Iran’s opposition has invited Iranians to attend a massive protest rally in
Tehran and other cities on Sunday to mark a week since the deaths of two people
in earlier demonstrations. The opposition website kaleme.com said the rallies
will be a “fight against religious dictatorship” in Iran.
announcement came just a day after hardliners called for the execution of Mir
Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, opposition leaders who are already under
house arrest, for organizing last week’s rallies.
Thousands call for execution of Iran opposition leaders
Protesters flood Bahrain capital square as military leaves
At least two people
were killed in clashes last Monday between security forces and opposition
protesters in Tehran. The rallies were the largest to be held by the opposition
in more than a year.
On Saturday, Iranian authorities freed two German
journalists arrested four months ago after they interviewed the son of an
Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.
court threw out their 20-month prison sentence, commuting it to a fine of
$50,000 each and clearing the way for their release, statemedia reported. The state newspaper said it expected them to leave the country
in the coming days, perhaps as early as Sunday. Germany’s foreign minister
arrived in Tehran Saturday night in apparent preparation to bring them
The Germans – a reporter and a photographer for the Berlin-based
mass-circulation tabloid Bild am Sonntag – got caught up in one of the many
confrontations between Iran and the West, this one over the case of Sakineh
The mother of two was convicted of adultery and
sentenced to death by stoning, generating widespread international
In the Persian Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain, thousands of
singing and dancing protesters streamed back into Manama’s central Pearl Square
on Saturday after leaders withdrew tanks and riot police following a bloody
crackdown by security forces.
The royal family, which was quick to use
force earlier this week against demonstrators in the landmark square that has
been the heart of the anti-government demonstrations, appeared to back away from
further confrontation following international pressure from the West.
demonstrators had sought to emulate successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in
attempting to bring political change to Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet
– the centerpiece of Washington’s efforts to confront Iranian military influence
in the region.
In a brief address on state TV, Crown Prince Salman bin
Hamad Al Khalifa, deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, appealed for
calm and political dialogue.
A leader of Al Wefaq, the Shi’ite opposition
group, said the crown prince “did the right thing” by withdrawing security
forces from the streets and letting people return to Pearl Square.
crown prince opened the door for dialogue because he prevented more killing from
occurring and allowed people to demand their rights,” said the leader,
People circling through the square clapped, whistled
and wept. Some wore white sheets symbolizing their readiness for martyrdom,
while others carried Bahraini flags, flowers and signs that said
“We are victorious!” they chanted as they marched back into
the square that has been the headquarters for their revolt against the Sunni
monarchy in the predominantly Shi’ite island nation.
They also chanted:
“The people want the removal of the regime.”
As night fell, defiant
protesters erected barriers, wired a sound system, set up a makeshift medical
tent and deployed lookouts to warn of approaching security
Bahrain’s trade unions called for a general strike on Sunday.
Some students on the square said they would skip class for a week to mourn those
killed in the uprising.
“The sooner we return to calm, the sooner we can
reach our goals,” Salman said. “Citizens of Bahrain, let’s work together with
all political blocs to help return the security situation to normal so we can
announce a day of mourning for those we’ve lost.”
The violence forced the
cancelation of a lower-tier auto race in Bahrain scheduled for this weekend.
Formula One officials also are weighing whether to cancel the season-opening
event in Bahrain on March 13 – a move that would be a huge blow to the nation’s
Ibrahim Sharif, head of the opposition Waad Society, an
umbrella group of protest factions, said that pulling the armed forces off the
streets of Manama was not enough. He demanded guarantees that protesters could
stage rallies without fear of being attacked.
Some demonstrators were
wary of Bahrain’s leaders, despite the military withdrawal.
Youssef, 33, said the crown prince’s speech was self-serving.
afraid for his Formula One contract and thinks by just telling us to calm down
we will listen,” Youssef said. “We want the entire royal family to step aside.
We don’t want dialogue.”
A leaked 2008 document included in the WikiLeaks
diplomatic cable trove revealed that Bahrain’s opposition may have received
training from Hezbollah, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on
The cable revealed that according to Bahrain’s king, the
country’s opposition had received training from the Shi’ite militant group in
In the cable, King Hamad told senior US military figures –
including Gen. David Petraeus, then commander of all allied forces in Iraq –
that Syria was “complicit” in the training by providing Bahrainis with false
The claims were included in a leaked embassy cable sent by US
diplomats in Bahrain to Washington.
“King Hamad related the report that
Bahrainis were receiving training from Hezbollah in Lebanon, but admitted he had
no definitive proof,” the cable said.
“He also speculated that the Syrian
government was complicit, and ‘must be’ helping these Bahrainis travel without
passport verification as tourists.”
The cable added: “Post has heard
versions of this theory from Bahraini officials in the past, but despite our
requests the GOB [Government of Bahrain] has been unable to provide convincing
Later Hamad added that Bahrain, a key US ally, had been urged
by Iran to support its efforts, and those of “Iraqi insurgents, Hamas,
Hezbollah, the Taliban and Syria to drive American forces from the
“With friends like these, who needs enemies?” the king asked