Iran Tries to Control Demonstrations

Monday, December 07, 2009

Security forces and militia clashed with thousands of protesters shouting "death to the dictator" outside Tehran University today.

The Associated Press reports the riot police beat protestors with batons and fired tear gas at them, witnesses said.

The clashes occurred on the anniversary of December 7, 1953 student protests that killed three students. This year's are the largest protests in months. University students - a bedrock of support for the pro-reform movement - sought to energize the opposition with rallies at campuses across the country. The opposition has been reeling under a fierce crackdown since turmoil erupted over the disputed presidential election in June.

Thousands of police, Revolutionary Guard forces and pro-government Basij militiamen flooded the area around Tehran University, vowing to prevent any unrest from spilling out into the streets.

"There's anxiety that there will be violence and shooting," one Tehran University student, Kouhyar Goudarzi, told The AP in Beirut by telephone. "We are worried."

Banners and signs bearing slogans from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blanketed the tall campus fence, hiding whatever took place inside. Cell phone networks around the universities were shut down, and police and members of the elite Revolutionary Guard surrounded all the university entrances and were checking IDs of anyone entering to prevent opposition activists from joining the students, witnesses said.

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