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  Middle East & Africa
Green Seen Again on the Streets of Tehran
By Juliet Shardlow
Staff Writer
Street protests in the Iranian capital

Dozens of arrests were made across Iran this week after security forces clashed with pro-democracy demonstrators.

Up to 10,000 protestors turned out on Tuesday to campaign against what they deemed the illegal election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this summer. the marches and gatherings centered around dozens of university campuses across the country. As protests erupted on the Tehran campus, an American rights organization reported similar outbursts in seven other universities in the capital, and in six other large cities.

Composed mainly of students, the protestors were heard to shout slogans promoting freedom and intellectual integrity, both which they believe have been suppressed in the rule of President Ahmadinejad. Personal remarks about the President, such as the earlier election cry 'Death to the Dictator' could be heard.

At one university, students tore down and trampled upon pro-government posters, controversially chanting against the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Ayatollah approved the election of Ahmadinejad earlier this year.

Wearing green

Green, the colour of the earlier election protest movement, was worn by some protestors. Reformist opposition supporters had been captured by the media six months ago carrying green banners and wearing green scarves and masks, with similar images emerging yesterday. Mir Hossein Mousavi, who emerged as a leader of the reformist opponents of regime, commented yesterday on his website that the campaign for electoral justice was "still alive".

Militia reaction

Police and the members of the government Basji militia attempted to contain the protest movement within university grounds on Wednesday morning. There were reportedly angry clashes at the gates of Tehran university, as police attempted to seal off the campus. Witnesses claim that cellphone signals in the area were shut down to prevent others from joining the crowd, and that the gates of the college were festooned with promotional posters of the Ayatollah.

Scraps between the authorities and protestors turned increasingly violent as the day wore on, with even forces from the elite Revolutionary Guard deployed to the city centre. Tear gas was used against crowds of anti-government activists, and witnesses claim that the militia beat more violent city centre protestors with batons.

Videos filmed by cellphone cameras have emerged on youtube of Basji men attempting to centralise the crowds by driving motorbikes in formation. Some of the footage shows protestors being beaten over the head and shoulders, and stones being thrown by both groups.

In nearby Enghelab street, shots were apparently heard, although these reports cannot be verified. The crowds abated to some extent by the afternoon, regrouping on street corners in the city centre and setting fire to trash to ward off the tear gas, reports claim.

Protest ban

Following the election earlier this year, anti-government protests were seen as the largest since the Islamic revolution of the 1970's. They resulted in thousands of arrests, with dozens of death sentences alloted to prominent campaigners. It is not clear yet as to the numbers of those arrested during this weeks' protest.

As the government banned protests six months ago following the mass riots in the capital, opponents have since been forced to use officially sanctioned days to mass together and campaign. Tuesday saw the annual commemoration day of the killings of 3 students during Anti American protests in 1953.

The military and police forces had expected protestors to use this day for their own campaign, possibly in violent means, and so set up a cordon around campus areas in the morning. Other measures, such as the restriction of internet access, and the prohibition of involvement of foreign journalists, were used.



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