Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Sep. 18 – Huge anti-government protests erupted in central Tehran and across the country on Friday which marked Qods, or Jerusalem, Day in Iran. Iran Focus
Tehran, Iran, Sep. 18 – Huge anti-government protests erupted in central Tehran and across the country on Friday which marked Qods, or Jerusalem, Day in Iran.
Hundreds of thousands of opponents of the theocratic establishment rallied in central Tehran despite warnings in recent days by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that anti-government protests would not be tolerated on a day which traditionally involves anti-Israel and anti-Western rallies and sermons.
As Iran's hard-line President made a speech in Tehran decrying the Holocaust as a "lie", anti-government demonstrators chanted "Death to the dictator" in Palestine Street and nearby roads.
Large crowds in Vali Asr Street chanted: "Forget about Palestine, look at the crimes in Kahrizak", referring to the make-shift Tehran prison where many protestors were detained and believed to have been tortured and raped by hard-line security forces and members of the paramilitary Bassij force following the controversial June presidential election.
Near Jam-e-Jam Street, thousands chanted: "I will fight, I will die, but I will take back my country". For the first time in the Islamic Republic's history since Qods Day was incepted, state television refrained from broadcasting the day’s rallies live.
Large crowds in Tehran also chanted: "Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon; my life is sacrificed for Iran", a hugely controversial slogan which seemed to turn around the message of the Qods Day from focusing on issues in the Middle East to turning attention to domestic problems.
Iran Focus has learnt a number of protestors were arrested at the Taleqani Intersection.
Witnesses reported that State Security Forces beat protestors with batons in central Tehran and tear gas was fired into crowds near Haft-e Tir Square. Anti-government protestors fired back with chants of "Political prisoners must be freed" and "Death to the dictator", a once-unimaginable slogan which is now commonly heard in most opposition rallies.
There were also chants for Ahmadinejad and his government to resign. Some protesters threw stones to push back security forces which tries to disrupt the anti-government rallies.
Mobile phone networks have been disrupted in some parts of central Tehran. There has been a heavy police presence in the capital throughout the day.
Other rallies today erupted in major cities including Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan and Mashhad.
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 Supreme Leader Khamenei and allies of former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi 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 several hundred protestors and arrested thousands of others since the unrest began.