First Published: 2003-07-10

 
Iranians again defy govt on riots anniversary
 

Scores gather in their cars around Tehran University to mark fourth anniversary of pro-democracy student riots.

 

Middle East Online

By Stefan Smith - TEHRAN

Clashes were averted

Tens of thousands of people defied a huge police deployment Wednesday night by taking to an area around Tehran University in their cars to mark the fourth anniversary of bloody pro-democracy student riots, but authorities did at least manage to prevent renewed clashes.

Despite a blanket ban on any gatherings, masses of vehicles were seen jammed around Enghelab (revolution) Square and the tense city-centre campus well into the early hours of Thursday.

The university facility itself has closed by authorities in what had been part of a determined bid to prevent any display of public anger against the clerical regime on the increasingly symbolic date.

Hundreds of anti-riot police, decked out in combat fatigues and protective gear, lined the streets, while members of the hardline Basij and Ansar Hezbollah militias - fierce defenders of the nearly 25-year-old Islamic regime - whizzed around on motorcycles.

The bumper-to-bumper jam of around 10,000 cars - each carrying on average at least two people - was accompanied by a deafening cacophony of car horns as, in a repeat of anti-regime protests last month, residents made their frustrations heard.

But those who dared to sound their horns while passing rival gatherings of vigilante groups in the normally quiet nocturnal streets were quickly surrounded and harassed.

The bizarre logjam came despite concerted efforts by Iranian authorities to prevent any further expressions of anger over the country's seemingly intractable political deadlock between entrenched hardliners and elected reformist MPs loyal to embattled President Mohammad Khatami.

But in what looked like a well-planned operation, police did at least manage to prevent major clashes by keeping the traffic moving. Islamist vigilantes were also stopped from carrying their favoured sticks and chains, and were prevented by police from attacking their behind-the-wheel rivals.

Only one brief scuffle was reported, although several young people were seen being detained by police.

One Farsi-language news website, the usually well-informed Baztab, said 58 people were arrested in Tehran, although around the university hundreds of people were seen milling around on pavements with few problems.

The website also reported gatherings in the poor eastern Tehran Pars district and minor ones in the provinces. State media on Thursday made no reference to the gatherings.

Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of massive street clashes between pro-democracy students and police, during which at least one demonstrator was shot dead and hundreds of others arrested or injured.

Some of the students detained in the July 1999 unrest are still in jail.

The anniversary protest also comes hot on the heels of last month's 10 days of anti-regime demonstrations, marked by clashes and the chanting of virulent slogans targeting Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - from whom hardliners take their cue - but also President Khatami.

The accompanying crackdown saw 4,000 people arrested, the hardline judiciary said.

Student activists have voiced increasing anger at Iran's clerical leaders in recent months, with patience also running out among strong Khatami supporters - many of whom complain the mild-mannered president has failed to carry through his pledge to bring "Islamic democracy" to the country.

 

At least 235 killed in Egypt mosque attack

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Saudi-led coalition clears passenger flights to Sanaa

Baghdad's Shabandar cafe marks century since opening

Turkey says Trump pledged to stop arming Kurds

Turkey president sues main opposition party leader

Lebanon's Hariri brings status quo back with him

Activists say 'everybody knew' about Libya slave trade

Erdogan says no contact 'at the moment' with Assad

Lebanon's Jumblatt criticises Saudi Arabia, Iran

China says it will make efforts on Syria reconstruction

Turkey to detain 79 former teachers in post-coup probe

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home