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July 99, Week 2
|Iran bans capital demonstrations after clashes||July 12|
|U.S. Supports Peaceful Protests in Iran||July 11|
|Angry Students Threaten to Take to Tehran Streets||July 10|
|Iranian Minister Quits as Protests Spread||July 9|
Iran bans capital demonstrations after clashes
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Tehran issued a ban Monday for any
demonstrations on Tuesday, an apparent attempt to end five days of violent clashes that have pitted pro-democracy students against police and hard-line vigilantes.
The action was taken "due to abuses by certain suspicious elements causing disturbances and inconvenience for Tehran residents," the governor's office said in a statement released by the official IRNA news agency.
Earlier in the day, more than a thousand Iranian students, their faces covered by masks, clashed with police and religious hard-liners.
Similar skirmishes have taken place since Thursday, when students first staged demonstrations after the government banned a reformist newspaper that backed moderate President Mohammed Khatami.
On Friday night, police, with the help of hard-liners, raided a Tehran University dormitory to arrest student leaders. One person was killed and some 20 others hospitalized.
On Monday, students set at least two police vehicles on fire when demonstration spilled into Tehran's streets. Several students were injured during the clashes or from inhaling tear gas.
The demonstration lasted for over an hour before the students were forced to retreat back to the Tehran University campus, where they split into several smaller groups and headed off in different directions. Police patrolled the streets to prevent further violence, but other clashes were reported on Monday, including one in which religious hard-liners assaulted a group of women because they objected to how the women were dressed.
About 5,000 students staged a peaceful sit-in on campus. They halted the protest in the evening and police surrounding the campus allowed them to leave.
But police and hard-line vigilantes also took control of areas surrounding the main dormitory complex, beating back students who had set up barricades outside, witnesses said.
Many students fled back inside the dormitories, while others took refuge in nearby homes. Vigilantes armed with stones, sticks and meat cleavers chased away students who remained at the scene.
Monday's violence began when a small explosion plunged the protest into chaos. Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said what appeared to be a firecracker went off outside the university gate. Earlier, a person on a motorcycle fired a shot as he drove past the protest at the gate.Ayatollah Khamenei condemns raid Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a statement read over Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency that condemned last Thursday's unauthorized raid, ordered by security officials who answer to his religious hard-liners.
Khamenei said the attack was "a bitter and unacceptable incident" that "pained his heart." Those responsible, he said, would be dealt with "no matter in the garb of law enforcement forces or else."
Iran's Supreme National Security Council responded to the incident Sunday by firing two security chiefs, but the students have called for the resignation of Brig. Gen. Hedayat Lotfian, the national police chief. The Iranian government has taken no action against Lotfian, who is closely allied with the hard-liners.
U.S. Supports Peaceful Protests in Iran
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States Monday took sides with peaceful Iranian student demonstrators against what it called repression by police and hardline vigilante groups.
The U.S. State Department also urged the Iranian government to protect the demonstrators and to respect international human rights standards, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Spokesman James Foley was commenting on five days of pro-democracy rallies by Iranian students outraged after police and hardliners attacked a demonstration last week.
"We have followed with concern the reports of violence being used to put down widespread demonstrations by Iranian students in support of freedom of expression and democratic values and the rule of law," Foley told his daily briefing.
"The rule of law cannot be achieved through repression of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, association and assembly. We oppose the disruption of peaceful assembly through the use of violence and deeply regret the resultant injuries and loss of life," he added.
"We call on the government of Iran to protect peaceful demonstrators and to respect international human right standards," he said.
The spokesman, apparently anticipating that U.S. sympathy might damage the students' case, said the United States would have taken the same position in similar cases elsewhere.
"These are universal rights... This is something that we would stand for in any country," he said.
Foley said the United States saw substantial support inside Iran for the ideas of President Mohammad Khatami, who has faced hardline opposition in his attempts to ease political and cultural restrictions in the country.
The conflict was reflected in the struggle on Tehran University campus, where the police and the vigilantes beat students with batons on Monday.
"Clearly these actions by some of these vigilante groups supported by some elements of the police apparently run obviously very counter to that project, which seems to have quite a bit of public support in Iran, to establish a society ... in which there is respect for freedom of expression, the rule of law, democratic values and pluralism," Foley said.
The United States tried to reach out to President Khatami after his election in 1997 but the most Khatami offered was a "dialogue of civilizations" without official ties.
Analysts have attributed Khatami's hesitancy to fears that hardliners would try to portray him as too soft on the United States, the "Great Satan" of the Iranian revolution.
One U.S. official said on Monday the student rallies reflected a "struggle for the future of Iranian politics'.
"The political contradictions and the clashes within Iran are intensifying as ... the people who support Khatami push for greater openness and for the rule of law to be applied. Hardline elements resist that," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Foley declined to predict how the struggle between Khatami's supporters and the hardliners would turn out.
"It would be very hazardous to try from an official podium to analyze the course of events in Iran," he said.
But he said parliamentary elections in Iran next year would be important in determining the country's future -- with the implication that the elections were a chance for moderates to trounce the hardliners, who continue to hold many of the levers of power despite Khatami's popularity.
Angry Students Threaten to Take to Tehran Streets
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Thousands of angry pro-democracy students threatened to take their protest to the streets of the capital on Sunday if their demands were not met.
"Either Islam and the law, or another revolution," chanted the students. Their demands included the execution of the hardline police chief, who reports to Iran''s dominant clergy.
The students gathered from mid-morning outside their dormitory complex at Tehran University, scene on Thursday and Friday of a bloody melee that saw a peaceful rally in support of press freedoms attacked by Islamic vigilantes and police with iron bars, metal chains, clubs and tear gas.
