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Pro-Democracy Youths Reported in Street Battles with Iran Police - 2003-07-09


Reports from Iran say several thousand pro-democracy youths fought running street battles with Islamic vigilantes and police near Tehran University Wednesday, on the anniversary marking similar violence four years ago. The street battles come hours after three leading student activists were detained by pro-Islamic clergy vigilantes. Several thousand pro-democracy protesters have fought street battles in Tehran, with police and hard line vigilantes loyal to Iran's ruling Islamic clergy.

A witness told Reuters news agency that police fired tear gas at groups of protesting youth, near the campus of Tehran University. The police also engaged in fist fights with plainclothes Islamic militiamen, to keep them from further fighting with the demonstrating youth, the witness said.

Demonstrations were also reported in the central city of Isfahan.

Hours before the street fighting in Tehran, militiamen took custody of three leading student activists minutes after the students had announced plans not hold demonstrations.

Those demonstrations were to have commemorated the killing of a student and the arrest of many more four years ago, when militiamen backing the country's Islamic regime stormed a dormitory, which sparked days of unrest.

Authorities have been warning students against commemorating the 1999 violence, and had closed Tehran University's dormitories, and postponed summer exams to prevent unrest.

Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had also told foreign and domestic news organizations not to go to any demonstrations.

Wednesday's unrest comes after protests in June, that began when students in Tehran demonstrated against university privatization plans. The protests turned into anti-regime anger, and even anger at pro-reform president Mohammed Khatami. The demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities were quelled by the authorities who arrested some four thousand people.