Iranian Lawmakers Call for Opposition Leaders' Execution
In the wake of rising protests Iranian lawmakers have called for the execution of two opposition leaders for incitement, Iranian State Television reported Tuesday morning. Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi, both former presidential candidates, were denounced by Iran's parliament for calling on supporters to gather in Adazi Square in Tehran, the focal point of protests over Iran's disputed presidential elections in 2009.
Parliamentarians in Iran's plenum raised fiery chants of "death to Karrubi! Death to Moussavi!" on Tuesday.
Calls for Karrubi and Moussavi's execution come in the wake of a particularly deadly month of January in Iran, during which at least 66 people were executed. Most executions were reportedly for drug related offenses, but at least three of the executed were political prisoners, according to the United Nations.
Iran's leaders praised the revolution in Egypt, but sternly warned of a harsh reaction to any unrest at home. Despite the warnings, tens of thousands gathered on Monday, clashing with police forces who used tear gas and warred with protesters in an attempt to disperse the angry crowds -- the largest to gather since the brutally suppressed protests of 2009. Videos show protestors being chased and beaten, while dozens were detained. One protestor was shot and killed, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Others were injured and listed in serious condition due to the shooting.
According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency nine members of Iran's security forces were injured by protesters, who were dispersed and cleared from Tehran by nightfall. Iran's Deputy Chief of Police, Ahmad Reza Radan, characterized the protests as "illegal gatherings" asserting the gatherings were "directed from America, England, and Israel." Radan also fumed at opposition leaders saying, "The hands of sedition leaders [sic] are drenched in blood and they should answer for these actions."
Much of the information about the protests is flowing through unconventional sources as foreign journalists were denied visas and accredited journalists living in Iran were not allowed to cover the demonstrations. Internet speeds in Iran slowed to a snail's pace in what many believe is an attempt by the government to impede protest organization and stanch the flow of information out of the country. Nevertheless, protest videos showing throngs of demonstrators marching and burning posters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were uploaded to video hosting sites on the Internet.
Due to fear of retribution witnesses are not available to authenticate the videos, but they appear to indicate unrest was not restricted to Tehran, with videos showing demonstrations in other cities, such as Isfahan and Shiraz. Shortly after the crackdown Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the significance of the protests, saying the protesters wanted to overshadow Friday's rallies celebrating the 32nd anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. The protesters, the president insisted, "just wanted to tarnish the Iranian nation's brilliance."
"It is clear the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a nation that wants to shine, conquer peaks and change [its international] relations," Ahmadinijad said. He confidently added, "Of course, there is a lot of hostility against the government. But they knew that they would get nowhere." Apparently not sharing their president's insouciant assessment of the protests, parliamentarians demanded the opposition leaders' deaths.
The international community has called on Iran to respect the rights of its citizens to protest. Noting Iran's hypocrisy vis-a-vis supporting protests in Egypt, US President Barack Obama sharply criticized the Iranian regime, stating, "I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully."
Israel's President, Shimon Peres, addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Wednesday, said, "It was very unfortunate seeing Ahmadinejad's parliament calling for the opposition's murder." Peres observed: "We are entering a major chapter in the history of Israel and the Middle East. An amazing change is taking place here. What we saw in Egypt was a revolution without leaders."