Tehran faces clampdown as protesters ignore calls for calm

Iran's political unrest has left at least 13 people dead as demonstrators vent frustrations

Students attend a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot  police, in  Iran. Photograph: AP Photo

Students attend a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot police, in Iran. Photograph: AP Photo

 

Iranian security forces clamped down on the capital, Tehran, on Monday after demonstrators across the country ignored calls for calm by president Hassan Rouhani over the weekend, in the most significant venting of pent-up economic and political frustrations in years.

Since the protests began five days ago, at least 12 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, according to Iran’s state television.

Reuters reported on Monday night that one police officer has been shot dead during the protests and three were wounded, the first reported security force fatality since anti-government demonstrations began last week.

“A rioter took advantage of the situation in the city of Najafabad and fired shots at police forces with a hunting rifle. As a result, three were wounded, and one was martyred,” a police spokesman, Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi, was quoted as saying by Iranian state television. It did not say when the incident took place.

Security forces were out in large numbers in Tehran on Monday. Protests occurred sporadically, with people shouting slogans and leaving.

Burned cars

On Sunday, protesters tried to storm police stations, military and installations, and also attacked a seminary, state television reported, showing footage of burned cars and fires. The protests took place in at least half a dozen cities, including Karaj, Qazvin, Qaemshahr, Dorud and Tuyserkan, it said.

The protests are the biggest in the country since 2009, when a wave of demonstrations after the contested election of a hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turned into a wider protest movement against Iran’s leaders. This time, it is the failure of Rouhani, a moderate, to deliver greater political changes and economic opportunity that has led to a boiling-over of frustrations, especially from young people.

When the protests started on Thursday in the city of Mashhad, demonstrators initially chanted slogans about the weak economy. As the protests spread, they have taken on a far more political cast. Increasingly, they are being directed at Iran’s entire political establishment.

The strength and volatility of the protests have caught Iranian politicians by surprise. Some have denounced them as “riots”, while others have acknowledged that the problems at the root of the widespread frustrations can no longer be ignored.

Arrested

Around 200 people have so far been arrested in the capital alone, one security official told Iran’s ISNA news agency. There were arrests in provincial towns as well.

Access to the Telegram messaging app and the Instagram photo and video sharing app continued to be blocked by authorities, cutting off the main communication tool for protesters. Special software used to circumvent the government filters could still be downloaded easily.

In Takestan, west of Tehran, “several people” were arrested after attacking a seminary, Iranian news media reported. In Karaj, also close to Tehran, a gas station was burned, a witness reported. Earlier on Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, in Iran’s oil-rich but poor Khuzestan region, as saying two people had died there on Sunday night. He said the cause of death was not immediately known.

– New York Times