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Iran Braces For More Violent Clashes Postelection

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Once again today, the challenger in Iran's disputed election has sent a message to his followers. Mir-Hossein Mousavi told them not to protest in the streets today in order to protect their lives.

MONTAGNE: That's the same advice that Mousavi gave his supporters yesterday. It was advice that many Iranians chose not to follow.

INSKEEP: NPR's Mike Shuster reports on a mass demonstration for the candidate who says the election was stolen.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

MIKE SHUSTER: The call to rally came from Mir-Hossein Mousavi himself, but then fearful that security forces would fire on demonstrators, he reversed himself and announced that his supporters should stay home. They didn't. The protestors ignored the danger and started marching toward Freedom Square in Western Tehran in the middle of the afternoon. Soon, there were huge crowds, hundreds of thousands of people by some estimates. They believe like this man, who preferred to withhold his name, that their candidate Mousavi had won the election, not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Unidentified Man: The truth is what you see here. The truth is the voice of the people. You can see and you can hear. This is what we want. Iran is all over like this. Iran wants this. What the people want is this. Reflect the truth. Thanks.

SHUSTER: For hours, marchers poured into Freedom Square, their ranks easily surpassing the size of Ahmadinejad's rally on Sunday, when 20,000 or 30,000 people hailed what they believe is his reelection. That rally was broadcast on state television. This opposition rally was not. The Mousavi protest was so large that it essentially shut down much of western Tehran. Traffic was paralyzed. Residents spilled into the nearby highways to block traffic and scream slogans in support of Mousavi. The sheer size of the throng electrified those who were participating.

Unidentified Woman #1: I think no one in Iran wants Ahmadinejad to be the president of the Iran. They want Mousavi. (unintelligible) They don't want this liar government. That's it.

Unidentified Man #1: I think election is not true. This election result was not true.

Unidentified Woman #2: I think it's a dictator, and Ahmadinejad's a dictator, and all those people don't like the situation. And all of them said: Where's my vote?

SHUSTER: It was the largest anti-government demonstration in 31 years, and many in the crowd recalled the street demonstrations of 1978 which grew and grew and eventually became so huge that they forced the Shah of Iran to abdicate in favor of what became the Islamic Revolution. Many in the crowd were calling this Iran's second revolution.

Unidentified Man #2: More important than the first revolution, because it's -after Islamic Revolution, we needed this revolution.

SHUSTER: Toward the end of the demonstration, gunmen appeared on the roof of a militia barracks on the square. According to witnesses, the gunmen fired randomly into the crowd. One man was shot in the head and killed. Several others were wounded. Other reports said the crowd set the barracks on fire. State television claims seven protestors were killed when they attacked a military facility, but it wasn't clear whether this was the same incident.

Unidentified Group: Mousavi. Mousavi. (Foreign language spoken)

SHUSTER: Mousavi appeared briefly amidst the ocean of protestors. We want the votes to be counted honestly, Mousavi said. That is the respect we deserve. Mousavi has been out of the public eye since Friday's election, but he has been busy. On Sunday, he met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and apparently convinced him that some official review of the election results was necessary. Khamenei then ordered the Guardian Council to look into the matter. The Guardian Council is the 12-person, mostly clerical body that oversees elections. We will investigate and announce the result, the council spokesman said on state television last night.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting)

SHUSTER: But the protestors don't seem to have the patience that the government is asking for, and the violence that erupted late Monday is only likely to swell their ranks. This young woman's comments seemed to sum up all that the protestors were feeling.

Unidentified Woman #3: They want freedom, just freedom.

SHUSTER: Today, Mousavi met with the Guardian Council, which offered to carry out the recount of a random sampling of ballot boxes from around the country. Mousavi rejected that offer. He wants Iran to hold an entirely new election.

Mike Shuster, NPR News, Tehran. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mike Shuster
Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.