New Year, same old s—-t.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the opportinity of a staged pro-Iranian, anti-Israel rally to oce again deny the Holocaust. According to The New York Times:
With sketchy accounts filtering past official media controls, Al Arabiya television in Dubai and the opposition ePersian Radio, based in California, said supporters of opposition candidates in the disputed June 12 election defied official orders from the Revolutionary Guards to avoid using the annual Quds Day, meaning Jerusalem Day, as a cover for protests, Bloomberg News reported.
Supporters of reformist candidates in the election maintain that President Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory in the vote was tainted by fraud. Protests over the vote have plunged Iran into its deepest political crisis since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Details of the reported clashes on Friday remained unclear.
The Associated Press, citing an opposition Web site, said that hard-liners attacked former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, and pushed him to the ground. Reuters quoted an unidentified witness as saying 10 supporters of Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leading opposition candidate in the June election, were arrested after thousands of people wearing the opposition’s hallmark green wristbands and shawls joined crowds marching to mark Quds Day.
The witness was also quoted as saying Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters had beaten the opposition marchers. Videos circulating on YouTube showed what seemed to be pro-opposition demonstrators chanting and singing on the streets of Tehran.
An article in our online partner Ha’aretz reported that the Iranian president also called for an investigation into the truth of the Holocaust:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday the Holocaust was a “lie” and a pretext to create a Jewish state that Iranians had a religious duty to confront.
“The pretext (Holocaust) for the creation of the Zionist regime (Israel) is false ... It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim,” he told worshippers at Tehran University at the end of annual anti-Israel Quds Day rally.
“Confronting the Zionist regime is a national and religious duty,” the Iranian president said.
Ahmadinejad’s critics say his fiery anti-Western speeches and questioning of the Holocaust have isolated Iran, which is at odds with the West over its disputed nuclear program.
The hard-line president warned leaders of Western-allied Arab and Muslim countries about dealing with Israel.
“This regime [Israel] will not last long. Do not tie your fate to it?. This regime has no future. Its life has come to an end,” he said in the speech broadcasted live on state radio.
On Firday, tens of thousands of Iranian government supporters and dozens of opposition activists poured out onto the streets of Tehran for coinciding marches marking an annual pro-Palestinian commemoration.
Baton-totting police and security troops, along with the pro-government Basij militia that helped crush mass street protests this summer against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, were deployed along main squares and boulevards but the rallies kicked off peacefully.
Ahmadinejad joined one of the government-sponsored marches heading to the Tehran University campus where he was to address supporters before a Friday prayers service.
The opposition has said it would also hold its own protest Friday, despite warnings by the clerical establishment against anti-government rallies. There has not been a mass opposition demonstration since mid-July, when authorities cracked down heavily on the opposition.
Both opposition leaders - Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karrubi - were to appear at the opposition rally, raising concerns for a showdown between security troops and opposition activists.
By midmorning in central Tehran, dozens of opposition supporters in green T-shirts and wearing green wristbands - a color symbolizing the opposition movement - marched with fingers raised in the V-sign for victory and chanting “Death to the Dictator.”
Others shouted for the government to resign, carried small photos of Mousavi, while some women marched with their children in tow. There were also chants of: “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, but our life is for Iran” - a slogan defying the regime’s support for Palestinian militants in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla.
According to an eyewitness report published in a reformist Web site, a group of Iranian hard-liners have attacked a reformist former president while he was marching with opposition supporters at an anti-government rally in Tehran.
Witnesses said the attackers pushed ex-President Mohammad Khatami to the ground. It says opposition activists rescued him and quickly repelled the assailants.
Khatami has sided with the opposition in the post-election crisis that has gripped Iran. Another reformist Webs site says his turban was disheveled and he was forced to leave the march.
Eyewitnesses said earlier that Iran security forces clashed with supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and arrested at least 10 of them.
“Security forces just arrested over 10 people,” one witness said. “They are pushing protesters and beating them.”
“Supporters of Ahmadinejad are beating supporters of Mousavi near the Vali-ye Asr street [in central Tehran]. At least two protesters were injured,” the witness added.
Just hundreds of meters away on the main Keshavarz Boulevard, thousands of Ahmadinejad supporters marched carrying huge photographs of the president and also the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some in the government-sponsored rally chanted: “Death to those who oppose the Supreme Leader!”
The demonstrations mark Quds Day - an annual event dedicated to condemning Israel and expressing support for the Palestinians. Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.
On Thursday, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard warned opposition protesters against holding anti-government demonstrations, saying that if they attempted any sort of violation and disorder they will encounter strong confrontation.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, last week also warned the oppositions against using Quds Day for other purpose than demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians.
The pro-reform camp claims Mousavi was the rightful winner of the June 12 presidential election and that the government faked the balloting in Ahmadinejad’s favor. Since the vote, thousands of opposition supporters held street demonstrations against the alleged vote fraud but were met with a heavy government crackdown.
The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed in the violence that followed the election, while government officials maintain that only 36 died in the unrest - the worst in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current regime to power. Thousands were arrested, and the regime’s opponents have charged some detainees were tortured to death in prison.
Customarily on Quds Day, Tehran residents gather for pro-Palestinian rallies in various parts of the city, march through the streets and later converge for the prayers ceremony. The ceremony was established in 1979 by the leader of the Islamic Revolution and founder of present-day Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Meanwhile, over in Iranian ally Syria, the regime has called for a boycott of Facebook.com after the social networking site changed its rules to allow Israeli residents of the Golan to list their country as “Israel” rather than Syria. The Syrian dictatorship also said it would ban Facebook from operating inside the country.
Facebook is enormously popular in Syria:it’s the way an entire generation of young Syrians interface with one another and the modern world despite living under a repressive government and a backward economy. Fortunately, the brave and cheeky writer over at BeirutSpring.com has figured a way around the Facebook ban. Check it out, and start the New Year by friending a beautiful Syrian….