Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran for a fifth-straight night of protests, but the large police and Islamic militant presence muted the turnout. But demonstrations in at least three other cities indicate that the movement may be gathering pace.
Large numbers of cars drove around Tehran University campus late Saturday, the scene of student-led protests in recent days. But would-be demonstrators were matched in numbers by police in riot gear and Islamic vigilantes wielding clubs and chains.
Few drivers dared to even toot their horns in support of the protesters. This was in contrast to previous nights which saw fierce clashes with demonstrators shouting slogans against Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Scores of people have been injured or arrested in recent days, while store windows and vehicles have been smashed.
Police also arrested dozens of pro-clergy militants Sunday who fought their way into the university's dormitories, beating up students.
Student organizers said other protests took place in the southern cities of Shiraz and Ahvaz and in historic Isfahan in central Iran.
Hardliners and reformists alike accuse Washington of fomenting the unrest. Iran's foreign ministry has said the United States is flagrantly interfering in Iran's internal affairs. It also accused Washington of exaggerating the significance of the protests. At the same time, Iran's pro-reform parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi said all of Iran is firmly united in rejecting American pressure.
Demonstrations, hailed as a cry for freedom by Washington, have been directed against both Iran's pro-reform President Mohamed Khatami and hard-line clerics who have blocked his attempts to bring about social and political change.