Police brutality against opponents sample of Islamic Tolerance
By Safa Haeri
PARIS-TEHRAN 11TH Feb. (IPS) Iranian president Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami offered the world and the Iranians the best example of religious tolerance and Islamic democracy Saturday when heavily armed Police attacked a peaceful demonstration held by students calling for more freedom.
Eyewitnesses said Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), backed by Basij militia and the Ansar Hezbollah thugs attacked violently hundreds of students and youngsters who had responded to calls by Mr. Heshatollah Tabarzadi, the outspoken leader of the secularist Iranian National Democratic Front to voice their anger against the ruling religious authorities who become more and more violent and monopolistic.
It was the second running day that security forces, Basij volunteers and Ansar Hezbollah clashed with hundreds of demonstrators protesting the theocratic dictatorship and calling for a radical change in the Islamic Republic's system.
The anti-regime demonstrators were beaten by Police and the conservatives-controlled Ansar Hezbollah as Mr. Khatami, in a speech marking the twenty-second anniversary of the proclamation of the Islamic Republic in Iran, was offering the Iranian Islamic theocratic system as "a model" to the world and humanity".
Eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service that though Police and Basij rounded up more than 50 protesters but none of the attackers were arrested.
Supporters of Mr. Tabarzadi, joined by some students, member of the Office of Consolidating Unity and the Association of Students for the Defence of Political Prisoners, created by the jailed students leader Manuchehr Mohammadi.
"We gathered near Tehran University to protest the dictatorship faction in the establishment who keep students and writers in jail for demanding freedom and rule of law", Mr. Tabarzadi told The Associated Press.
"We gathered to warn that a revolution that promised freedom has now been seized by dictators who don't hesitate to trample upon the rights of the nation for the sake of retaining power against people's wishes."
His statement came as a sharp rebuke to the embattled President who, in his address to an officially organised gathering made of thousands of people chanting pro-government slogans, had described the Islamic system as one of the most democratic and tolerant in the world.
"Islamic democracy is our model for humanity. A system where the people are masters of their own destiny and choose their own government", he said, forgetting to add that the system has also a leader who not only is not elected by the people, but also enjoys ultra Constitutional powers and tightly controls all the system's institutions.
In a speech that was a copy-conform of those cherished by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the lamed leader, Mr. Khatami described all Iranians who are against the present regime as "traitors" to both the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic.
"In this regime, people have both democracy, religion and spirituality", mr. Khatami further said, without mentioning the demonstrations held just a day before and were hundreds of people had demanded a change in the regime.
Mr. Khatami also attacked the former Monarchy that, in his view, was a "pawn" in the hands of one super power. "A despotic regime ruled by a tyrant", he said, expressing at the same time his fear of the re-emergence of pro-monarchy sentiments in Iran. "The rulers who used to impose their despotic rule on the people with reliance upon military, security, police and judicial forces have now been toppled by the Islamic Revolution" he said, as police, security forces and pressure groups were beating peaceful demonstrators and the Islamic Judiciary has shut more than 30 publications and jailed a an equal number of influential journalists, intellectuals and reformer clerics.
On Friday, clashes between police and supporters of restoring the monarchy left some people wounded and dozens were arrested, witnesses said. The official Islamic Republic News Agency on Saturday quoted an unidentified police spokesman as saying that no one was injured Friday but that 50 were detained.
"None of those taking part in a Tehran demonstration protesting against "lack of freedom of expression" in Iran has been injured, IRNA said, adding that the police rejected foreign news agency reports that several demonstrators had been injured.
He said that police had dispersed about 300 to 400 demonstrators who had gathered at Mellat Park, in northern Tehran at 11 hours local time on Friday.
"Police intervened when the protesters embarked on holding an unauthorised rally and chanting slogans against what they called "lack of freedom of expression", the spokesman added, not mentioning that demonstrators had also carried slogans against Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i in the one hand and calling for ending the regime on the other.
Iranian opposition groups abroad had called upon their backers in Iran to lodge a demonstration in the country Friday in protest to Iran's Islamic system.
A spokesman for Prince Reza Pahlavi, the heir to the Monarchy that was toppled 22 years ago by an Islamic revolution said the Friday demonstrations was an echo to Mr. Pahlavi's last message to the Iranian people that was beamed by satellite into Iran.
But professor Sadeq Ziba Kalam of Tehran University said the last two days unrests were the results of the (conservatives) shutting all independent press, leaving the Iranian public with no other alternative but to listen to foreign media, particularly Iranian radio stations abroad.
"While criticism was a crime before the Islamic Revolution, it is a value today and criticising the statesmen is of great importance in Iran", he said, not mentioning that criticising the leader is an offence for which a dozen of journalists, most of them his own supporters, are in jail.
The president attacked those who distort the Islamic Revolution, reiterating again that the Islamic Republic is a "democratic system of government".
He defended the system of velayat faqih, or the rule of absolute ruler, saying that in the Islamic Republic of Iran nothing is more important than the Constitution. "Dividing religion from the democratic demands of the people would pose a threat to the Islamic Republic", he said, as students were demonstrating for the separation of religion from the State.
The Iranian clerical rulers marked the 22nd anniversary of the Islamic Republic as the regime faces more political and social unrests at home, where more and more people, particularly students and youngsters become restless with the despotic system and voice their anger, demanding an outright change in the regime.