Tehran, Iran / Cairo: An eerie calm settled over the streets of Tehran on Sunday as state media reported at least 10 more deaths in post-election unrest and said authorities arrested the daughter and four other relatives of ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s most powerful men.
The reports brought the official death toll for a week of boisterous confrontations to at least 19. State television said 10 were killed and 100 injured in clashes Saturday between demonstrators contesting the result of the 12 June election and police.
Iran’s regime continued to impose a blackout on the country’s most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
But fresh images and allegations of brutality emerged as Iranians at home and abroad sought to shed light on a week of astonishing resistance to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
State-run Press TV reported that Rafsanjani’s eldest daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, and four other family members were arrested late Saturday. It did not identify the other four.
Last week, state television showed Hashemi, 46, speaking to hundreds of supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. After her appearance, hardline students gathered outside the Tehran prosecutor’s office and accused her of treason, state radio reported.
Rafsanjani, 75, has made no secret of his distaste for Ahmadinejad, whose re-election victory in a June 12 vote was disputed by Mousavi. Ahmadinejad has accused Rafsanjani and his family of corruption.
His daughter’s arrest came as something of a surprise: Just Friday, Khamenei had praised Rafsanjani as one of the architects of the revolution and an effective political figure for many years. Khamenei acknowledged, however, that the two have “many differences of opinion”.
Thousands of supporters of Mousavi, who claims he won the election, squared off on Saturday against security forces in a dramatic show of defiance of Khamenei. Underscoring how the protesters have become emboldened despite the regime’s repeated and ominous warnings, witnesses said some shouted “Death to Khamenei!” at Saturday’s demonstrations.
Sunday’s state media reports also said rioters set two petrol pumps on fire and attacked a military post in clashes Saturday. They quoted the deputy police chief claiming officers did not use live ammunition to dispel the crowds.
Iran has also acknowledged the deaths of seven protesters in clashes on Monday.
State media also reported a suicide bombing at the shrine of the Islamic Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Saturday killed the attacker and injured five other people.
Also on Sunday, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki held a news conference where he rebuked Britain, France and Germany for raising questions about reports of voting irregularities in Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
In Washington on Saturday, US President Barack Obama urged Iranian authorities to halt “all violent and unjust actions against its own people.” He said the US “stands by all who seek to exercise” the universal rights to assembly and free speech.
Saturday’s unrest came a day after Khamenei warned Mousavi and his backers to call off demonstrations or risk being held responsible for “bloodshed, violence and rioting”. Delivering a sermon at Friday prayers attended by tens of thousands, Khamenei sided firmly with Ahmadinejad, calling the result “an absolute victory” that reflected popular will and ordering opposition leaders to end their street protests.
Mousavi did not directly reply to the ultimatum.
His camp, meanwhile, denied reports that he had proclaimed himself ready for martyrdom on Saturday.
The government has blocked websites such as BBC Farsi, Facebook, Twitter and several pro-Mousavi sites used by Iranians to tell the world about protests and violence.
But that won’t stifle the opposition networks, said Sami Al Faraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies. “They can resort to whispering... They can do it the old-fashioned way,” he said.
Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Brian Murphy in Dubai and Sebastian Abbot in Cairo contributed to this story.