Protesters Take To Streets In Iran
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
In Iran, thousands of students and other protesters have once again taken to the streets. And once again, Iran's government has reacted with force, sending thousands of riot police and street militia to crack down on the demonstrators. Foreign media organizations in Iran have been barred from covering the protest. Reports emerging from there say they were violent clashes between the police and protesters.
NPR's Mike Shuster has more.
(Soundbite of demonstration)
MIKE SHUSTER: It is National Student Day in Iran, a holiday to commemorate the killing of three student demonstrators shot down by the security forces of the Shah of Iran more than a half century ago. Ever since Iran's disputed presidential election in June, the opposition has used holidays like this one when Iranians have been encouraged to raise their voices in the streets to rally its forces. Today was no exception. Thousands of students led the way. The rallies began on the capital's several campuses, including Tehran University and Amir Kabir University, inside university buildings' crowding hallways and common areas.
(Soundbite of demonstration)
SHUSTER: Then they spread outdoors on the campuses and soon spilled into Tehran's streets and squares. Death to the dictator, the protesters chanted. They tore down posters of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They trampled and burned posters of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In some places, demonstrators carried Iranian flags with the words and symbols of the Islamic republic removed. The response of the authorities was harsh. It fell mostly to the street militia, known as the Basij, to lead the crackdown. They used clouds of teargas and electrified truncheons and stun guns to disperse demonstrators, who, in some cases, fought back by throwing rocks.
There have also been reports that the militia fired live rounds into the crowds. Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested. The protests were not confined to Tehran. According to numerous reports, demonstrators were in the streets in Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, Arak and other cities. And once again, the leaders of Iran blame the unrest on outside powers. In a speech in Tehran, the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said the United States and Israel are the foremost of Iran's enemies.
Mr. AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI (Supreme Leader, Iran): (Foreign language spoken)
SHUSTER: Today, the leaders of the arrogant policies, America, Zionists and the rest of the domineering countries, are using all their ability to isolate the Iranian nation and the Islamic system, Khamenei said. But they failed to do so in the past and with the help of God, they will not be able to do so in the future. Khamenei's comments were similar to those he made in the immediate aftermath of Iran's presidential election in June. At that time, millions of people poured into the streets to express disbelief at the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. At the time, Khamenei sided with Ahmadinejad against the opposition charging that it was the tool of foreign powers. Khamenei made similar charges today.
Mr. KHAMENEI: (Foreign language spoken)
SHUSTER: Unfortunately, Western politicians, who are mainly under the influence of the Zionists, are doing nothing but deceiving public opinion, spreading lies, and chanting false slogans, he said. The Western governments, the U.S. and Britain and certain other European countries, should not mislead the world's public opinion so much, Khamenei said. Today, Iran's authorities attempted again to prevent news of the demonstrations from getting out of the country. Over the weekend, access to the Internet was widely blocked or slowed down. Local journalists working for foreign news organizations, like the Associated Press, Reuters and the BBC, were prohibited from covering the protest.
Their press cards were temporarily revoked. Despite these measures, a great deal of information did emerge today from Iran, much of it in the form of video of the protests taken by the protesters themselves on cell phone. Protest leaders plan more rallies for a religious festival later this month.
Mike Shuster, NPR News.
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