... So that You may be kept informed

MID: Anti-Ahmadinejad protesters flock to banned demo

By Hiedeh Farmani and Farhad Pouladi
16 Jun 2009 1:36 AM

TEHRAN, June 15 AFP - "Give back our votes!" hundreds of thousands of Iranians both young and old chanted on Monday at a banned opposition rally in Tehran protesting at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election win.

Defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi also attended the rally in his first public appearance since Friday's poll which he has branded a "charade."

The former prime minister stood on a car roof, addressing the surging crowds through a loudhailer. "The vote of the people is more important than Mousavi or any other person," he told them.

"God willing, we will get back our rights."

"Mousavi we support you! We will die but retrieve our votes!" shouted protesters, many decked in the signature green of Mousavi's election campaign, as riot police stood by in central Tehran's Enghelab (Revolution) Square.

Protesters called on security forces to join them.

"Law enforcers, support us, support us!" they shouted, especially when a police vehicle passed by, an AFP reporter said. "You are green like us!" they screamed at police.

The march from Enghelab Square to Azadi (Freedom) Square went ahead despite the authorities announcing a ban on such gatherings. State television did not broadcast live coverage of the protest.

"No authorisation for a march or gathering has been issued and any kind of gathering or march is illegal," an interior ministry spokesman said.

Members of the crowd also called for a day of industrial action: "Tuesday! Tuesday! Strike! Strike!" they shouted.

"As long as Ahmadinejad is there, it will be like this every day ... Listen to the voice of the people!"

Mousavi's website said that both he and Mehdi Karroubi, another defeated reformist candidate for the presidency, would join the march and urged the "people to keep calm."

Mousavi has formally complained to the Guardians Council, the 12-member election supervisory body, calling on it to annul what he says was a rigged election.

On Sunday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Mousavi that he has advised the council to "precisely examine" his complaint.

But angry protesters said on Monday they wanted Mousavi to remain steadfast. "I think my vote has been insulted. We expect him to stand until the end," said Mehdi, a 40-year-old engineer.

Student Fahar, 21, said she will attend the protests for as long as they take place, despite fears of violence.

"I hope they act in a civilised way and don't attack us," she told AFP, referring to both the police and Iran's volunteer Basij Islamic militia.

Hussein, 56, wondered how a premier who served under the imam, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, could have lost the election "after all the good things that he has done."

"He is an honest man, a hard-working man. He has been backed by Khatami whom we all know," he added of former president Mohammad Khatami, a key Mousavi backer who was succeeded by Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.

Some demonstrators urged Khatami to come and join them on the streets.

"Khatami should come and lead the crowd because he is known internationally and they can't touch him," said 27-year-old Javad amid a sea of waving green flags and Mousavi posters.

As the crowd grew, which a policeman said could be up to two-million strong, bystanders were seen offering cold water to protesters to quench their thirst.

A woman standing nearby said, "Khomeini come and see what they have done to your son," referring to Iran's revolutionary leader who was the supreme leader of the Islamic republic when Mousavi was prime minister.