Iranian security forces beat protesters in central Tehran on Saturday, a sign of mounting tensions ahead of planned opposition rallies to mark a religious festival and the death of a dissident cleric a week ago, a reformist Web site said.
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It said protests occurred in at least three areas: Imam Hossein Square, Pol-e-Choobi and Ferdowsi Square.
The report could not be independently confirmed because the Iranian government has banned foreign media from covering opposition protests.
Iran is marking the first 10 days of the Islamic month of Moharram, a time of mourning rituals for a revered Shiite saint.
The period culminates Sunday with Ashoura – a day that coincides with the seventh day since the death of Iran’s most senior dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. More memorials and possible protests are expected.
The death on Sunday of the 87-year-old Montazeri, a sharp critic of Iran’s leaders, has given a new push to opposition protests, which have endured despite a heavy security crackdown since disputed presidential elections in June.
His memorials have brought out not only the young, urban activists who filled the ranks of earlier protests, but also older, more religious Iranians who revered Montazeri on grounds of faith as much as politics. Tens of thousands marched in his funeral procession in the holy city of Qom on Monday, many chanting slogans against the government.
That last paragraph is a crucial one, as it shows that the protest community is being enlarged. About the only thing that the regime can hope for at this point is that once the holy month of Moharram comes to an end, the protests will lessen. But that may just not happen, as it appears that the protest genie is now completely out of the bottle.