Continuing civil unrest in Iran fueled by election tensions, soccer victory

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Saturday, June 4, 2005

In the past several weeks, Iran has seen civil unrest in several major cities, ranging from peaceful student demonstrations to riots to apparent politically motivated assassinations. Tensions have been especially high in the past several days.

Major soccer victories have served as the spark for some demonstrations, while others seem to be a symptom of disputes regarding ballot issues in Iran's upcoming (June 17) elections. The Guardian Council which approves all political candidacies has cleared eight nominees, barring several popular candidates.

June 3

  • On the night of June 3, students at the University of Tehran peacefully protested outside their dormitories against the exclusion of two candidates from ballots for the upcoming presidential elections.
  • At the same time, fans in Tehran clashed with Bassiji militiamen (a component of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps after Iran's 1-0 soccer victory over fellow "Axis of Evil"-member North Korea. Attendees had been warned against excessive jubilation, as the nation is supposed to be in mourning for the anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic's founder, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. Some young women were reportedly seen removing their veils and dancing in the street.
An earlier soccer victory on March 27, against Japan, also led to public unrest in the capital.
  • Also on June 3, an Iranian exile organization reports that two plainclothes security police agents have been killed in the city of Isfahan, and there are reports of others being struck in hit-and-run motorbike attacks.
  • Protests which began in late May continued at Amir Kabir. Other protests in late May and early June occurring in Isfahan, Shiraz and other cities were broken up by Bassiji; however, the students at Amir Kabir have apparently been too numerous to disperse.

June 2

  • Two badly-burned bodies were found hogtied in the River Karoun at Ahwaz in Southern Iran. The city in Khuzestan has been under martial law since widespread unrest last month.
  • Students at came out to Khoy University protest Iran's mandatory female veil policy. The students shouted anti-regime slogans and called for election boycotts. Some of them initiated a hunger strike the previous day. The students were dispersed by Herrassat (university police), who were reportedly seen confiscating cameras, mobile picturephones and other recording devices. Several students were reportedly wounded in clashes with authorities.

June 1

  • Students at the University of Ilam disrupted a speech by presidential candidate Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a former security forces chief. Several students were arrested.