In Iran, funerals to bury those most recently killed in anti-Shah demonstrations erupted into angry rallies and calls for the return of Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Khomeiny.
In Iran, funerals to bury those most recently killed in anti-Shah demonstrations erupted into angry rallies and calls for the return of Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Khomeiny. Casualty figures in more than three days of renewed demonstrations have officially been put at twelve dead and 55 wounded. But western diplomats estimate the toll in much higher.
SYNOPSIS: The Beheste Cemetery at Zaroa is 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from Teheran. On Sunday (3 December) funerals for those who died in demonstrations became the focus for grief, and for further opposition to the Shah. The demonstrations took on a special significance as they coincided with the beginning of Shi'ite Moslems' month of mourning called Moharram.
After months of mounting unrest and opposition to the Shah's regime, curfew defiance has become a form of political protest, though here, most of the slogan shouting was religious. The small crowd at the funeral grew to several hundred who pressed into the cemetery in an emotional throng.
As political violence continued and casualties continued to mount, workers in the key industries of oil, gas, power and petrochemicals stepped up protest action and further disrupted the country's already dislocated economic life. Oil industry sources said workers had again gone on strike in sympathy with demonstrators against the Shah and were joining other Iranians who have flocked into the streets shouting religious slogans. More clashes are expected as the month of mourning builds up to its climax next month.
The authorities continue to refer to unnamed foreigners who are trying to take advantage of Moslem religious fervour during Moharram for their own ends. This fervour surrounds the commemoration of the death of Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed. Previous official announcements have warned Iranians that Communists would try to infiltrate during this time. The authorities have said that armed people had taken advantage of military leniency to attack soldiers, wound and kill them. The armed forces have had to become firmer in their stand, according to the Martial Law administrator. General Gholamali Oveussi has urged religious leaders to tell their congregations not to allow traitors to infiltrate into their ranks and cause disruption in the name of religion.
But for many the political issues remain confused and unimportant as they mourn the loss of a close relative. Some of whom were dedicated to the anti-Shah cause and others who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A strong warning has been issued that martial law authorities would carry out their duties and spare no effort to maintain peace. Sources close to the Shah said political changes were unlikely before Moharram was over and the military-led government would stay in power to carry out its principal assigned task of restoring law and order.