Iranian Security Forces Clash With Hundreds of Protesters in Tehran
Edward Yeranian | Cairo 26 December 2009
Eyewitnesses are reporting that crowds clashed with Iranian security forces in parts of Tehran and several provincial cities, Saturday. Police reportedly swung batons at protesters, smashing car-windows and fired teargas and pepper spray to try and disperse crowds.
Bitter clashes broke out in the Iranian capital Tehran Saturday between thousands of protesters and security forces, intensifying and spreading to more locations as the day wore on.
Several opposition websites reported that both the government's stalwart Revolutionary Guard and volunteer Basij militia were out in force, confronting demonstrators in multiple locations across the capital, using teargas, water cannons, and pepper spray to disperse them.
Other reports say that that undercover Basij militiamen wielding poles and batons smashed car windows and attacked motorists that were honking their horns in support of demonstrators.
One woman eyewitness told Radio Farda that Revolutionary Guard members were man-handling protesters chanting slogans against the regime:
She says that [the clashes] took place in particular around Pol Chobi and Vali Asr Square. She says that she saw demonstrators dressed in black for today's fast [on the ninth day of the month of Moharram] who were being pulled and grabbed by Revolutionary Guardsmen. Around the university, she says that she saw another group of demonstrators who had gathered near Fakhr Razi Ave. and were chanting "down with the dictator." She adds that the government forces rushed quickly [on their motorbikes] gunning their engines to go wherever there was a protest.
A group of young people on a city bus chanted slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a video-clip sent to the VOA. Eyewitnesses report that protesters referred to the Ayatollah as Yazid, the seventh century Caliph abhorred by Shi'ites for his role in killing Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
Another group of young people, gathered in front of an office of Iranian government TV, could also be heard chanting "death to the dictator," in a separate video sent to the VOA.
Scott Lucas of the University of Birmingham in Britain, who is behind the popular Iran blog "Enduring America" says that opposition protesters have been surprising government security forces with rolling demonstrations:
"There was no information on the internet with any rally point until this evening," he said. "It's either spontaneous or its working through a network in Iran that is such an indigenous network that word isn't even getting through the channels that we usually have of where these folks were going to gather."
"So, if you track where the locations are in Tehran, they hit points today, not in the original marching points, and they went to Imam Hussein Square, where there were really heavy clashes, and then you had the clashes in Firdawsi Square and Enghelab Square, later on. That means you had a lot of rolling demos," he added.
Lucas, who has been following the demonstrations closely, says that government appeared to be lagging behind the protesters in trying to organize counter-rallies:
"There was no, as it were, government announcement that really came through interms of the rallies," he said. "They're on the back foot, as far as I can tell, in terms of publicity. I don't think they're getting their folks out in mass, now. No. At this point, the field is kind of open for the opposition."
Al Arabiya TV reports that the pro-government Revolutionary Guard is on maximum alert for expected demonstrations, Sunday, which will mark the Shi'ite holy day of Ashura, as well as the seventh day mourning rites for the death of popular Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Analysts say that Sunday will be the acid test for the government to prove that it still controls the Iranian street.
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