Iran cracks down on student protests

Iranian security forces cracked down hard on students who came out in support of the opposition on Dec. 7, as the regime sought to limit media coverage of protests in Tehran and beyond.

CA Online and wire services

2009-12-09

TEHRAN — Iranian security forces cracked down hard on students who came out in support of the opposition on Dec. 7, as the regime sought to limit media coverage of protests in Tehran and beyond.

Video footage that managed to evade official censorship showed crowds chanting "death to dictatorship" and making V for victory signs on the campus of Tehran University.

State media confirmed there had been trouble, but blamed "rioters who were not students" clashing with police who surrounded the site. Reports mentioned police using teargas, batons and stun guns to beat back demonstrators.

Mowjcamp, a reformist website, said security forces fired into the air to disperse crowds in Enqelab Square in the centre of the capital. Clashes were also reported in Vali Asr Square where protesters taunted Basij militiamen with bank-notes, suggesting their loyalty had been bought.

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims he won last summer's disputed presidential election, came out on National Students' Day, in defiance of a ban on demonstrations, repeating the tactic of mounting protests on public holidays that the regime would be reluctant to cancel.

Mousavi issued a statement challenging the authorities. "You fight people on the streets, but you are losing your dignity in people's minds," he said. "Even if you silence all the universities, what are you going to do with the rest of society?"

Mehdi Karroubi, the other defeated reformist presidential candidate, warned against a crackdown. "Repression is not at all the solution, neither today nor tomorrow," he told the French newspaper Le Monde.

The few foreign journalists still in Tehran were ordered not to cover the protests. Mobile phone networks were reportedly shut down. Tehran residents complained for days of being unable to use email, while opposition websites were even more tightly restricted than before.

Protests were also reported at Tehran's Amir Kabir University and at universities in Mashhad, Kermanshah and Kerman. More demonstrations are planned to mark the ten-day Shia festival of Ashura that starts on Dec.18. The latest protests, coming nearly six months after June's election, show again that the opposition movement is far from being crushed. It is also clear that the regime is prepared to wield ruthless force against it.

[The Guardian, UK]

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