TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian security forces clashed with thousands of demonstrators across Tehran and struggled to maintain control Thursday after opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was prevented from visiting the graves of those killed in protests last month, including 27-year-old Neda Agha Soltan, whose final moments were broadcast around the world.
The clashes were some of the most intense in recent weeks, suggesting the anger that fueled demonstrations in the days after last month's disputed presidential elections continues to run deep. With President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scheduled to be sworn in for another term next week, Thursday's demonstrations show that authorities have not been successful in stamping out unrest.
Ahmadinejad won the June election in a landslide, according to official results, but opposition candidates say the vote was rigged. Protests after the election brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets, shaking the foundations of the Islamic republic before a fierce government crackdown.
Security forces Thursday worked aggressively to put down the protests, fearing any major defeat in the streets would give new energy to the opposition. Police fired tear gas, attacked demonstrators with batons and smashed car windshields. But the protesters fought back, battling hand-to-hand with security forces. In one case, three members of the much-feared voluntary militia known as the Basij were beaten with their own batons after a group of opposition activists pulled them off their motorcycles near a park.
"The people have taken over the streets," one witness said Thursday evening before police managed to regain control.
Agha Soltan, who worked in a travel agency, was shot in the heart at an antigovernment demonstration June 20. Two cellphone video clips showing her last moments were watched by millions of people worldwide.