The U.S. and British governments have expressed concern about a new
Iranian government crackdown on nationwide student-led protests.
Iranian security forces fired warning shots, tear gas and used batons
to disperse thousands of reformists who rallied Monday in Tehran
streets and universities.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the crackdown shows a
"disregard" for the kind of rights enshrined in Iran's constitution.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also expressed concern with
Tehran's use of force to "stifle" demonstrations, as he put it.
Opposition activists timed Monday's rallies to coincide with Iran's
annual Student Day commemorations. Many protesters chanted "death to
the dictator," a reference to Iran's leadership.
Several opposition activists were arrested, including student leader
Majid Tavakoli of Tehran's Amir Kabir University. Iran's state-run IRNA
news agency says Tavakoli tried to escape the university by disguising
himself as a woman, but was caught.
Iranian police also surrounded Tehran University and covered its fences
with white cloth to block the view of pro-reform rallies taking place
Pro-government conservatives held their own rally at the university to
mark the official theme of Student Day -- remembering three Iranian
students killed by security forces in 1953 for taking part in an
Reformist university students also rallied in the Iranian cities of
Mashhad and Kerman. Many of them covered their faces in green masks and
scarves, the color of the opposition movement of Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Mousavi issued a statement on his Web site saying the government is
losing its legitimacy by fighting people in the streets and trying to
Iranian cleric Mehdi Karoubi, another prominent reformist, said in an
interview published Monday that repression is not the answer. He told
the French newspaper Le Monde that the government must tolerate and accept criticism to achieve reconciliation.
Iranian authorities shut down mobile phone networks in central Tehran
to prevent opposition activists from mobilizing. The government also
banned foreign journalists from covering the Tehran protests, revoking
their work permits from December 7 to December 9.
Rights group Amnesty International accused Iranian security forces
Monday of using excessive force against demonstrators. It called on
Iran to release immediately all people detained for taking part in the
Iran's opposition held mass protests earlier this year after Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured a second term in a disputed June
election. The post-election demonstrations were the largest in Iran
since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.