Saturday, June 20, 2009

The crackdown begins in Iran?

If you turn up the sound, you can hear the sounds of shooting (and/or tear gas grenades) in the background. The following come from the Guardian's "Iran protests" blog:

Police have clashed with protesters in Iran as the opposition movement continue its street protests against re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in defiance of threats from the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. [....]

"Protest leaders and responsible for bloodshed," the Khamenei's official English-language website ominously declares. [....]

Basij militia have been seen in large numbers in Tehran carrying clubs and rifles, according to witnesses cited by AFP (via France24).

Iran's deputy national police commander said that police will arrest all those who attend today's protest, according to al-Jazeera.

An update from a Twitter user in Tehran says the streets are full of riot police in Ebghelab square. [....]

An unconfirmed tweet from a usually reliable source says Mousavi is walking from his Ettelaat office to the ministry of interior and that 10,000 people are with him.

Photos, claimed to be taken today, show several rows of riot police.

The BBC says its witness have seen hundreds of riot police in Enghelab Square.

Al-Jazeera also reports a heavy police presence, but points out that it is difficult to verify because phones are jammed. [....]

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Tehran, admitted on the World Service that he cannot tell if the rally is actually happening, because of the restrictions on reporting. The Guardian's reporters in Iran are in no position to comment either

The entrance to Tehran's Revolution Square, is blocked by fire engines, according to AP. It also reports that riot police have surrounded Tehran University.

Several unconfirmed tweets claim that protesters have clashed with the police. Some claim the police have used batons. [....]

There are heavy clashes on Azadi Street, and chants of death to Khamenei, according to this regularly updated live blog from Iran. It also reports intense clashes on Enghelab Square. It's impossible to verify this at the moment.

Witnesses: police using tear gas, water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters in Tehran, says a flash on AP. [....]

One person has been killed in an explosion near the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, according to the Fars News Agency.

Two people were injured, Reuters quotes it saying. State TV has the same report, according to AP. [....]

More on that explosion at the shrine: "A suicide bomber was killed at the northern wing of Imam Khomeini's shrine. Two people were injured," Fars news agency said, according to Reuters.

Khamenei talked about the threat of terrorism
in his speech yesterday.

"Street demonstrations are a target for terrorist plots. Who would be responsible if something happened?" he said.

Protesters are being shot at in Azadi Street, according to an unconfirmed report from Saeed Valadbaygi.

An eyewitness in Enghelab square reports around 20,000 riot police, made up of Basiji militiamen and soldiers, and armed with rifles, tear gas and water cannons.

The eyewitness saw dozens of people beaten by riot police in an attempt to frighten them into evacuating the square, with one young man being beaten to the ground by four policemen. [....]

The eyewitness reports riot police attacking people on passing motorbikes and, on occasion, innocent passersby who have no way of escaping the heavy police presence. Nonetheless, there are thousands of Mousavi supporters, marching peacefully near the square, where they have been subjected to these brutal reprisals from the police.

Across Tehran, there is widespread fear and panic, with many desperate to know what is going on in Enghelab square, but unable to find out due to reporting restrictions. Now the question seems to be: what will Mousavi do next? [....]

Moussavi seems to be out of sight, so it's possible he has been arrested. I expect that bits and pieces of news will keep dribbling out, but the expulsion or restriction of foreign journalists will make it hard to put together a comprehensive picture of what's going on. --Jeff Weintraub