By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Thousands of supporters
of Iran's main opposition presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Musavi, are
protesting in central Tehran, defying a ban on the rally by the authorities.
Marching toward the capital's Revolutionary Square, they carried pictures of Musavi and chanted slogans such as, "Musavi we support you! We will die, but retrieve our votes!" They also had banners saying they did not need permission for the rally.
Musavi was expected to address the crowd. AFP reports
that both Musavi and fellow reformist candidate Mehdi Karrubi, who finished last
among the four presidential candidates based on election results released by
Iran's Interior Ministry, were spotted at the event.
The opposition is protesting what they call the fraudulent results of the June 12 election, which incumbent hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad won decisively in the first round.
Reuters reports that Ahmadinejad supporters on motorbikes and armed with sticks clashed with Musavi supporters. A witness said there were scuffles between the rival groups and that Ahmadinejad supporters used sticks to hit opponents.
Riot police are also at the scene.
The Interior Ministry said the rally was planned by "sedition elements."
One of Musavi's aides, Shahab Tabatabaei, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that supporters are determined to hold a peaceful rally, despite the rejection by the Interior Ministry.
"The gathering will definitely go today at 4 p.m. (1130 GMT) from Revolution Square. Musavi will be there," Tabatabaei says. "It will be attended by people who are protesting the result of the election. There won't be any changes to this plan."
The past two days have been marked by violent protests in Tehran and a number of other cities over Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection.
Ahmadinejad has described the June 12 vote as the "people's election" and said it was "clean and healthy."
But Musavi has described the vote as a "charade" and called for the annulment of the results. Karrubi has also protested against the results and called the June 12 vote "illegitimate."
Musavi's and Karrubi's supporters believe there was massive fraud, with some describing the June 12 vote as a veritable "coup."
Khamenei Weighs In
Iranian state television has reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told the defeated Musavi to pursue his complaints regarding the election through legal means. Khamenei confirmed Ahmadinejad's reelection on June 13, calling it a "real feast that can guarantee the country's progress, national security, and lasting joy."
Musavi has lodged a complaint with the Guardians
Council, which validated the June 12 vote, and the hard-line body has said that
it will announce its decision in 10 days.
In the past two days, more than 150 reformist figures, activists, and journalists have been arrested in Tehran and other cities. Observers are warning of an increasing repressive atmosphere in the capital and elsewhere.
In the early morning of June 15, security forces reportedly attacked a Tehran University dormitory and injured a number of students. Some are said to have been detained.
A similar incident reportedly took place at a university dorm in Isfahan.
The attack on the dorm in Tehran came following a crackdown on a protest at the university on the night of June 14, during which students protested against Ahmadinejad's reelection and chanted, "Death to the dictator!"
One student who witnessed the crackdown at Tehran University described the scenes as "terrifying."
"I still can't believe what I saw. [One of Ahmadinejad's supporters] was joyfully beating a student with force," the student says. "The man I saw was laughing and telling the student he was beating, 'I wish your mother could see you when you're being beaten up like this.' "
Later, security forces and plainclothes agents
attacked the dorm, breaking down doors, shattering glass, and beating students.
Witnesses said sticks and heavy chains were used in the attack.
There is concern that there could be more violence as Tehran embraces for a third day of protests.
On the night of June 14, some Tehran residents expressed their anger by shouting "Death to the dictator!" and "Allah Akbar" (God is great) from city rooftops.
Such violent and vocal protests have not been seen in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Radio Farda broadcaster Mohammad Zarghami contributed to this report
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