Demonstrations and violent police actions on the streets of Tehran continued late into Saturday night and state television reported at least 10 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when police clashed with “terrorists.” Witnesses reported that the police used live ammunition, batons, tear gas and water cannons to disrupt demonstrations and prevent protesters from assembling in large crowds. The official reports, which cannot be confirmed, accused “rioters” of setting two gas stations and a mosque ablaze in protest at a disputed poll result. Meanwhile, Iran’s most senior dissident, cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, called for three days of national mourning for those killed in street protests. If Montazeri, who lost out in a power struggle to Ayatollah Khamenei two decades ago, becomes active in support of the opposition, the regime could face an even more dangerous challenge to its religious legitimacy.
State media also say five relatives of one of Iran’s most powerful figures, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were arrested during the protests, including his eldest daughter, Faizeh, who has spoken out against the regime. This report, coming on the heels of a previous report that two of Rafsanjani’s children were denied permission to leave the country, indicates an increasingly bitter split between the former president and the current regime that could eventually lead to house arrest or even show trials for Rafsanjani and his family, if the regime succeeds in crushing the opposition protests.
President Obama came down off the fence and issued a statement that directly addressed the Iranian government for the first time yesterday, saying: “We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.” The president warned the regime that “the world is watching” and reiterated “[a]s I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”
For more on Iran, see Iran Briefing Room.