PROTESTERS CLASHED WITH POLICE AT THE START OF IRAN MEETING

By Safa Haeri

BERLIN 7TH Apr. (IPS) The Conference on "Iran after the Elections and Dynamics of Reforms" started Friday in Berlin amid noisy protests, demonstrations, shouts and denunciation by tens of Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic.

Organised by the Heinrich Boll Institute and some Iranian pro-democracy groups in Germany, the meeting was disrupted for more than an hour due to protests and demonstrations that led to violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

At least three protesters, including one woman, were arrested briefly while many others were beaten up by plain cloth police and security men.

With shouts of "death to Islamic Republic" or "Akhound, go to Hell" or " Down with Murderers" the demonstrators were denouncing some of the participants to the first panel that included outspoken reformist cleric Hojatoleslam Hasan Yusefi-Eshkevari, secular Lawyer and human rights activist Mrs. Mehranguiz Kar, leading investigative journalists and researcher Akbar Ganji.

The demonstrators were protesting against the conference as the first speakers were hoping to see the venue serve as a "meeting point" between reformists Iranians of all walk living in Iran or outside.

All five participants at this evening's debate would agree that the reform process that is underway in Iran is "irreversible".

Mrs. Kar warned about new tensions, explaining that since it is unlikely that the next Majles could not responds to demands for democracy and human rights generated from the landslide victory of the reformists in the last legislative elections, conservatives may use the occasion to stir more trouble for the government.

According top Mrs. Kar, the next Majles priorities should concentrate of the most urgent problems Iranian women are facing in an Islamic society mixed with elements of republicanism.

Pointing to the noisy demonstrations, Hojatoleslam Yusefi-Eshkevari told the demonstrators what they were doing with their turbulence was a reeminder of "the violence we face every day back in Iran".

He pointed out that the last three elections that benefited the reformists and surprised the world proved that contrary to one may think, Iranians are keen about elections, knowing this is the only key in their hands with which they can open the door to a better life.

"The elections, he said, were not votes to this one or that one candidate, but to reforms, to democracy, to freedom and to independence", he added calmly as the small but noisy crowd of opponents would shout "Akhound (cleric) go to hell".

"Inside Iran, we are the victims of violence. Our hope was pinned on our brithers living abroad, thinking that they have learned the fundaments of democracy and they can teach us. However, what we see here is the replica of what we have in Iran", he told the demonstrators among cheering applaudes from the great majority of the packed auditorium.

Organisers said near one thousand people attended the opening of the three days confernece, the largest ever organised outside Iran.

"The future of Iran is bright, for the people have entered not the shortest but the most safe road to democracy", Mr. Eshkevari said, warning that growing division among the reformists, the absence of plans and projects and auto satisfaction from therecent victories are the dangers that menaces the reform camp.

Mr. Kazem Kardavani of the Committee for the Defence of the Chain Murders said not only the last elections proved the aspiration of the Iranians for freedom and democracy, it also showed clearly that they considers the present regime as "alien".

Like Mr. Ezzatollah Sahabi, the Editor and Publisher of the "Iran Farda" bi-weekly, Mr. Kardavani said one the most dramatic outcome of the Iranian Islamic revolution was the close co-operation, collaboration and common struggle of secular and clerical forces.

Astonishingly, Mr. Akbar Ganji, the journalist who with his relentless and daring investigations forces the authorities to admit that senior employee of the Information (Intelligence) Minister had murdered at least five Iranian dissident politicians and intellectual was jolted more than other four participants.

According to Mr. Ganji, the newly shaped civil society in Iran faces two dangers, coming from the conservative opposition inside and the terrorist organisation outside, as the two extremes joins, we see that mortars are fired at exactly the same time that apostles of violence in Iran mount new campaign against reformists.

Turning to the demonstrators, he said democracy can not be built with mortars. "those who denounce and condemn the reform in Iran are outside of the democratisation process, as experience has proved that revolution do not breed democracy, but violence", he observed.

The oppositon to the conference argued that the meeting is to help Germany strengthen further its relations with Iran. They also insisted that most of the participants have been hand picked as to project to Western opinion a positive image of the Islamic Republic, a regime that, they claim, has executed thousands of political prisoners and send more than three millions outside their homeland. ENDS IRAN BERLIN CONF 7400