There are reports in social media sites and non-state Iranian news sites of clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran, the Iranian capital.
Thousands of demonstrators were marching on Monday on Enghelab and Azadi streets [which connect and create a straight path through the city centre], with a heavy presence in Enghelab Square and Vali-Asr Street, according to these reports.
Several clashes have been reported on Twitter, the micro-blogging site, with claims of some demonstrators being teargassed and others beaten and arrested.
Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari, in Tehran, confirmed reports that security forces used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against the protesters.
She said up to 10,000 security forces had been deployed to prevent protesters from gathering at Azadi Square, where the marches, originating from various points in Tehran, were expected to converge.
The AFP news agency reported that police fired paintball bullets on protesters. One video, posted on Youtube (claiming to be from Monday's protests) shows people chanting, "political prisoners must be freed" when a woman cries that tear gas has been deployed, dispersing the crowd.
On the Facebook page used to organise Monday's marches, there were also reports of shooting in or around Enghelab Square as well as demonstrations in the cities of Mashhad, Shiraz and Kermanshah.
Cashes between police and demonstrators, resulting in dozens of arrests, have also taken place in Isfahan, the country's third largest city.
Also posted on Twitter and Facebook were reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahrah Rahnavard, had joined one of the marches.
Al Jazeera was unable to confirm whether Mousavi and Rahnavard joined the protest, and at last report, Kaleme.com, a pro-reformist website, said that security forces had prevented the couple from leaving their home.
As night fell in Iran, the BBC reported that city lights were being turned off and that security forces were attacking protesters in the dark.
The current security clampdown is reminiscent of the one that crushed a wave of protests after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian president, in June 2009.
Opposition supporters revived a tactic from the 2009 protests, shouting "Allahu Akbar" or God is Great, and "Death to the dictator", from rooftops and balconies into the early hours Monday in a sign of defiance towards Iran's leadership.
Several opposition activists and aides to Mousavi and Karroubi have been arrested in recent days as part of the Iranian government efforts to intimidate the opposition and undermine its resolve to hold a rally.
Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, hailed the "courage" of the protesters, and pressed Tehran to follow Egypt's example and "open up" its political system. Our correspondent in Tehran said that as far as Iran's leaders are concerned, Monday's protests "are not a reflection of what people actually want."
They believe these are small groups of individuals who have ulterior motives, they are a threat to national security and therefore the security forces are necessary to prevent them from becoming a threat inside the country," said Jabbari.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International criticised Iranian authorities for breaking up a banned rally and making dozens of arrests in Tehran on Monday saying the crackdown was aimed at blocking the work of activists and stifling dissent.
"Iranians have a right to gather to peacefully express their support for the people of Egypt and Tunisia," said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
"While the authorities have a responsibility to maintain public order, this should be no excuse to ban and disperse protests by those who choose to exercise that right."
There was no mention of Monday's demonstrations on state-run television stations or websites. Instead, one station replayed interviews it did with those who attended the march celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Friday.
First Signs of Change in Iran as Protest Restart
Unlike a revolution in Yemen and in Egypt, a revolution in Iran would be a very good thing not only for the United States and Israel, but for the world. With roughly 70% of the Iranian population under the age of 30, there is a powerful force for change. Furthermore, the Iranian people most likely learned from the Egyptian revolution, that once you start protesting, you don’t stop, you don’t go home, you don’t give in until the job is done. That’s where the Iranian people failed in 2009, they simply stopped protesting, and the matter was effectively dropped.
The main difference is that the Iranian government, military and police officers are not afraid to use force to tamp down any potential uprising. In Egypt we saw the military show an amazing amount of restraint, at no time did the use extreme force on the protestors. That very well may not be the case in Iran. Iran also has a much stronger central government who will do whatever it takes to remain in power.
Nonetheless, we are still seeing protest in the Persian country. Today, Iranian forces fired teargas to disperse the massing crowds. While little is coming out of Iran (mainly because they are a much more closed society) there is intelligence that seems to show a growing problem that could lead to the next Iranian revolution.
- This May Be the First Sign Spark of Revolution in Iran, Jerusalem Post
- Iran Opposition: Will Arab Uprising Spread, BBC News
- Iran Uses Tear Gas, Arrests to Break Up Protest, VOA News
- Iran Cheers Revolt as Ahmadinejad Foes See Parallel, Bloomberg
I currently have family in Iran and I'm hoping they're safe. I don't know how effective the protests are going to be considering the amount of security and intervention administered by the government but I'm optimistic. Change takes time suppose (be it 18 days or a few years).