Tens of thousands of hard-line clerics rallied in cities across Iran on Saturday to denounce student protesters who burned photos of the country's supreme leader in a taboo-shattering act earlier in the week.
The rallies were a second day of protest by government supporters outraged by the destruction of photos of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whom hard-liners believe is answerable only to God and above reproach. Authorities consider any criticism of him to be an insult to Islam and punishable by long jail terms.
The act by students at the core of Iran's opposition on Monday was a reflection of how a protest movement that began by rejecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 12 re-election as fraudulent has evolved to confront the country's ruling theocracy.
In one of Saturday's demonstrations in response to the students' actions, hard-line clerics in the southern city of Shiraz shouted, "Long live Khamenei, our leader." In the holy city of Qom, there were chants of "death to opponents of the rule of the jurist (Khamenei)."