Tehran unrest during Ashura leaves 15 dead
The Information Ministry announced, “more than ten members of anti-revolutionary groups” (Ahmadinejad’s opponents) were killed, plus five victims of “terrorist groups” (the same opponents).
A nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was among yesterday’s casualties, one of the bloodiest days since last June’s rigged election saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected.
Last week, the chief of police warned demonstrators that the reaction to protest would be harsh unless they stopped. Few heeded the warning; thus on the weekend, blood was shed in the streets of Tehran in some of the bloodiest clashes ever seen in Iran.
Demonstrations and street fighting took place during Ashura, one of the most important religious celebrations in Shia Islam, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad killed in Karbala in 680 AD and Shia symbol of the struggle against blind dictatorship.
For the second day in a row, opposition protesters took to the streets. Basiji agents, Pasdarans (revolutionary guards) and Special Forces in anti-riot gear moved in. Using tear gas and live ammunition, they tried to disperse the crowd, which chanted slogans against the Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Alì Khamenei.
“Tehran is ablaze and blood is flowing,” one witness said yesterday. “The hot spots are Hafez Street, Vali-Asr and Enghelab Square. When a protester was shot, demonstrators attacked agents, taking away their uniforms and weapons. They then began setting police cars parked along the streets on fire.”
Tehran is not alone in experiencing an explosive situation; other cities are affected: Shiraz, Esfahan, Ahwaz, Shar-e-Kurd, Neishabour, Touiserkan, Mahshahr, Yasuj, Gachsaran, and Omidieh.
Security forces are on a maximum alert, but people are increasingly pushing for the fall of the clerical regime.
For some Iranian analysts, the reign of terror that has existed in the country for the past 30 years is broken and people are no longer afraid to take to the streets to shout ‘Death to the dictator, death to Khamenei’.
“It is like the last days of the Shah,” some Iranians living abroad said. “It was all over when people started to attack police stations and army barracks and soldiers came out, hands over their head, surrendering to the people. If we start to see this now, it would be the beginning of the end for Khamenei and the Islamic regime.”
The clerical regime is nervous and its top security officials are obviously worried. The use of live ammunition against demonstrators is a sign of this nervousness, according to sources inside Iran.
Following the killing of Neda this summer, the authorities decided to use truncheons, motorbikes and tear gas against the opposition, convinced that the use of live ammunition might lead people to arm themselves. Yesterday’s events might signal that they are ready for more extreme actions.
However, if the regime feels cornered, the ‘green wave’ of the opposition has its own problems to deal with. The pro-reform movement is leaderless. People might call on Mousavi for help, but both he and the other former defeated presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, have been silenced, placed under the tight control of security forces, and incapable of leading a revolt that thrust them in the thick of the action almost against their will. In recent days, they did not take to the streets or issue any statements.
The other pro-reform leader, former President Khatami, made a public appearance on Saturday when he spoke in Tehran, but left in a hurry when the Basiji showed up.
This morning, an opposition website quoted Karoubi as saying, “What has happened to this religious system that it orders the killing of innocent people during the holy day of Ashura?”
“Why is such a holy day not respected by the rulers?”