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Snapshots from Tehran's Revolution Square

Mass demonstration against election result turns tables on government militia.

A supporter of former presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi holds a placard upside down while attending a mass protest rally in Tehran on June 15, 2009. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

TEHRAN — It was the largest non-regime organized demonstration in the 30-year history of Iran's Islamic Republic. And for once, the ruling order had not a jot of influence in organizing it.

All day Sunday, throughout Tehran's urban sprawl, jamblocked traffic and busy markets, young men and women darted in amongst the people to spread the news: Monday, 4 p.m. at Enghelab (Revolution Square).

I was talking to students outside a university dormitory ringed by riot police in a western neighborhood called Amirabad as darkness fell when I felt a light pinch on my waist.

"4 p.m. tomorrow at Enghelab," I heard before seeing. Turning round in surprise, the smiling man looking backwards was already several yards away from me heading up the street past the massed ranks of Bassiji paramilitaries and riot police.

A few hours later in the residential neighbourhood of Jolfa, locals were standing on street corners shouting slogans over the din of dozens of cars honking rhythmically.

"FARDA SAAT CHAHAR TUYE MEIDUNE ENGHELAB!" (Tomorrow at 4 p.m. on Revolution Square) went one rhythmic chant.

Just like that, an announcement became a slogan.

And they were all there Monday.

First peeking out shyly, descending from footbridges crossing over the busy Islamic Republic Avenue, moving in pairs and threes across the streets where Bassiji paramilitaries stood guard, they moved towards the square.

Everyone eyed each other suspiciously, seeking to divine clues about the ideological direction of their fellow travellers on the sooty sidewalks. But aside from the squat fat men with the five-day stubble or the obvious beards, it would have been impossible to divine the diversity of the enormous mass of humanity that descended Monday upon the Islamic Republic's most symbolic avenue.

There were young, cute girls sporting Green Revolution chic headscarfs and bandanas alongside chador-clad matrons swathed in all-encompassing chadors out of which just a single unpowdered nose peeked.

The young men with the gelled-back hair, knockoff sunglasses and complicated cellphones walked alongside the 70-year-old retirees with cloth trousers and baggy shirts. There were civil servants and unemployed, businessmen freshly flown in from Dubai or Paris or former journalists.

All here were disgusted at the repression that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, still the head of this nation of 70 million, launched against Iranian society since he came to power.

Thousands and thousands of people marched, often in absolute silence to demonstrate their alienation from their government, at other times shouting "We are Mousavi's Green Army."