REGIME’S BAN ON 9 JULY MEETINGS BACKFIRED ON THE RULING CLERICS

By Safa Haeri, IPS Editor

PARIS 10 July (IPS) The Iranian authorities ban on demonstrations and meetings aimed at commemorating the 9 July massacre of the first major students revolt against the clerical rulers and for democracy in Iran has badly backfired against the Islamic Republic, according to all Iranian and foreign analysts and commentators.

In a statement reported by the "Jomhoori Eslami" (Islamic Republic) newspaper that belongs to Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the lamed and extremely unpopular leader of the regime, former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered as the number two man of the regime said shamelessly "American plots to create troubles in order to overthrow the (Islamic) regime proved wrong. These events offered a nice picture of the might of the Islamic Republic and the weight of the Americans".

But he did not say that the regime has done all it could to prevent demonstrations, including intimidation of the students and the people, closing all universities and student’s dormitories, warnings to all local media and journalists against reporting any news about 9 July, curtailing the activities of foreign journalists based in Tehran, "flooding" popular foreign-based Iranian media with heavy parasite, thus making their reception in Iran almost impossible, the arrest of more than 5.000 students, demonstrators and political activists, and above all placing Tehran and major cities under a virtual state of emergency.

The Intelligence Ministry, controlled by President Mohammad Khatami’s government, had told all Iranian newspapers and journalists not to publish anything related to the 9 July 1999 events, not to talk to foreign-based media or report for Iranian internet websites, bypassing the authority Islamic Guidance and Culture Ministry on the matters related to the press.

Hence, the Iranian media’s total silence, except for the independent "Yas No", the only newspaper that reported the Intelligence Ministry’s order.

"There were five plainclothes thugs, basij militias and Ansar Hezbollah, armed with firearms for every would be demonstrator, cordoning off all the streets leading to universities", one journalist told Iran Press Service, reporting on the situation on 9 July.

But despite all these measures, described by some observers as "unprecedented in the past years", the students and thousands of Iranians in the capital and other cities, including smaller towns, took to the streets and once again, clashed with the regime’s pressure groups and expressed their opposition to the present theocracy by blaring their car’s horns, shouting slogans such as "death to Khameneh’i" and "long live democracy and secularism" and an end to all kind of discriminations.

The thugs used teargas and fired in the crowd of protesters, estimated by some eyewitness at more than ten thousands, arresting at least 60 people, among them Mr. Esma’il Jamshidi, a veteran independent journalist and member of the Iranian Writers Association and three students from the Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), students largest organization.

"The atmosphere is very tense, the smell of teargas is thick in the air. Police have clashed with youths, the youths have fought with basijis and I saw Police fighting basijis trying to get closer to the university", one witness told "The Times" of London.

"The conservatives, using the past two weeks daily protests as a rehearsal for what might take place on Wednesday (9 July), had mobilized all their forces, this against the students who had been tired of their day and nightly demonstrations in the one hand and the fact that most of their leaders had been arrested on the other, explaining why the students had, wisely though, decided not to stage any major protest movement on this day", Dr. Sadeq Ziba Kalam, a professor teaching international politics at Tehran University commented for the Persian service of the BBC.

"Showing more maturity and a better organization in their past protest movement, the students were able to mobilize Iranians all over the nation as well as both their compatriots outside and the international public opinion behind their cause and dealing a humiliating blow to the ruling conservatives", added Mr. Ahmad Salamatian, a veteran political analyst in Paris.

In commentaries on the Iranian students movement, international media and Iranian observers were unanimous saying the authorities ban on commemorating the 9 July 1999 savage crackdown was a major set back for the ruling mullahs and a great victory for both the students and Iranian people fighting for a democratic state.

The Judiciary, controlled directly by Mr. Khameneh’i, confirmed the arrest of at least 4.000 students and demonstrators, but independent sources put the number at more than 8.000, with another hundred abducted by plainclothes men.

The "Peykeiran" website (www.peyekeiran.com) said Thursday that the bodies of several missing students have been handed to their families, accompanied by warnings that they should not organize funerals or informing the media, "if not, they would also be arrested and reserved "the same fate" as their beloved ones".

"They told us that our children have been killed during the demonstrations, but in fact, they have been assassinated in prisons belonging to units of the Revolutionary Guards (controlled by the office of the leader), placed in specially made bags and beaten up to death with iron bars and electric cables", the website reported, quoting some of the bereaved families it did not named.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the general secretary of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the country’s largest political organization that has the majority in the Majles (the Iranian parliament), in a letter to the powerless Mohammad Khatami, his elder brother, disclosed that "rogue and parallel" security and intelligence units are busy fabricating documents, based on fake confessions against 60 political activists and dissidents, some of them members of the IIPF’s central and political bureaus".

Comparing the crackdown on Iranian students movement for democracy by the clerical rulers with that of the Chinese students protests on 4 July 1989 in the Tien An Men Square in Peking, the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Serra" wrote in an editorial on Thursday that the difference between the two crackdowns is that while the Chinese Communist authorities offered the students with jobs and some social freedoms, the Iranian authorities not only crushed all forms of freedoms, but had nothing to offer instead but unemployment and despair". ENDS STUDENTS UNRESTS 10703