- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

BEIRUT — Iran’s cleric-run government is being accused of jamming U.S.-supported satellite TV channels, blaming them for inciting the wave of student-led protests that have brought bloody clashes to Tehran’s streets.

Mobs controlled by Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guards, meanwhile, intervened in the fourth consecutive night of protests, using clubs and iron bars to break up crowds.

Stick-wielding thugs, mostly unemployed, attacked protesters, riding up to their lines on motorcycles. Women were dragged from their cars and beaten. There were reports of automatic-weapons fire.

Students rallied to chants of “freedom” and “democracy,” and called for the death of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, before scattering as riot police fired a barrage of tear gas.

Elsewhere in Tehran, dozens of vigilantes stormed at least two student dormitories early yesterday, beating up students in their beds and detaining several.

“We were sleeping in our beds. Suddenly we heard windows being smashed,” said Mojtaba Najafi, a student at Allameh Tabatabai University.

More than 50 students were injured and taken to hospitals while others had disappeared since the attack, he said.

Ayatollah Khamenei blamed the United States for stirring up protests by “mercenaries” as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld charged that Iran is secretly attempting to build nuclear weapons.

Many of those who took to the streets learned of the protests from Persian-language satellite channels run by exile groups. They include National Iranian Television, which is run by Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah.

The satellite broadcasts, which mix popular and political programs, are one of the few diversions openly available to Iranian youth, a relief from the religious fare offered on state-run channels.

Last week viewers complained that it had become almost impossible to watch their favorite programs.

“The television screen is all waves and noisy interference,” said Ellie, 28, an unemployed graduate with a degree in Persian literature. “I can’t watch anything at all. It’s so frustrating here without it.”

Although it has long been illegal to buy or install satellite dishes, the devices cling to the sides of practically every building in the middle-class northern Tehran suburbs and are a common sight across town.

Large circular white boxes installed in the grounds of government barracks and bases are believed to be jamming devices. Government ministers, however, denied any knowledge of an attempt to jam the satellite signals.

Iran’s police, meanwhile, formed a protective ring around Tehran University last night after arresting a hard-line vigilante leader accused of attacking students.

Police earlier warned Islamists against taking the law into their own hands.

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