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A Year Later: Suppression Continues in Iran

In addition, Iman Namazi was shot that night during the raid on the dormitories in Tehran. Some bodies of students who had been killed were reportedly buried by the night of June 15 without notification to their families. Most of those students are thought to have died very early on the morning of June 15. When families inquired as to the whereabouts of their loved ones’ remains, the police and other institutions harassed and threatened them. Twenty days later, five students were still in the hospital.

Gunshots were heard in several other parts of Tehran as well. One witness recounted how security forces riding motorcycles fired on demonstrators with high-caliber weapons: “It wasn’t like the films where there is just a small hole—the shooting was blowing off hands, limbs. It was terrible, terrible.”

Attacks on universities were also reported from around the country. There were reports of security forces and conservative militias, including the Basij and Ansar–i Hizbollah, storming universities and dorms, and beating and arresting students in Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Babol, Mashhad and Zahedan. Security forces stormed a library in Shiraz University, firing tear gas and beating students. A hundred students were arrested and a staff member was assaulted. Tahkim-e Vahdat reported the deaths of two students in Shiraz. The attack in Shiraz was so vicious that the next day the chancellor of the university, Mohammad Hadi Sadeqi, resigned in protest. Killings at universities in Isfahan were also reported but remain unconfirmed.

The similarity of the attacks on the universities and their proximity in time appears to indicate that they were planned and coordinated at a high level.

Mousavi and Karroubi applied for a permit for a rally at Azadi Square on June 15, and asked people to stay calm. Their application was denied and the rally was officially canceled, but as the day progressed, significant numbers of demonstrators filled the streets of Tehran and other larger Iranian cities. In Tehran, protestors marched silently from Enqelab Square (Revolution Square) to Azadi Square (Freedom Square), where an estimated hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of protestors demanded nullification of the election and a recount.

Mousavi and Karroubi joined the demonstrators at Azadi Square. Mousavi, in his first public appearance since the election, gave a speech demanding respect for the people’s votes.

During most of the day, the response of the security forces to the large number of street protestors appeared to have been generally mild. In spite of an official ban on demonstrations, security forces were ordered to observe the events and not attack demonstrators.

Protests were met with much greater resistance in other cities. In Ahvaz, a crowd of 2,000 demonstrators was attacked by baton-wielding police officers. In Shiraz, security forces fired into the air and Fars Province Police General Ali Moayeri authorized his officers to shoot at protestors and warned: “From now on, we will respond harshly.”

Violence also broke out in Tehran as the sun began to set and the crowds thinned. The Sepah and the Basij clashed with young demonstrators who refused to disperse. Witnesses report that the Basij forces tried to provoke demonstrators, sometimes successfully, into taking violent action.

In one of the most publicized clashes, a security officer opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators outside the Basij compound near Azadi Square. Video footage shows young men throwing rocks and a fire set by protestors. However, the chaos and fear experienced by the demonstrators is palpable in the several available videos of the incident. There is no evidence of systematic or coordinated action on the part of the demonstrators, and, although some demonstrators are holding rocks, none are armed. Whether this incident sparked the violence that night, or was simply one of the earliest and best documented, remains unclear. It is clear, however, that shooting into crowds was considered acceptable by the security forces from the night of June 15 onward.

At least eight people were killed in demonstrations in Tehran on June 15. Some were shot in streets close to Azadi Square. Others died from head injuries suffered from beatings by baton-wielding security forces.

Basij were captured on video shooting into the crowds on the night of June 15. Naser Amirnejad was one of the protestors shot by the Basij. Close by, Mehdi Karami and Massoud Khosravi were also shot to death. Davoud Sadri was shot outside the Meqdad Basij station near Azadi Square. The 25-year-old electrician was transferred to Rasoul Akram hospital, but died that day from injuries to his heart and spleen. His death was not confirmed for weeks, during which time his family was given conflicting information from authorities about how he died, who was responsible, and where his body was located.

Kianoosh Asa, a master’s student in petroleum chemistry at the Iran University of Science and Technology, is believed to have been shot on June 15. He disappeared that day and his whereabouts remained unknown until June 24, when his family found his body at the medical examiner’s morgue. Months later, on National Student Day (December 7), Asa’s brother, Kamran, was arrested as he tried to place a wreath and his brother’s picture on the university grounds where he had studied. He was released two months later but again arrested on May 31, 2010. He is currently being held at an undisclosed location.

Confirmed deaths were also reported in Isfahan, Mashhad and Kermanshah. Near Shiraz Gate in Isfahan, Hossein Akhtarzand suffered a terrible death at the hands of plainclothes security agents who chased him and other protestors into a building complex filled with doctors’ offices. Akhtarzand climbed to the third floor, where he was beaten. Eyewitnesses report that he was thrown from the third floor rooftop. Reportedly, when representatives of the Intelligence Ministry delivered his body to his family, they claimed that he had slipped and fallen during the arrest.

On June 16, the Guardian Council announced that the vote would be partially recounted. Mousavi urged restraint in light of threats by the country’s police chief, General Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, to “quell any unrest.” Yet the demonstrations continued throughout the week.

On June 17, thousands of demonstrators packed the streets of Tehran for a fifth straight day. The next day, demonstrators gathered in Imam Khomeini Square in Tehran in the late afternoon. Their numbers reached into the hundreds of thousands, and covered the whole square and the surrounding streets. Dressed in green or black, bearing black candles or black ribbons, demonstrators heeded the call of mourning for the dead, but anticipated further clashes with the authorities.

Anticipating both the impact of the upcoming Friday Prayer and an extraordinary session called by the Guardian Council for June 20 to consider allegations of vote rigging, the Association of Combatant Clerics asked for a permit to hold a pro-Mousavi rally on June 20. Karroubi’s party, Etemad Melli, made a similar request that day even though the editor of its news outlet, Mohammad Qoochani, had been arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents.

On June 19, Morteza Tamaddon, Tehran’s governor general, made it clear that no permission for opposition rallies would be granted. In a sign of disrespect, neither Mousavi nor Karroubi attended the Friday Prayer sermon by the Supreme Leader on June 19, or sent representatives to the Guardian Council’s session on June 20. Khamenei’s Friday Prayer sermon, delivered to tens of thousands of conservative supporters, was a hardline message that was well received by the crowd but stunned much of the Iranian population. Receiving what amounted to a green light from the Supreme Leader, security forces unleashed ferocious assaults on the demonstrating public the following day.

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Reports, Right to Protest, Imprisonment