x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Riot police use tear gas to disperse protesters

Security forces disperse hundreds of protesters who tried to hold a rally at Tehran's 7-Tir square yesterday in remembrance of those killed in earlier protests.

TEHRAN // Security forces dispersed hundreds of protesters who tried to hold a rally at Tehran's 7-Tir square yesterday in remembrance of those killed in earlier protests and in defiance of the threat by the Revolutionary Guards Corps to crush any protests. The protesters, who walked in small groups from the streets leading to the square were pushed back by riot police, Basij militia and plainclothes officers who used tear gas to disperse them.

Many protesters went back several times but were pushed back by the hundreds of security forces who did not allow them to get together to form any bigger groups. "They are wrong if they think they can stop us," a protester said on Twitter. "We will gather on the streets again and again and wear them off. We will revenge the blood of those who were killed." Other protesters kept walking up and down Karim Khan Boulevard that leads to the square where security people were seen in the hundreds, eyewitnesses said.

In a statement released yesterday the Revolutionary Guards warned protesters of a "decisive and revolutionary confrontation" should they continue to take to the streets. "We warn the main elements behind the riots and their deceived supporters to halt their acts of sabotage and end their riots or be prepared for a decisive and revolutionary confrontation with the guards, Basij and other security and disciplinary forces," the statement said.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader who has led a wave of massive protests over what he says was a rigged election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, urged supporters to continue demonstrating but to adopt "self-restraint" to avoid more bloodshed. Western governments, alarmed at the turmoil that has engulfed the Islamic republic for 10 days, began urging nationals to avoid travel to Iran while the EU dismissed allegations of western meddling, Agence France-Presse reported,

Britain, in the firing line from Tehran, said it is pulling out relatives of embassy staff, on the eve of a planned rally outside the mission, which students have warned could be a repeat of the 1979 US Embassy siege. State radio said at least 457 people had been detained in street clashes in Tehran on Saturday that left 10 people dead, bringing the overall toll from a week of violence to at least 19.

The Guardians Council, the election watchdog, acknowledged some discrepancies in the June 12 vote but insisted they would not effect the outcome, while the opposition is insisting not on a recount but a new vote. Since the turmoil began, Iranian security forces have cracked down on demonstrators and many hundreds of protesters as well as prominent reformists, journalists and analysts have been arrested.

Footage broadcast on the internet has shown scenes of brutal violence in Tehran, with one video viewed by hundreds of thousands around the globe purportedly showing a bloodstained young woman named Neda, reportedly killed when hit by a bullet in Tehran. Yesterday's rally was said to have been called to pay tribute to Neda. The foreign media are barred from covering demonstrations, effectively keeping their journalists off the streets, but Iranians have been using such social networking sites as Twitter and Facebook to get news to the outside world.

World leaders voiced mounting alarm over the unrest, which has jolted the pillars of the Islamic regime and raised concerns over the future of the Shiite Muslim powerhouse, the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Iranian leaders have responded by lashing out at "meddling", particularly by the United States and Britain, and accused the foreign media, already facing tight restrictions on their work, of fomenting the unrest.

The foreign ministry took aim at the BBC and Voice of America, saying they were Israeli agents who aimed to "weaken the national solidarity, threaten territorial integrity and disintegrate Iran". Britain warned its nationals against all but essential travel to Iran. * With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse