Thousands of people marching illegally through Iran were attacked by police firing tear gas yesterday as the wave of Middle East revolution continued to spread beyond Egypt and Tunisia.
Eye witnesses spoke of shots being fired in the air and scores of arrests when demonstrators in Tehran, the capital, approached Imam Hossein Square shouting "death to the dictator".
Throughout the region, opposition groups seized on the success of 18 days of protest in Egypt to demand more political rights.
In Sana'a, Yemen, several thousand people calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down before the end of his current term in 2013 hurled stones at police who attacked them with batons.
In Bahrain, police fired rubber bullets and buckshot at a number of separate demonstrations, and there were also protests in Iraq.
In Egypt, military police moved in to clear the last remaining protesters from Tahrir Square, in Cairo, where they had pledged to remain until the army keeps its promise to hand power to a democratic civilian regime. Those who resisted were carried by force to unmarked trucks.
In place of pro-democracy protests, many government buildings were surrounded by striking workers demanding higher wages and the sacking of bosses perceived as corrupt or as cronies of the collapsed regime of Hosni Mubarak.
The rapid ejection of first President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia and then, last Friday, Mr Mubarak has caught Middle Eastern leaders by surprise.
Some regimes, including those not backed by the West, have moved quickly and harshly to prevent dissent. Syria, which stifled early attempts to hold demonstrations, yesterday sentenced a 19-year-old woman blogger, Tal al-Mallouhi, to five years in jail for "divulging information to a foreign country".
In Iran, where both the government and opposition claimed to be on the side of the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt, the authorities refused permission for a protest march which went ahead anyway.
Police surrounded the homes of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the opposition presidential candidates whose defeat in 2009 elections set off weeks of protests in Tehran.
While thousands of their supporters marched, witnesses and opposition groups said anyone seen taking mobile phone pictures or using public telephones was singled out by riot police.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the crowds "deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt".
Washington is also closely watching events in long-standing allies such as Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet. The small Gulf kingdom has an elected parliament but it has few powers to check the monarchy. By last night, police were blocking main streets on the island. (© Daily Telegraph, London)