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Protesters Swarm Tehran to Mourn Fallen Demonstrators

June 18, 2009 at 6:00 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: Huge crowds filled the streets in Iran’s capital city today. Witnesses estimated hundreds of thousands of people turned out to protest the disputed presidential vote. The opposition said it was more than a million.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News begins our lead story coverage. She managed to report by telephone, despite restrictions on communication.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Many wore black today, the color of mourning for the eight people killed when the Basij militia shot into the crowd on Monday night. They walked from Imam Hossein Square up to Doze Street, one of Tehran’s main arteries, quietly, but in great numbers.

Green ribbons and banners were on display, the colors of the opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The government clearly hopes that people will grow tired, but there’s no sign of that yet. The police were around but didn’t stop the march.

The people shouted “Allahu Akbar,” rather than political slogans. Every night since the elections, people have been coming out onto their roofs and balconies with the same cry, an act of subtle defiance.

Mir Hossein Mousavi addressed the crowd. He called for another rally on Saturday led by a group of reformist mullahs. The Guardian Council has said it will meet the losing candidates on Saturday to discuss the 646 official complaints about the elections, but that’s not going to satisfy these people.

ABBAS-ALI KADKHODAIE, Guardian Council Spokesman (through translator): Finally, it was agreed that the honorable candidates who have appealed about the election attend an extra meeting on Saturday in person with the Guardian Council and relay what they have to say directly to the honorable members of the Guardian Council for the final decision about election results.

LINDSEY HILSUM: More information is emerging about the attack on the dormitory of Tehran University on Monday night. This video posted on the Internet apparently shows the aftermath. We can’t verify it.

Some reports suggest that one or more students may have been killed when thugs, believed to be Basij militia, attacked with clubs, but, again, we can’t confirm that.

The elderly leader of the freedom movement, Ebrahim Yazdi, whom we interviewed on polling day, was arrested from his sickbed yesterday, but taken back to hospital today. No one wants a high-profile death in custody.

Several hundred reformist leaders have been detained over the past few days in Tehran and beyond. The human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi has called for a new poll monitored by U.N. observers.

SHIRIN EBADI, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize-Winner (through translator): I think that if new elections are organized, but if there are no international observers, no matter what the outcome of these new elections would be, it could be protested and rejected by one or the other parties.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Tomorrow, the supreme leader will address Friday prayers. The government will make sure there’s a huge turnout, but who knows if those on the streets today will accept his verdict.