Defiance Grows As Iran’s Leader Sets Vote Review

June 15, 2009

Author: Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi

Source: The New York Times

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in silence through central Tehran on Monday to protest Iran’s disputed presidential election in an extraordinary show of defiance from a broad cross section of society, even as the nation’s supreme leader called for a formal review of results he had endorsed two days earlier.

Having mustered the largest antigovernment demonstrations since the 1979 revolution, and defying an official ban, protesters began to sense the prospect — however slight at the moment — that the leadership’s firm backing of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had wavered.

The massive outpouring was mostly peaceful. But violence erupted after dark when protesters surrounded and attempted to set fire to the headquarters of the Basij volunteer militia, which is associated with the Revolutionary Guards, according to news agency reports. At least one man was killed, and several others were injured in that confrontation.

On Tuesday, Radio Payam, a state-owned station, reported that seven people were killed and others were wounded Monday night when “several thugs” tried to attack a military post and vandalize public property in the same area as the demonstration earlier in the day, according to Agence France-Presse.

In his first public comment on the situation in Iran, President Obama said Monday that he was deeply troubled by the postelection violence and he called on Iranian leaders to respect free speech and the democratic process. He told reporters he would continue pursuing a direct dialogue with Tehran, but he urged that any Iranian investigation of election irregularities be conducted without bloodshed.

The protests showed how the government’s assertion that Mr. Ahmadinejad had won re-election by a ratio of almost two to one further cleaved Iranian society into rival camps.