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Iran Protesters Clash With Security Forces

Iranian opposition demonstrators clashed with security forces and paramilitary militiamen across the county Thursday during celebrations to mark the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian opposition protesters chanted anti-government slogans in a Tehran neighborhood as government supporters held a massive rally to celebrate the 31st anniversary of Iran's Revolution. Eyewitnesses say demonstrations took place in dozens of Tehran neighborhoods, with security forces firing teargas at large crowds in major city squares.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had asked supporters both verbally and on their Web sites to turn out for a "peaceful demonstration" to mark the anniversary of the revolution. Karroubi's son reported that his father was attacked and injured by pro-government agents, forcing him to turn back. He added that his brother was arrested.

Iranian state TV showed what appeared to be a vast crowd gathered for the official ceremony at Tehran's Azadi or "Freedom" Square to hear President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other speakers hail the revolution and denounce Iran's enemies, including the United States and Britain.

At another Tehran square a group of angry opposition protesters began chanting anti-government slogans during an official rally, drowning out the cleric who was speaking and forcing him to stop.

Eyewitnesses say that protests in many parts of Tehran turned violent after security forces began firing teargas at crowds and chasing down protesters with motorcycles. One young man described the scene as security forces unleashed the barrage of teargas.

He says that thick smoke filled the air all around him as he went through Ashraf Esfahani and Sadeqieh and that security forces fired at him and his friends, forcing them to hide. He recalls running through alleys, searching for cover, when a man let him and his friends inside his home. His eyes, he complains, are red from heavy tear gas…Outside, he says, there is a huge crowd and cars cannot pass because the area is been sealed off.

One crowd of protesters cheered, and cars honked their horns as young men tore down the photo of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and stomped on it in a video sent to VOA. A young man describes the atmosphere, as the crowd of mostly students finally met up with security forces.

He says that he has just come from the area of Shrak Gharb in Tehran, where the situation was chaotic. Demonstrators, he notes, set fire to a motorcycle and protesters tore down Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's picture. The clashes, he stresses, were intense.

Clashes between security forces and opposition demonstrators also took place in a number of provincial cities. In Shiraz, a young man told Radio Farda that violent clashes with security forces took place as students turned out in the main square to demonstrate.

He says that he went with others to Namazi square at 10AM, and shortly afterwards plain clothes security forces and revolutionary guards worked their way into the crowd, telling people to disperse. He describes how the (government agents) then began taking people in small groups to nearby alleys to attack and then arrest them. After that, he says that his group went to Setad Square, where there were Basijis, plain clothes police and (revolutionary) guards, most of whom were young boys on bikes with batons…..and they were attacking people.

Opposition Web sites are reporting that hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters turned out in cities across the country, describing scores of violent clashes with security forces.