Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Jul. 17 – Huge anti-government protests have erupted in central Tehran.
Tehran, Iran, Jul. 17 – Huge anti-government protests erupted in central Tehran on Friday.
Tens of thousands of opponents of the theocratic establishment took part at the weekly Friday prayers service at the University of Tehran, where former President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was delivering a sermon.
State television channels which normally broadcast the service live, decided to forego live broadcasting today. Rafsanjani's sermon was at one stage interrupted by chants by protestors. There were chants of “Hashemi, if you keep silent, you are traitor”.
State Security Forces fired tear gas at the protestors and attacked them with batons outside Tehran University to force them to disperse. Protestors chanted “Political prisoners must be freed” and “Death to the dictator”.
Thousands of Tehran residents also rallied in Jamalzadeh, Kargar and Palestine streets, chanting anti-government slogans, despite a heavy police presence.
Defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took part in the prayers service on Friday. Plainclothes agents attacked and arrested women's rights activist Shadi Sadr on her way to the university campus.
Mobile phone networks have been disrupted in some parts of central Tehran.
Since the 12 June presidential election, millions of people have taken part in anti-government rallies in Tehran and other major cities, protesting the re-appointment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following the election which they believe was rigged. The protestors’ demands soon shifted to once-unimaginable calls for regime change.
A major rift has emerged at the top of the Islamic theocracy between Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and supporters of Rafsanjani. Khamenei has given his full backing to Ahmadinejad. Observers say the population are taking advantage of the rift to hold major street protests.
The main opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq charges that security forces have killed over 300 protestors and arrested thousands of others since the unrest began.