Wed, Dec 09, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Tehran says it will ‘show no mercy’ to opposition protests

STUDENT MOVEMENT Tehran issued the warning after students protesting against the president and the clerical establishment clashed with security forces

REUTERS AND AP , TEHRAN

Iran will “show no mercy” toward opposition protesters seen as threatening national security, a judiciary official said yesterday, a day after thousands of students staged anti-government rallies.

A nationwide rally on Monday to mark the killing of three students under the shah turned violent when students clashed with security forces armed with batons and tear gas in the largest anti-government protests in months.

“From now on, we will show no mercy toward anyone who acts against national security. They will be confronted firmly,” the official IRNA news agency quoted prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei as saying.

The protests were a fresh show of force following demonstrations that erupted after the June re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad. The opposition says he won by rigging the vote.

Monday’s protests in Tehran were smaller than the post-election rallies but the mood seemed more radical with protesters chanting slogans against the clerical establishment and not just criticizing Ahmadinejad’s re-election.

Tens of thousands of students, many shouting “Death to the Dictator!” and burning pictures of Iran’s supreme leader, took to the streets on more than a dozen campuses on Monday in the biggest anti-government protests in months.

Pro-government Basij militiamen on fleets of motorcycles and riot police flooded Tehran’s main thoroughfares, beating men and women with clubs as crowds of demonstrators hurled bricks and stones. Some protesters set tires and garbage cans ablaze.

“Death to the oppressor, whether it’s the shah or the leader!” the students chanted, said witnesses — making a daring comparison between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the pro-US shah, despised in Iran since his overthrow in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The protests reflected how university students — the driving force of the 1979 Islamic Revolution — have revitalized the anti-government movement even as mainstream opposition politicians struggle to dent the power of Ahmadinejad and the clerical leadership.

Inside the walled campus of Tehran University, fistfights broke out between protesters and hard-line students loyal to the government. In one photo obtained by The Associated Press, a student wearing a green headband — the opposition’s signature color — had blood streaming down his face after a beating. In another, a young woman, overcome by tear gas, slumped to the ground, as two other students tried to help her.

Journalists working for foreign media organizations have been banned from covering opposition protests, including Monday’s demonstrations.

Analysts say students have formed a bastion of support for opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi.

“Silencing universities will be difficult for the establishment. Ahmadinejad’s fate may well hang on them,” said one analyst who asked not to be named.

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