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Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran

2.6       Summer into Winter 2009: Demonstrations on Remembrance Days 

Many protestors who witnessed the brutality on Saturday, June 20, believed that the demonstrations were over and would not be revived.[199] Indeed, for the next week, the streets remained mostly calm.[200] There was a suffocating security presence. One witness explained:

After June 20, all of the Basij forces [and] the main branch of the Sepah’s ground forces … took over the streets. Shahid Shiroodi Stadium housed the anti-riot police, and the Basij camped out at Laleh Park. To this day, large numbers of security forces continue to take to the streets (especially during more sensitive times). It cannot be said with any certainty whether these forces have been deployed to Tehran from other cities, but [it is clear that] the sheer number of forces cannot be accommodated by Tehran’s bases.[201]

Throughout the rest of the summer and into the winter, demonstrations became more sporadic. They occurred mostly on religious days of mourning for the victims of the violence or on official national days of significance. On December 27, the day of Ashura, the violence escalated and many people were injured and killed.

2.6.1       July 9: Anniversary of 1999 Attack on Dormitories

Thursday, July 9, was the tenth anniversary of the 1999 attack on Tehran University’s dormitory by the Basij militia. Although warned by General Moqaddam that any gathering would be strongly confronted by the police, a few hundred people assembled and protested.[202]

Protestors once again resisted the authorities’ dispersal efforts by chanting and throwing rocks. Access to important sites were blocked, and protestors clashed with riot police who worked to prevent them from assembling, and dispersed those demonstrators who managed to congregate. One demonstrator who was arrested recounted:

No one was there who didn’t throw stones or chant. The girls brought us stones from the side streets and were acting like our support teams. The families who lived there were making drinks for the protestors and gave them water. … I was caught in a sudden and surprising attack. While we were battling the Special Forces, the plainclothes on bikes sped into Enghelab Street from S. Eskandari Street and blocked our exit from behind and arrested us. There was no chance for others to inform us of this beforehand.[203]

Authorities severely beat demonstrators with batons and used electric shock prods before arresting them. A subsequent military investigation revealed that over 145 of these and other demonstrators were taken to the Kahrizak detention facility the next day.[204] The beatings suffered on the streets and the treatment at Kahrizak led to the deaths of at least three of the demonstrators arrested on July 9.[205] Yet in one of his first statements regarding the victims of the July 9 demonstrations, Police Chief Ahmadi-Moqaddam claimed on July 10 that NAJA no longer held anyone in custody in relation to the street protests.[206]

2.6.2       July 17: Rafsanjani’s Friday Prayer

A week later, on July 17, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a senior cleric and regular leader of Tehran’s Friday Prayer, gave his only post-election sermon. Following the election, his family members had come under scrutiny for participating in the demonstrations, and allegations about his own corruption were a major part of the Ahmadinejad’s campaign rhetoric.[207]

Rafsanjani’s sermon drew hundreds of thousands of attendees.[208] In his sermon, he criticized the handling of the elections by the government and the attacks on those he considered heroes of the revolution. He declared that the government’s legitimacy depends on the people’s consent, and noted that the population had lost trust in the system. Emphasizing unity, he urged the authorities to refrain from arresting and imprisoning citizens, and from censoring the media.[209] His sermon was not broadcast live on national television as is usually the case with Tehran’s Friday Prayers.[210]

Although both reformist candidates attended Rafsanjani’s sermon, Tehran University’s Prayer Hall, the setting of all Friday Prayers, was filled with supporters of the government. Outside, however, a multitude of demonstrators used the opportunity to continue their protests. Clashes erupted after the sermon and the security forces used tear gas and beatings to disperse the crowds as they gathered in several areas in Tehran. Once again, the authorities labeled all assemblies except those sponsored by the government illegal[211] and protestors were arrested for staging “illegal demonstrations” and starting “riots.”[212]

2.6.3       July 30: Mourning the Dead

Outbursts of protests and violence continued through July.[213] July 30 marked the last significant day of mourning for Neda Agha-Soltan and others who had died on Saturday, June 20.[214] Mousavi and Karroubi requested a permit to hold a memorial service at the Mossallah Mosque in Tehran. Their joint letter noted that no speeches would be made and that participants would be required to mourn in silence. The Interior Ministry denied their request.[215]

Thus, the thousands of mourners who attended were deemed guilty of illegal demonstrations and subject to attacks by security forces.[216] These forces cordoned off Agha-Soltan’s grave and limited access to the cemetery. While Karroubi managed to attend the ceremony, Mousavi was prevented from exiting his vehicle when he arrived to pay his respects.[217] Riot police used tear gas, beat demonstrators, broke windshields of passing cars and dispersed the crowds. Some people were injured after falling in freshly dug graves. Official sources put the overall number of those arrested at fifty.[218]

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Sexual Violence, Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Travel Restrictions, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Protests, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination, Reports