Iran General NewsIran and Yemen in tit-for-tat battle for street cred

Iran and Yemen in tit-for-tat battle for street cred

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ImageThe Guardian: Iran is embroiled in a game of tit for tat with Yemen after Tehran thoroughfares were renamed in honour of anti-government rebels in the Arabian peninsular country. guardian.co.uk

Governments rename streets in honour of rebel fighters and protesters

Ian Black, Middle East editor

ImageIran is embroiled in a game of tit for tat with Yemen after Tehran thoroughfares were renamed in honour of anti-government rebels in the Arabian peninsular country.

Iranians reportedly designated a street in their capital The Martyrs of Sa'ada, after the remote and mountainous Yemeni province where Shia insurgents are battling government troops and artillery.

To the anger of Yemeni officials, another road in Tehran was recently named after Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a rebel leader killed in the fighting, according to Saudi-owned al-Arabiyya TV.

Iran Street in Yemen's capital Sana'a, meanwhile, has been renamed after Neda Agha Soltan, the young protester who was shot dead in June at the start of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's post-election crackdown in Iran – and whose dying moments were broadcast across the world.

The spat reflects Yemeni fury over claims that Iran is backing the Zaydi "Houthi" rebels, who accuse Yemen's government of religious, economic and political discrimination. The conflict has triggered armed intervention by neighbouring Saudi Arabia and exposed wider tensions between the Islamic Republic and Arab states.

The row has added piquancy because Iran Street in the Yemeni capital was originally given the name in honour of a visit by Mohammad Khatami, the two-term reformist president who preceded Ahmadinejad.Sana'a city council gave in to popular pressure because of Iran's alleged support for the Houthis – which is denied both by the rebels and by Tehran. Yemen has closed the city's Iranian hospital and claims to have captured a ship delivering arms and ammunition to the Houthis.

Iran has a history of politicising street names: following the 1979 Islamic revolution several were changed to reflect new realities. Winston Churchill Avenue, outside the British embassy compound in Tehran, became Bobby Sands Avenue, after the IRA hunger striker who died in the Maze prison. Los Angeles Avenue became the more politically correct Hijab Street.

Later a street in north Tehran was renamed The Martyr Khaled Islambouli, after the army officer who assassinated Egypt's president Anwar Sadat in 1981 for making peace with Israel. That remains a serious bone of contention between Cairo and Tehran, which severed diplomatic ties after Egypt sheltered the toppled shah. Iranian hardliners call Islambouli "one of the heroes of Islam's international movement".

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