Thousands of Iranian opposition supporters marched through the streets
of the capital Friday, ignoring government warnings not to turning the
country's annual anti-Israel rallies into a day of anti-government
Iranian opposition supporters defied a heavy security presence and a warning from authorities not to turn Friday's annual al-Quds day into a day of protest.
Some clashes were reported as anti-government protesters chanted "death to the dictator" and threw stones at security forces. The protests, which challenge the credibility of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June re-election, took place as tens of thousands of pro-government marchers turned out for rallies and speeches to support Palestinians and condemn Israel.
Director of the Center for Arab & Iranian Studies Ali Nourizadeh says the anti-government protests show that Mr. Ahmadinejad's credibility is still challenged despite two months of virtually no opposition rallies.
"But the turnout today was amazing and that shows that the Green Movement and the opposition movement is not something that you can just cross over as they try to say that it's finished," he said. "'We are in control and Mr. Ahmadinejad is our beloved president and nothing is going to happen.' No. The people showed today that as soon as they see an opportunity they will grab it."
At one of the opposition rallies, a group of hard-liners attacked reformist former president Mohammad Khatami. According to a report on a reformist Web site Khatami was pushed to the ground.
Also Iranian official IRNA news agency reported that former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was forced to abandon his plans to take part in the rally after an angry crowd of hardliners attacked his car.
Nourizadeh says this use of force is characteristic of the Ahmadinejad administration.
"They used tear gas and clubs and they've beaten the people," he said. "But the protesters and the reformist, they were so civilized and they came ready to deal with the amount of cruelty that they may use against them."
But despite opposition protests, al-Quds day rallies drew large crowds.
Many of the marchers chanted "Death to Israel" as they marched the streets of Tehran.
In his address to the country Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again called the Holocaust a lie by western nations designed to create a pretext for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.
The Iranian president called the Holocaust a myth and an unproveable lie designed to promote support for Israel.
The annual al-Quds or Jerusalem Day rallies take place on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. The commemoration was established in 1979 by the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.