On 18 September 2009 pro-government and opposition rallies were held in Tehran amid tight security during the annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day events. More than 100,000 people gathered for rallies in anticipation of an address by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to his supporters at Tehran University. Many of the rally attendants chanted anti-Western slogans. According to reports, the anti-government protests were largely peaceful, as tens of thousands of reformist supporters donning the color green (which represents the opposition movement) staged marches.
Authorities had issued stern warnings of late that they would meet illegal demonstrations with force, and there were several reports of skirmishes between security forces and reformist supporters as well as arrests targeting opposition supporters. Skirmishes were reported in Haft-e Tir Square, located in central Tehran, where police officers used tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones and sticks. Witnesses stated that government supporters assaulted former President Mohammad Khatami — an ally of reformist figure and former presidential candidate Hossein Mousavi — at an opposition rally, but he was unharmed. There were also reports that plainclothes militiamen, known as the Basij, patrolled Tehran on motorcycles and randomly attacked and assaulted reformist supporters. The Basij also attacked opposition supporters at rallies in the southern city of Isfahan as well as in the northwestern city of Tabriz.
ASI Comment: The rallies staged by the opposition were the first to occur in recent weeks but are not necessarily indicative of a revival of the widespread civil unrest campaign that occurred following the 12 June presidential election. The demonstrations do, however, highlight the fact that political tensions remain a very relevant issue in Iran, and that despite an ongoing crackdown by the government against opposition figures and their supporters, the latter remain willing to take to the streets to voice criticism against the new Ahmadinejad administration. In light of the 18 September incidents, security forces will likely remain heavily deployed around Tehran and possibly other major cities over the next several days so as to prevent any further rallies or gatherings from occurring. The opposition has not attempted to organize street demonstrations on a regular basis, but rather has exploited politically sensitive and/or important dates to gather, as was the case with the 18 September events.