The fall-out of the clashes has shaken the Islamic republic. Student demands for accelerated social and political reforms threaten to eclipse the cautious reform approach by moderate President Mohammad Khatami.
He now faces growing pressure, especially from the students who are his most loyal backers, to speed up reform in the face of consistent challenges from Iran''s powerful conservative establishment.
"We don''t want a government of force, or a mercenary police," chanted the students, many holding up pictures of Khatami or press photographs of injured students.
Student leaders said they were prepared to carry on their protests until they received public assurances from Iran''s supreme clerical leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that he would step in to crush the hardline "pressure groups" that routinely attack pro-reform rallies.
"It is 100 percent, we will continue," said one student. "It is difficult to be satisfied with small concessions."
The student leaders issued a series of new demands, saying they would take their protest into the streets of Tehran at 1030 GMT if they were not met.
They said they wanted the lifting of a ban on the pro-Khatami Salam daily, the annulment of tough new press restrictions and an end to the vetting of election candidates by conservative clerics of the Guardian Council.
The also wanted the execution of the police chief, held responsible for the crackdown, and the handover of bodies of students they say were killed in the clashes.
The students, who have consistently maintained that some of their classmates were killed, also declared Sunday a day of mourning. Under Shi''ite Moslem tradition, mourning ceremonies are held on the third, seventh and 40th day after death.
Late on Saturday, the Supreme National Security Council, chaired by Khatami, said in a statement that it had "decided to dismiss the official who ordered police to enter university dormitories and that he be dealt with according to regulations."
The council also said it would scrutinise Islamic vigilante groups and expressed its sympathy with dozens of students injured in the attacks.
But it stopped short of meeting earlier student demands to remove the police chief and it made no mention of persistent student reports that up to five of their classmates had died at the hands of police and the vigilantes.
It was not immediately clear whether the students would eventually accept the Council''s decision, which had the public backing of the supreme clerical leader.
Khatami''s own political faction confirmed the students'' reports of deaths and demanded the police chief pay for the affair with his job.
The Islamic Iran Participation Front, led by Khatami''s brother and comprising many senior government officials, offered in a statement the first high-level confirmation that some students had been killed in the clashes.
It provided no names or other details of the dead students.
There were also signs that Khatami and his reformist allies were prepared to back the students'' agenda.
The Islamic vigilantes are widely identified as members of the Ansar-e Hezbollah, which enjoys shadowy support from senior conservative figures.
On Saturday night, students fearful of renewed attacks posted guards at the gates to their dormitories and blocked surrounding streets with barricades made of wood, iron bars and old tires. Some set bonfires, while neighbourhood residents supplied them with food, water and cigarettes.
Earlier on Saturday some 10,000 students protested for a third day, blocking a major thoroughfare near the campus. They later marched across the capital to the interior ministry, their ranks swelled by supporters.
Iranian Minister Quits as Protests Spread
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran's minister of higher edcation and the chancellor of Tehran University resigned on Saturday in protest against a crackdown by police and Islamic hardliners on students demonstrating for democracy.
Minister Mostafa Moin and chancellor Mehdi Khalili Araqi submitted their resignations over police handling of the unrest after Moin apologised to the students and warned the security services had "paved the way for a national crisis."
There was no immediate word on whether President Mohammad Khatami would accept the resignations.
Some 10,000 students, joined by classmates at other Tehran universities, protested for the third consecutive day on Saturday and blocked a major thoroughfare near the campus.
They chanted slogans against the police chief, Hossein Lotfian, whose officers had abetted an attack on a peaceful student rally by hardline vigilantes armed with tear gas, sticks and stones.
The demonstrators demanded the release of fellow students arrested and the prosecution of those responsible for what they said were five deaths at the hands of police and their accomplices. There has been no official confirmation of any fatalities.
Student leaders later called a three-hour halt in a campus sit-in until 6 p.m. (1330 GMT) to give authorities time to consider their demands.
The official IRNA news agency reported similar protests at Gilan University in northern Iran and at Tabriz University in the northwest. Rallies in other cities were also planned.
The Tehran students and hardline vigilantes, some armed with clubs, fought scattered battles earlier on Saturday. "They are hitting the students and the students are hitting back," said a witness.
Demonstrators set fire to a motorcycle belonging to the vigilantes, identified as members of the Ansar-e Hezbollah, a group with shadowy ties to the Islamic establishment.
On Thursday, the vigilantes assaulted a student rally for press freedom as police stood by and were even accused of helping the attackers. Dozens of people were injured and arrested, and there were unconfirmed reports of up to five dead.
In his resignation letter to Khatami, education minister Moin said: "The tragic incident of the security forces entering Tehran University campus and beating up innocent students at midnight on Friday...is not acceptable for whatever reason.
"I consider this incident a suspicious measure aimed at plunging society into turmoil, sabotaging the trend of political development and undermining the Islamic republic system," he added.
A spokesman for the students, who was arrested and later released, told reporters he and his classmates had been "physically and mentally tortured during detention."
Saturday''s rally began as supporters of Khatami began a sit-in at the main campus, while many others marched from a dormitory complex several kilometres (miles) away. Some of the marchers covered their faces to disguise their identity.
Senior ministers expressed outrage at police actions and demanded accountability from their officers, a theme echoed by the students who called for supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene to stop the attacks.
The protests first began over the closure of a popular reformist newspaper and the approval by parliament of measures to curb the country''s fledgling press freedom. Demands have escalated to include thorough political reform and an end to the conservative grip on the main levers of state power, including the security forces.
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