Saturday, 20 June 2009
Iran police disperse protests
Iranian police have used water cannon, batons, tear gas and live rounds to break up protests over the presidential election, witnesses in Tehran say.
A BBC correspondent at Enghelab Square said he saw one man shot and others injured amid a huge security operation involving thousands of police.
Defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi repeated calls for the election to be annulled on the grounds it was rigged.
There were also reports of a bombing at the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Two Iranian news agencies reported that the suicide bomber died and two people were injured in the bombing near the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution.
There was no evidence to support the report, the BBC's Jon Leyne says from Tehran.
The country's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei had warned protesters on Friday not to continue their rallies, but correspondents say the warning appears to have made some protesters more determined.
It was unclear if political leaders had backed their supporters continuing to march.
In a letter to the electoral body, the Guardian Council, Mr Mousavi, who had not made a public comment for two days, reiterated his calls for the election to be declared void.
He alleged the vote, held on 12 June, was rigged months previously.
Official results of the presidential poll gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a resounding 63% of votes, compared to 34% for Mr Mousavi, his nearest rival.
In other developments:
Thousands of police, militia and secret policemen blocked access to Enghelab and Azadi squares, and protesters were throwing stones in surrounding streets
A BBC correspondent saw one man shot in a crowd and another with injuries from a razor-wielding secret policeman
About 3,000 protesters were reportedly gathered at Enghelab Square, according to Associated Press news agency. They chanted "Death to the dictator" and "Death to dictatorship"
One witness told Reuters news agency that protesters loyal to defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi set fire to a building in southern Tehran used by backers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
A column of black smoke is hanging over the city centre, our correspondent says.
Some reports could not be independently confirmed. Foreign news organisations - including the BBC - have been subjected to strict controls which prevent reporters from leaving their offices.
The BBC's Jon Leyne, who is in Tehran, says his impression is that the police have broken up large crowds into smaller groups to prevent them assembling.
Early on Saturday, the wife of Mr Mousavi and an aide to another rival candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, said the rally would go ahead, although this was later contradicted by his party.
Speaking on state TV, deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan warned police would "certainly fight against any form of illegal gathering and protest". He also said protest organisers would be arrested.
The result triggered almost daily street protests - a challenge to ruling authorities unprecedented since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
Mr Mousavi had been expected, along with fellow challengers Mr Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai, to discuss more than 600 objections they had filed complaining about the poll at a meeting of the Guardian Council, which certifies elections, on Saturday.
But neither Mr Mousavi nor Mr Karroubi attended the meeting - which suggests, our correspondent says, they have abandoned their legal challenge to the election results.
State TV quoted the Guardian Council as saying it was "ready" to recount a randomly selected 10% of ballot boxes.
It had previously offered a partial recount of disputed ballots from the election, rather than the full re-run of the election demanded by protesters.
Here is why the coverage from those who 'know' is not accurate, and why this is bigger than 1978-79.
Some commentators, in the know, have said these demonstrations are simply an extension of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 - the people want what was promised to them at that time. Promises never kept.
Iran has a majority population under 40 and over 70 percent of those people want relations with the West, jobs, individual security, and freedom - all more important to the people than a nuclear bomb. The same percentage daily flout the laws, dress and behave in a Western manner - nail polish, bright scarves, tight clothing, and engage in behavior un-Islamic - from drinking and dancing, to sex and drugs.
This super majority have never cared for their mullahs or their oppression Islamic revolution - they want freedom, freedom promised them, but freedom that is incompatible with the Islamic revolution - its guards, basiji, police, army, and mullahs.
The people have waited - 30 years, and have now turned their back on the Islamic Revolution.
Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei told the people to go home and stop. Their response - they yelled louder. They marched in defiance, and not simply ten thousand or fifty thousand - images show three streets backed up for at least two miles - we are talking a million or more participating. These are not numbers given by the opposition / radicals. We have the satellite images and video feed showing these images. If anything these numbers understate. For every ten people on the street, there are many more who refuse to out of fear.
Contrast the opposition rallies to the pro-government rallies. if you take to the street in support of the un-Islamic mullahs who will beat you, arrest you, kill you, torture you, arrest your family? No one. And the government does very well emptying the shrines and religious centers and busing in thousands of people from religious towns, to fill their squares. The opposition do not call for people from Qom, they can't - their voice was all but cut off until they found alternative routes around government censorship. The millions in the streets were an automatic response - the numbers equalling or exceeding those from 1979. The Islamic Revolution is dead.
It is now a matter of how long until that coffin is thrown into the fires to burn into ash and how many more hundreds of innocent people will die. When the shah's security forces cracked down and killed 10 protesters - it incited rioting and a call for the end ... the pro-government forces have killed far more than that number (according to some sources and given their usual behavior it is not difficult to believe) and arrested scores more and put them into the dreaded Evin prison. They have become worse than SAVAK. They have become worse and more corrupt than the Shah. The Islamic Revolution is over. The people choose freedom and peace.
If you have paid attention to the protests and the chanting - forget the Palestinians, help us. This has been chanted and painted on signs in all the protests. So what has the regime done - brought in Palestinian and Hezbollah killers from Lebanon to use against the protesters. The end result of this action will be that Iran cuts itself off of support for either Palestinians (but for a token gesture) and Hezbollah - the Islamic Revolution is over, it is now a matter of when it realizes it is dead, and surrenders to the inevitable. The people are no longer willing to tolerate crumbs while being told they cannot have more, for it is Western, and all that is Western is suspect. The people have a response: Hezbollah, what are you Hezbollah? You don't want me to be happy.
Finally, the Mousavi call to be peaceful and not gather on Saturday ... the chants of the people: Mousavi give us back our votes.
The people have turned on Mousavi, they have turned on the spiritual leader of Iran, they have abandoned the Islamic Revolution and instead seek reconciliation with the West and the world.
If not today, it will require a charismatic leader who steps up, recognizes where the road goes and what must happen along the way, and leads the people. That day will happen, soon. Very soon. We will all see that day happen.