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

2.6.6       December 7: National Student Day

December 7, National Student Day, presented opposition demonstrators with another opportunity to stage demonstrations. In the weeks preceding this day, 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 meeting.[248] 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.[249] On December 5, in another preemptive strike, security forces dispersed and arrested ten 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.[250]

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 order 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.[251]

University students affiliated with the Basij confronted and arrested students on campuses. Reportedly, they threw two opposition members from a balcony in Hamedan.[252] In Tehran, they arrested student activist Majid Tavakoli after he spoke at Tehran Polytechnic.[253] Outside of Iran’s University of Science and Technology in Tehran, Kamran Assa, whose brother Kianoosh had been killed in the summer, was arrested trying to enter. He had been invited for a commemoration. His mother explained that “He had gotten a wreath and a picture of his brother and wanted to take them to the university, but before he could even enter the campus, he was arrested along with his companions.”[254] The Police reported the arrest of over 200 protestors, including 39 women, who were detained for resisting security forces and chanting slogans.[255] 

State television showed images of unknown individuals tearing up a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini.[256] This prompted Mousavi and Karroubi, both of whom claim to represent the real ideals of the revolution and of Khomeini, to ask for permits to hold rallies for the first time in months.[257] These rallies were meant to protest the actions of those who tore the picture of the founder of the Islamic Republic. The requests were denied.[258] 

2.6.7       December 20: Ayatollah Montazeri’s Death

On December 20, Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri died in his sleep at his home in the holy city of Qom. A grand ayatollah esteemed in Shi’a clerical circles,[259] Montazeri was one of the founders of the Islamic Republic and became its most vocal clerical critic.[260] Once Khomeini’s designated successor, in 1988, he objected to the mass executions of political prisoners that were taking place pursuant to a fatwa issued by Khomeini. He was considered the spiritual guide of the opposition movement in Iran. His death and funeral resulted in massive processions in Qom, and demonstrations in Tehran, Isfahan and Najafabad—his city of birth.[261]

Montazeri was laid to rest the day after this death, and thousands of people traveled to Qom for the funeral procession. Some were stopped en route and arrested.[262] Still, images show at least tens of thousands of mourners flooding the conservative city where most Shi’a clergy are educated.[263] Basij laid siege to Montazeri’s house, and committed other acts considered insulting by the mourners. The provocations resulted in opposition chants and clashes with the Basij, which were reportedly mediated by the police in Qom.[264]

On December 23, in Isfahan, the former Friday prayer Imam of the city, Ayatollah Seyyed Jalaleddin Taheri,[265] organized a ceremony at the Seyyed Mosque marking the third day of mourning for Montazeri. The ceremony began at nine, but after a few minutes during which attendants read the Quran, plainclothes forces closed the doors of the mosque. They deployed tear gas and pepper spray, and aggressively beat the assembled congregants. The lecturing cleric, several journalists and fifty others were beaten and arrested.[266] Ayatollah Taheri was prevented from attending the ceremony.[267] His supporters held at bay several plainclothes men who had surrounded his house but his son, Mohammad Taheri, was arrested five days later.[268]  

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