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Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 19:55 UK

Iranian voices: Peaceful protests

Opposition rally in Tehran, 18 June 2009
Pro-Mousavi demonstrators on the streets of Tehran, 18 June 2009

Pro-reformist Iranians are sending pictures and emails of opposition rallies, nearly a week after disputed presidential elections. Government restrictions are severely cramping their attempts to communicate with the world. TV channels and web pages are blocked and 'phone lines work intermittently.

Shiva, a student from Sharif University in Tehran, attended an opposition rally on Thursday to mourn the eight protesters killed on Monday.

Speaking on her mobile, she told BBC News that people stood quietly in Imam Khomenei Square holding placards and black candles, until opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi appeared.

"Then we got excited and started chanting 'Ya Hossein!' which is the chant for the Shia festival of Ashura, as well as being Mousavi's first name."

She said people in adjoining streets were sitting down, but those nearer Mr Mousavi stayed standing to try to get a glimpse of him.

"The atmosphere was very peaceful, but most people want the vote to be annulled, they're not happy with a recount."

'Trouble'

Daniel, a student, rang BBC Persian TV to describe what he saw as the authorities' attempts to start trouble in Tehran a day earlier.

He said about 20 men on motorbikes without number plates pulled up by Vanak Square near the rally on Wednesday.

"Everyone was so calm that they couldn't really do anything. So they got off their bikes and set fire to them. Fire brigades soon arrived, and then state television crews appeared to report on it all. They just wanted to portray trouble."

The programme also heard from Zahra in Tehran, who said guards broke into her apartment block on Wednesday, looking for Mousavi supporters.


Police won't do anything because we are in a holy site
Ali, Shiraz

"They smashed through my door and into the flat. Big people with big beards and batons. They looked very threatening.

"They returned later in the evening, banging on everyone's doors shouting 'If you've got Mousavi supporters, release them or else'."

Others got in touch to describe rallies continuing in other parts of the country. Shohreh rang the BBC Persian TV from Varamin, a city south of Tehran.

"It's not just people in north Tehran protesting against the election results. All my family have been doing so."

Ali spoke to BBC News from a silent sit-in at a mausoleum in Shiraz.

"As I speak there are about 2,000-3,000 people in the Shah-e-Cheragh shrine, all sitting quietly in the big courtyard here. Police won't do anything because we are in a holy site."

Sohrab sent this footage of the peaceful rally she attended in Shiraz

Ali said demonstrations in Shiraz had been smaller in recent days than earlier in the week.

The BBC has had conflicting reports from Mashhad, a big, conservative city in eastern Iran.

Mohammad emailed Persian TV to complain of security officers being "everywhere in the Sajjad area of town. They're not letting any young people out on the streets. They lead them to a waiting bus".

But Mehran emailed BBC News saying police numbers in his part of Mashhad had shrunk by Thursday morning.

He reported hearing "dozens" of people chanting the pro-government call "Allahu Akhbar, Khamenei Rahbar" [is leader], from their rooftops on Wednesday evening.

Mehran also noted that although he still wasn't able to send text messages, his internet speed had been "virtually restored".

The Iranian government sees the reporting of opposition protests by the BBC, Voice of America and other foreign media as an attempt to undermine its rule. Few supporters of President Ahmadinejad therefore contact the BBC.

Government supporters demonstrated outside the BBC's headquarters in central London on Thursday. One protester, Maryam Owji, told BBC Persian TV why she took part.

"People who question our democratic credentials must have a different agenda. They are listening to small minority of people who are the opposition.

"I voted for Ahmadinejad. Look at how much he has achieved over the last four years, how much he has stood up against USA.

"He's been good for the people of Iran, the little guys in the countryside. We've made progress in roads, industry, technology, and atomic energy, which is our absolute right."



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