The death toll from Iran’s Saturday anti-government protests in Iran has reached to eight people, Iranian based Press TV reported.
Twitter is being used to spread Iran news. Users are tweeting at #iranelection, to spread word of the protests, and apparent killings of protesters. A good running summary is available at www.iran.twazzup.com/
An informed source told Press TV that eight people lost their lives during the Saturday unrest.
The Iranian capital on Sunday witnessed sporadic anti-government protests on the anniversary of the Shia Muslim Ashura religious event, with security forces clashing with protesters.
In Tehran, protestors took to some central and downtown streets on Sunday, hijacking the Ashura ceremonies, during which people commemorate the 7th century martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson, Imam Hussein (PBUH).
The protesters reportedly chanted slogans against top Iranian government officials.
Iranian police forces used tear gas to disperse protestors and there were also reports that they fired shots into the air.
Earlier, Iran’s deputy police chief Ahmad-Reza Radan confirmed that five people were killed in the anti-government protests in the capital.
The Scotsman reports:
A nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was among the dead, an adviser to Mr Mousavi said. If the death toll is confirmed, it would be the worst violence in the Islamic Republic since protests that followed a disputed election in June, which plunged Iran into turmoil and exposed widening splits within its clerical and political establishment.
It could also provoke further street protests against the hardline government of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Tehran’s police chief denied a report by the opposition al-Jaras website that four people had been killed in a second day of violence in Tehran during a Shia religious holiday, but an adviser to Mr Mousavi confirmed a report on a news website that the opposition leader’s nephew had been killed.
“I express my regrets and deep condolences over the martyrdom of your nephew Ali Habibi Mousevi on Sunday,” said Alireza Beheshti on the Kaleme website.
State television said that about 300 people were arrested during the protests in the capital.
Al-Jaras said at least four protesters were killed and many others wounded in the northwestern city of Tabriz, a Mousavi stronghold. A witness said that people were pouring into the streets of Tabriz, chanting anti-government slogans.
The website said unrest spread to other parts of Iran, including the holy city of Qom, although this could not be independently verified.
Police shot dead three protesters in central Tehran and a fourth demonstrator was killed there later, it said.
“We will kill those who killed our brothers,” al-Jaras quoted demonstrators as chanting.
Photographs from the clashes showed one man lying on the ground, his face covered in blood. Other pictures showed burning motorbikes and protesters stoning police.
The reported killings would be the first in street protests since widespread unrest in the immediate aftermath of the June poll in which the opposition says more than 70 people died.
The authorities have estimated the post-vote death toll at about half that number, including pro-government militiamen.
Tehran police chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh, speaking about yesterday’s protests, said: “So far there have been no reports of killings and no-one has been killed up to now,” according to the ISNA news agency. He said some arrests had been made.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators had packed the streets of Tehran and clashes also erupted in the cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, Najafabad, Mashhad and Babol, al-Jaras said.
It said 20 people were detained in Qom and Mashhad and that protests would continue in Tehran on Sunday evening. Shots were heard in northern Tehran after nightfall.
English-language state television reported sporadic clashes in Tehran and said a bank and bus stop were set ablaze. It said police had fired into the air to disperse demonstrators.
The official IRNA news agency said two women and a child were hurt when rioters threw stones at people marking Ashura, a major Shia holy day, when the faithful commemorate the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein in 680 AD.
The semi-official Fars News Agency said supporters of Mr Mousavi “followed the call of the foreign media” and took to the streets – a reference to the government position that the unrest is being stoked by foreign enemies of the Islamic Republic.
The agency said the group of “deceived hooligans” had damaged public and private property and “disrespected” the holy day of Ashura, without elaborating.
Foreign media have been banned from reporting directly from opposition demonstrations since the June election, but despite scores of arrests and security crackdowns, opposition protests have flared repeatedly since then.
Reformist websites said there had also been clashes in Tehran on Saturday, with baton-wielding riot police firing tear gas and warning shots to disperse Mousavi supporters.
The authorities had warned the opposition against using Ashura – which this year took place on 26-27 December – to revive their protests against the clerical establishment.
“The Iranian nation has shown tolerance so far but they should know that the system’s patience has a limit,” Mojtaba Zolnour, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Revolutionary Guards, said.
Ashura yesterday coincided with the traditional seventh day of mourning for the leading dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died a week ago at the age of 87 in Qom.
A spiritual patron of Mr Mousavi’s movement, Ayatollah Montazeri was a fierce critic of the hardline clerical establishment.
The unrest that erupted after the June vote is the worst in the Islamic state’s 30-year history. The authorities deny opposition charges that voting in the ballot was rigged.
The turmoil has complicated the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme, which the West believes may have military ends, not just civilian purposes.
Iran has rejected an end-of-year deadline set by world powers for it to agree a UN-drafted deal to ship most of its low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for fuel for a Tehran research reactor.
OUT IN FORCE
THE Shia Muslim commemoration of Ashura posed a major problem for the Iranian authorities.
It is one of the most important events in the Shia calendar, and it was impossible for authorities to prevent people marking it – as they would have tried to do were they simply gathering for an event organised by the political opposition.
Ashura is the tenth day of the lunar month of Muharram when according to Islamic tradition Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, was killed in battle in 680AD – an event of huge religious significance to the Shiites.
In the current climate, Tehran’s previous use of important days to whip up public fervour – such as that marking the storming of the US embassy during the 1979 revolution – is now backfiring. Any gathering is guaranteed to bring opposition supporters on to streets, with the inevitable confrontation with security forces.