Savage Attacks on Protestors who Refuse to Be Intimidated
Dozens Detained in Latest Round of Protests
(10 July 2009) Thousands of demonstrators commemorated the tenth anniversary of the student-led protests of 9 July 1999 in Tehran yesterday, despite a harsh crackdown by government forces. Dozens of protestors were detained.
Security forces and government-controlled Basij militia and plain clothes agents attacked the protestors, beating them viciously with batons, cables, and attempting to disperse them with heavy use of tear gas, several eyewitnesses told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“The people today came out to reclaim the streets as their own and to stand firm for their legitimate rights. Although they were mercilessly attacked yet again, they did not run or hide. Their message is they want their rights respected,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesman.
There were reportedly a large number of arrests: “In one location alone, I saw three police vans filled with protestors and taken away,” one eyewitness told the Campaign.
Plain clothes Intelligence agents combed the crowds to identify activists and detain them. Kaveh Mozaffari, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and a women’s rights activist was detained although he was not participating in protests.
Mozaffari was accompanying his mother- in- law to Mostafa Khomeini Hospital, on Italy street, near his home when Intelligence agents recognized and detained him.
According to the eyewitness accounts, regardless of the severity of the attacks aimed at dispersing the crowds, most protestors were determined to stay and claim their right to peacefully assemble. Eyewitnesses recounted the leading role of women in standing up to government forces, particularly middle-aged women who attempted to protect those coming under attacks. All witnesses expressed their shock at how old and young, men and women were targeted and beaten by government forces.
Basij militia and plain clothes agents continued to be a major part of government forces attacking protests, but the uniformed security forces also played a leading role in the attacks. Eyewitnesses reported an increasing number of juveniles among the ranks of the Basij militia.
“Many of the militia members were young boys under the age of eighteen, many more than in previous protests. Each of them was equipped with a baton,” an eyewitness reported.
The Campaign is seriously concerned about the exploitation of young boys as foot soldiers of the Basij militia, which is a serious violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“What was significant, in contrast to previous protests, was that people would not run away as they came under attack, but held their own. Particularly the women would respond to the security forces: “Why should we run? This is our country, this is our land, and we cannot be pushed out of our land. These sidewalks are ours. Who are you to tell us to go away, we shall not go,” an eyewitness told the Campaign.
“On Vali Asr intersection and in front of the City Theatre building people were beaten up with batons and attacked by tear gas, as well as by agents on motorcycles. A very fragile elderly woman, who was crossing the sidewalk, as she saw the beatings, urged the protestors not to be afraid. A security agent forcefully kicked her leg and sides and threw her into the ground. He hit her head with the palm of his hand and angrily yelled at her: ‘Shut up or I will strangle you. Get up and get lost,’” another eyewitness reported.
“Beatings of elderly persons were routine today. An elderly man was severely beaten near Revolution Square because he couldn’t walk fast as he was being told by the security forces. They threw him onto the ground, kicking and beating him. He was crying and moaning like a kitten,” she added.
The eyewitness also reported the savage beating of a young man who had come to the defense of the elderly man:
A young man started to call on the agents beating the old man: “How much did they give you to come here? A hundred dollars or two hundred dollars? You sold yourself just for that much? Is that what you are worth?” As soon as he uttered those words a group of nearly thirty agents attacked him. Women started screaming, hitting back the agents with their purses and key chains to rescue the young man. The agents shortly retreated. The young man’s body was covered with blood, I couldn’t recognize him as his face was bloodied. The agents managed to put a beige colored plastic handcuff on him, tightening it and without caring for his injuries, dragged him into a police van.
The Campaign called on the Iranian government to immediately remove its security and militia forces from public spaces and allow peaceful protestors to exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression as guaranteed by the Iranian constitution and international treaties to which Iran is a party.
“The government must realize that the collective will power of people to exercise their legitimate rights cannot be repressed day after day and that the Iranian people are demonstrating their determination not to give up these rights,” Ghaemi said.