Following three days of street violence between rival political factions, Iran's revolutionary authorities today imposed restrictions on demonstrations for the first time since the February revolution that overthrew Shah Mohammed Rza Pahlavi.
At that time, heavily armed guerrillas of the Islamic Mujaheddin organization barricaded themselves inside their headquarters in central Tehran, fearing that Revolutionary Guards and Moslem militants loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would try to evict them.
The Mujaheddin, considered Iran's most powerful guerrilla group, espouses a radical Islamic ideology but has run into increasing differences with Khomeini's efforts to fashion a strict fundamentalist Moslem state.
Any attack on the Mujaheddin -- such as the takeovers in the last two days of the headquarters of leftitst guerrilla and liberal political groups -- would risk turning an organization that still nominally supports Khomeini's leadership into potentially his most dangerous adversary, observers said. In addition, they said, it would risk aggravating the current street violence.
The violence, which broke out with fierce rioting at a march Sunday to protest a clampdown on the press, continued this morning with further clashes between stick-wielding Moslem militants and liberal groups opposed to the Islamic government's restrictions.
But Tehran was calm later in the day after the state radio interrupted its program for a broadcast by Interior Minister Hashem Sabbaghian announcing restrictions on demonstrations in the city.
While urging calm, Sabbaghian asked people not to demonstrate "without prior permission as counter-revolutionaries want to use any turmoil to their own advantage." The minister also urged Revolutionary Guards, who have been deployed by the government to keep the peace since Monday, to act in a "disciplined manner in preventing any further unauthorized demonstrations."
Ironically, the government's move to restrict demonstrations was similar to a measure taken by the deposed shah's government at around this time last year. When the restriction on demonstrations failed to stifle opposition to his government, the shah imposed martial law, also to no avail.
As the turmoil in Tehran continued today, authorities circulated an arrest warrant for the leader of the National Democratic Front, Hedayatollah Matin-Daftari, accusing him of instigating Sunday's violence. The Front had called for the march.
Matin-Daftari, a leading Iranian lawyer, was not available for comment, but friends said the warrant had not yet been served.
The Front issued a statement on behalf of its leader ridiculing the charges and said that it was clear to all unbiased observers that the march was attacked by organized Islamic militants who threw rocks transported to them by dump trucks.
The Front said it had forwarned the government that the march might be attacked and had asked for protection, but that the request was ignored.
Interior Minister Sabbaghian said the government had received the Front's request but had disregarded it because "it was not properly signed."
Government spokesman Sadq Tabatabai accused the Front and other liberal and leftist groups of being Zionist "because they have uttered the same language" as Israeli Radio in criticizing the closure of the independent daily, Ayandegan.
This morning's clashes left at least three persons seriously injured, one of them from stab wounds.
The clashes occurred when Moslem militants tried to harass supporters of the two main guerrilla groups that fought the shah, the Islamic Mujaheddin and the Marxist Fedaye.
The Mudaheddin reinforce sand-bagged machine gun postions at their central Tehran headquarters, ready to fight if necessary to defend it.
An attempt by Islamic militants to take the building quickly folded when they confronted a human chain of about 300 young men and women Mujaheddin supporters who had been staging an all-night vigil outside the guerrilla headquarters.
But a spokesman said the guerrillas were not taking any chances because they believed armed revolutionary militiamen have been ordered by the authorities to take control of their headquarters.
"We are in a state of siege," the spokesman said. "we know what the Revolutionary Guards in front of our building want. They want to drive away our supporters so that the reactionaries can more easily attack us."
About 10,000 supporters of both the Mujaheddin and Fedaye marched through central Tehran to the prime minister's office at midday to protest the crackdown on political opposition to the Islamic government.
Revolutionary Guards resorted to firing in the air on several occasions to prevent clashes between the marchers, and Moslem militants.
Unable to attack the marchers, the Islamic militants assaulted several youths near the Fedaye headquarters, which was being heavily guarded by Revolutionary Guards armed with submachine guns.