Thousands of people showed up for the planned rally at Enghelab Square, but were held off by heavily armed police to start the rally. The police used tear gas and chased people into alleys surrounding the square. But in spite of the police tactics, large number of dissenters gathered at Enghelab Avenue between Qusa Avenue and Enghelab Square.[youtube:omnluxHrQv0]
6:00 pm: Large number of people on Enghelab Avenue, between Qods and Enghelab Square.
5:15 pm: Thousands are trying to gather at Enghelab; police is dispersing them by beating people and using tear gas. Police is chasing everyone into alleys and streets surrounding the square.
5:00 pm: Police force used tear gas to disperse people trying to gather at Enghelab.
4:45 pm: Few thousand protesters are defying heavy police presence and trying to pass police line to participate in the rally.
4:45 pm: Azadi Square, the destination of today’s planned march is also filled with heavily armed police.
4:30 pm: Enghelab Square: More than 200 heavily armed police is guarding the square, preventing people to gather there as planned.
4:00 pm: People are heading to Enghelab Square to participate in the planned Enghlab-Azadi freedom march.
4:00 pm: Enghelab Square and surrounding streets are filled with police, but there are no report of incidents yet.
TEHRAN, Iran – Police beat protesters and fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands who rallied in Tehran Saturday in open defiance of Iran’s clerical government, sharply escalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to dictatorship!”
Police responded with tear gas, water cannons and guns but it was not immediately clear if they were firing live ammunition.
Police and militia barred people from entering Freedom Street, which runs from Freedom Square to Revolution Square, to prevent a mass gathering, the witnesses said.
NBC News Iran bureau chief Ali Arouzi said he had never ever seen so many police on the streets at once.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” John F. Kennedy
Today, all Iranian expatriates are united in solidarity with the Iranian people in Iran. Today, we are all standing tall to let the world hear our continuous aspiration for a free and democratic Iran. Today, we pledge ourselves, under the divine inspiration, to stand beside the Iranians in Iran and echo their voices around the globe. Today, we make history, yet again.
It is critical that freedom-loving people, governments and media, rally behind the Iranian people and end the tyrannical mullahcracy that is a scourge on Iran as well as the world. The Iranian people themselves are fully capable and are determined to remove the cancer of Islamism from their country. The United States and Israel and other democracies have a huge stake in the success of the Iranian people to rid themselves of the Islamic oppression and tyranny.
The situation in Iran is dire indeed. Anyone who believes that sane rational people on both sides are engaged in brinkmanship to secure the best advantage, but would eventually work out a compromise, is deluding himself. In some cases, time works as a healer and even as a solution of thorny problems. Yet, this problem will not go away, and time would only make the cataclysmic clash more likely and deadly. The best chance for resolving the impasse is regime change in Iran.
Witnesses said between 50 and 60 protesters were seriously beaten by police and pro-government militia and taken to a hospital. People could be seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes.
Some protesters appeared to be fighting back, setting fire to militia members’ motorcycles, witnesses said.
Helicopters hovered overhead, as ambulance sirens echoed through the streets and black smoke rose over the city.
Tehran University was cordoned off by police and militia while students inside the university chanted “Death to the dictator,” witnesses said.
In the south of the city, supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi set on fire a building used by backers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a witness said, and police there then fired into the air to disperse them and Ahmadinejad supporters.
Suicide bomber reported
Also Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the shrine of Iran’s revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran on Saturday, Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
Iran’s Press TV said the attacker died and eight people were injured. It said the attack took place at the northern entrance to the shrine. It was not clear if the bombing was related to the election protests.
On Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned opposition leaders to end street protests or be held responsible for any “bloodshed and chaos” to come.
Eyewitnesses said thousands of police and plainclothes militia members had filled the streets Saturday to prevent rallies. Fire trucks took up positions in Revolution Square and riot police surrounded Tehran University, the site of recent clashes between protesters and security forces, one witness said.
Witnesses said they had seen Basij Islamic militia deploying across Tehran and one resident saw at least three buses full of Basij heading for the capital from the nearby city of Karaj on Saturday, as well as four trucks full of the motorcycles used by Basij militiamen during previous demonstrations.
Web sites run by supporters of Mousavi said he planned to post a message, but there was no statement by the time of the planned street protests at 4 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. ET). Some Web sites called for people to take to the streets.
Police chief warned of crackdown
Tehran Province Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan said earlier in the day “police forces will crack down on any gathering or protest rally which are being planned by some people.”
English-language state TV said the country’s highest national security body had ordered security forces to deal with the situation. It did not elaborate.
The government statements were the most explicit warnings yet of force against protesters who gathered in massive rallies last week to demand the government cancel and rerun elections that ended with a declaration of overwhelming victory for Ahmadinejad. Mousavi says he won but Ahmadinejad stole the election through widespread fraud.
Khamenei sided firmly with Ahmadinejad Friday, saying the result reflected popular will and ordering opposition leaders to end street protests or be held responsible for any “bloodshed and chaos” to come.
