Ashura Violence Marks Turning Point For Opposition
Radio Free Europe / Golnaz Esfandiari

ecember 28, 2009 By Golnaz Esfandiari As Iranians gathered to celebrate the Shi'ite holiday of Ashura on December 27, Tehran witnessed some of its worst violence since just after the disputed June 12 presidential contest that plunged the Islamic republic into crisis.

Some Iran observers believe the events, in which clashes between opposition protesters and security forces resulted in protesters’ deaths and injuries on both sides, mark a turning point in the months-long political crisis.

Violence had been seen before; the opposition estimates that 72 people had been killed prior to the December 27 violence, and early protests included a fire-bomb attack on a Basij militia post. But the past violence was weighted heavily on the side of the authorities, while the opposition for the most part employed civil disobedience through peaceful rallies.

Ashura is usually marked by religious gatherings and marches in which people beat their chests and weep in memory of the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein, but those scenes were replaced this year with video images showing street battles that transformed central Tehran into a war zone.

Witnesses told RFE/RL that in the course of the Ashura events, security forces shot directly at people and attacked them with batons and tear gas. They described chaos in the streets and blood on the sidewalks, and reported fire and heavy smoke ... >>>

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