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Iran’s opposition asks to mourn iconic victim

Iran Global Protest

Iran’s opposition asks to mourn iconic victim

Iran’s opposition leader asked authorities Sunday for permission to hold a memorial service for victims of last month’s post-election unrest, including a young woman whose death was caught on video and became a symbol for protesters.

Iranian authorities have pressured the families of slain protesters not to mourn publicly out of fear the gatherings could spark the kind of demonstrations that followed the June 12 presidential vote, according to the opposition.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and fellow pro-reform presidential candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, sent a request to the Interior Ministry to hold a memorial service in Tehran’s Mosalla mosque Thursday to commemorate the end of the 40-day mourning cycle for at least 10 people killed on June 20, Mousavi’s top aide Ali Reza Beheshti told the Associated Press.

Hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters took to the streets following the election to protest hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed victory. Iranian security forces cracked down violently, and at least 20 protesters were killed during the unrest, according to police. Rights groups believe the number could be far greater.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say over all state matters, has demanded the opposition drop its claims that the election was marred by massive vote fraud. But Mousavi and his supporters have kept up the pressure by criticizing the state’s harsh response and reaching out to top clerics for support.

One of those killed on June 20 was Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old woman shot to death on the sidelines of a Tehran demonstration. Her dying moments on the street were caught on a video viewed by millions on YouTube, and she became an icon in the opposition’s struggle.

Mousavi and Karroubi attempted to assuage concerns that the requested memorial would spark additional unrest, saying it “will be held without any speeches and will be limited to the reciting of the Quran (the Muslim holy book) and moments of silence.”

The government’s concern about unrest has historical precedence. The deaths of protesters during the 1979 Islamic Revolution fueled a 40-day cycle of mourning marches, and shootings of mourners, that contributed to the overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Authorities allowed a close ally of conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei to hold a funeral in Tehran on Friday for his son, who was arrested during a protest on July 9, the pro-reform norooznews.org Web site reported. He was taken to a hospital two weeks later where he died from his injuries hours after being admitted, it said.

Rouhalmini’s father, Abdul-Hossein, had scheduled to hold a memorial for his son Sunday but canceled the ceremony at the last minute without elaborating, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. The Etemad-e-Melli newspaper reported earlier Sunday that Mousavi and Karroubi would attend the memorial, possibly raising fears it would turn into a demonstration.

A group of nearly 50 Mousavi supporters showed up at the site of Rouhalmini’s planned memorial Sunday to protest against the government’s crackdown on the opposition, said eyewitnesses, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Many Iranian policemen were also at the scene, they said.

Dozens of protesters gathered in north Tehran on Saturday and chanted “death to the dictator” and “we want our vote back” before they were attacked and beaten by police and the Basij.

Police arrested “a few” of the protesters after the demonstration, Mehr quoted deputy police chief, Col. Mohsen Khancherli, as saying Sunday.

Witnesses told the AP that Saturday’s demonstration was carried out in solidarity with people around the world who held coordinated protests to pressure Iran to end its violent crackdown on the opposition and release hundreds of people who are still being detained.

Also Saturday, 69 prominent opposition leaders, including Mousavi and Karroubi, appealed to top clerics in the holy city of Qom to help stop the government’s violent post-election crackdown — reaching out to the one group that could go head-to-head with the country’s supreme leader.


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Cleric says Iran in crisis, police fight protesters

in.reuters.com

Cleric says Iran in crisis, police fight protesters

TEHRAN – july 18 – In apparent defiance of Iran’s supreme leader, a powerful cleric declared the Islamic Republic in crisis after a disputed election, and tens of thousands of protesters used Friday prayers to stage the biggest show of dissent for weeks.

Clashes erupted in central Tehran between police and followers of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, who still contests official results that showed hardline President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had been re-elected by a wide margin.

“Police fired teargas and beat supporters of Mousavi in Keshavarz Boulevard,” a witness said, adding that protesters were carrying hundreds of green banners — Mousavi’s campaign colour — and chanting “Ahmadinejad, resign, resign”.

State television showed footage of police firing tear gas to disperse protesters, chanting “Death to dictator” and “Mousavi we support you”.

Some demonstrators shouted “Death to Russia” in protest at Moscow’s declared recognition of Ahmadinejad’s election win.

