TEHRAN - Thousands
of Iranians have taken to the streets of Tehran in protest against the
outcome of the country's elections, in the biggest unrest since
the 1979 revolution.
Riot police were deployed in the capital on Saturday after about
3,000 supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformist candidate, took to
the streets following the announcement of his defeat by Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president.
protests intensified following a televised speech by Ahmadinejad in
which he said the vote had been "completely free" and the outcome was
"a great victory" for Iran.
"Today, the people of Iran have inspired other nations and disappointed their ill-wishers," he said.
is a great victory at a time when the ... propaganda facilities outside
Iran and sometimes inside Iran were totally mobilised against our
Ahmadinejad praised the country's youth, but made no direct mention of the protests.
Al Jazeera's Teymoor Nabili, reporting from Tehran, said major streets in the north of the city had come to a standstill.
"Coming up the street there were running battles happening between riot
police and students and there were refuse bins alight in the middle of
the road," he said.
"I saw riot police hitting students with sticks. I saw students -
or young people - throwing stones at the riot police, trying to knock
them off their motorcycles.
"But you didn't get a sense that there was any kind of organised movement in this."
Mohsen Khancharli, Tehran's deputy police chief, warned that his
officers would "strongly confront" any gathering or rally held without
"Police are not confronting people but only those who are disturbing
public order or who make damage to public places," he told Iran's
official IRNA news agency.
Fearing the protests might spread, authorities blocked access to some news websites and Facebook, the social networking site.
"Text messaging has been closed all day and now its very difficult to even get a mobile telephone line," our correspondent said.
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Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by a wide margin in Friday's
election, with figures from the interior ministry showing he had taken
62.63 per cent of the vote, while Mousavi garnered only 33.75 per cent.
The scale of Ahmadinejad's triumph upset widespread expectations that Mousavi might win the race.
But supporters of Ahmadinejad also took to the street following the
announcement of his victory, waving Iranian flags and honking car horns
in celebration of his winning a second, four-year term.
Mehran Kamrava, the director of the centre for international and
regional studies, at Georgetown University's campus in Qatar, said that
protests in northern Tehran were not necessarily an indication of a
"The western media has been talking to people in north Tehran, who
tend to vote overwhelmingly against Ahmadinejad," he told Al Jazeera.
"But let's not forget that many of the urban Iranians have
priorities and proclivities that are not necessarily reflected in other
areas of the main cities, and those people could easily have voted for
"Iranian politics have proved themselves to be notoriously
unpredictable and this could be one of those instances of
Mousavi said that members of his election headquarters had been beaten "with batons, wooden sticks and electrical rods".
He also appealed directly to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran's supreme
leader, to intervene and stop what he said were violations of the law.
But Khameini appeared unlikely to intervene, calling on defeated
candidates and their supporters to avoid "provocative behaviour".
"The chosen and respected president is the president of all the
Iranian nation and everyone, including yesterday's competitors, must
unanimously support and help him," he said in a statement read on state
Iran's elections have seen allegations of vote rigging in the past.
During the 2005 election, when Ahmadinejad won the presidency, there
were some allegations of fraud, but the claims were never investigated.
Iran does not allow international election monitors.