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Iran’s ferment continues

Iran’s Kayhan daily has been arguing in recent days that Mir-Hossein Mousavi should be held ‘directly responsible’ for the deaths of ‘about 20 innocent citizens and hundreds of wounded’ during the protests that have followed the disputed ballot.   

The image of the young woman shot dead on 19 June during a clampdown on protests – 26-year-old Neda Soltan (see previous NI Iran blog) – continues to be both a rallying call and a symbol of the repressive force facing protesters. The authorities have not only banned her family from holding an Islamic funeral for their child, but openly laid the blame on anything from foreign terrorists to ‘CIA operatives’. 

A mocking Iranian online response to conspiracy theories spread by Iran’s media reads:  ‘Not only has the CIA killed Neda, they have also stopped anyone gathering from outside her house, it has also banned all the mosques in Tehran from offering her a funeral service. What this CIA can’t do...’ 

The report of a doctor at the scene of Neda’s death, however, throws a different light on her case. Dr Arash Hejazi describes in a BBC interview the protesters seizing an armed man on a motorcycle. ‘People shouted “we got him, we got him”. They disarmed him and took out his identity card, which showed he was a Basij member. People were furious and he was shouting, “I didn't want to kill her”. People didn't know what do to do with him so they let him go. But they took his identity card. There are people there who know who he is. Some people were also taking photos of him.’ 

It goes without saying that such news was not highlighted in Iran’s state media. The media have instead shown arrested protesters who are paraded on television characterized as mindless hooligans and junkies. No-one in the state media has tackled the issues that Mousavi has raised about the election.

The Guardian Council, supposedly investigating the claims of electoral fraud at the moment, has called this poll the ‘healthiest’ since the revolution in 1979. In a 27 June letter by Mousavi to the Guardian Council there are long list of questions that are to date being ignored. Such as why were 14.5 million official ‘additional ballot papers’ printed?  Or why do 170 polling centres show between ‘95 to 140 per cent turn-out’. The influential British Chatham House think-tank – after detailed analysis – has described Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory as resulting from an ‘unlikely scenario’ of voting patterns. 

It is only weeks since the Mayor of Tehran reported to the Iranian Parliament that an estimated three million Mousavi supporters had on 15 June protested against the results. Mass demonstrations seem to have been quelled for the moment by the crackdown, but the political ferment within society will inevitably continue.

For more background on Iran, go to New Internationalist 398.

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