Monday, February 21, 2011
The Orcs Returns to the Streets of Iran
It begins again in Iran:
Iran 20 feb 2011 bassiji on motor bikes in streets of Tehran:
Iran Squelches Protest Attempt in Capital
By LIZ ROBBINS NY Times
Published: February 20, 2011
Antigovernment protesters gathered throughout parts of Iran on Sunday, most concentrated in the capital Tehran, to mark the deaths of two men killed during demonstrations last Monday. The government mounted a stultifying security presence in the capital, with the police making arrests and using tear gas to try to prevent the unrest from escalating.
Despite a steady rain, large crowds gathered intermittently throughout Tehran, from the main thoroughfare to city squares, according to opposition Web sites and witnesses.
The security forces seemed prepared for them, and in some locations, witnesses reported that police officers and baton-holding mercenaries outnumbered the protesters. There were reports of police officers firing on the crowds, although those could not be confirmed, because most foreign journalists were not allowed to report in Iran.
Opposition Web sites and witnesses said that ambulances were driven into the crowds. Security forces, including riot-control units on motorcycles, deployed tear gas to disperse crowds in several places, including near Valiasr Square and Vanak Square.
Plainclothes officers stopped and frisked people on the streets and removed people from vehicles, witnesses said.
Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, reported that the police arrested the daughter of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and a central figure among traditional conservatives, for taking part in a banned opposition rally and shouting antigovernment slogans. She was later released, IRNA reported.
Mr. Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, also was detained during a protest in 2009.
On Saturday, the Iranian government warned people to stay away from the demonstrations. The Fars news agency reported that antigovernment protesters from Mujahedeen Khalq, an exiled opposition group that the government has accused of masterminding terrorist attacks in Iran from bases in Iraq and Europe, planned to fire weapons at the demonstrators.
The group’s hope, according to Fars, a semiofficial service linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was that this would incite security forces to also begin shooting at the crowds, to increase the divide between the government and the opposition.
It was unclear how many people joined the demonstrations in Tehran on Sunday. Witnesses estimated that more than 30,000 people protested on Feb. 14, and some opposition Web sites suggested there were close to one million people. Whatever the precise turnout, these were the largest opposition protests since the disputed election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
One of the two major opposition leaders, Mir Hussein Moussavi, a former presidential candidate, was reported missing on Thursday. An aide confirmed on Sunday that Mr. Moussavi and his wife were under house arrest.
A black iron gate had been erected outside the Moussavis’ house, according to the BBC Persian service and Mr. Moussavi’s Web site, Kaleme. Supporters said they were not able to send in food directly to the family, because Mr. Moussavi’s personal bodyguards had been dismissed and the government security forces surrounding the house were now responsible for delivering their food.
Mr. Moussavi’s Facebook page cited news reports that he placed a telephone call to relatives, saying that he and Mehdi Karroubi, the opposition’s other primary leader, who is also under house arrest, were in good spirits.
Both opposition leaders had issued a call for nationwide protests on their Web sites, urging people to demonstrate on Sunday to honor the deaths of the two protesters last Monday.
The government, however, appeared to restrict the opposition’s online presence on Sunday. Mr. Karroubi’s Web site was shut down for a time. People in Iran said the Internet was working very slowly, that cellphone service was shut down in areas where people were demonstrating and that satellite television, including Persian BBC, was jammed.
On the streets of Tehran, the police appeared to be recruiting teenagers to quell the protests. Witnesses said they observed packs of young men armed with batons and wearing helmets and army fatigues.
A witness told the International Campaign for Human Rights that security forces on Mirdamad Street in Tehran used live ammunition against protesters, and one person was thought to have been killed there, but that could not be independently confirmed.
“There is gunfire, and crowds are running in the streets,” the witness told the international campaign’s Web site.
The protests and forceful security crackdowns were not limited to Tehran, but also took place in other major cities, including Mashad, Shiraz, Isfahan, Rasht and Tabriz. Witnesses also reported protests in Marewan, a province in the Kurdistan region.
The Kurds had called for a general strike after the death of Saneh Jaleh, a student who was one of the two men killed last Monday. Shops in Mahabad and Sanandaj were closed.
Even as the Fars news agency was reporting a warning on Saturday that the Mujahedeen Khalq planned to incite violence in Tehran, a number of former American officials intensified their efforts to have the group removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, because it has regularly supplied American spy agencies with information about Iran’s nuclear program. The organization has been on the list since 1997.