WASHINGTON — Iran's government smothered Tehran and other major cities with security forces Thursday, overwhelming opposition protesters who gathered in small groups despite threats of repression on the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
State security forces attacked one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political opponents, former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and the wife of another, Mir Hossein Mousavi, according to opposition Web sites and other accounts that filtered out of the country despite government efforts to restrict and monitor Internet traffic.
Video accounts posted on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites showed helmeted riot police using tear gas and batons to prevent large crowds from gathering.
One widely circulated video showed a member of the riot police choking and punching a shirtless man. Before the 20-second clip ends, a woman dressed in traditional black walks up, points an accusatory finger at the policeman and pleads with him.
The show of force seemed intended to demonstrate, both to Iranians and to the West, that the leaders of Iran's Islamic Republic are firmly in charge eight months after a disputed presidential election sparked the country's deepest political crisis since 1979.
With most foreign journalists barred from Iran, and Internet and other media tightly controlled, it's not possible to independently verify some of the accounts.
The crushing display of force appeared to be a setback for Iran's "green movement," as the protesters are known. Yet the movement, named after the color used in Mousavi's campaign, has proved resilient, and video clips showed opposition crowds gathered not just in Tehran, but also in other major cities. In Isfahan, crowds were shown shouting "Death to (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamanei."