TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Clashes between Iranian police and tens of thousands of protesters wracked central Tehran on Monday as security forces beat and fired tear gas at opposition supporters hoping to evoke Egypt's recent popular uprising.
The opposition called for a demonstration Monday in solidarity with Egypt's popular revolt that a few days earlier forced the president there to resign after nearly 30 years in office. The rally is the first major show of strength for Iran's cowed opposition in more than a year.
Police used tear gas against the protesters in central Tehran's Enghelab, or Revolution, square and in Imam Hossein square, as well as in other nearby main streets. Demonstrators responded by setting garbage bins on fire to protect themselves from the stinging white clouds.
Eyewitnesses said at least three protesters injured by bullets were taken to a hospital in central Tehran while dozens of others were hospitalized because of severe wounds as a result of being beaten.
"An Iranian dies but doesn't accept humiliation," demonstrators chanted. "Death to the dictator," they said, in a chant directed at hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Security forces on motorcycles could also be seen chasing protesters through the streets, according to eyewitnesses.
The semiofficial Fars news agency called protesters "hypocrites, monarchists, ruffians and seditionists," and ridiculed them for not chanting any slogans about Egypt as they had originally promised.
Fars, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, said an unspecified number of protesters were arrested and handed over to police and security officials. It didn't elaborate.
Opposition website kaleme.com reported that similar rallies took place in the central city of Isfahan and Shiraz in the south. Security forces used force to disperse them as well.
Foreign media are banned from covering street protests in Iran.
Following the announcements by the opposition that they would attempt to hold a new rally in solidarity with the Egypt uprising, Iran's security forces cut phone lines and blockaded the home of an opposition leader in attempts to stop him attending the planned rally.
Police and militiamen poured onto the streets of Tehran to challenge the marches, which officials worry could turn into demonstrations against Iran's ruling system.
On Sunday, the opposition renewed its call to supporters to rally, and accused the government of hypocrisy by voicing support for the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while refusing to allow Iranian political activists to stage a peaceful demonstration.