1 Esfand: Can Iran Be Free?
Below is a video supposedly from today in Shiraz's Mulasadra Avenue:
Thousands of demonstrators chanting against the government poured into the streets in nationwide protests on Sunday, clashing with security forces trying to disperse them, according to witness accounts. In Tehran, protestors targeted government landmarks such as the national broadcast company Seda va Sima--seen as a mouthpiece for the regime--chanting "God is great," and "Death to the dictator," witnesses reported on opposition websites. Since early Sunday morning thousands of anti-riot police and Basij militia on motorbikes stood guard along the protest route all along Vali Assr Avenue, the capital's longest road that connects the affluent northern part of town to the poor southern neighborhoods.
0945 GMT: A Military Message? Some Internet eyebrows raised this morning by a report, on a Revolutionary Guard site, of a speech by the head of Iran's armed forces, Hassan Firouzabadi. Firouzabadi, ostensibly addressing generals in the Arab world, declared that a nation guided by divine principles "cannot be stopped by bullets": "Other governments must learn the lessons of Tunisia and Egypt and align themselves with their peoples." He pointed to the example of military commanders executed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to indicate what happens to those who don't defend the new nation. On the surface, that is a call to militaries in Arab countries to uphold the "proper" revolution. But, with rumours of splits in Iran's military forces swirling, some are wondering if Firouzabadi might be sending a message closer to home. And there's another theory: Firouzabadi's references to the past 30 years and puts out the message that a regime cannot win by oppression. So if that is true in Egypt and Tunisia, could the head of the military be indicating that it is also true in Iran?
Pro-Ahmadinejad Fars News Agency claims this today: total calm in Tehran. Internet connection has been slowed down by the government, Rahe Sabz reports. It also adds that cell phone lines have been disconnected in Central Tehran. Khamenei's website has been rendered useless by cyber attacks. BBC Persian reports of clashes in the intersection between Mirdamad Avenue and Valiasr Avenue of the use of tear gas on protesters. Witnesses are telling BBC that today, there are more security forces on the streets of Tehran than February 14.
Scott Lucas links to analysis by The Newest Deal:
The Islamic Republic finds itself in a precarious position. As protests in Egypt grew, the regime could no longer stay silent on such a seismic shift in its backyard. The official spin -- calling it an Egyptian "Islamic awakening" -- was of course necessitated by its own crackdown on post-election protests in 2009 and into last year. While such propaganda may serve well with older and more susceptible classes, Iran's youth knows the power of information and watched Egypt's youth achieve what they could not: the overthrow of their ruling dictatorship. The hypocrisy of Khamenei's praise towards Egypt has surely not been lost on them.
From the Guardian's Saeed Kamali Dehghan:
Opposition websites say that the riot police and plain-clothes basiji militia are using tear-gas and wielding batons to disperse protesters in different locations in Tehran. The demonstrations are larger than the one last week that left two people dead.
Update from a correspondent at Frontline's Tehran bureau:
9:25 p.m. I walked from Vali Asr Square to Vali Asr Crossing to Enghelab Square towards Azadi Square. People (hundreds of thousands I think) were walking densely in the sidewalks, with smiles on their faces. It seems that the security forces were given specific orders not to engage with the demonstrators unless they start shouting slogans. I saw many many Basijis and anti-riot police and plainclothes and bikes and so on. With the events of Feb 14 protests, people seemed to prefer demonstrating in silence in order to reduce the level of tension and violence.
NYT characterizes the day's protests as squelched:
Despite a steady rain, large crowds of protesters gathered throughout Tehran, the capital, from the main thoroughfare to city squares, according to opposition Web sites and witnesses. Those sites and witnesses reported that ambulances were being driven into crowds and officers were making arrests. Security forces, some on motorcycles, deployed tear gas to disperse crowds near Valiasr Square. A hazy cloud of tear gas hung over Vanak Square.
Plainclothes officers randomly stopped and frisked people on the streets and removed people from vehicles, witnesses said. There were reports of police officers firing on the crowds, although that could not be immediately verified because foreign journalists were largely not allowed to report in Iran.
EA looks ahead:
1635 GMT: It Ain't So. The Deputy Governor of Tehran is denying anyone has been killed in clashes today. The denial is carried in Fars News, which earlier today reported "total calm" in Tehran. However, Fars breaks that line to report on the arrest and release of Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (see 1547 GMT). Fars says she ws freed when she denied she was making "provocative statements" but was merely out shopping.
1655 GMT: After Dark. Daneshjoo News is claiming that protests are expanding in Tehran tonight, including in Mirdamad, 7 Tir Square, and Vanak Square.
Meanwhile in Libya, the BBC reports:
Details have emerged of huge casualty figures in the Libyan city of Benghazi, where troops have launched a brutal crackdown on protesters. More than 200 people are known to have died, doctors say, with 900 injured. The most bloody attacks were reported over the weekend, as funeral marches were said to have come under machine-gun and heavy weapons fire.