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Once again, the Islamic regime shoot at the Mostaz'afin

TEHRAN, Iran, January 4, 2000 (IPS) -- Amid the silence of the authorities, special anti-riot units of the Islamic Revolution Guards Forces clashed Wednesday for the second straight day with the population of one of Tehran poorest suburbs, leaving an undisclosed number of wounded that includes some of the revolutionary guard's men, according to information from the Capital.

The protest movement in Chahar Dangueh, a district of Eslam Shar, a shanty town situated south-east of the capital started Tuesday with the population, numbering at around 200.000, demanding their town to be included in the greater Tehran rather than Eslam Shahr, itself a huge shantytown that was the scene of unprecedented anti-regime demonstrations four years ago.

Deprived of any urban services like drinking water, electricity and gas or public transport, the protesters closed for several hours the Tehran-Saveh highway with burning tires and clashed with the local security and law enforcement forces, attacking some public buildings, before the arrival of the heavily armed special anti-riot units, eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service.

Describing the angry rioters as "hooligans", the regime's official news agency IRNA said in it's Persian service that the unrest ended peacefully after anti-riot forces had encircled the "law breaker thugs", but eyewitnesses reported "heavy clashes" between the protesters and the revolutionary guards.

Hospital and local sources confirmed these reports, saying however that most of the wounded had slight injuries.

IRNA did not reported the riots in it's English service and there was no news in the State-run Radio network that is under the direct control of ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic regime, but the Mayor of Eslam Shahr said the protests were the "direct result of indifference and inattention of the central authorities to mounting difficulties of the deprived population".

Like the inhabitants of Eslam Shahr, those living in Chahar Dangeh are mostly peasants who have left their villages for Tehran or homelessness, unemployed, former prisoners, drug traffickers and smugglers, folks described in the Islamic Republic's terminology as "mostaz'afin", or deprived people to whom grand ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic regime had promised prosperity. Eslam Shar, a tiny village before the revolution that saw it's population increasing more than ten times erupted in a violent riot four years ago over exactly the same issues.

Tens of thousands angry demonstrators made of the poorest among the poor set fire to public buildings and shouted slogans against the clerical leaders after revolutionary guards that had stormed the huge shantytown from air and land attacked them, using tanks and helicopters, killing and wounding tens of people.

Under the presidency of ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the self-proclaimed "Commander of Reconstruction", similar riots took place in various Iranian cities, the worst reported one was in Ghazvin, 150 kilometres west of Tehran.

Like the people of Chahar Dangeh, the Ghazvinis were demonstrating against their city, a relatively prosperous industrial town, being attached to the province of Zanjan instead of Tehran, as they had been promised

Like in Eslam Shahr, the revolutionary guards dispatched from the capital put down the riots ruthlessly after the commander of the regular Armed Forces garrison refused orders to attack the demonstrators.

With some ten million people jobless, most of them people who have deserted their villages, the shantytowns that mushroomed around big cities after the Islamic revolution of 1979 are without any basic urban services and turned into "natural hotbed" presenting potential danger for the regime.

"Even though that at the start the motive of the rioters is not political but of social order, but it is evident that in the context of undemocratic, authoritarian systems like that of the Islamic Republic, demonstrations quickly take a political colour, particularly when the government does not control all the economic factors and a generalised corruption penalizes the poor", explained one Tehran sociologist talking over the phone with IPS.