Navigate to News section

Day Twelve in Tehran

Protests, bloodshed, and intransigence

Allison Hoffman
June 24, 2009
Students burn mock flags in a protest outside the British Embassy in Tehran yesterday.(AFP/Getty Images)
Students burn mock flags in a protest outside the British Embassy in Tehran yesterday.(AFP/Getty Images)

If Twitter is to be believed, today’s opposition protests outside Iran’s parliament have turned deadly; several papers, including the London Times, are running unconfirmed reports from bloggers inside Iran who claim three people have been shot, while the messaging service itself is teeming with reports of tear gas and widespread beatings and arrests in Baharestan Square. “Situation today is terrible—they beat the ppls like animals,” wrote PersianKiwi, one of the most frequently cited Twitterers.

But cell networks have apparently been shut down in the area, which means hard information from the street is hard to come by (beware videos that are cropping up on blogs today without date stamps, The New York Times warns), though the AP is reporting that helicopters were spotted hovering over the square. The wire adds that Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, posted an item on one of his Web sites beseeching the regime to stop treating people “as if martial law has been imposed in the streets.”

Ayatollah Khamenei—still the Leader of the Islamic Revolution—apparently told parliamentarians that “for sure, neither the system nor the people will give in to pressure at any price,” according to Iran’s state-run, English-language Press TV. He insisted on “implementation of the law”—but it wasn’t immediately clear how that squared with statements from a militia member who told the Farsi newspaper Roozonline that he was paid about $200 to “beat the revolutionaries so hard they won’t be able to stand up.” According to a translated synopsis in the Guardian, the young man, who had never been to Tehran before he was bused in to join the militia, said he hoped to use the cash to pay a dowry or two.

The Guardian Council extended today’s election-certification deadline until Monday, perhaps on the hope that the violence will abate before then. State-run television is broadcasting a documentary about the accomplishments of the Revolutionary Guard, the Los Angeles Times is reporting, and news announcers have scoffed on-air at President Obama’s statements last night siding with opposition protesters. “Of course, the president of America says that these remarks are not tantamount to meddling in internal Iranian affairs,” an announcer apparently said. He added: “But in conjunction with the Americans, the Israelis are also pursuing the objective of agitation too.” (Al Jazeera adds that Iran’s interior minister thinks the CIA has something to do with it, too.)

On a side note: The BBC is reporting that the British housewares chain Habitat is also guilty of spreading agitation after an overzealous member of its social-media PR team starting posting discount specials on Twitter coupled with the keywords “Iran” and “Mousavi” to draw in people looking for news. “This was absolutely not authorised by Habitat,” the company said in a statement. “We were shocked when we discovered what happened and are very sorry for the offence that has been caused.”

Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.