Iranian Riot Police Roughly Break Up Ceremony To Mourn Slain Neda Agha-Soltan
A new burst of resistance and some allegations of rough police treatment mark events in Iran where riot police reportedly have broken up gathering mourners at the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young Iranian woman whose videotaped shooting and bleeding-death at a June 20 demonstration was You Tubed around the world, turning her into a symbol of the regime’s repression and brutality.
The stories covering today’s events are breaking now — but not all reports agree on the extent of the police reaction. And one analyst notes that reports and demonstrations do not necessarily add up to the kind of revolution suggested by mainstream and new media stories, posts and headlines. The L.A. Times reports:
Thousands and possibly tens of thousands of mourners, many of them black-clad young women carrying roses, overwhelmed security forces today at Tehran’s largest cemetery to gather around the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose videotaped shooting at a June 20 demonstration stunned the world.
“Death to the dictator,” those in the long procession of mourners converging on the burial site chanted, kicking up a storm of dust as they walked. “Neda is not dead. This government is dead.”
Uniformed security forces initially clashed violently today with some of the mourners, supporters and leaders of the opposition, who were trying to publicly mourn protesters who died in the recent unrest. Unsuccessful presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi attempted to attend the graveside ceremony marking the religiously significant 40th day since the death of Agha-Soltan and others killed in the fighting.
“Oh, Hossein! Mir-Hossein,” the mourners chanted in support of him.
According one witness, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, Mousavi stepped out of his car only to be surrounded by police, who forced him back into his vehicle and out of the cemetery.
At first mourners were confronted by the security forces, who struck them with truncheons and arrested some in an attempt to bar them from gathering at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery, the country’s largest. The tree-lined streets leading to the graves of Agha-Soltan and others were blocked by riot police, the witness said.
News reports said hundreds of people gathered around Ms. Agha-Soltan’s grave as Mr. Moussavi arrived at the cemetery. He approached the grave, but the police forced him to return to his car before he could offer prayers. He drove off as arguments broke out between mourners and police, these reports said.
The authorities had earlier denied permission to hold a formal mourning ceremony.
Other reports said the police arrested mourners and tried to force them to disperse, but there were conflicting reports about the extent of the police action.
The Associated Press put the number of opposition supporters at the cemetery at about 1,000, some of them chanting Mr. Moussavi’s name and “death to the dictator.” About 500 policemen stood by but did not use force to break up the gathering, The A.P. said, quoting witnesses who asked not to be identified out of security concerns.
The English-language state-owned television broadcaster, Press TV, later reported that the police dispersed the demonstrators.
Earlier, when Mousavi arrived at the site, hundreds of police surrounded him. As several hundred supporters chanted his name, police forced Mousavi to leave Behesht-e Zahra, the vast cemetery on Tehran’s southern outskirts where many of those killed in the nearly 7-week-old crackdown have been buried, the witnesses said.
Afterward, his supporters remained at the grave, chanting, “Death to the dictator,” as the crowd swelled to several thousand, said the witnesses who asked not to be identified out of security concerns. The police charge came when an ally of Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi – who was also a candidate in the June 12 election – tried to give a speech. Even after the clash, thousands of supporters continued to visit Soltan’s grave.
Before the clashes, police arrested two prominent Iranian filmmakers when they tried to lay flowers at Soltan’s grave. One of them was Jafar Panahi, best known for his film “The Circle,” which was critical of the treatment of women under the Islamist government and was banned in Iran. A female documentary maker, Mahnaz Mohammadi, was arrested with him.
The memorial service marked the end of the 40-day mourning period under Islam for 10 people killed in protests and clashes on June 20, including Soltan.
Today was the 40th day since Soltan’s death, an important day in the Shiite mourning cycle. Shiite Islam venerates its martyrs (one of their most important holidays, Arbaeen – or 40 – is essentially a 40-day mourning period for the prophet’s grandson Hussein, who was killed in battle 1,300 years ago) and public commemorations of deaths often have political overtones.
In the run-up to the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution, the clergy and their young supporters used the Shiite cycle of mourning for opposition members killed by the Shah’s security forces to mobilize support. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful man in Iran’s theocratic system, his ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other forces in government have sought to defend themselves against such tactics by repressing dissent, refusing to issue permits, and seeking to turn the anger of Iranians toward Western agents – rather than their own grievances – as the catalyst for the past six weeks of unrest.
Ms. Soltan’s mother had encouraged Mousavi and other reformist politicians to attend the commemoration, which she had requested also be treated as a memorial for other victims of the post-election violence. Their application for a permit to hold the event was not approved.
What does it mean? The bottom line is that it means resistance towards the government and rejection of the legitimacy of the results of the elections remain.
But does this signify signs of something that can dislodge the regime — a revolution or a quasi revolution? RealClearPolitics’ Editor Kevin Sullivan, writing on The Huffington Post, suggests the “r” word is being overused:
In the days and weeks following the hotly contested Iranian presidential election, many western analysts, journalists and pundits — and even some respected Iran experts — have seemingly become imbued with a kind of revolutionary hubris. Inspired by the brave young Iranians who have taken to the streets of Tehran and elsewhere on behalf of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, these commentators quickly grabbed the banner of the “green” revolutionaries, and subsequently took to their respective columns and blogs in solidarity with these daring Mousavites. A democratic revolution was afoot, and it became their job — no, their responsibility — to catalog the accounts of this historic event.
Just one problem remained: there was little evidence of any such revolution.
Hundreds of thousands of justifiably outraged Iranians did indeed march in protest of the likely fraudulent election results, demanding that their votes be counted and their voices be heard. And while these demonstrations were at first large and impactful, they quickly — and understandably — dissipated once the oppressive Iranian police state began to flex its muscle. The political fallout that would soon follow resembled more an internal conflict of high profile insiders than a national sea change, as entrenched elites with conflicting interests embedded themselves with their preferred side.
But while the crowds began to dwindle in Iran, the opinion pages and blog postings of several leading news outlets and analysts continued to confuse the embers of factional discontent for a raging wildfire. Undaunted, the Commentariat soon became awash with every tweet, text and second-hand account of “revolution” coming from inside the Islamic Republic. Any week, day, even minute, the regime was bound to crumble. Right?
Go to the link to read in full the details why revolution may be a word not necessarily accurate in this case..