BEIRUT – Iranian authorities deployed in force across Tehran Wednesday to conduct last-minute security sweeps and warn residents to refrain from joining antigovernment protests planned for Thursday.
The government typically orchestrates large, carnival-like rallies and demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Republic. For this year's events on Feb. 11, the day marking the culmination of the annual celebrations, opposition leaders have called for protesters to demonstrate against the regime. That has set the stage for clashes between authorities and demonstrators, who have taken to the streets repeatedly to protest the outcome of presidential elections in June.
Government officials, meanwhile, ratcheted up threats against any protests Thursday, vowing to confront demonstrators on the streets and calling for government supporters to turn out in large numbers. Iranian officials have branded protesters as agents of foreign powers.
The Iranian judiciary has handed down a number of harsh sentences against protesters arrested in previous demonstrations, including at least 10 pending death sentences.
On Wednesday, semi-official news services and opposition Web sites reported last-minute attempts by police and plain-clothes militia to suppress antigovernment demonstrations.
Basij militia took over a large bus and taxi station in western Tehran, shutting it down and draping a banner over the terminal stating the area will serve as headquarters for security forces.
Iranian Web sites said the bus terminal would also be used by security forces coming in from the provinces to help suppress protests in the capital.