Iranian Conservatives Hold Mass Pro-Government Rallies
By SOF Editor on Wed, 12/30/2009 - 12:39pm
Iranian conservatives are taking part in pro-government rallies in several major cities, in a show of strength against Iran's opposition movement.
Tens of thousands of Iranians were expected to attend the demonstrations, organized by the government in response to a recent series of opposition protests. Many conservatives at Wednesday's rallies chanted pro-government slogans and held pictures of Iran's clerical rulers.
Iranian conservatives have reacted angrily to opposition groups holding anti-government protests during last Sunday's observance of Ashura, a solemn Shi'ite festival.
Iranian police chief General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said Wednesday his forces will show no tolerance toward further opposition rallies, and will deal with them harshly.
Iran's government has said eight people were killed when security forces cracked down on Sunday's protests in several Iranian cities.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Wednesday she is shocked by the violence and wants Iran to stop its security forces from using "excessive force" against demonstrators.
Iran's government denies opposition claims that security forces opened fire on protesters and describes the deaths of the eight activists as suspicious. Police chief Moghaddam said Wednesday 500 protesters were arrested, of whom 300 remain in detention.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed Sunday's protests as a "nauseating play" staged by the United States and Israel.
Mr. Obama said Monday he condemns what he called Iran's "violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranians." He also expressed "deep admiration for the courage and conviction of Iranians."
One of those killed Sunday was the nephew of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Family members held a burial service for Ali Mousavi Wednesday in Tehran. Authorities had briefly removed his body from the Tehran hospital where he died, angering relatives.
Iranian police also have detained at least 20 high-profile opposition figures or their associates in recent days.
Sunday's violence was the most serious in Iran since the protests that erupted after a disputed June election, which gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office.