, Mr. Moussavi got out of his car and angrily shouted at the men, “You are on a mission — do your job, threaten me, beat me, kill me.” Mr. Moussavi’s security detail then took him back inside the building. Mr. Moussavi, a former prime minister and the leading challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the disputed presidential election, spoke out strongly against the government’s intimidation tactics on Sunday, warning that arresting students would be counterproductive. Mr. Moussavi has walked a fine line in recent months, struggling to maintain his role as an insider who supports Iran’s Islamic system but who is fiercely opposed to Mr. Ahmadinejad and his policies. But in recent months, it has become unclear how much Mr. Moussavi speaks for the opposition, which includes many who appear to be taking a more radical approach and demanding an end to the theocracy. During Monday’s demonstrations, there were fewer people with clothing or banners in the trademark bright-green color of Mr. Moussavi’s presidential campaign. And there were more chants aimed directly at Ayatollah Khamenei — a taboo that has increasingly eroded since the election. In addition to the now common chants of “death to the dictator,” some protesters chanted, “Khamenei knows his time is up” on Monday. Source: