Thousands of Iranian opposition supporters in Tehran defied warnings Friday and marched in protests that were intended as an annual day of solidarity with the Palestinians and later turned violent.
As tens of thousands of government supporters marched and chanted “Death to Israel,” opposition protesters thronged to the streets wearing their signature green and chanting "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I sacrifice my life for Iran.”
An opposition leader was reportedly attacked during the protest, and sporadic fights broke out between the opposition protesters and government supporters and security forces.
Marchers had answered a call by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to keep the protest movement alive after three months of government crackdown following June presidential elections. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory over Mr. Mousavi and other challengers despite widespread complaints of fraud, spawning massive protests. The last large antigovernment rally took place in mid-July.
Al Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, is an annual day of protest in Iran against Israel and in solidarity with the Palestinians. Opposition supporters had been warned by the regime not to disrupt the traditional message with antigovernment slogans.
Witnesses said thousands if not tens of thousands of opposition supporters had taken to the streets. Plainclothes and uniformed security officials lined the streets as loudspeakers broadcast officially sanctioned slogans. Witnesses interviewed by Iranian opposition radio said opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi could be seen marching among the protesters….
On the west side of Enghelab Square, hundreds of government supporters chanting, "The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader," marched toward Azadi Square to force protesters to leave.
The opposition protesters countered with, "The blood in our veins is a gift to our nation."
The Daily Telegraph reports that at least 10 people were arrested during the protests and fighting had erupted between opposition and government supporters in central Tehran.
A reformist Web site cites witnesses as saying the attackers pushed ex-President Mohammad Khatami to the ground. It says opposition activists rescued him and quickly repelled the assailants.
Khatami has sided with the opposition in the post-election crisis that has gripped Iran. Another reformist Webs site says his turban was disheveled and he was forced to leave the march.
Iran’s opposition claims that around 70 protesters were killed in demonstrations after the June election. The government maintains only 36 died. About 200 opposition supporters remain detained, the government has put about 100 on mass trial, according to the Christian Science Monitor.