Civil unrest in Iranian cities after Ahmadinejad declares victory

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A riot in Teheran following the 2009 presidential election.
Image: shahram sharif.

Protests, riots and violence broke out in several cities in Iran on Saturday night following an election which many in Iran and the world say was fraudulent. Demonstrations took place late into the night, with waves of police fighting protestors in Tehran, Shiraz, Mashad and Rasht.

Protesters chanting "Death to the dictator!" occupied major streets around Tehran, with roadblocks being set up against police. Tear gas has been deployed against protestors in the upscale Valiasr Street district of Tehran as well as at the University of Tehran.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi (right) at an electoral event in Zanjan
Image: Mardetanha.

The protestors are supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a candidate in the Iranian presidential election. Mousavi accuses the Iranian government of "appalling" fraud after it reported that the nation's current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had been expected to receive less than 50% of the vote and have to face Mousavi in a runoff election, received 62%. Addressing officials in an open letter, Mousavi said, "this country has been through a grand Islamic revolution and the least message of this revolution is that our nation is alert and will oppose anyone who aims to seize the power against the law." The protesters, reports say, do not seek to overthrow the Islamic regime, which has been in place in Iran since 1979, but instead to reform it.

In a second letter, Mousavi reported that he has asked Iran's Guardian Council to nullify the electoral result and urged his supporters to wear green, take up the slogan "Allahu akbar" ("God is great") and peacefully protest the official position.

In response, Ahmadinejad celebrated victory in Tehran this afternoon with his supporters, and addressing a largely-sympathetic group of reporters at a press conference, asserted that the election had been free and fair and said

The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world, and there's the rule of law in this country, and all the people are equal before the law.

It has been reported that the safety of Ahmadinejad's rivals could not be guaranteed. As a result, many prominent reformists and leaders of the Islamic Iran Participation Front have been arrested. Rumors which spread around the nation saying Mousavi himself had been detained are, however, untrue and the candidate plans to address his supporters later today. However, the brother of former Iranian president and reformist Mohammad Khateimi has been detained. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani has resigned from all his posts in the government in protest.

125 members of faculty resigned in protest at Sharif University, students and faculty protesting together at the urban Tehran campus, and according to eyewitnesses, police, around 23:00 UTC, raided Teheran University, and arrested over 100 students.

Reporters Without Borders has said that the Iranian government has instituted mass censorship, with foreign journalists being asked to leave the country. It also says an interpreter working with an Italian news crew was beaten by police. Mobile phone services have apparently been cut, and many reformist and social networking websites have been blocked. The Iranian government has also made use of the Internet by circulating a false invitation to a rally outside Mousavi's headquarters; the city square containing the headquarters has been surrounded by police, trapping thousands of Mousavi's supporters inside.

Iranians living abroad as well as supporters of what is being called the "green revolution", from the colors of Mousavi's campaign, have staged demonstrations outside Iranian embassies and consulates in Rome, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Berlin, London, and The Hague, with events planned in the United States in Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California for later in the day.

Meanwhile, the U.S. does not accept the results of the Iranian election. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she hopes "genuine will and desire" of the people will reflect the results of the election.

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