In Iran, the holy city of Mashad lies virtually in ruins following bitter clashes between government troops and anti-Shah dissidents.
In Iran, the holy city of Mashad lies virtually in ruins following bitter clashes between government troops and anti-Shah dissidents. The armed forces have alleged that the dissidents committed atrocities, and flew newsmen in from Teheran -- a thousand kilometres away (600 miles) -- to show them mutilated and burnt bodies of soldiers loyal to the Shah. Protesters have denied the allegations, saying the Shah's troops mutilated the bodies themselves.
SYNOPSIS: Mashad, a holy city in eastern Iran, has been the scene of some of the country's bloodiest rioting. In two days of battles between the Shah's army and demonstrators, more than a hundred people were killed, and at least two hundred injured.
Unlike many of the confrontations in Iran recently, the heavily-armed Iranian troops suffered casualties at the hands of protesters, who were mostly unarmed. The army decided to show newsmen evidence of attacks against its soldiers and on Wednesday (3 January) gave a conducted tour.
The local military commander explained that eight of his men, and five policemen, had been killed in the fighting. Most of the casualties occurred at the peak of the unrest, on Sunday (31 December 1978).
He passed around a photograph album which showed graphically how the bodies of his men had been mutilated The army has alleged that some soldiers were burnt, and then hanged in full view of passers-by.
During the newsmen's stay in the holy city, strict security precautions were in force. Iran's new Prime Minister, Dr Shapour Baktiar, has meanwhile said he would welcome the return of the exiled religious leader, Ayatollah Khomeiny. On Thursday (4 January), the Ayatollah -- who is thought by many to be the driving force behind the unrest sweeping Iran-- gave an interview from his home on the outskirts of Paris.
Ayatollah Khomeiny was then asked whether dissidents would be satisfied if the Shah left Iran.