February 16, 2011
Yesterday and today the people of Tehran and other Iranian cities called the leader of the Islamic republic a dictator and declared that after Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali, it was now seyed Ali Khamenei’s turn to be booted out.
The protestors to the rigged 2009 presidential elections chanted various slogans in unison that asked ayatollah Khamenei to follow Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak’s example and resign. At night, many took to building rooftops and repeated “death to the dictator” chants, a protest gesture that developed and became massively popular during the 1979 revolution when people called out Allaho Akbar.
The demonstrations were a response to calls by opposition figures Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, both prevented from joining the masses because they have been put under house arrest. Requests for the rally, originally planned to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Egypt and other protestors in the Middle East, were denied by Iranian authorities who had threatened to crush the demonstrators with full force. Ironically, officials of the Islamic regime who had welcomed the Egyptian demonstrators and had declared them to be the continuation of the 1979 Iranian uprising, denied a permit to Iranians to hold a solidarity rally in support of Egyptians. But people still poured into the streets to air their grievances at the officials of their own government and regime.
Rooz reporters and witnesses reported violent beatings of demonstrators in the streets of the capital, sounds of gunfire, and the use of tear gas against the demonstrators. According to these reports, two protestors were wounded because of gunfire while one was killed because of it. A YouTube video clip showed a young man wounded in the leg as he lay on the ground. Other video clips showed demonstrators in the streets late into the night, lighting fires.
Mousavi and Karoubi Prevented From Joining
Mousavi and Karoubi, both presidential hopefuls in 2009 who had held the highest offices in the Islamic republic in the past, had decided to go ahead with their call for the demonstrations despite the official rejection of their requests but were prevented from joining the protestors. Officials had imposed a complete communications denial on the leaders of the Green Movement days before the demonstrations. Mousavi’s website Kalameh reported that the cul-de-sac on which Mousavi lived had been blocked off by a police vehicle preventing anyone from getting to the house. Mousavi’s personal security guards had been told not to leave their posts and Mousavi’s car keys had been confiscated by security officials enforcing the barricade.
Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard had planned to join the demonstrators on foot, but the van blocking their street even prevented that.
In another part of Tehran, Mehdi Karoubi’s house too had been cordoned off since Thursday, while his telephone lines had been blocked completely as well. He too was prevented by security agents from leaving his house during the demonstrations, as was his wife.
Other reports indicated that the houses of others such as Mohammad Khatami and Abdollah Nouri too were cordoned, preventing them from leaving their homes.
But despite this, thousands of demonstrators hit the streets to chant “Death to the Dictator.”
Tehran Against the Dictator
While there were few reporters and journalists in Tehran covering the demonstrations, there were plenty of security and military forces across the capital and other major cities, said to be even larger than in the previous popular demonstrations following the 2009 rigged elections. As the day progressed, so did the size of the crowds in the streets.
According to Rooz reporters, military unites strived to prevent the formation of large crowds. According to eye witness reports, the military employed every means to prevent people from reaching Azadi square to join others. The square is the symbolic center of protestors in Iran, similar to Tahrir square in Cairo.
In addition to gear gas guns, the military units carried two other types of weapons, a pellet firing gun and a paint firing gun. Those against whom the pellet gun was used were immediately surrounded by the military personnel who would start beating up the victim with batons. The paint ball shots inflict pain in addition to throwing paint on the victim.
There were also plain clothes agents and militiamen who mostly rode on motorbikes and were in groups. Security forces were stained in squares and next to the Revolutionary Guard forces. Most of the violent attacks were conducted by the camo units of the Guards and the regular Guards.
According to reports, the demonstrator who had poured into the streets were large in size so much that they were surprised with their numbers. What was significant in the demonstrations and the chants was that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not the target this time and all the attention was on the supreme leader, against whom they chanted slogans.
One eye witness reported seeing “motorbiked militiamen patrolling the streets, as marchers and demonstrators called out Allaho Akbar from the sidewalks. The riders did not try to engage with the marchers as they were clearly outnumbered. Then the marchers moved from the side walk to the street and began shouting anti Khamenei slogans and chanting ‘Death to the Dictator.’ The bikers then tried to push the demonstrators back onto the sidewalk using batons to beat them. On Kargar Avenue in northern Tehran, the military used tear gas against demonstrators as smoke filled the air.”
Similar reports from other parts of Tehran speak of wide demonstrations across the capital, as different military and militia units strived to break up the demonstrators using tear gas, batons and bullets. Units of the Revolutionary Guards violently attacked people, beating them up in an attempt to disperse them. But the crowds would reform soon after every clash and continue on their way to Azadi square, in the western part of Tehran. Some of the Guard units wore gear to hide their faces, with the eyes being the only part of their face that was visible.
One eye witness reported that he saw military men chase a man who succeeded in climbing a bridge. When the person refused to come down after being yelled at by a guard, the guard pulled out a gun and fired at the crows, creating welding-type sparks as he missed his target and hit the metal bars of the bridge. He wanted to continue firing but was stopped by other guards because of the huge size of the demonstrators who could have responded massively.
In other parts of the city, reports indicated that demonstrated set trash cans on fire as security and military men tried to prevent other people from getting to the spots and the site turning into a rallying point for the demonstrators. The security units on motor bikes engaged in such violent tactics that they harassed even regular by standers close to those demonstrating.