The statement effectively closed the door to Mousavi’s demand for a new election, ratcheting up the possibility of a bloody confrontation.
Continued protests could spark a bloody crackdown on Mousavi’s supporters, or greatly weaken the government by forcing it back away from its threat of violence.
It was not clear if Mousavi has the power to halt street demonstrations even if he orders his supporters to stay inside. The government appeared to be preparing for a confrontation.
Iran’s Interior Ministry raised the possibility of directly punishing the 67-year-old former prime minister, saying he would “be held responsible for the consequences of any illegal gatherings.” The ministry accused him of supporting protests that “have lead to the disruption of security and public order,” State Security Council secretary, Abbas Mohtaj, said in a statement on the ministry’s Web site.
ousavi and another presidential candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, did not attend a meeting with Iran’s Guardian Council on Saturday, state TV said. The council, an unelected body of 12 clerics and Islamic law experts close to Khamenei, investigates voter fraud claims.
A conservative candidate, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei, did attend, state TV said.
The state’s English-language channel said the Guardian Council had agreed to a recount of 10 percent of the votes, without providing details.[youtube:2oM6l9PO6Yo]
Tehran: The night after Khamenei’s speech. People on the roofs calling Alohaoakbar, in opposition to Khamenei.
Developments since Khamenei’s Speech
– Mousavi has called on the entire nation to stand on balconies tonight and show support with “Allahoakbar” calls.
– Karrubi has formally asked the National Security Council, Iran’s top policy-making body, to annul the results of the elections.
– A rally from Enghelab Square to Azadi is planned for Saturday 20 June at 4:00 pm.
– Two student activists are arrested.
Transformation of Islamic Republic into Military Dictatorship
The rulers of Iran have a historical tendency to militarize the government whenever confronted with large scale protests and calls for a freer society. In 1953, the American and British-inspired coup was staged to kill Mossadegh’s national movement and created a dictatorship under the shah with an army general as prime minister. In 1978, the shah, confronted by daily protests and large-scale marches, put the military in charge and called upon another army general to form his government. Now, Khamenei is confronted with public demonstrations and marches as massive and as spirited as those that toppled the shah. He, too, is taking steps toward transforming the Islamic Republic into a military dictatorship, putting the IRGC and the Basij Force in charge while filling the executive and legislative branches with IRGC and Basij reservists.
Khamanei’s speech today was a clear affirmation that the coup d’etat that started last Friday to nullify Mousavi’s victory and to suppress a growing movement for change is now in full swing. The crackdown has begun. Foreign journalists were kicked out late last week to avoid coverage of the impending confrontation. Many Iranian journalists and pro-democracy activists have been arrested, with many more in hiding. Mousavi, Karrubi and other opposition leaders were warned of serious consequences if the protests continue. Rafsanjani has been repeatedly threatened.
The opposition still enjoys wide public support. The critical days and weeks ahead will show if the Khamenei-Ahmanijad coup can hold power. The opposition leadership cannot risk encouraging people to come out to protest if violent attacks by Basij thugs become widespread. At the same time, they cannot tell people to go home and surrender. The new situation calls for new tactics. A combination of general strikes along with smaller and tightly organized demonstrations in different parts of Tehran and Iran in the next week or so could be an effective approach. And regardless of the ejection of foreign journalists, the world will be watching and supporting the Iranian people’s drive to gain freedom in their country.
Rafsanjani can also play a major role in overturning the Khamenei-Ahmedinejad coup. He has the majority votes in the Assembly of Experts. The assembly members must find the courage to vote to limit Khamenei’s authority and create a leadership council to replace him. While Mousavi has become the leading political face of the opposition, it is Rafsanjani, the preeminent elder statesmen of the Islamic Republic, whom the world should be watching. He holds the key to protecting Iranian citizens from state violence and bringing greater freedoms into their daily lives.
Khamenei Attacks Opposition- No Compromise
Iran’ Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenie today ended all speculation about a possible compromise between the government and the opposition over the disputed presidential election. In a Friday Prayer speech attended by Ahmadinejad, Khamenei once again approved the result of the election and demanded that Mousavi and Karrubi put an end to street protests and marches. Khamenei chided the opposition for believing it could bring about a velvet revolution like in Georgia, calling protesters “idiots.”
The highlights of Khamenei’s speech:
– 11 million vote difference [between the top to candidates] is impossible to cheat.
– Stop the debates now; discussions can turn into contempt.
– The [opposition] humiliated the president of the country, accusing him of lies and incompetence.
– Pro-government people also attacked leaders such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Nategh Nouri, who have spent their lives for the Islamic Republic.
– Ahmadinejad’s views much closer to his.
– The protests and marches need to be stopped now.
– Protests can not change anything. The “illegal” demands for nullifying the election results are not acceptable.
– If [opposition leaders Mousavi and Karrubi] do not stop the protests immediately, they will held personally responsible.
– The “idiots” (the opposition) thought Islamic Republic of Iran was Georgia!