Tension ran high in Teheran on Saturday (26 May) as rival Moslems and leftists clashed during anti-United States demonstrations.
Tension ran high in Teheran on Saturday (26 May) as rival Moslems and leftists clashed during anti-United States demonstrations. Tens of thousands of Iranians gathered outside the United States Embassy in the biggest display of anti-American feeling since the Embassy complex was stormed by militant leftists just after the February Revolution. No major incidents were reported during the demonstrations, but later in the day, gunmen shot and seriously wounded a religious leader, reportedly a member of Iran's secret Revolutionary Council.
SYNOPSIS: At least five-hundred guards were on duty at the embassy compound. They rebuffed isolated attempts to break in and tried to calm the crowd. But on the whole, the guards showed their sympathy withe the marchers.
The demonstration was called by the pro-Khomeini Islamic Republic Party, in protest over the condemnation by the United States' Senate of recent executions ordered by Iran's revolutionary court. The London Financial Times reported that the authorities appear to have given their support to an orchestrated anti-US campaign through the media.
When several thousand leftists joined the demonstration, it took on a different mood. Islamic militants changed their slogan to "Death to the Soviet Union", and sporadic fist fights broke out. The clashes at the demonstration and the subsequent shooting of Moslem clergyman Hojatolleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani indicate the loosening of the alliance between Moslem supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the left-wing and secular forces which helped bring him to power.
Khomeini has been increasingly tough towards secular groups warning his followers that they must fight them more fiercely than the Shah. He said that anyone found insulting the clergy would be punished by the revolutionary courts, which so far have only dealt with the Shah's supporters.