Defying police orders to stay indoors, supporters of the country’s pro-reformist movement used a text message campaign to urge hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets.
They are capitalising on the fact that Sunday marks the final day of the ten-day festival of Ashura, which commemorates the murder of Imam Hossein, one of Shia Islam’s most revered figures.
Reformists have likened the tale of his martyrdom – which strikes a powerful chord amongst Iranians – to the government’s violent suppression of last summer’s street protests, in which dozens of people were killed.
Today also marks the symbolic seventh day of mourning for cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a fierce critic of regime hardliners, whose funeral last Monday turned into an anti-government demonstration in the city of Qom.
A source close to the reformist camp told The Sunday Telegraph that with two highly emotive occasions scheduled for the same day, it hoped to mobilise a “mass street presence” that could provide a decisive “turning point” in its campaign.
However, there were fears that an open confrontation could end in serious bloodshed. Police in central Tehran fired shots on Saturday to disperse an early gathering of several hundred protesters, some of whom wore the green ribbons of the defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
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