Iranian riots leave dead and wounded

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HUNDREDS OF demonstrators were arrested and an undisclosed number killed or wounded following two days of rioting in Tabriz, the capital of Iran's Azarbaijan province and Iran's third largest city, according to eyewitnesses and local sources, writes Safa Haeri. The demonstrators attacked public buildings, set fire to buses and bank offices and broke windows.

Some clashed with the Pasdaran (revolutionary guards) and the Basij (volunteers recruited in rural villages and instructed by mullahs), the sources added. The riots started on Friday at the end of a football match, after Basijis attacked young girls who had 'mixed' with boys. Islamic rules forbid mixing of the sexes and, by a recent decision, women are banned from football matches.

One eyewitness said: 'Very quickly, the Basijs were overpowered by the angry spectators pouring into the streets, shouting anti- regime slogans. At this time Pasdarans were rushed to meet the demonstrators, who were joined by thousands of people.'

According to local sources, the riots were transformed into anti- government demonstrations, with people calling on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to step down. 'Death to Khamenei, death to Rafsanjani, death to this oppressive regime', the crowd chanted, as they attacked official buildings, banks and the regional headquarters of the radio and television and set fire to buses.

The violence came 10 days after disturbances shook Qazvin, an industrial city 150km (90 miles) north-west of Tehran.