Thursday, November 5, 2009

Protests Flare in Iran's Capital

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The Los Angeles Times

Large areas of Tehran are in chaos as troops fire tear gas and beat antigovernment protesters on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy's seizure. Demonstrations erupt in other cities as well. Reporting from Tehran and Beirut - Large stretches of the Iranian capital erupted in chaos and violence today as antigovernment protesters and security forces clashed on the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by radical students. Amateur videotape also purported to show small, boisterous demonstrations in the Caspian Sea city of Rasht, the southwestern city of Ahvaz and the eastern city of Mashhad. For the first time in months, there were also credible reports and video footage of a sizable demonstration on the campus of the main university in the northwestern city of Tabriz, the capital of Iran's ethnic Azeri region and historically a hotbed of political activity. As dusk settled, protesters in Tehran continued to gather in the streets and prepare for what they predicted would be a long night of clashes with security forces stationed at main squares around the capital. "I was beaten up by a baton so badly that one policeman begged his colleague to have pity on me and stop beating me," said one protester, a 54-year-old mother of three who asked that her name not be published. "But I am not scared. I will keep protesting until the end."

Today's demonstration did not appear to be as large as the huge marches that erupted after the disputed June 12 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the protest, the largest in six weeks, struck at one of the ideological pillars of the Islamic Republic by showing that a sizable chunk of Iranians disagree with hard-liners' anti-American agenda. Though the demonstration stemmed from the contested election, America's tangled 56-year relationship with Iran took center stage. As Ahmadinejad's allies blasted U.S. foreign policy during an official rally attended by tens of thousands of schoolchildren bused in the for the event and government supporters, a leading reformist cleric and architect of the Islamic Revolution issued a provocative statement describing the storming of the U.S. mission in Tehran as a mistake. "Considering the negative repercussions and the high sensitivity which was created among the American people and which still exists, it was not the right thing to do," Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri said in a statement posted to his website. And as thousands of government supporters and schoolchildren draped in Iranian flags chanted, "Death to America," opposition protesters warned the Obama administration -- which is seeking to engage Iran to defuse a confrontation over Tehran's nuclear program -- that now's not the time for a deal. "Obama, Obama!" the protesters chanted, according to footage posted on the Internet. "Either you're with them, or with us." (Read more...)