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Tehran Sees Protests Despite Officials' Warnings


Protesters demonstrate in Tehran on July 9.
Despite warnings from Iranian authorities, including the governor of Tehran, thousands of people took to the streets of the capital on July 9 to mark the anniversary of the 1999 student uprising and to protest against the results of the June presidential vote.

At one of a handful of locations where rallies took place, protesters chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is great) and “Death to the dictator” clashed with police forces who beat them and used tear gas to disperse them.

The violence broke out as the demonstrators headed toward Tehran University to mark the anniversary of the student unrest that was brutally crushed by the authorities 10 years ago.

Some of the participants wore surgical masks so that their faces couldn’t be identified by security forces.

One protester, coughing amid the tear gas, told Radio Farda that participants urged each other not to run away and to keep marching peacefully.

A heavy presence of police and Basij militia was reported on some of the streets leading to Vali Asr Square, the scene of some of the protests that followed Iran's recent elections.

A video posted on YouTube that purports to show one of the July 9 protests in Tehran:

A protester told RFE/RL that she saw police forces beat up marchers on Vali Asr street, which bisects the city.

“People were calm but [police forces] attacked them. People were beaten up, water was used against them, but they were still chanting ‘Police forces, support us!’” she said. “These are the best people in the world.... Why should they be treated this way?”

The rally took place despite a warning early on June 9 from the governor of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamadon, that security forces would crush any attempt to protest -- whether to mark the anniversary of the 1999 student demonstrations or to continue the protests that erupted following the June 12 presidential election.

One student activist who expected a brutal police reaction told RFE/RL he decided to join the march because he believes “it is necessary” to keep protesting against the result of the election.

New Unrest After The Calm

The demonstration was the first major public gathering in Tehran in the last 11 days.

Tehran and other cities, including Isfahan and Shiraz, were the scene of large protests by supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi following the announcement of a landslide victory by incumbent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

But following a brutal crackdown, Tehran and other cities had been relatively calm.

In recent days, Musavi’s supporters have used e-mail and pamphlets to call on citizens in Tehran and other cities to march silently on July 9 to mark the anniversary of the 1999 student uprising, and to express their discontent with Ahmadinejad’s reelection.

Citizens were urged not to wear colors that could make them easily identifiable, and to avoid flashy hairstyles and make-up.

They were also advised that maintaining calm and a carrying a red rose would be their best defense against any strong-arm tactics by security forces.

Presidential candidates Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who are considered the leaders of the opposition movement, have remained silent and have not publicly reacted to the renewed calls for protest.

Demonstrations in support of the Iranian protesters are also taking place in several major U.S. and European capitals, in Canada, and in Australia, where people rallied in front of the Iranian Embassy in Canberra.

“A number of Iranians living in Australia have gathered here in front of Iran’s embassy in Canberra to demand the release of all political prisoners, a halt to the killing of young people, and freedom of speech and media,” one protester there said.

Iran’s government has reacted to the postelection protests in Tehran and other cities by arresting over 1,000 demonstrators, reformist figures, journalists, and activists. A prominent human rights lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, was arrested on July 8.

Another YouTube video purporting to show the July 9 protests in the capital:

Some of the detainees have been released, while others remain in jail and are reportedly under pressure to make false confessions.

Despite the lack of street protests over the past two weeks, many Iranians have continued to show their anger over the election results and the subsequent crackdown by chanting “Allah Akbar” and “Death to the dictator” from their rooftops at night.

Some have boycotted Iranian state television, which they accuse of being biased.

In recent days, Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have been publicly challenged by a number of political groups and senior clerics calling his government illegitimate and demanding the release of all detainees.

Despite the controversy over his reelection, Ahmadinejad this week called the June 12 vote the freest election in the world.

Radio Farda broadcaster Mahin Gorji contributed to this report

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