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A Year Later: Suppression Continues in Iran

Suppression of Demonstrations

 

An estimated 10,000 protesters thronged the streets of Tehran on June 13. The rallies attracted men and women of all ages, from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, calling for nullification or a recount. The protests in Tehran reportedly began in Vanak Square, but groups of demonstrators took different routes through the city. Demonstrators chanted “death to the dictator,” “death to the coup d’état,” called for a new election, and demanded that Ahmadinejad resign.

Many demonstrators took to the streets to defend their votes. The precarious state of the economy, the high voter turnout, and suspicions of fraud made Ahmadinejad’s win—and especially his margin of victory— very suspect.

Both Mousavi and Karroubi published statements demanding nullification of the election, and urged the population to remain calm. They did not attend the demonstrations on June 13. The Interior Minister, Sadeq Mahsouli, announced that the spontaneous demonstrations were illegal, thereby justifying the arrest and prosecution of protestors.

The Iranian authorities responded by sending in Basij and other security forces to break up the demonstrations. By nightfall, protestors had set fire to trash cans, motorcycles and even buses while members of the Basij attacked the crowds with belts, batons, cables and rubber hoses. Clad in black body armor and riding motorcycles, the Basij randomly damaged private property and stole from demonstrators. There are reports that they confiscated cell phones and photographic equipment, and at least one Basij stole sunglasses from demonstrators.

On the night of June 13, people began shouting “God is great” from their rooftops at night, a strategy used during the 1979 revolution against the Shah.

The demonstrations continued into June 14 in many of Iran’s larger cities. The stepped-up security during the day on June 14 substantially reduced the number of protestors on the streets. However, by nightfall people converged on Vanak Square in Tehran and again faced Basij that inflicted bloody wounds and whipped protestors with chains. Security forces chased protestors into homes and followed student demonstrators into the university dormitories.

Many students were beaten and arrested outside of the main gate to the University of Tehran. Those in the dorms believed that the university campus provided a sanctuary because after a violent crackdown on student riots in 1999, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council had decreed that security forces were only allowed to enter campus after receiving permission from the university’s board of trustees and dean.

On the night of June 14, security forces broke open gates and doors on the campus. Witnesses describe vicious attacks by forces in riot gear who did not distinguish between students who had protested and those who had not.

By the early morning of June 15, the authorities had arrested over 100 students under a cloud of tear gas while beating and shooting them with pellet guns. A video reportedly taken by Iranian police and released by the BBC in February 2010 supports these claims. The assailants were equipped with riot gear, including shields and batons, and witnesses identified them as members of the Basij. Fatemeh Barati, Mobina Ehterami, Mohsen Imani, Kasra Sharafi and Kambiz Sho’a’i were reportedly beaten to death with batons and electric shock prods. Their names were confirmed by Tahkim-e Vahdat, a politically active student and alumni organization. Members of the organization were arrested before and after the election.

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Reports, Right to Protest, Imprisonment