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Protesters mourn 'Angel of Iran'

The Revolutionary Guard vowed to stop the street demonstrations, causing some protesters to stay home. But others gathered Monday to honor the death of Neda Soltan.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 22, 2009

Istanbul, Turkey

Uncertainty rose Monday among Iran's opposition supporters after violent clashes with the government's police and "disciplinary forces" over the weekend.

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Meanwhile, more details emerged of election irregularities and the government stepped up accusations against the West and the media for fomenting violence.

Until now, the government has employed police and ideological militia to quell protests. But now Iran's Revolutionary Guard have vowed to weigh in. It ordered protesters to "end the sabotage and rioting activities" and warned them to be ready for a "revolutionary confrontation with the Guards, Basij, and other security ... and disciplinary forces" if they dared to gather in public again.

The Revolutionary Guard is tasked with preserving the 1979 revolution, The force was created by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini because he did not trust the regular Army. The Guard is considered more ideological than the regular Iranian Army.

But on Monday afternoon an estimated 1,000 protesters tried to gather at Haft-e Tir Square in central Tehran. Row upon row of waiting riot police and militiamen kept them from assembling. They were met with teargas and bullets fired into the air. Throughout Monday night, Iranian state television reported that police had "prevented" further demonstrations, and showed footage of violence from previous days that included protesters beating up a basiji militiaman.
The protestors had attempted to gather to remember a young woman killed during fierce clashes on Saturday that left at least 13 dead, by official count [Editor's note: Story updated to reflect what happened during Monday's protests.].

The student rembembered, Neda Agha Soltan, was reportedly shot in the chest by a basiji militiaman passing on a motorcycle. Graphic Internet video of the aftermath has turned her into an instant icon of the movement lead by defeated moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

A Facebook page titled "Angel of Iran" has been created to honor her. Authorities forbade a memorial service on Sunday. Mr. Mousavi – who has not been seen since Thursday – urged his followers late Sunday to keep up the pressure.

"The revolution is your legacy," Mousavi said on his website. "To protest against lies and fraud is your right. Be hopeful that you will get your right and do not allow others who want to provoke your anger ... to prevail."

The protesters who have choked the streets by the hundreds of thousands in the past week are calling for a rerun of the disputed reelection of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But the protesters are torn between their desire to challenge an election result they consider a fraud – relying on Article 27 in Iran's Constitution that says peaceful marches "may freely be held" – and their fear of more violent confrontations that won't bring them any closer to their goals.

"I'm feeling that it's something between them [rival clerics within the establishment], and we shouldn't get killed for it," says one protester, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. "I am wondering ... what can come of it? What are we going to get out of this?"