Iran Protesters Reportedly Attacked ‘Like Animals’ by Security Forces

After a few days of relative calm, opposition demonstrators again sought to organize a rally to demand a full accounting of all ballots cast in the 12 June presidential election. Sporadic reports from the capital, Tehran, say demonstrators were confronted by a heavy security presence when trying to assemble for a pro-democracy rally. An eyewitness has reportedly said security forces were beating people like “animals”.

CNN cites an unnamed source at the site of the demonstration saying “I see many people with broken arms, legs, heads — blood everywhere — pepper gas like war”. One report suggests “500 thugs” stormed onto the streets where demonstrators were massing and began beating people with clubs. Tensions may be worsening as the Guardian Council has announced there is apparent widespread fraud in 50 cities, but the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamene’i, appears to be promising not to cancel or overrule the election result due to fraud allegations.

Khamene’i has said the results will stand and he will “insist on implementing the law”, adding that “Neither the establishment nor the nation will yield to pressure at any cost”. Khamene’i has sought to paint the opposition demonstrators as the faction that refuses to honor democratic processes or the will of the people, by challenging the official vote count.

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The White House has released its own Persian-language (Farsi) translation of Pres. Obama’s remarks on the crisis, to avoid Iranian state media disseminating false translations accusing Obama of seeking to incite riots or overthrow the regime. Observers inside and outside Iran have in recent days criticized the government for seeking to use foreign governments as scapegoats to promote the idea of a military crackdown against demonstrators, backed by the logic of national security.

Iran has been attempting to diminish the opposition by associating its demonstrations with foreign governments considered hostile to Iran and with senseless street violence. Some official statements have appeared to paint the demonstrators as part of an organized attempt to overthrow the government. The UK and Iran both expelled diplomats from the other nation this week, in an increasingly contentious back-and-forth between the Iranian leadership and figures in the international community who have called for calm and for a fair vote count.

Zahra Rahnavard, a former university dean and the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has said his supporters will not be cowed by the government’s increasingly hardline security crackdown. Rahnavard said in a statement posted on the web that her husband’s supporters have a constitutional right to free assembly and that the government should not treat them “as if martial law has been imposed in the streets”. Article 27 of Iran’s constitution does guarantee freedom of assembly.

UPDATE, 19:39 GMT: A group of clerics reportedly joined demonstrations calling for an examination of or nullification of ballots cast in the disputed presidential election. CNN reported last night that “In a blatant act of defiance, a group of Mullahs took to the streets of Tehran, to protest election results that returned incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.”

In another development, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, has called for Iranian state television to grant airtime to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, so he can explain the complaints he has about the election process. A spokesman for the committee investigating election irregularities is quoted as saying “the biased behavior of [IRIB] has fueled the current situation and some authorities including the speaker of parliament are critical of this [behavior]“.

More reporting on Iran crisis, from Cafe Sentido:

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