TOPICS > Politics

Iranian Election Tensions Continue With Call for New Rally

BY Admin  June 17, 2009 at 12:50 PM EDT

Mir Hossein Mousavi supporter with picture; Getty

On a Web site associated with his movement, Mousavi called
for a mass demonstration Thursday to protest disputed election results and
violence against his followers, according to media reports.

“We want a peaceful rally to protest the unhealthy
trend of the election and realize our goal of annulling the results,”
Mousavi said.

He called for supporters to wear or carry black in mourning
for the alleged election fraud and the deaths of protesters, and said there
should be “a new presidential election that will not repeat the shameful
fraud from the previous election.”

Some supporters were already following his wishes during
Wednesday’s protest. Mainly dressed in black and also wearing wristbands and
headbands in Mousavi’s green campaign colors, they assembled in Haft-e Tir
square and streets around it, witnesses told Reuters. Most of the protesters
were silent and making victory signs. One street leading to the square was
packed for several kilometers, witnesses said.

One young woman held a picture of Iranians killed during
post-election violence that has rocked Iran since official results of the
election were announced on Saturday, showing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won by a landslide
against Mousavi.

Mousavi and his backers say the election was rigged, but authorities
deny it. Fars News Agency earlier quoted Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli as
saying “no permission has been issued for a gathering or rally in Haft-e
Tir Square” on Wednesday.

One witness said police were blocking traffic on one road
leading to the square.

Meanwhile, a crackdown on dissent continued, with more
arrests of opposition figures reported, and the country’s most powerful
military force — the Revolutionary Guard — saying that Iranian Web sites and
bloggers must remove any materials that “create tension” or face
legal action.

Media reports also indicate an intensifying crackdown on
news reporting and other communications in the country. Iranians have turned to
social media sites like the popular micro-blog Twitter and Facebook to spread
the word about protest plans and to transmit updated developments.

The Web became more essential after the government barred
foreign media Tuesday from leaving their offices to report on demonstrations on
the streets of Tehran.

Mousavi condemned the government for blocking Web sites,
saying the government did not tolerate the voice of the opposition.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Mousavi to
pursue his demands through the electoral system and called for Iranians to
unite behind their Islamic government, an extraordinary appeal in response to
tensions over the presidential vote.

Election tensions appeared to be spreading further into the
Iranian political and religious classes — and even into the realm of sports.

Five Iranian soccer players, including captain Ali Karimi,
wore green wristbands in an apparent sign of support for Mousavi at a World Cup
Asian qualifying match in South Korea. State television showed the players
wearing them for the entire first half, but the bands were gone by the time the
second half started. During the demonstrations, Mousavi supporters have been
wearing green — the signature color of his movement.

The violence has left at least seven people dead, according
to Iran’s state media, although videos and photos posted by people inside Iran
show scenes of violence that have not been reported through official channels.
The new media restrictions make it virtually impossible to independently verify
much of the information, which includes dramatic images of street clashes and
wounded demonstrators.

Much of the imagery has been posted anonymously. In other
cases, those who have posted have declined to be identified due to fear of
government retaliation, or cannot be reached due to government restrictions on the
Internet and mobile phones.

The Revolutionary Guard, an elite military force answering
to Khamenei, said through the state news service that its investigators have
taken action against “deviant news sites” that encouraged public
disturbances, news agencies report. The Guard is a separate military with
enormous domestic influence and control of Iran’s most important defense
programs.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency and the private ILNA news
agency reported that scuffles broke out between two legislators — one a
reformist and the other a hard-liner — in an open session of Parliament after
they argued about the election.

The agencies said hard-liner Ruhollah Jani Abbaspour
attacked reformer Amir Taherkhani after a parliamentary committee probing the
protests met Mousavi and the speaker of Parliament gave a report on the probe.

Iran’s most senior dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein
Ali Montazeri, said widespread vote fraud had undermined the legitimacy of the
ruling Islamic system and that “no sound mind” would accept the
results.

“A government that is based on intervening in
(people’s) vote has no political or religious legitimacy,” said Montazeri,
who had once been set to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as supreme leader
until he was ousted because of criticisms of the revolution.

Unlike past student-led demonstrations against the Islamic
establishment, Mousavi has the ability to press his case with Iran’s highest
authorities and could gain powerful allies. Some influential clerics have
expressed concern about possible election irregularities, and a fierce critic
of Ahmadinejad, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, is part of the ruling
establishment.

Iranian TV showed pictures of Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani’s
daughter, speaking to hundreds of Mousavi supporters, carrying pictures of
Khomeini and others.

The U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in
Iran has alleged that several dozen noted figures associated with the reform
movement have been arrested, among them politicians, intellectuals, activists
and journalists.

At least 10 Iranian journalists have been arrested since the
election, Reporters Without Borders said, and a Web site run by former Vice
President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said the reformist had been arrested.

Prominent reformer Saeed Hajjarian has also been detained,
Hajjarian’s wife, Vajiheh Masousi, told The Associated Press. Hajjarian is a
close aide to former President Mohammad Khatami.

To try to placate the opposition, the main electoral
authority has said it was prepared to conduct a limited recount of ballots at
sites where candidates claim irregularities. The recount would be overseen by
the Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 clerics and Islamic law experts
close to Khamenei.

Also Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss
ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Tehran to protest at
“interventionist” U.S. statements on the country’s election, Fars
News Agency reported.

The Foreign Ministry communicated Iran’s “protest and
displeasure” over statements by U.S. government officials about the
outcome of the presidential vote, according to media accounts of the Fars
report.

A senior Canadian diplomat in Tehran had also been summoned
to the ministry, the semi-official news agency said. On Tuesday, several European
ambassadors were also summoned.

President Barack Obama has said the upheaval showed that
“Iranian people are not convinced with the legitimacy of the election.”
On Tuesday, he added that it would be “not productive, given the history
of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling” in the elections.

The U.S. severed ties with Tehran shortly after Iran’s 1979
Islamic revolution. After he took office in January, President Obama has
offered a new beginning of engagement with Iran if it “unclenches its fist.”