TENS of thousands of hard-line government supporters turned out for state-sponsored rallies yesterday, some of them calling for the execution of opposition leaders as Iran’s police chief threatened to show “no mercy” in crushing any new protests by the pro-reform movement.
Pro-government rallies were staged in Shiraz, Arak, Qom and Tehran, among other cities. Demonstrators at a rally in Tehran chanted “Death to Mousavi,” a reference to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Some shouted “Rioter hypocrites must be executed” and held up a banner that read: “We sacrifice our blood for the supreme leader.”
The government gave all civil servants and employees a day off to attend the rallies and organised buses to transport groups of schoolchildren and supporters from outlying rural areas to the protests.
Hard-line cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda called opponents of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supporters of Satan.
“Enemies of the leader, according to the Quran, belong to the party of Satan,” Alamolhoda told demonstrators in Tehran in comments broadcast on state TV. “Our war in the world is war against the opponents of the rule of the supreme leader.”
In a surprising acknowledgment of the opposition’s impact, Khamenei said yesterday the country’s Islamic rulers have lost some supporters since the disputed presidential election in June first triggered the turmoil. Still, he blamed the pro-reform opposition leaders for Iran’s problems.
“The reality in the society is that as some supporters dropped out, twice that number joined us,” he said.
Police chief General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam warned protesters to stay off the streets or face harsh consequences. At least eight people were killed in street violence on Sunday, the country’s worst unrest since the aftermath of the June 12 election.
“In dealing with previous protests, police showed leniency. But given that these opponents are seeking to topple the ruling system, there will be no mercy,” Moghaddam said, according to the official news agency IRNA.
“We will take severe action. The era of tolerance is over. Anyone attending such rallies will be crushed.”
One of those killed on Sunday was the nephew of Mousavi. Iran’s deputy police chief said Ali Mousavi was assassinated by unidentified assailants and not killed by security forces.
Ali Mousavi was buried yesterday in a hastily organised ceremony.
The government has said the protesters are a tiny minority and accused the US and Britain of organising the opposition.
Yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the government to keep security forces from using excessive force. She said she was “shocked by the upsurge in deaths, injuries and arrests” and stressed the people have the right to peacefully protest without being beaten and thrown into jail.
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