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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Night Raids Terrorize Civilians!!! Security Forces Wreck Homes, Destroy Property to Stop Protest Chants; News Access!!!

Iran: Night Raids Terrorize Civilians
Security Forces Wreck Homes, Destroy Property to Stop Protest Chants; News Access

June 26, 2009

(New York) - Iran's paramilitary Basij arecarrying out brutal nighttime raids, destroying property in private homes andbeating civilians in an attempt to stop nightly protest chants, Human RightsWatch said today. Human Rights Watch also said the Iranian authorities areconfiscating satellite dishes from private homes to prevent citizens fromseeing foreign news.

"While most of the world's attention is focused on thebeatings in the streets of Iran during the day, the Basijis are carrying outbrutal raids on people's apartments during the night," said Sarah Leah Whitson,Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Witnesses are telling us that theBasijis are trashing entire streets and even neighborhoods as well asindividual homes trying to stop the nightly rooftop protest chants."

Since the onset of protests against the disputed presidentialelection results on June 12, 2009, residents throughout Tehran and in othercities in Iran have carried out nightly rooftop protest chants of "God isGreat" (Allahu Akbar) and other similarslogans.

The nighttime shouting of such slogans at designatedhours is a powerful form of protest in Iran, as it was one of the emblematicforms of protests during the Iranian revolution 30 years ago, which toppled theruling Pahlavi monarchy and led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic.Opposition leaders had asked their supporters to chant these slogans as a formof peaceful protest. With the increasingly severe crackdown on the currentstreet protests in Iran appearing to make large-scale daytime protestsimpossible, the nightly chanting has become one of the few remaining forms ofmass public protests against the disputed results of the June 12 presidentialelection.

A middle-aged resident from Vanak neighborhood gave HumanRights Watch an overview of his participation each day in the protests. He explainedthat by June 22, virtually the only form of protest still available to him wasto shout slogans from his rooftop at night. But then the Basiji came to attackhis neighborhood.

"On June 22, while we wereshouting ‘Allahu Akbar' from the rooftops, the only form of protests we couldstill undertake, the Basiji entered our neighborhood and started firing liverounds into the air, in the direction of the buildings from which they believethe shouting of ‘Allahu Akbar' is coming from. I didn't see any rounds hittingour buildings. Shortly thereafter, my cousin arrived at our apartment. He wasvery shaken. The Basijis had entered their house in Yousef Abad neighborhood,and they had destroyed their doors and destroyed cars in the street.

"There are many thingshappening that aren't being reported [in the media]. In every neighborhood ofTehran, people are talking about how the Basijis and other security servicesare coming into their houses and are terrorizing people for shouting ‘AllahuAkbar' from the rooftops, and for congregating."

A second witness, a woman from the affluent Velenjakneighborhood in northern Tehran, gave a similar account of Basiji attacks inher neighborhood on the night of June 23:

"Last night [June 23], theBasijis entered our neighborhood to intimidate those who were shouting ‘AllahuAkbar' from their rooftops. They started kicking down doors, and when theycouldn't succeed, they would climb over the garden walls and open the interiordoors. When they entered the homes, they beat the residents. The neighbors tookto cursing the Basijis and throwing stones at them to divert them from beatingthe residents, but then the Basijis attacked those neighbors' houses and triedto enter them."

A third witness told Human Rights Watch how he hadwitnessed Basijis attacking private homes where they believed protesters hadfled to escape attack:

"In my neighborhood, downtownTehran, there were protesters who escaped into people's homes when the Basijischased them. The Basijis who were chasing them then knocked harshly on thedoors. The residents were too afraid to open the doors. Then the Basijissprayed a mark on the door with spray paint. A few minutes later, they cameback and attacked the marked houses, breaking down the doors and entering them.They beat the owners, and broke the windows in the house and of their cars."

Human Rights Watch has collected similar accounts ofviolent nighttime raids by the Basij and other security forces in neighborhoodsthroughout Tehran, including Niavaran, Farmaneih, Saadat Abad, Shahrak Gharb,and Vanak Square. The Basiji (Nirooye Moghavemate Basij, the ResistanceMobilization Force) is a volunteer paramilitary force of men and women, "alarge people's militia," created by Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979 toadvance the aims of the Islamic Revolution. The Basijis are under the controlof the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and have branches throughoutIran, including in many social institutions such as schools, universities,mosques, and government offices. They engage in a wide range of activities, butone of their core duties is to help maintain law and order, repress dissent,and enforce their conservative interpretation of Islamic codes of dress andbehavior. During times of protests, they frequently beat and intimidateprotesters.

Security agents are also forcing residents in Tehran totake down their satellite dishes, which allow them to view foreign media, oneof the few sources of uncensored information in the face of the severegovernment restrictions on domestic media in Iran. According to a reliablesource in Tehran, on June 24, uniformed police officers forced residents in theNiavaran and Dorous neighborhoods of Tehran to take down their satellitereceiving dishes, and returned later to confiscate many of the satellitedishes. In addition to placing severe restrictions on access to internet-basednews providers, Iran is also trying to jam the signals of foreign news mediathat broadcast into Iran.

A resident from the Saadat Abad neighborhood of Tehrandescribed a police raid to Human Rights Watch:

"Five policemen knocked onthe door of our apartment building. People went to open the door and asked themwhat they wanted. The police said they wanted to come and destroy the satellitedishes on the rooftop. The landlord asked them if they had any permissiondocuments to do this. The policemen replied that there was no need for anydocuments because the stairs and the rooftops aren't private property; they arecommon (shared) property. Then they threatened the landlord, ‘If you want us togo get permission documents, we'll come back later with them, but then we willalso search the apartments as well.' They were trying to intimidate thelandlord, so he let them in. Then they went to the rooftop and threw the dishesinto the street. The landlord told me they behaved so harshly with him therewas no room to complain."

"After clamping down on the local media and expellingforeign correspondents, Iran's security forces are now trying to shut down people'saccess to foreign news," said Whitson. "Clearly, they don't want their owncitizens to know what is actually happening inside Iran today."

Human Rights Watch called upon the authorities to ensurethat everyone whose property had been destroyed by security forces receivedcompensation in full.


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