TEHRAN: A small group of protesters, most of them women, on Tuesday destroyed an Iranian police post protecting the French embassy in Tehran and threw stones at visitors to the mission before being arrested, a diplomat inside said.
The unannounced, violent demonstration lasted 90 minutes and involved around 15 people, the French diplomat said.
“There was no damage to the embassy itself,” though the visitors — all of them Iranians applying for French visas — had to take refuge inside, he said.
The diplomat said the protest happened suddenly, with none of the advance notice given in previous demonstrations.
As a result there was no added police presence.
He said the protesters yelled “God is greatest,” but he could not discern any other slogan.
He stressed that “it is up to the Iranian authorities to ensure our security.”
Just before the French embassy attack, a bigger demonstration was held at the nearby Tehran University in which the crowd shouted “Death to America,” “Death to Israel” and “Those who insult the prophet should be executed,” according to the Fars news agency.
Demonstrations have taken place in several Muslim countries in the past two weeks over a film made in the United States and cartoons in a French magazine, both of which made fun of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Embassy security in Tehran is a sensitive issue.
Britain late last year closed its embassy after it was stormed by protesters and Canada closed its mission last month, citing concerns for the safety of its diplomats.
In 1979, following Iran’s revolution, students broke into the US embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans inside hostage, leading to a rupture in US-Iran diplomatic ties.
Separately, the UN human rights agency in Geneva on Tuesday voiced deep concern over the arrest and imprisonment of a number of prominent human rights and political activists, lawyers and journalists in Iran over the past two weeks.
“This appears to reflect a further severe clamp-down on critical voices in the country,” Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.
“We urge the government of Iran to promptly release all those who have been arrested for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights,” he said.