More political, soccer-related unrest in Iran follows Bahrain victory

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

More unrest occurred overnight across Iran following the national soccer team's June 9 victory over the team from neighboring Bahrain in a World Cup qualification match.

Soccer Jubilation Pushes Boundaries

The match marked the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that women could attend a soccer match. A group of one hundred pre-selected women were admitted to the game under official escort; a protest group of a further twenty-six women attempted to gain admission, but were dispersed by police.

A young Tehran resident reported via instant messenger that she heard what appeared to be raucous celebrating outside the night of the 1-0 victory over Bahrain. She had been babysitting that night, and returned quickly home, having decided it was probably not safe to investigate the crowds after hearing a large boom, which she attributed to pranksters possibly detonating outsized illegal fireworks. However, she also noticed that a public telephone had been damaged.

If utilities were being damaged, it is very possible that the boom was produced not by a high explosive, but by the bursting of sodium vapor lamp bulb that had been knocked over by vandals -- this reporter has seen it happen before, and can attest that it sounds very much like an explosion.

Some Crowds Get Political

In the city of Tabriz in East Azerbaijan, demonstrators reportedly tore down a large poster of the late Ayatollah Khomeini (founder of the present Islamic Republic of Iran) and burned it while chanting "Freedom!" and anti-regime slogans. The crowds of young people caused traffic congestion, apparently halting movement through the center city for several hours. Numerous arrests have been reported. The city is home to a substantial Turkic Azeri minority, but the unrest seems to be political in nature, not ethnic.

Meanwhile, in the theological center of Qom, reformist politician Behzad Navabi was attacked by a group of about thirty unidentified men who apparently disagreed with his political platform. The group employed lethal and non-lethal weapons, including tear gas, to disrupt Navabi's political rally. Navabi reports that he suffered a skull fracture and numerous cuts and bruises in the attack. Police clashed with the attackers, and eventually arrested some of them. Navabi is a member of the Mujahadeen of Islamic Revolution party and a backer of reform presidential candidate Mustafa Moin.


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