Protest cries of Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) were heard from Tehran rooftops again overnight and they were longer-lived than on previous evenings in the capital.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate who backed Mousavi’s election campaign, said many Iranians had doubts about the official result of the June 12 vote.

“I hope with this sermon we can pass through this period of hardships that can be called a crisis,” said the influential cleric, leading prayers for the first time since the poll.

Live state radio broadcasts of Friday prayers at Tehran University, with a dual religious and political sermon delivered by a top cleric, have been a staple of revolutionary Iran.

Rafsanjani did not go as far as Mousavi and reformist candidate Mehdi Karoubi in denouncing the conduct of the vote, but his remarks still posed a clear challenge to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has upheld the election result and accused foreign powers of fomenting the unrest.

Karoubi was physically beaten at the prayers, the state news agency IRNA quoted Tehran’s governor Morteza Tamaddon as saying, blaming the beating on “the elements behind this suspicious event”.

ARRESTS

Some hardline clerics support Ahmadinejad, but other senior Shi’ite prelates, including Grand Ayatollahs Yusof Saanei and Hossein Ali Montazeri, have criticised the authorities.

In the streets outside Tehran University, police used teargas and batons to disperse Mousavi supporters who had flocked to the prayers. At least 15 people were arrested, a witness said.

Mousavi, prime minister in the 1980s, attended the ceremony in his first official public appearance since the presidential vote, which he says was rigged. The authorities deny any fraud.

Rafsanjani, who heads the Assembly of Experts — a powerful body that can in theory dismiss the supreme leader — attacked the way authorities had handled the poll and its aftermath.

“When people are not in the scene and their votes are not there, that government is not Islamic,” he said, referring to opposition charges of vote-rigging. “Today is a bitter day.”

Rafsanjani said it was vital to restore voters’ faith in the system. “That trust cannot be brought back in a day or a night … We have all been harmed,” he added, calling for unity.

He criticised the Guardian Council, a clerical body which vets candidates and considers election complaints, for failing to do its job even though it was given five extra days to make its assessment. The council has denied any irregularities.

Using harsh language against the use of security forces to quell protests, Rafsanjani, who was a close aide to Iran’s late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said:

“We knew what Imam Khomeini wanted. He didn’t want the use of terror or arms, even in fights (for the revolution).”

The election stirred the most striking display of internal unrest in Iran, the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, since the 1979 revolution and exposed deep rifts in its ruling elite.

“If the Islamic and Republican sides of the revolution are not preserved, it means we have forgotten the principles of the revolution,” said Rafsanjani, who was enraged during the election campaign when Ahmadinejad accused him of corruption.

At least 20 people died in post-election violence. Mousavi and the authorities blame each other for the bloodshed. Riot police and religious Basij militia eventually suppressed the street demonstrations, but Mousavi has remained defiant.

Rafsanjani also demanded the immediate release of people detained in the unrest and called for press curbs to be relaxed. Some of his own relatives, including his daughter Faezeh, were arrested briefly for joining pro-Mousavi rallies.

“It is not necessary for us to have a number of people in prisons … we should allow them to return to their families,” he said, in an emotional tone. “It is not necessary to pressure media. We should allow them to work freely within the law.”

Rafsanjani’s robust stance appeared to set him on collision course with Khamenei, who has overtly backed Ahmadinejad in a departure from the supreme leader’s accepted role as a lofty clerical arbiter above the political fray.

The election has further strained ties between Iran and the West, already at odds over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Western powers criticised the crackdown. Iran accused them of meddling.

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Iran opposition leaders call for protesters release

11

An Iranian protester residing in Japan makes a peace sign with a green band, the symbolic colour of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, in Tokyo June 28, 2009.


Iran opposition leaders call for protesters release

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian opposition leaders urged the authorities to free those detained during post-election protests and criticised the “security state” imposed in Iran, defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi’s website said on Tuesday.

“Mehdi Karoubi, Mousavi and (former president Mohammad) Khatami met on Monday and underlined the importance of ending the imposed security state in the country and also the immediate release of detained protesters,” the website reported.

Mousavi and Karoubi, moderate candidates in the June 12 presidential election, have denounced the result of the poll, which saw hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected.

Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has upheld the result.

The opposition leaders also said arrests, which began on June 13, should stop.

“The continuation of arrests and the security state will lead to a more radicalised political atmosphere,” they said, adding that the “wave of arrests should end”.

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