Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bloody confrontation in Baharestan Square

Following up a previous post ... it appears that there was indeed a large-scale blow-up today in Baharestan Square in Tehran, by the Parliament building. Here are some highlights from the Washington Post report, which conveys a sense of what the street confrontations in the capital look like since Saturday, when the regime began to ratchet up the level of violent force used against demonstrators:
Iran's supreme leader told a group of lawmakers Wednesday that "neither the system nor the people will submit to bullying" over the results of the disputed presidential election, and riot police backed by militiamen later forcibly broke up a demonstration at the parliament building in support of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. [....]

Security forces -- including regular police from all over Tehran, helmeted riot police officers and members of a force known as "Robocops" for their full body armor and special equipment -- converged on Baharestan Square to prevent a demonstration from taking shape. They were supported by members of the pro-government Basij militia and plainclothes agents who infiltrated the protesters, witnesses said.

"Robocops" riding motorcycles fired large handguns into the air as they charged up and down Republic Street and other nearby avenues, one witness said. A helicopter circled overhead. Some of the police carried paintball guns, which have been used in recent demonstrations to mark protesters for arrest. [....]

In one confrontation between protesters and Basij members, a middle-aged woman wearing a light-blue headscarf and a black coat angrily refused orders to leave. "I'm going to stay here and see how many people you kill today," she told the Basij. A plainclothes agent emerged from the crowd, swore at the woman and took out a pair of handcuffs to arrest her. Other people tried to stop the agent, but Basij members rushed them and beat them with clubs, the witness said. [....]

Bystanders and protesters alike were caught up in the violence.

At a corner of Republic Street, a main center for printing shops, a young engaged couple fled into an alley to escape a charge by club-wielding security forces. "Why are they attacking me?" the woman cried. "I only came here to print my wedding cards!"

The situation appeared to grow more violent as dusk fell, witnesses said.

In Twitter feeds, people who said they witnessed the crackdown described protesters with broken limbs and cracked heads, saying there was "blood everywhere" from the beatings. One said many people had been arrested. Another said people were being beaten "like animals." [....]
Andrew Sullivan highlighted this bit:
In an unusual exchange, he said, a child walked up to a regular police colonel and, gesturing toward truckloads of riot police, asked him, "Who are those guys?" The colonel replied with apparent disdain, "They're cows."
Hundreds of Iranians have been arrested since the elections. A senior official of Iran's judiciary, which is controlled by the ruling Shiite Muslim clerics, said a special court would try detained protesters, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The government has vowed to make an example of detained "rioters."

"Those arrested in recent events will be dealt with in a way that will teach them a lesson," the official, Ibrahim Raisi, was quoted as saying. "The rioters should be dealt with in an exemplary way, and the judiciary will do that." Raisi did not elaborate.
--Jeff Weintraub