Tehran, Feb 21 (IANS) Iran witnessed a new wave of anti-government protests in different parts of the country Sunday as demonstrators took to streets in various cities, media reports said.
There have also been clashes between protesters and security forces, Al Jazeera quoted posts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
There were also reports of one protester being shot dead in Tehran, a story denied by government official in state media, the report added.
State broadcaster IRNA reported that Faezeh Rafsanjani, the daughter of ex-president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been among those arrested for particiapting in the protest.
However, she was released shortly thereafter, Al Jazeera quoted Fars news agency as reporting.
Protesters have apparently thronged Tehran’s Vali-Asr and Enghelab squares. Similar demonstrations are being reported in Shiraz and Isfahan, the capital of Isfahan province.
Shiraz is the sixth most populous city in Iran and the capital of Fars province whereas Isfahan, the capital of Isfahan province.
Reformist news sites said security forces were responding to the protests.
Rahesabz.net reported that a number of plainclothes Basij security forces, some on motorcycles, had arrived at the protest in Shiraz, carrying the flag of the Islamic republic. They also blocked the entrance to some streets.
A page on Facebook used to organise the protests also carried a post saying that security forces were beating protesters with batons and chains in the northern city of Rasht.
Citing witnesses inside the country, sources told Al Jazeera that plainclothes security forces were rounding up and taking away groups of protesters near Sharif University in Tehran, near Azadi Square.
The page also quoted witnesses as saying that tear gas had been used against protesters in Tehran, and the BBC Persian website said gunshots had been heard in the Abbas Abad area, west of Vali-Asr street.
State news agency Fars, however, said that Tehran is in a state of “total calm”.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said that eyewitnesses it has spoken to confirm the use of live ammunition and teargas by security forces. An article posted on the group’s site also said that “large scale” protests have been taking place in various cities and that they are continuing to grow in size.
The Iranian government has tried to dissuade protesters from taking to the streets via state media, first by saying that members of the banned group People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MKO) were planning on killing people at the protests, and then by saying that live ammunition would be used against protesters who defied its orders.
The Fars news agency also published an interview with lawmaker Seyyed Mohammad Javad Aabtehi, in which he said that not only should people refrain from participating in any kind of gathering, but that they should even avoid observing the protests.
The Human Rights House of Iran (RAHANA) reported that prior to the start of the protests Sunday, there were also numerous reports of uniformed and plainclothes security forces in several key gathering points in the capital and that there were “several cars in Azadi street which are believed to be for detaining the citizens”.
The rights group also reports that at least 50 people had been detained in Shiraz.