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Monday, February 14, 2011

Anti-government demonstrations increase in Iran


Anti-government demonstrations swell in Iran; clashes reported

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 14, 2011 2:35 p.m. EST
A garbage container is set on fire as Iranian protesters stage an anti-government demonstration in Tehran on February 14.
A garbage container is set on fire as Iranian protesters stage an anti-government demonstration in Tehran on February 14.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Protesters diverted to side-streets were beaten and gased, wtinesses said
  • NEW: At least 15 people were detained
  • NEW: U.S. Secretary of State Clinton called for an opening up of the political system in Iran
  • Unverified YouTube videos show demonstrators burning posters of Khamenei
Are you in Iran? Share photos and video of the protests and tell us your thoughts.
Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in downtown Tehran in defiance of the Iranian government and its security forces who beat back protesters on Monday and lobbed tear gas canisters into the crowd, witnesses said.
The wave of people who marched along Revolution Avenue remained largely silent as they walked toward the capital city's Azadi Square, though at times they clashed with Iranian security forces that tried to disperse the marchers and divert them from the square.
Security forces in uniform and plain-clothes members of the pro-government Basij militia rushed toward crowds that were chanting "Death to the dictator!" at Imam Hossein Square, the planned starting point of a scheduled rally, a witness said. Several people were hit, while most were chased away, the witness said.
Thousands of security personnel lined the avenue later on Monday, allowing the march to continue but preventing the marchers from congregating in the square, considered a rallying point by opposition groups.
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Several protesters who were diverted to side-streets were beaten with batons and gassed by security officers waiting at those locations, witnesses said.
At least 15 people were detained, one witness said.
Riot police on motorcycles patrolled the streets. Some fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, the witness said.
The witnesses declined to be named for fear of retribution.
The Iranian government earlier had blocked the homes of opposition leaders after they called for rallies in support of the uprising in Egypt.
About 200 protesters -- some of whom chanted "death to Khamenei" and "death to the dictator" -- set fire to several trash bins in the capital city and threw rocks at security forces, who tried unsuccessfully to subdue them, witnesses said. The chanting protesters apparently were referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme religious leader.
Clashes also erupted in front of Tehran University, where security forces dispersed crowds by firing tear gas and paint-ball guns, a witness said. Police detained several protesters, the witness said.
Reporting from Iran proved extremely difficult Monday, as foreign journalists were denied visas, accredited journalists living in the country were restricted from covering the demonstrations and internet speeds slowed to a crawl in an apparent attempt to limit both protest organizing as well as information being transmitted out of the country.
Video uploaded to YouTube showed throngs of demonstrators marching, burning posters of Khamenei, and in one instance beating a man who appeared to try to remove a poster from the hands of protesters.
CNN can not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
"There needs to be a commitment to open up the political system," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday after a meeting with Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Clinton said the crackdown is "an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime" that constantly "hailed" the protests in Egypt but "once again illustrate their true nature."
Last week, the Iranian government rounded up activists after opposition leaders Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi called for supporters to gather at Tehran's Azadi Square -- the site of mass protests by Iran's opposition movement after the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Hundreds of security forces patrolled Azadi Square on Monday on foot, on motorcycles and in cars, a witness said.
"You can't take two steps without running into security personnel," the witness said. "They're all over the place."
Security forces also blocked roads leading to Moussavi's home, his opposition website, Kaleme, reported. The website also said phone lines and cell phone service to the area had been cut off.
Plain-clothes security forces blocked Moussavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, from leaving their home Monday, according to Kaleme and another opposition website, Saham News.
"This is what we've been told do," security forces said when Rahnavard asked why she couldn't leave, Saham reported. "We're sorry."
Surveillance cameras installed outside Karrubi's home have been stolen and destroyed, Kaleme reported.
About 50 riot police on motorcycles were seen heading toward Azadi Square, while 100 more were stationed at Ferdowsi Square in the city center.
Iranian authorities had warned against holding the rally, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
"We definitely see them as enemies of the revolution and spies, and we will confront them with force," Cmdr. Hossein Hamedani of the Revolutionary Guard told IRNA.
The government's stance on the rally was in stark contrast to its position in the days following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The head of Iran's National Security Council and other Iranian authorities had lauded this development, comparing "the Egyptian Revolution with the victory of Iran's Islamic Revolution," according to Iran's state-run media.
The White House says threats to stifle dissent and mass communication suggest that Iran's government is not willing to let its people voice their views and embrace freedom.
"They are scared," then-press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday, hours after Mubarak stepped down.
"That's why they threatened to kill anybody that tries to do this," Gibbs of the Iranian government. "That's why they have shut off all measure of communication."
Over the weekend, Iranian authorities blocked the word "Bahman" -- the 11th month of the Persian calendar -- from internet searches within the country, according to an opposition website.
The measure appeared to be an effort by Iranian authorities to obstruct access to several websites that are promoting the rally -- the 25th day of Bahman, Saham News reported Saturday.
CNN's Reza Sayah contributed to this report.

1 comment:

Kold_Kadavr_flatliner said...

Amen, brudda. It’s like this, folks. People who’re pussy-cats, follow the rules even if they hurt others, don’t question the government’s evil, and turn-me-in under the cover of anonymity, we’ll go 1-on-1 at the General Judgment. The funny thing is, now I’m on BIG, BAD Janet’s list of bloody terrorists (kick-ass, huh?) even though I’m a head-injured-wetard for speak’n the TRUTH. Most of U.S. are controlled, conformed, walking ‘the Wall’ to our demise. C'mon. Think summore. Rise above, America. Think summore past the vastly impotent, world government; don’t do the suicidal, whorizontal reality; and, whatever you do, don’t get played like a HAARP. Hope you got something outta this I-candy: Truth Shall Set You Free. God bless.