Iran is now dealing with the widespread protests that have been sweeping through the Arab world. On Monday, hundreds of thousands Iranians clashed with government security forces. The conflict left dozens injured, one dead, and more than 1500 arrested. The unrest in Iran follows 17 days of protests in Egypt which resulted in longtime president Hosni Mubarak stepping down. The African country of Tunisia was the catalyst for the unrest as massive protests in that country saw their leader flee. Protests have spread, in some form or another, to Yemen, Algeria, Syria, Sudan, and Jordan.
One day after the massive protests, hard-line Iranian lawmakers have begun suggesting that the country’s opposition leaders be arrested and put to death. During an open session of parliament on Tuesday, pro-government lawmakers demanded that opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami be held responsible for the protests. The legislators pumped their fists in the air and chanted, “Death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami.”
“We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders, 221 lawmakers said in a statement.
The call for opposition leaders to face trial is not new, however the call for the death penalty for the opposition figures represent an escalation in their demands. Iran has already tried scores of opposition figures and activists on charges of provoking the mass protests following the country’s disputed 2009 presidential elections that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term. More than 80 people were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years. The opposition believes that scores were killed in the massive crackdown on those protests, while the government says only around 30 people died.
After Monday’s demonstration—the first since 2009—the government vows to crack down on the opposition before it gains momentum. “The judiciary will quickly and resolutely deal with major elements and those who violated public order and peace,” the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary and state prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, told the official IRNA news agency.
The United States has already defended the protesters. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the protesters “deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and are part of their own birthright.” Iran in turn accused the U.S. of “meddling” in Iranian affairs. Acting police commander Gen. Ahmad Reza Radan accused the U.S., Britain and Israel of stoking the protests.