Yesterday afternoon two demonstrations took place in Tehran, almost an hour apart, one in favour of Ahmadinejad, the other for Mousavi.
Mousavi, who earlier challenged the outcome of last Friday’s presidential election, got the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council to agree to a recount in some regions. Today however he said that a recount was not enough and that new elections were needed.
Leaks from Iran’s Interior Ministry suggest in fact that Mousavi might have actually won 44 per cent of the vote against 33 per cent for Mehdi Karroubi and only 13 per cent for Ahmadinejad. Official results released on Saturday had instead given Ahmadinejad 63 per cent of the vote against 34 per cent for Mousavi.
For the authorities the largest mass protests in the country’s history since the 1979 revolution is due to foreign manipulation.
Whatever the cause the unrest though has not been limited to the capital; demonstrations have been reported in cities like Isfahan, Shiraz and Mashad.
Despite a formal ban on demonstrating, supporters of the “defeated” candidate called for another rally at 5 pm today in Haft-e-Tir, one of the main squares in the capital.
Mousavi urged his supporters to father in mosques and hold peaceful rallies to “comfort the families of martyrs and the wounded.” On Monday unknown gunmen shot at crowds, killing at least seven people.
Overnight volunteers from the basij, a militia that comes under the command of the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran), attacked some university dorms, destroying property and hurting people.
The groundswell in favour of Mousavi is not only limited to those who oppose Ahmadinejad or in the pro-reform camp. Many from the clerical camp are upset by the widespread corruption that pervades the ruling elite and the ayatollahs.
A young Iranian man told AsiaNews that “green was chosen to symbolise a return to the purity of Islam.” Green is the colour used by pro-Mousavi supporters whose favourite slogans are “Ahmadinejad out” and “Allah Akhbar, God is great.”
Despite the rising tide of unrest the authorities have not let up on their crackdown against pro-reform pro-Mousavi politicians, advisers and journalists.
Sociologist Hamid Reza Jalaipur and economist-analyst Said Laylaz have been arrested.
Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, a former spokesman for the Interior Ministry, and journalists Abdolreza Tajik, Mahsa Amrabadi and Shiva Nazarahari were taken in for questioning on suspicion of causing “disorder.”
The authorities have not spared the foreign media whom they accuse of acting like spokesmen for the “rioters”.
For the past two days foreign media have not been allowed to cover “illegal demonstrations” or any event that is not included in the agenda of the Culture Ministry.
Some foreign journalists have been deported, but many others have been able to slip through the authorities’ tight controls.
Likewise the authorities have tried to block TV, radio, satellite phones and the internet but demonstrators have been to communicate with the outside world via text messaging and amateur video uploaded on youtube.