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Iranians protest in Dubai

Dozens of masked protesters gather in front of Dubai's Iranian consulate with banners condemning election as "rigged".

DUBAI // Dozens of masked protesters gathered in front of the Iranian consulate yesterday with banners condemning Iran's presidential election as "rigged". The protest followed the announcement of a landslide victory for the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. The demonstrators were largely expatriate Iranians who said they were convinced that the result was not the decision of the majority. Most of them had cast their votes at the consulate in Dubai, they said.

"We voted for change. We voted for freedom and democracy. This is not our decision," said one young woman. She explained that she had gone to the consulate after receiving a group text message about the planned protest. The gathering of between 50 and 60 people had assembled against a background of media reports describing violent clashes between protesters and police in Tehran, dozens of arrests and action against news channels such as Al-Arabiya, which is based in Dubai but whose Tehran bureau was closed by the Iranian authorities.

Watched and kept back by police, the crowd - including supporters of Mr Mousavi as well as others upset by the reports from Tehran - waved banners asking: "Where is our vote?". A number wore surgical masks or scarves over their faces, claiming they were worried about retaliation by the Iranian authorities if they were identified. The consulate maintained, however, that there had been no protest yesterday. "We deny it," said a spokesman, when asked about the presence of demonstrators outside.

Another protest is planned for today, and organisers said they expected a larger crowd as word spread. "The opposition leaders are under house arrest, the media is silenced and there is no democracy," said the young woman. "We want the world to hear that we did not vote for Ahmadinejad. The majority did not vote for him." Another Iranian said: "The supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei also seems to have accepted the situation and is in support of Mr Ahmadinejad. So we can't seek help from him either."

A third protester added: "We are in self-exile here because we are not happy with what's happening in Iran. This government is not elected by majority but is brought to power by force." He said that the protest had been timed to coincide with the victory rally planned by Ahmadinejad supporters in Iran yesterday. pmenon@thenational.ae

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