Iranian authorities signaled yesterday they had banned any commemorations marking this week's fifth anniversary of violent student protests amid an effort to prevent a fresh outburst of anti-regime dissent. In comments carried in the Iranian press, the security affairs chief for Tehran, Ali Taala, said the Interior Ministry had decided to bar any gatherings and rejected a request for a student event outside Tehran University.
Student representatives have also reportedly been summoned to meet Tehran police chief Gen. Morteza Talaie and Mohsen Gomi, a university representative of Iranís supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"In recent years there have been excellent relations between police and students and today, hand in hand, we should try to forget the bad memories of the 18th of Tir," or July 9, 1999, Talaie was quoted as telling them.
In addition, the Tehran University campus will also be shut down for the anniversary. A pro-reform group, the Association of Islamic Students, told the news agency ISNA that it had been informed the measure was taken to "disinfect the campus because of cockroach infestation."
Although Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asghar Ahmadi later insisted to ISNA that "no decision" had been taken by his ministry on the event, he did assert it was "not necessary" to mark the deadly riots.
On July 9, 1999, pro-democracy students clashed with police in Tehran and other cities in unrest sparked by a heavy-handed police and vigilante raid on a smaller dormitory protest over newspaper closures. Officially, one student was killed and hundreds of others injured in the violence, which prompted a major regime crackdown on dissent in universities -- a major driving force behind the pro-democracy movement. On each anniversary of the unrest, the government has sought to prevent any gatherings from taking place.
In 2003, protesters merely took to the streets of Tehran in their cars, honking their horns, with the sidewalks and universities patrolled by huge numbers of police. Prior to the anniversary last year, some 4,000 people were arrested in the wake of other protests. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE: Roger L. Simon on the Iranian freedom movement.
UPDATE July 8: Google search results for Iran today included the following:
Iran Quiet During Anniversary of Student Protests (VOA News)
Student protesters [from past protests] held in Iran (AP)
Groups Call For Release Of Iranian Protestors (RFE/RL)
And FreeRepublic.com has pics from the demonstrations in L.A. as well as other related news and articles here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More articles, some older:
Protest Outside Iranian Embassy [in Ottawa]
Analysis: Renewed Unity Among Iranian Students (RFE/RL, July 7)
Iran Police Deploy for Traffic; Students See Threat (Reuters, July 6)
UPDATE July 9: Martin Lindeskog reports on a demonstration in Sweden.
UPDATE: Pejmanesque.com has a number of Iran-related posts worth reading for today (July 9), including this BBC retrospective and an article on Iranian prison abuse (expect a "worldwide wave of revulsion" on that last one ... any minute now).
UPDATE: Bush expresses support for freedom movement by young Iranians. (VOA News -- we rewrote their bad headline). This article, dated today, quotes President Bush as saying:
"There are people inside of Iran who are watching what's happening -- young, vibrant, professional people who want to be free. And they're wondering whether or not they'll have the opportunity." [...] "The rule of free peoples will come to the Middle East," says President Bush. And Americans "will do all in our power to help them find the blessings of liberty."
Let's hope we're doing "all in our power."
Not only does it appear that all major protests were squashed in Iran, but regime jackboots are bragging about it: Tehran Police Hail Peaceful Protest Anniversary. (RFE/RL)
General Morteza Talaie, the commander of the Iranian capital's police force, said that 8 July was what he called a "totally normal" day, despite what he said had been an extensive campaign in the "counterrevolutionary media" highlighting the anniversary.
"Totally normal" day ... in a theocratic dictatorship. Here's what one Iranian student group (SMCCDI) reported about the "peaceful" day: Sporadic and brutal clashes in most Iranian cities.
The brutal intervention of the regime's official and plainclothes agents has lead, tonight,†to the arrests and injuries of tens of protesters in most main Iranian cities. In Tehran alone, the clashes are wide spread and are happening in Amir Abad, Tajrish, Zarabkhane, Kargar, Guisha, Kargar, Sadeghie, Narmak, Noor, vali e Asr and Enghelab area.
Other clashes have happened, so far, in Esfahan, Shiraz and Mashad were those having defied once again the Islamic State are shouting slogans for a democratic regime change in Iran.
Many have been injured or arrested and transferred by full buses to the regime's detention centers,
The presence of the regime's foreign mercenaries and their brutality is easily noticeable. The regime seems to try to isolate the demonstrators in each area and to avoid a bigger ralliement by more demonstrators who are trying to use†the darkness of the night.
Many homes have shut off their lights and people are shouting slogans on their flat roofs.
UPDATE:Iranian Dissident Says Events of July, 1999 "Marked the Death of Reform" (VOA, July 8)
In Iran, repressed journalists regroup (Washington Post, July 4)
In the country that the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders calls "the Middle East's largest prison for journalists,'' those dailies still available on newsstands brim with courtroom accounts of less fortunate publications, their editors summoned to the dock by the religious government that has closed more than 100 papers in the past four years.
And finally, here is a recent editorial discussing an issue crucial to the ultimate success of the Iranian freedom movement: Secularism & Iran (Persian Journal, July 6). I know nothing of the author, Ardavan Bahrami, but he makes some insightful observations and asks some very important questions:
Secularism and democracy are like two sides of a brain. In order to have a fully functional body, both sides of the brain with their specific responsibilities are needed in order to achieve the desired being. Therefore, those who comically advocate baseless concepts such as the Islamic Democracy can never deliver the true freedom our people are fighting for when divine rules and restrictions would oversee every aspects of their daily life.
The question that eventually we have to face is are we going to adhere to principles that would declare Iran a country with no official religion; hence, no advantages given to an Iranian Muslim over those Iranians from other religions? I am talking of a society that goes further than pre-1979 where an Iranian Jew, Baha'i, Christian or a Zoroastrian can become our country's prime minister or in case of a republic, its president.
Prince Reza Pahlavi if not the only Iranian political leader believing in such principles, is definitely the only one who has been brave enough to publicly state his vision for a country with no official religion. He has defended the freedom of all political beliefs/parties, guaranteeing individual rights such as; regional languages and dialects, sexual orientations, religious beliefs as well as all social freedoms that many other progressive and democratic nations in the world enjoy or may take for granted.
However, he or any other Iranian politically active cannot and will not succeed if we as individual Iranian do not participate or take steps for our future. At times in meeting other compatriots I feel we are still blurred in our understanding of secularism or that of a true democracy. Do we really understand what it is all about? If we do, how far are we prepared to go in a free, democratic and secular Iran of the future to defend its principles? Will we make concessions every now and then and therefore, undermining the principles of secularism for religious beliefs of one or two religious public figures or groups?
Posted by Forkum at July 7, 2004 05:16 PM