Witnesses in Tehran say security forces today blocked hundreds of Iranians who were marching toward a main square in a banned rally supporting popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Demonstrators were marching toward Azadi Square, a traditional rallying point for protests. Crowds of protesters were also seen at key areas of the capital, such as Haft-e Tir Square, Karim Khan Avenue, and Ferdowsi Square.
|Report: Security Forces Attack
According to eye witness reports security forces attacked peaceful protesters and gunfire shots were heard in center of Tehran where demonstrators are growing in numbers. Based on these reports security forces on bikes are trying to intimidate protesters and scatter them. There are also some reports of protest being held in cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Kermanshah. (source: Mir Hossein Mousavi's facebook)
Radio Farda reports that clashes have occurred
near Enghelab Square, in central Tehran, with security forces using batons and
firing into the air to disperse protesters.
Hundreds of marchers also reportedly gathered in the central city of Isfahan.
Scores of Iranian security forces were on the
streets of Tehran to prevent the planned rally.
The website of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi said police had blocked access to Musavi's house and cut his telephone lines to prevent him from joining protesters.
Musavi's website -- "Kaleme.com" -- said security forces deployed police vans and other vehicles in the alley that leads to the home of Musavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard. The website said all telephone connections at the house, including mobile phone links for Musavi and his wife, had been severed.
Opposition websites also report that Musavi's wife was prevented from leaving the house today by plainclothes police officers.
Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, a Paris-based aide of
Musavi, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the "very idea of holding rallies" to
support democratic movements in the Middle East is a "great victory" for Iran's
"Those authorities who try to prevent the rallies using threats and fear mongering are aware of this issue. And we hope that this rally will take place in a complete peaceful manner along with precautions taken to guarantee people's optimum well-being and security," Arjomand said.
"We are asking all people to pay attention to the fact that we are a peaceful movement and we seek to show that democracy is important and essential for all people the world over. We defend the Egyptian people. We defend all those who seek democracy."
'A New Middle East'
WATCH: Footage from YouTube showing Iranians shouting "God is great!" and
"Death to the dictator!" from their rooftops in Tehran.
Iranian state television has repeatedly shown
footage of a state-organized rally on February 11 that marked the 32nd
anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad claimed at the rally that antigovernment protests spreading across the Arab world -- including those which led to the ouster of autocratic presidents of Tunisia and Egypt -- are an extension of the Islamic Revolution that toppled Iran's U.S.-backed monarch in 1979.
"Soon a new Middle East -- without the U.S. and the Zionist regime -- will be created and the oppressors will not have a place in the Middle East," Ahmadinejad said.
Arjomand said Ahmadinejad's regime should accept that Iranians are "a wise people" who are able "to express their views in the streets in all calmness and demand their own rights."
But the Iranian regime continues to deny opposition protesters the right to demonstrate against the disputed 2009 presidential election results that kept Ahmadinejad in office for a second term.
Frustrated by the government's violent crackdowns on street protests, many Iranians who are unhappy with Ahmadinejad's regime turned to a safer way to express their discontent overnight -- shouting "God is great!" and "Death to the dictator!" from their rooftops in Tehran. Such chants were common during the 2009 postelection unrest.
Meanwhile, the former head of Iran's state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency -- the reformist leader Abdollah Naseri -- also was detained today by security agents who carried an arrest warrant from Iran's prosecutor general.
Naseri is a member of the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization -- one of Iran's most prominent reformist parties. Considered to be one of the more moderate figures in the ranks of the reformists, Naseri was forced to resign from his job at the state news agency because of his political views.
Another prominent opposition politician -- Mehdi Karrubi, was put under house arrest on February 10 in Tehran.
The arrests are part of a wider campaign by authorities to tighten the grip on political dissidents and activists -- a crackdown that has led to the arrest of other Iranian activists since last week when the government denied official permission for today's rally.
The BBC said the regime in Tehran also jammed its Persian-language television transmissions to Iran following its extensive coverage of the uprising in Egypt.
Written by Ron Synovitz; with reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda and news agencies
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