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Iran revisits revolutionary days

June 16, 2009 13:16 IST

Iran revisits revolutionary days

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Azadi Square in central Iran witnessed the country's biggest protest in over three decades when thousands turned up before the historic monument to condemn the alleged rigging of the recent presidential elections that gave a landslide to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Over 100,000 people are believed to have taken part in the protest, the largest in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979, in favour of pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.


Image: Defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi attends a rally in his support support in Teheran
Photographs: Jamejam Online/Reuters
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Shots fired during peaceful rally

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Reports 'filtering in' from Teheran indicate widespread violence on the streets of the capital. The government-funded Press TV, quoting State Radio, said at least seven people were killed in the violence. It added that unidentified gunmen fired shots into the crowd as the protesters were beginning to disperse at sundown after a peaceful rally. 

Image: A riot policeman targets a woman during the protest
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters
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Paramilitary base 'attacked'

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Media reports initially suggested that armed men loyal to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard opened fire during the protest rally in Azadi Square. The incident occurred in front of a local base of the Basij, Iran's volunteer paramilitary force, which had been set ablaze.


Image: A fire blazes at a Basij militia base after the rally
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters
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Protestors tear-gassed

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Police fired tear gas as dozens of protesters set several motorbikes on fire. According to CNN, there have been several violent incidents blamed on groups of Ahmadinejad supporters. Armed with clubs, metal batons and baseball bats, men in motorcycles reportedly combed through streets and alleys for protesters on June 14, chasing and beating them.

Image: A demonstrator holds up a picture of Mousavi during the rally
Photographs: Caren Firouz/Reuters
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Mousavi ready to 'pay any cost'

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Meanwhile, Mousavi, who made his first public appearance on Monday since the results were announced over the weekend, asserted that he will 'pay any cost' to contest the verdict. The Iranian election commission had on June 13 declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner in the presidential polls with 63.8 per cent of the vote against 32.7 per cent received by Mousavi, the opposition leader and former prime minister.

Image: Policemen poised to hit a Mousavi supporter during the rally
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters
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'God willing, we will take back our rights'

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Our people want respect and they want their votes to be counted. God willing, we will take back our rights," Mousavi told his supporters during the rally. The crowd echoed in unison as they openly defied the interior ministry's ban on rallies and warnings that live ammunition could be used against them.

Image: A riot policeman hits a motorcyclist with a baton during the protest
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters
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'I am under extreme pressure to accept the results'

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In a statement, Mousavi  said, 'I am under extreme pressure to accept the results of the sham election. They have cut me off from any communication with the people and am under surveillance. I ask the people to stay in the streets but avoid violence.'

Image: Demonstrators head towards Azadi Square to take part in the rally
Photographs: Caren Firouz/Reuters
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Guardian Council may not make a difference

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Despite the dramatic turnaround by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who ordered a probe into claims of election fraud a day after he stated the re-election of Ahmadinejad was 'fair', Mousavi is not too hopeful. The reason -- the Guardian Council that will conduct the probe is dominated by hard-line clerics who are expected to favour Ahmadinejad.

Image: Mousavi's supporters flash the victory sign
Photographs: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters
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Some in favour, some are silent

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Meanwhile, reactions to the turn to events in Teheran continue to pour in. US President Barack Obama, in a statement, said: 'I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected.'

Russia, on the other hand, welcomed Ahmadinejad's re-election. It refused to comment on the post-election violence, simply stating that 'the Iranian elections are the internal affair of Iran.'


Image: Riot police swoops down on a motorcyclist with batons
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters
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