Iran Bans Public Protests on Anniversary of Unrest
June 23, 2003 Reuters Jon Hemming
TEHRAN -- Iran said on Monday it would ban any demonstrations outside universities to mark the July 9 anniversary of 1999 student unrest following a wave of sometimes violent democracy protests that prompted a crackdown this month.
Hundreds have been arrested over the protests by thousands of people demanding an end to clerical rule. Student leaders, who have been praised by Washington, have said the crackdown could make them adopt more radical and violent methods.
''The Interior Ministry will not give permission to any gathering outside universities,'' government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh told a news conference.
Newspapers said hardline militia who have attacked students and other demonstrators with clubs and chains had also been denied a request to gather outside Tehran University on July 9.
It was the same plainclothes Islamic militants who attacked the university dormitory four years ago, triggering days of riots in which a student was killed.
Iran's longtime arch rival the United States has applauded the latest protests which not only targeted conservative clerics but also criticised President Mohammad Khatami's moderate government for failing to push through reforms.
While the demonstrations have all but fizzled out, authorities are eager not to see them erupt again around July 9.
Ramazanzadeh said universities could decide whether to allow events to mark the July 9 anniversary inside their campuses. ''Each university can decide independently and the government will not interfere,'' he said.
The spokesman said some 470 people had been arrested in Tehran by police and intelligence agents for public order offences, but an unknown number of people had also been held by the Islamic vigilantes.
He condemned the plainclothes militants, fiercely loyal to conservative clerics, for taking the law into their own hands and demanded they hand over those they held to judicial authorities.
''No one under any name and for whatever reason should be allowed to disturb public order,'' Ramazanzadeh said.
He also called on the conservative-dominated judiciary to treat equally student protesters and Islamic militants detained during the unrest.
''We are expecting the judiciary to dispel suggestions which have existed in the past that the main elements are not being confronted,'' he said