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A Year Later: Suppression Continues in Iran

Smaller demonstrations continued through the end of September as students returned to the universities. Again, authorities responded by arresting student leaders of Tahkim-e Vahdat. However, the opposition set November 4 (the 13th of Aban in the Persian calendar) as the next major planned demonstration. This date has traditionally been used by the Islamic Republic to mark the 1979 student takeover of the American embassy in Tehran.

On October 16, nearly three weeks before the demonstration, the head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, warned opposition protesters not to attempt to hijack another event. Jannati, a longtime supporter of Ahmadinejad, issued his warning during his nationally televised Friday Prayer sermon. He also encouraged security forces to show no mercy when dealing with arrested protestors.

His warnings were echoed by the police, the Basij and the Judiciary. Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Radan, the deputy chief of police, stressed that it was the duty of the police to “prevent any disturbance of order in society.” In its announcement setting the location for the anti-American rally, the police emphasized that any other demonstration was illegal. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of the Basij, also emphasized the crucial role of his forces in protecting the revolution and the Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurisprudent). Tehran’s newly-appointed Prosecutor-General, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, promised that “those who try to disrupt the anti-American rallies on Wednesday will be confronted.”

On November 4, thousands of opposition protestors unsuccessfully attempted to assemble in Tehran and join the demonstrators bused in by the government to demonstrate in front of the former American embassy building. The security forces did not allow opposition demonstrations anywhere in Tehran. Nevertheless, hundreds of protestors gathered in streets and alleys, and chanted anti-government slogans. They were dispersed by security forces shooting tear gas and wielding batons. Some demonstrators ran into buildings to escape the attacks, but security forces often stormed after them. The security forces arrested many people.

Karroubi was reportedly attacked by government forces after he exited his car because of a traffic tie-up. His entourage was stormed by plainclothes and NAJA officers, and one of his bodyguards was hit by a tear gas canister that split his head open and sent him to the hospital. Forces attacked and damaged Karroubi’s car as he drove to safety. Mousavi was not even allowed to leave his offices at the Cultural Center. His offices were surrounded by plainclothes forces on motorcycles, whom he reportedly confronted.

Security forces arrested dozens of demonstrators and activists. The next day, families of these individuals gathered outside of the Vozara detention center for news about the detained. They, too, were beaten and dispersed.

On December 5, in a preemptive strike, security forces dispersed and arrested 10 members of the Mourning Mothers, a group formed after the death of Neda Agha-Soltan that held protest gatherings on Saturdays at Laleh Park in central Tehran. They protested the arrests and detentions of their children.

December 7, National Student Day, presented opposition demonstrators with another opportunity to stage demonstrations. In the weeks preceding December 7, the government intensified its efforts to arrest student leaders. Tahkim-e Vahdat issued statements protesting the arrests of most of its leadership and noted that civil society groups were not allowed to hold even the smallest meetings. Authorities arrested or summoned several members of the central council of Tahkim-e Vahdat, including Milad Asadi, Bahareh Hedayat, Mehdi Arabshahi and Farid Hashemi, just a week before Student Day.

On Student Day, campuses in Tehran, Kerman, Mashhad, Isfahan, Hamadan and Sanandaj were the scenes of large demonstrations. The security forces, generally prohibited from entering campuses, sealed the universities in an effort to prevent demonstrations from spilling into the streets. Still, in several squares around Tehran and in the streets of Shiraz, protestors could not be contained and clashes with security forces were as violent as those immediately following the election.

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Reports, Right to Protest, Imprisonment