News / Middle East

Iranian Web Site Reports Attack on Opposition Leader Karroubi

One of Iran's top opposition leaders, Mahdi Karroubi, came under attack during a visit to the northern town of Qazvin, when assailants fired on his armored vehicle, shattering its windows. Karroubi was not hurt, but fear of violence targeting the opposition is growing.

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It was not the first time that Iranian opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi has come under attack by government supporters, but the use of gunfire to blow out the windows of his armored limousine constitutes by far the boldest.

Armed pro-government demonstrators and militiamen opened fire on Karroubi's car shattering its windows, his Web site, Sahamnews.org, reported Friday.

Sahamnews said the shooting happened late Thursday while the former presidential candidate was leaving a building in Qazvin, some 140 kilometers west of Tehran.

Karroubi's son Hussein, who acts as his father's spokesman, describes what happened:

He says that his father visited Qazvin, being that it's the holy month of Muharram, and that ten minutes after the arrival ceremony at the home of Mr. Gavami, the pro-government Fars news agency reported that the house had been surrounded by Hezbollah (pro-government) forces.  Several hours later, he adds, some minibuses drove up with rural government supporters and they started throwing rocks and bricks, hurling obscenities and breaking windows at the house. Riot police eventually intervened, he says, to allow his father to leave, at which point his car was attacked with eggs, bricks and gunshots, breaking the glass in the front and back of the car.

A group of pro-government basij militiamen, along with dozens of government supporters, reportedly chanted slogans in favor of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in addition to calling Karroubi a "hypocrite," a common insult used against the opposition. "Our town," they shouted, "is no place for hypocrites."

Ali Nourizadeh of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies says that the authorities have been trying to intimidate Karroubi for a long time by limiting his movements.

"Karroubi is not allowed to move around freely although he does it. The problem is people who are appointed by the authorities to safeguard him, these people usually when Karroubi is out, they turn their backs on him and Karroubi is not feeling safe, but he went to Qazvin to be with Mr. Naser Gavami, a [former] member of parliament who lost his relative, but they did not allow him to get in, and basijis attacked his car," he said.  "I think Karroubi is used to this kind of behavior, and he has been attacked during Friday prayers, during demonstrations, and he is a brave man. I don't think this intimidation will be effective, will prevent Karroubi from coming out, unless they arrest him," said Nourizadeh.

Karroubi lost to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran's disputed election last year.  He and another opposition leader who lost in the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have said the vote was tainted by fraud.

Mahdi Karroubi's wife Fatemeh told the French daily Le Monde, Friday, that she would "hold the government responsible if any harm should come" to her husband.

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