Thursday, August 21, 2014


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Silent Tehran Protesters Arrested On Anniversary Of Disputed Vote

Iran's opposition Green Movement had called for a silent protest on the second anniversary of the disputed presidential election.
Iran's opposition Green Movement had called for a silent protest on the second anniversary of the disputed presidential election.
By Golnaz Esfandiari
Arrests and clashes have been reported in Tehran on the anniversary of the disputed 2009 reelection of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad that led to mass street protests.

Opposition websites and witnesses say dozens were arrested in the Iranian capital on June 12 while marching silently to mark the anniversary.

The opposition Kalame website reported that several hundred Iranians were detained on Vali Asr Street while marching peacefully.

"Demonstrators remained silent and calm even while they were being detained," Kalame said, citing its reporters in Tehran.

A demonstrator told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that many opposition supporters marched under the eyes of the security forces.

"We started walking on Vali Asr Street. As [expected], special forces were deployed on both sides of the street like a human wall," the man said. "But people ignored them and continued walking on the sidewalks without chanting."

Protesting In Silence

Representatives of the opposition Green Movement had called for a "silent rally" to mark the vote, which the opposition says was massively rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad. The charge has been denied by the Iranian authorities, who have called the 2009 presidential vote free and fair.

Yet they have cracked down on opposition activists and put them in jail. In February they put opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi under house arrest after they called for a demonstration that attracted tens of thousands of Iranians.

In recent months, Iran's leaders have praised the Arab uprisings while using force against opposition protesters who have taken to the streets.

Speaking in Washington on June 11, Musavi's spokesman, Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, said the government repression had not managed to silence the opposition Green Movement, which was formed during the protests that followed the disputed election.

"The Green Movement might have changed its tactics in response to the crackdown, but it has found a way to continue its existence," Arjomand said.

Security Forces Massed

The Sahamnews website said on June 12 that riot police and plainclothes agents attacked opposition demonstrators with batons at a park on Vali Asr Street.

"Shopkeepers were ordered to close their shops...hundreds of people have gathered in other areas of Tehran," the website said.

One witness told RFE/RL that in some parts of Tehran hundreds of security forces were deployed to prevent protests. She said she also saw many Basij militia members and plainclothes agents roaming the streets on motorbikes.

Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that security forces arrested "some individuals" who were trying to disrupt the peace.

"The powerful presence of security forces in Tehran prevented a few elements from reaching their goal of disrupting  the peaceful atmosphere of the society with foreign guidance," IRNA reported, while accusing foreign media of inciting people in Tehran to take part in the silent protest.

The anniversary of the election was overshadowed by the news of the death of a prominent journalist and national religious activist, Hoda Saber, who died from a heart attack following a hunger strike.

The 54-year-old Saber, who was jailed in the crackdown that followed the protests against the presidential election in 2009, died in a Tehran hospital where he was transferred from Evin prison.

He had gone on a hunger strike some 10 days before to protest the death of another dissident, Haleh Sahabi, at the funeral of her father. Sahabi reportedly died from a heart attack following a scuffle with security forces.
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