x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Shots fired as anger erupts in Iran

As Khamenei orders election watchdog to consider complaint, ever larger crowds march into the streets, fuelling violence that left at least one protester dead.

Defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi addresses supporters as he attends a rally with his wife Zahra Rahnavard in Tehran.
Defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi addresses supporters as he attends a rally with his wife Zahra Rahnavard in Tehran.

TEHRAN // Shots rang out over Tehran's skyline last night as anger over the results of last Friday's elections heightened political tensions and brought ever larger crowds into the streets, fuelling violence that left at least one protester dead and numerous others injured after police fired into crowds.

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi protested in many parts of Tehran and in other major cities such as Ahvaz, Tabriz and Isfahan last night against what they described as a stolen election. In ominous scenes, crowds jostled with riot police, as men on motorcycles tore through Tehran's streets, scuffling with protesters both male and female. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayid Ali Khamenei, perhaps yielding to the growing political tensions, said he had ordered the Guardian Council, the elections watchdog, to carefully consider a complaint filed by Mr Mousavi, the defeated opposition candidate in Friday's elections.

Ayatollah Khamenei also urged Mr Mousavi to "remain calm and self-possessed", according to the Iranian Student News Agency. The upwelling of anger following the announcement of the results, which many Iranians have described as a government-backed "coup", brought hundreds of thousands of protesters out to Tehran's Azadi square, not long after Mr Mousavi filed a formal complaint with the Guardian Council.

"The vote of the people is more important than Mousavi or any others," Mr Mousavi told the crowd, estimated at up to one million, who had turned out to Azadi square in defiance of an interior ministry ban. Mr Mousavi later urged his supporters to continue their legal and civil protests peacefully. The speech was Mr Mousavi's first public appearance since he was filmed voting at a mosque in Shahre Ray in southern Tehran on Friday.

He was joined by Mehdi Karrubi, another reformist candidate; the former president Mohammad Khatami; and Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of the former president and one of the leaders of the Islamic Participation Front (Mosharekat). Reform leaders said they had joined the protesters to urge them to remain calm after the curb on both domestic and international media and limited internet and mobile access made it impossible to inform the public of the cancellation.

"Mousavi, claim our votes back", chanted protesters dressed in green, the signature of Mr Mousavi's campaign. Protesters scuffled with the police and some Ahmadinejad supporters before the crowds grew large, but there was little interferences from security forces afterward. The rally had been called off yesterday morning after Mr Mousavi was denied permission by the interior ministry, but many people appeared on some of the squares in the afternoon and formed large spontaneous groups that later marched toward Azadi (Freedom) Square.

Rumours circulated last night that a similar rally will be held today. Zahra Rahnavard, Mr Mousavi's wife, who spoke to students at Tehran University, asked supporters to go on with chanting "Allahu Akbar" as they had done on Sunday evening from their rooftops until the people's votes are respected. Some reports said the campus of Tehran University in central Tehran, where students protested the results of the election, was attacked by plainclothes police in the early hours of yesterday morning.

According to Iranian Students News Agency, parliament speaker Ali Larijani and the Tehran University chancellor have ordered inquiries into the incident. The European Union has urged Tehran to refrain from violence against protesters to the elections results. Germany and France have both summoned their respective Iranian ambassadors and Mr Ahmadinejad has delayed a planned visit to Russia.


* The National