The commander of Iran’s security forces warned that police would "strongly confront" anyone planning to protest Thursday, a day that marks the anniversary of a pivotal point in Iran’s reformist movement.
In an interview with the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Maj. Gen. Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam said authorities would confront protesters and that no demonstration permit had been issued for Thursday, the 10th anniversary of a 1999 student uprising that, at the time, posed the biggest threat to the Islamic regime since its inception in 1979. Tehran’s governor Morteza Tamaddon issued a similar warning as the police chief Maj. Seyed Hadi Hashemi told IRNA that authorities are trying to encourage people to leave the capital before Thursday because of severe haze. Hashemi “urged the citizens to consider Tehran’s heavy pollution and travel outside of the Capital for the weekend in order to help reduce traffic,” IRNA reported. Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian said Iranians were scared after a brutal crackdown on those who protested what they called the fraudulent outcome of the June 12 presidential elections. Hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner over his chief rival Mir Hossein Moussavi, a reformist candidate. Moussavi’s supporters took to the streets by the thousands in the aftermath of the vote until the protests turned bloody as security forces cracked down.
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Buzz of protests Thursday swirled on social networking sites but Rezaian said it was difficult to predict how such a landmark day might unfold. He said he had heard something “big” would take place but no one wanted to talk about it for fear of tipping off the security forces. On July 9, 1999, known as the 18th of Tir in the Iranian calendar, 200 students protested the closing of a reformist newspaper, Salaam, which supported moderate President Mohammed Khatami. Hard-line activists entered dormitories in Tehran University, broke windows, set fires and attacked the students. Six days of protests erupted. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 25,000 people eventually participated, making the demonstrations the biggest threat to the Islamic regime since its inception in 1979. “Obviously, there has been a crackdown and people are scared, said Rezaian, who covered the June elections and reported from Tehran for about 12 days afterward. He was forced to leave because of restrictions placed on international media outlets. He said he had been in Iran in previous years on July 9 and had seen firsthand that security was heightened for the anniversary. Iranians, he said, have a penchant for marking all sorts of anniversaries and this one, this year, could not be more relevant. “There is no fathomable way that after everything we’ve seen in the last 30 days that they wouldn’t take this opportunity,” Rezaian said. Ultimately, he said, “it’s one more important day in a succession of important days.”