Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taking It to the Streets

The revolution in Iran continues.

TEHRAN — Police officers used sticks and tear gas to force back thousands of demonstrators in the capital on Saturday, a day after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said there would be “bloodshed” if street protests continued over the disputed presidential election.

State-run media reported that three people were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Tehran shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the southern part of the city, several miles from the scheduled protests. The report of the blast could not be independently confirmed.

The violence unfolded on a day of extraordinary tension across Iran, as opposition protesters swore to continue pressing their claims of a stolen election against Iran’s embattled and increasingly impatient clerical leadership. Iran’s divisions played out on the streets. Regular security forces stood back and urged protesters to go home and avoid bloodshed, while the feared pro-government militia, the Basij, beat protesters with clubs and, witnesses said, electric prods.

In some places, the protesters pushed back, rushing the militia in teams of hundreds: At least three Basijis were pitched from their motorcycles, which were then set on fire. The protesters included many women, who even berated as “cowards” men who fled the basijis.There appeared to be tens of thousands of protesters in Tehran, far fewer than the mass demonstrations earlier this week, possibly because of intimidation. A BBC journalist at Revolution Square reported seeing one person shot by security forces.

Andrew Sullivan is posting tweets and news from the capital of Iran.