Iran's Security Forces Stopped Opposition Protest
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
DAVID GREENE, host:
And I'm David Greene.
In Iran, the huge street demonstrations of just a week ago have been reduced to a handful of diehard protestors. Those who tried to gather yesterday were quickly and violently dispersed by security forces. State-run television in Iran says more than 600 people have been arrested since the June 12 presidential election. In a moment, we're going to hear how the Arab world is viewing the turmoil in Iran.
But first we'll talk with NPR's Mike Shuster, who covered the election in Iran and is now monitoring events from the Persian Gulf city of Dubai.
Good morning, Mike.
MIKE SHUSTER: Hi, David.
GREENE: So there was talk today that the opposition was going to hold some kind of public gathering of mourning for those who've been killed during all these protests. What's latest? What's come of that?
SHUSTER: The latest is that it's been canceled. This was a call from one of the losing presidential candidates, Mehdi Karubi, who is a long-time reformer. And he called for some kind of public mourning. The details were left a little vague - what time, where. And, in fact, it turns out that he asked the authorities for permission to hold such a gathering.
As far as we know at least 17 people have been killed during these protests since the disputed election on June 12. And it's very typical of political action - activity - in Iran that they would want to carry out some kind of public mourning. And there's a lot of talk about it in Tehran.
But early today Karubi withdrew this call to hold some kind of public event, because it was clear that the security forces would come down hard on it. They wouldn't allow it. And the authorities that he had asked to hold it has said no.
GREENE: With this being canceled, I mean, it feels like this is the trend right now. I mean, the air sort of coming out of the opposition. Is that fair to say?
SHUSTER: Well, it's certainly fair to say that on the streets the opposition is certainly not as strong and as present as it was last week when it would bring out tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people for a rally and march.
And I think there's a simple answer to this. The security forces have organized themselves and they've made clear that they will use very aggressive means to stop people from gathering. It's interesting that people gathered yesterday, in small numbers anyway, outside the parliament, but they were dispersed violently by the security police.
So, yes, I think that there is much less presence on the street and the opposition is trying to figure out what to do. Whether ultimately that means that all the air has come out of this movement it's hard to tell.
GREENE: And so it really is a matter of the intimidation from the security forces, though. I mean, there's still an interest out there in keeping this thing going?
SHUSTER: Oh, there's no question that there's an interest out there. In fact, I think that as a result of the violence that the security forces have used against peaceful protestors it's probably a deepened desire to go out and demonstrate but under conditions that are safer and where, at least at this stage of the game, thousands of people aren't willing to risk their lives to get shot down in the streets possibly in order to protest.
GREENE: We're talking about something like 600 people being arrested reportedly. Who are these people and what becomes of them now?
SHUSTER: It's not clear what becomes of them. It's not clear where they're being held. They've been rounded up ever since the crackdown started. These are local political organizers, some local journalists. Just today we got word that 70 academics who met with Mousavi yesterday, privately, apparently to discuss the current state of the situation in Iran, were picked up. It's not known where they have been taken.
In effect, what seems to be the case is that the Iranian government is rounding up anyone that it knows has been critical of the election, has taken part in these rallies or has spoken out in the past about their criticisms of the Ahmadinejad government.
GREENE: Before I let you go, Mike, I know you're reporting on this story from Dubai now after being in Tehran. Have you been able to keep contacts with the sources you had on the ground while you were there and what have they told?
SHUSTER: Yes. It's not easy. Sometimes the cell phone connection is no there. Sometimes the computer connection is not there. Sometimes it is. People are also reluctant to be identified publicly now. But there is a flow of information out of Iran and into Iran. There's no question about that.
GREENE: Great. That's NPR's Mike Shuster, who is talking to us from Dubai where he's monitoring the events in Iran.
Mike, thanks a lot.
SHUSTER: You're welcome, David.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.