Iran Students Accuse Pro-Khamenei Forces of Attacking them in Riots
Iran's leading pro-reform student group on Tuesday accused troops under the control of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of attacking them during the past few days of bloody riots in the town of Khoramabad.
The violence swirling around a meeting of the student Office to Consolidate Unity (OCU) from Thursday to Sunday left one person dead and dozens injured in the worst unrest in Iran in more than a year.
OCU spokesman Mehdi Manuchehri called on Khamenei to clarify his stance regarding the forces fighting "under his banner" during the disturbances in the western city of Khoramabad.
He told a Tehran press conference that members of the Basiji volunteer Islamic militia and the nation's elite Revolutionary Guards corps, both under Khamenei's direct control, had attacked students, 60 of whom he said were now in hospital.
"We want the leader to make known his position about these violent forces," Manuchehri said, while another OCU spokesman condemned the "powerlessness of the police" in the face of the clashes.
One policeman was shot dead and dozens of people wounded in the four days of troubles which began when a mob stormed Khoramabad airport to prevent two leading liberals from addressing the OCU's annual conference.
Banks and government buildings were smashed up as Islamic hardliners and demonstrators clashed sporadically over the four-day period, during which students said they were beaten and pelted with bricks and stones.
The violence called up memories of last year's six-day riots that erupted after vigilantes and police forces attacked demonstrators at Tehran University, setting off the worst unrest in Iran in nearly 20 years.
Unconfirmed reports about the presence of "plainclothes" agents working to provoke the violence among the student ranks in Khoramabad echoed charges made by students in last year's incidents.
The OCU is the most prominent student organization backing President Mohammad Khatami, whose supporters have charged that conservatives and hardliners occasionally bring about unrest to undermine Khatami's reforms.
The OCU was forced to cut short its Khoramabad conference and the two liberal speakers -- Mohsen Kadivar and Abdol Karim Soroush, both reformist critics of the clerical regime -- were forced to return to Tehran.
Brigadier General Gholamreza Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guards had been quoted in Saturday's press warning of a "punishing response if the rioters continue to try to create trouble in the name of reform."
Although police have brought the city under control, outbursts of violence are still rocking the area.
State radio said "hooligans" had smashed windows of government buildings in Khoramabad overnight while the official IRNA news agency said the governor of Lorestan province, where Khoramabad is located, had been beaten by a mob during Tuesday's funeral of the slain police officer -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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