Iran student protests bring out tens of thousands

by ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press
07 December 2009

TEHRAN, Iran – Tens of thousands of students, many shouting “Death to the Dictator!” and burning pictures of Iran’s supreme leader, took to the streets on more than a dozen campuses Monday in the biggest anti-government protests in months.

Riot police and pro-government Basij militiamen on fleets of motorcycles flooded Tehran’s main thoroughfares, beating men and women with clubs as crowds of demonstrators hurled bricks and stones. Some protesters set tires and garbage cans ablaze.

“Death to the oppressor, whether it’s the shah or the leader!” the students chanted, according to witnesses — making a daring comparison between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the pro-U.S. shah, despised in Iran since his overthrow in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The protests reflected how university students — the driving force of the 1979 Islamic Revolution — have revitalized the anti-government movement even as mainstream opposition politicians struggle to dent the power of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s clerical leadership…

…Journalists working for foreign media organizations, including the AP, have been banned from covering opposition protests, including Monday’s demonstrations.

A fierce government crackdown crushed gigantic protests by hundreds of thousands that erupted immediately after June’s disputed presidential elections, which the opposition says Ahmadinejad won by fraud. The wave of arrests swept up not only protesters but also many pro-reform politicians and activists, deeply damaging the movement…

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