Skip to comments.IRAN: Iran's Islamic leaders spell tough crackdown for anti-regime demos
Posted on 06/14/2003 10:30:08 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
|Sunday June 15, 6:34 AM
Iran's Islamic leaders spell tough crackdown for anti-regime demos
Iranian authorities carried out a tough crackdown on spiralling anti-regime protests, setting brutal vigilante groups loose against demonstrators and rounding up opposition dissidents blamed as being behind the four consecutive nights of protests.
In the early hours of Saturday, hundreds of Basij volunteer militia, many wielding sticks and iron bars, were seen chasing and beating groups of demonstrators in the streets outside Tehran University campus, which have been the focal point of the increasingly vitriolic protests.
The student news agency ISNA said at least 15 students were badly wounded -- one critically -- when hardline vigilantes armed with knives and chains attacked them inside the university's dormitory complex.
Gunshots were also heard in the area as armed members of the militia, fierce defenders of the nearly 25-year-old Islamic regime, sped around side streets on motorbikes seeking to silence slogans aimed at Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. One person also received a gunshot wound to the leg.
ISNA, quoting an unnamed MP from the southern city of Shiraz, said that one protestor involved in clashes there late Friday was "probably dead" after being beaten about the head with an iron bar by members of the pro-regime Ansar Hezbollah vigilante group, although the agency also quoted a provincial official as denying any fatality there.
The administrator for Shiraz province confirmed that a youth had been killed -- but denied his death had anything to do with the protests.
He added that 100 people were arrested in those protests, and that "public buildings and vehicles, notably police cars, were badly damaged and four members of the security services were seriously wounded."
The student agency also reported demonstrations in the southeastern city of Ahvaz.
In Tehran overnight Friday, thousands of residents in cars tried to evade roadblocks and join the protestors via small back streets. Some drivers were seen being dragged out of their vehicles and beaten up or arrested for honking their horns in support of the protest movement. Car windscreens were also smashed.
Khamenei has accused arch-enemy the United States of orchestrating the unrest. Many protestors seeking to join the fray were answering calls from US-based Iranian opposition-run Persian language satellite television channels -- notably the Los Angeles-based pro-monarchist NITV.
State television and radio also accused foreign media of distorting their coverage of unrest in line with an "imperialist and Zionist" plot against the Islamic republic.
In an official version of the past four consecutive nights of unrest, the television blamed the clashes on around 100 "trouble-makers", who were quelled with "the aid of ordinary residents".
"Those who work in the media, the enemies of Iran and Islam, are trying to distort the demands of the students," state radio said. "The imperialist and Zionist media want to create problems in Iran".
Foreign media in Tehran then received a written recommendation from the authorities not to travel to the scene of the protests overnight Saturday -- perhaps indicating that an even tougher crackdown was in the offing.
Also Saturday, at least two leading members of Iran's liberal opposition, critical of certain facets of the Islamic regime, were arrested on charges of having secret contacts with students to plan the unrest, ISNA said.
During the student-led protests, the first to rock Iran for six-months and the most violent since 1999 when at least one student died, virulent slogans have been shouted against Iran's leaders, including Khamenei, calling for them to step down. Criticising the supreme leader is a serious offence in Iran.
Many protestors also called for the resignation of embattled President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected with landslide majorities in 1997 and again in 2001.
Frustration has mounted in recent months over the seemingly intractable deadlock between reformists in parliament loyal to Khatami and hardliners who wield greater power through the courts and unelected legislative oversight bodies.
Powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking at weekly Friday prayers at the university, echoed Khamenei's assertions that Washington was orchestrating the troubles.
"The freedom being offered by the Americans to the Iranian people is that of the sons of members of Savak (the former shah's dreaded secret police) ... and of counter-revolutionaries," he said.
Khamenei has argued that Washington had realised it could not overthrow the Islamic republic militarily and "wanted to create trouble in Iran ... divide the people and create a chasm between the regime and the populace".
The Islamic republic would be pitiless toward "mercenaries in the pay of the enemy", he warned.
The protests have drawn strong support from the United States, where President George W. Bush lumped Iran into an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
The White House on Saturday denounced the crackdown, saying it was "alarmed" by reports of arrests and calling on the Islamic regime to free any detained demonstrators.
"The United States views with great concern the use of violence against Iranian students peacefully expressing their political views," spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a statement.
Post 72 I think!
Yep, and trust me, you really don't want us to be "alarmed".
And if we are alarmed then I would bet the Mullahs are alarmed!
Big ol' bump!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.