Iran is continuing its crackdown on dissidents protesting irregularities in the country’s presidential elections with the arrest of 70 academics who met on Wednesday with challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.
The Kalemeh web site, which is linked to Mousavi’s campaign, reported that it was not known where the professors were taken. Other prominent dissidents, as well as at least 10 foreign journalists and some 26 Iranian reporters, have “disappeared” in a similar manner in recent days.
Despite the risk, protesters clashed again Wednesday with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s special Basij militia force, which has brutalized many of the demonstrators since the June 12 elections.
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Water cannons, tear gas canisters and batons wielded by riot police did not stop the protesters from continuing to defy a government ban on gatherings and demonstrations to protest the results of what they insist was a rigged election.
The crowd, which massed outside the Iranian parliament building, was forced back by armored vehicles. “Basiji [militiamen] beat people down like animals,” a local source told The Jerusalem Post. “It was like they were beating up dolls. The security forces were out for blood. Hundreds of them charged out of nowhere. The next thing we saw was fire, blood, and clouds of tear gas.”
A massive demonstration was planned for Thursday by Mousavi, who called for a ‘Sea of Green’ to blanket the central square in Tehran in what he said he hopes will be the largest protest on the streets of Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Mousavi’s trademark campaign color was green.
At least 17 people were reportedly shot to death by Basij militiamen, according to the AFP news agency, but it is impossible to know whether the number is accurate because of constrictions placed upon journalists in the field. Protesters said many more were wounded as well.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran both stressed in statements issued to the media that the government is holding hundreds of activists without access to lawyers or their families. Most have not been charged, and many risk being tortured.