Iranian authorities on Sunday briefly detained the daughter of former president
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most powerful opposition supporter inside the
country’s clerical leadership.
Faezeh Hashemi, born in 1962, has appeared
at opposition protests in the past. She was detained while trying to cause
unrest by chanting antigovernment slogans in one of the main streets of Tehran,
the official IRNA news agency said.
Thousands call for execution of Iran opposition leaders
Protesters flood Bahrain capital square as military leaves
Another pro-government news service
said she was released a short while later.
Iran’s opposition had called
for rallies on Sunday to mark a week since the deaths of two people in clashes
between security forces and opposition protesters in Tehran. Hashemi’s detention
suggested crowds did try to gather on Sunday, despite severe warnings from
Citing opposition websites, Reuters reported that thousands
of security personnel were deployed on the streets of Tehran and other cities to
prevent opposition protesters from rallying.
One international rights
group whose assessments have been right in the past said large numbers of
protesters had turned out on major streets in the capital and four other cities.
The New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said security
forces in Tehran dispersed the crowds with gunfire and tear gas. It said one
person is believed to have been killed in the capital.
chief, Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam, denied there were any protests.
rights group said witnesses reported crowds of protesters at key places in the
capital: the main thoroughfare of Valiasr Street and in front of the state radio
and TV building. It said it also had reports of demonstrations in the major
cities of Mashad, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tabriz.
Last week’s rally was
called by opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi in
solidarity with the Egyptian uprising. It was the largest demonstration by the
opposition in more than a year. Both opposition leaders have been under house
arrest since putting out the call for rallies.
The detention of
Rafsanjani’s daughter appeared to be another attempt to pressure the former
president. Iran’s Fars news agency said she was released later on Sunday after
claiming she was out shopping, rather than joining
Hard-liners have harshly criticized the moderate Rafsanjani
for supporting Mousavi in his election campaign challenge to President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. Mousavi claims he was the rightful winner of the 2009 presidential
election and that he was deprived of victory through fraud.
opposition group claimed on Sunday that an Iranian diplomat has defected from
his post in Italy and is seeking political asylum in France as a protest against
the Ahmadinejad regime.
Officials at Europe-based group Green Wave said
Ahmad Maleki, who is also a nephew of reformist Ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi – quit
his post as first secretary at Iran’s consulate in Milan a day earlier. If
confirmed, the defection would be at least the fourth by an Iranian diplomat in
Europe since the start of 2010 as a protest against the country’s Islamic
Green Wave, which supports such defections, says that active
diplomats and other Iranian state officials are secretly working with the
In Bahrain, opposition figures said they want the nation’s rulers
to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shi’ite
leader said on Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for
talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes.
The streets in
the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts
shifted toward political haggling over demands for the monarchy to give up its
near-absolute control over key policies and positions.
still runs deep after seesaw battles that included riot police opening fire on
protesters trying to reclaim a landmark square and then pulling back to allow
them to occupy the site. At least seven people have been killed and hundreds
wounded since the Arab wave for change reached the Gulf last
Bahrain’s rulers appear desperate to open a political dialogue
after sharp criticism from Western allies and statements by overseers of next
month’s Formula One race that the unrest could force the cancellation of
Bahrain’s premier international event.
Opposition leaders appear to be in
no hurry to talk.
“Yesterday you kill people and today you want them to
sit with you. It’s not that easy,” said a leader of the main Shi’ite opposition
group, Al-Wefaq, Abdul-Jalil Khalil, adding that no talks have yet taken
“We are not refusing a dialogue with the crown prince, but we need
guarantees they will back words with action,” Khalil said. He said the
opposition’s main demand is for the resignation of the government that is
responsible for this week’s bloodshed and has been led by the same prime
minister – the king’s uncle – for 40 years.
Bahrain holds particular
importance to Washington as the host of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is the
main US military counterweight to Iran’s efforts to expand its armed forces and
reach into the Gulf. Bahrain’s ruling Sunni dynasty has strong backing from
other Gulf Arab leaders, who fear that Shi’ite powerhouse Iran could gain
further footholds through the uprising led by Bahrain’s Shi’ite
More specifically, the protest demands include abolishing the
monarchy’s privileges to set policies and appoint all key political posts, along
with addressing long-standing claims of discrimination and abuses against
Shi’ites, who represent about 70 percent of Bahrain’s 525,000
No violence was reported on Sunday, but many parts of the
country were paralyzed by a general strike called by opposition groups and
Hundreds of protesters spent the night back in the square
after the withdrawal on Saturday of security forces, a day after firing on
marchers trying to reach the site.
On Thursday, riot police stormed Pearl
Square in an operation that killed five people and sharply escalated the
confrontation. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa , deputy supreme
commander of the armed forces, appealed for calm and political dialogue in a
brief address on state TV on Saturday.
US President Barack Obama
discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, asking him to hold
those responsible for the violence accountable. He said in a statement that
Bahrain must respect the “universal rights” of its people and embrace
In the United Arab Emirates, an important Gulf ally
for Bahrain, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan urged
Bahraini’s opposition groups to accept offer for talks as a way to restore
“security and stability.”