Iranian police firing tear gas clashed with crowds of protesters in central Tehran today as opposition supporters used Students Day commemorations to stage fresh anti-government demonstrations. Witnesses said the clashes took place at several universities and in prominent districts of the capital, which was today flooded with security force members. A number of arrests were made, they added. Iran's state news agency confirmed clashes between police and supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi took place. "There were clashes between rioters and police around Tehran University campus," said the official IRNA news agency.
One witness told reporters: "Police fired tear gas at groups of protesters chanting slogans against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Vali Asr intersection and Enghelab Street." The protesters were chanting "Death to the Dictator" and "Do not be scared. We are all together," the witness said, adding that some protesters also beat up a policeman. The opposition website Mowjcamp.com reported that police also fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered at the popular Haft-e-Tir and Ferdowsi squares.
A witness described events on the streets as "a cat-and-mouse game with protesters being chased by Basijis (the Iranian militia) at several squares and bylanes in central Tehran." Independent confirmation of the incidents was not forthcoming as foreign media have been banned from covering the event. Websites reported that anti-Ahmadinejad protests also took place at Tehran University, Sharif University, the University of Fine Arts, Amir Kabir University and universities in the cities of Kermanshah and Mashhad.
The protests came despite the elite Revolutionary Guards warning of a crackdown on any attempt by regime opponents to hijack the annual Students Day, which marks the 1953 killing by the shah's security forces of three students, just months after a US-backed coup toppled the popular prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq. Earlier today, students at Amir Kabir University had urged Iranians to stage protests against Ahmadinejad.
"We are asking all people to come to universities so we can have one voice to protest at the coup d'etat," the Amir Kabir students said in an online statement issued under the name "Green university students of Iranian universities." Green was the signature colour of main opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's election campaign for the June 12 presidential poll. He lost to Ahmadinejad in what he claims was a "fraudulent" election staged to return the hardliner to power.