Eyewitness reports given to Zamaneh indicate that large buses with drawn curtains are parked around Valiasr Square, a central thoroughfare in Tehran, and security forces are brandishing clubs and batons to intimidate Iranain protesters who have braved the streets despite heavy security deployment all across Tehran.
Various reports indicate Iranians from across the city have been trying to get to the proposed starting point of the rally called by opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. With subways blocked and security forces heavily deployed on major streets, it has become difficult and hazardous for protesters to gather as planned.
At 18:25 local time, eyewitnesses told Zamaneh security forces are carrying unusually heavy weaponry around Abbasabad Street. Reports also indicate that at Azadi Square, where the march was supposed to end, dozens of black police vehicles have been stationed, and the police are reportedly confiscating mobile phones as soon as people are seen using them.
While froreign media has been banned from covering the events, reports of the protests are only getting through social media and eyewitnesses despite restrictions set against internet and mobile phone services.
Eyewitness reports to Reuters indicate sporadic clashes in Tehran’s Engelab Square between security forces and opposition protesters. Demonstrators are said to have been chanting “Death to the Dictator!” referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline president who was re-elected in 2009 amidst allegations of vote fraud, triggering mass protests.
AFP and CNN have reported thousands of protesters on the streets, and BBC quotes eyewitnesses who report that drivers and motorcyclists are giving free lifts to protesters.
Protests have also been reported in other major cities including Tabriz, Shiraz, Esfahan, Ahavaz, Rasht and Kermanshah.
After Islamic Republic authorities crushed the 2009 street protests with fierce violence and systematic arrest of protesters and reformists figures, the opposition leaders refrained from rallying supporters to avoid bloodshed.
Today’s rally, called by Mousavi and Karroubi in support of the recent Arab uprisings which the state has announced support for, will test the opposition’s ability to engage in street protests as well as the state’s willingness to persist in violent confrontations with the people.