Iran stops Turkish president greeting protesters
Monday night, Feb. 14, Iranian Basij heavies were still beating up thousands of anti-regime protesters who turned out in the streets of 30 cities during the day. In Tehran, one demonstrator was shot dead and two injured.
It was the first substantial demonstration the opposition had managed to stage since their big rallies against the rigged presidential election of 2009. They did not make a stand in one place but scattered across several city squares and outside the universities. The organizers who used Facebook and Twitter to mobilize them adopted this tactic to make it harder to disperse them.
Smaller rallies, which also drew thousands, were staged in the big towns outside Tehran including Tabriz, Tazd, Ahwaz, Mashad, Shiraz and Isfahan.
They won support from an unexpected quarter: debkafile reports exclusively that Turkish President Abdallah Gul on the second day of his official visit to Tehran accepted a demonstrators' invitation to join them. He agreed, but when his guards asked Iranian security to lay on an escort for the convoy to bring Gul to the greet the crowds, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped in. He told the security service to prevent the Turkish president getting anywhere near the demonstrators – even if this led to a diplomatic upset with Ankara. Gul gave up the plan, but the tension between him and Ahmadinejad was palpable when they addressed a joint news conference later in the day and their appearance was cut short.
Notably, President Gul was one of the first world leaders to offer public support for the demonstrations in Egypt from the moment they began.
More predictably, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday expressed support for the tens of thousands of protesters in Iran's capital, saying they "deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and are part of their own birthright." She spoke of the "hypocrisy" of the Iranian government that hailed the protests in Egypt but has tried to suppress opposition at home.
The slogans brandished by the demonstrators in Iran called for Freedom! Death to the Dictator! and "Mobarak, Ben-Ali, novbat-e-Seyyed-Ali!" They were telling Seyyed-Ali aka supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that it was his turn to go after the Egyptian and Tunisian rulers. Another sign read: "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, but Tunis, Egypt and Iran," an expression of contempt for Iran's meddling in Hizballah and Hamas affairs and its cost to the Iranian people.
According to our sources, demonstrators continued to gather in the streets of Tehran Monday night and shout anti-regime slogans. When chased away by security police, they regrouped in other places. A large crowd of warmly-dressed demonstrators were seen marching in the dark toward Azadi (Liberty) Square, hoping to barricade themselves there and carry on demonstrating Tuesday. But the police will never let them stay there.
During the day, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mouosavi and Mehdi Karroubi were placed under house arrest, heavy security forces patrolled the streets of Tehran and shut down subway stations to prevent demonstrators from traveling to the city center. The regime also jammed satellite news stations and tried to block the Internet.