Thousands join protest — They were numbered in no more than the thousands. But the demonstrators that took to the streets in Tehran and other cities today left their mark for all to see. Again confronted mostly by the Basij, there were numerous reports of heavy beatings with batons. Videos posted on Youtube showed the use of tear gas, while other witnesses spoke of security forces firing in the air. Their were isolated claims of people being shot or, in one email posted on the web, beaten to death, but these seemed out of character with most information coming out of Tehran, recalling the questionable interview CNN broadcast during the last outbreak of violence when a woman claimed to be witnessing a massacre. More arrests were certainly made, though, as people were bundled into special armoured vehicles parked in or near the main flashpoints. Again the basij tactic appeared to be to break up people before they could form large groups.
Most news organisations were careful not to over-hype the numbers taking part, but journalist Fintan Dunne and academic Scott Lucas, who have been closely monitoring events in Iran, concluded after watching the many videos that have emerged of the protests that the figure was more than 25,000 “congregated in groups as large as 3,000 and spread out across the city at many streets and intersections”. The fact that it was so spread out suggests a reason why the basij seemed more stretched than in the past – that and the notion that because trouble was expected all over Iran the authorities were not able to concentrate forces on the capital. “It’s like the entire Tehran is an urban combat zone,” reported one tweeter, MikVerbrugge. There were at least a couple of reports of basij being overwhelmed as they made an arrest and being forced to let their captives go. There was also a report that the protesters overwhelmed one water cannon and drained it of its contents. Some posts suggested the Revolutionary Guards for the most part either stood back or did not intervene wholeheartedly to help the basij.
Accpording to the Tehran Bureau website the most violent clashes came around Enghelab St and Amir Abad St near Tehran University. “They were beating demonstrators with batons. Several people were severely injured, and there was bleeding, including women bleeding. Security forces were also using heavy amounts of teargas.”
Several demonstrations supporting the opposition were also reported from around the world. Tehran Bureau, MikVerbrugge, Guardian, Fintan Dunne website, yekiran.com, Revolutionary Road, BBC, Anonymous Iran, Montreal Gazette (AP)
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