11/04/2009, 00.00
IRAN
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Police and basiji crack down hard on opposition demonstrators

Reports indicate some deaths and dozens of arrests. Protests take place in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan and Mashhad. Pasdarn go on red alert to suppress unrest. Today is the 30th anniversary of the takeover of US Embassy and the seizure of 52 hostages.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iran’s infamous basiji attacked opposition demonstrators today. Tear gas was used, shots fired, as the regime’s vigilantes used stick and knives to subdue and arrest protesters. Sympathisers of ex presidential election candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi and security forces clashed in the capital, scene this summer of a bloody crackdown against the green wave that swelled against President Ahmadinejad after his contested re-election. Today is the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran, one of the most dramatic and significant episodes that marked Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

In post-election protests in June and July, protesters challenged the ban imposed by the authorities and took to the streets, chanting ‘Death to the dictator; death to Khamenei’.

Today, thousands of people, including some mullahs, tried to gather in Haft Tir Square to march on the US Embassy, where a government-sponsored anti-American rally was underway.

Anti-riot units of the security forces as well as plain-clothed police agents and basiji militiamen blocked access to Mofatteh Street, which leads to the former US diplomatic mission.

Sources close to the opposition told AsiaNews, that basiji attacked people with sticks, knives, axes and guns. Cellphones have been silenced and hospitals are again overflowing with the wounded.

Some people have apparently been killed, and at least 35 people were arrested.

Most of those arrested are students from Tehran University. Shouting “We shall fight; we shall die, but we shall take back Iran,” this morning they tried to join anti-regime demonstrators by forcing their way through the gates of the university’s housing quarter, which was patrolled by Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran).

In light of the situation, the Pasdaran went on red alert. Members of the paramilitary force close to President Ahmadinejad were deployed around the capital to disperse thousands of protesters, shooting at unarmed crowds.

Clashes have been reported in other cities of the country as well, in Shiraz where people thronged Shahcheraq Street and at least 25 were arrested; in Isfahan, where police charged a group of students in front of a local university; in Mashhad, where some demonstrators were able to march in Falakeh Square and Khosravi Street.

A few days ago, pro-reform leaders Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi called on their supporters to take to the streets to protest against the regime.

For its part, the government issued threats, saying it would respond using force against any pro-reform demonstration on such an important date for the Islamic Republic.

On 4 November 1979, Islamist militants and students seized the embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Since then, the event has been celebrated every year with anti-American rallies.

On this delicate anniversary, US President Barack Obama addressed Iranian leaders. He told them, “It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.”

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