Iran Stifles Opposition Following Disputed Election
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Days of protest after a disputed election prompted a fresh statement today from the supreme leader of Iran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a man who never needs to stand for reelection. He is the religious leader who oversees the elected president. And over the weekend, he hailed the claims by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he'd won reelection. Now the supreme leader has spoken about the challenger, who is calling the election a fraud. NPR's Mike Shuster has been covering this story from Tehran. And Mike, what's the ayatollah say?
MIKE SHUSTER: Well, the ayatollah released a statement today, essentially advising Mir-Hossain Mousavi, the primary challenger, to pursue his complaint calmly and through legal channels. So the ayatollah, the supreme leader was essentially saying there's some room here for a legal challenge, but I believe that you should do this calmly and legally and, by implication, not by calling your people out on the streets. This coincides with Mousavi's action. Yesterday, according to a statement on his Web site, he appealed to the Guardian Council to annul the results of the election. And in that statement, by the way, he issued a call for his followers to rally today at a square in central Tehran.
Today, the Guardian Council announced that it would review the results of the election, and that Mousavi and one other candidate would meet with the Guardian Council tomorrow. The Guardian Council also says the review could take a week to 10 days. As for the rally, Steve, Mousavi called off the rally because the Interior Ministry declared it illegal and said those who would take part in it would be considered seditious. There's also a fear that if people rally in the streets, that the police may use live ammunition and fire on them. But that doesn't mean that people won't gather there.
INSKEEP: When I look at that statement from the supreme leader saying pursue your election challenge calmly and legally, I'm trying to figure if Iran's supreme leader is a little rattled by the protest against this in saying go ahead with the challenge, or if he's basically telling Mir-Hossain Mousavi, the challenger, to be quiet.
SHUSTER: Well, I'm not sure that it's either case. The events over the last two days have certainly unnerved many in Iran and in Tehran - not only those in the streets and the citizens at large, but the powers that be, as well. And Ayatollah Khamenei certainly doesn't want to see continued unrest and disturbance in the street day after day, night after night. His statement, then, suggests that if Mousavi is allowed a legal procedure that could review the results of the election and that might take a week to 10 days, that that would quiet things, and things might, therefore, get back to normal - in his view.
INSKEEP: How is the opposition making itself heard, Mike?
SHUSTER: Well, as you know, over the weekend, there were serious protests and disturbances in the streets. Saturday afternoon and Saturday night were the worst, and there was a very strong crackdown on the part of riot police. Some of that continued on Sunday night. But more to the point, thousands of people who are Mousavi supporters who live in residential neighborhoods went up on their roofs and essentially started chanting allahu akbar, God is great, and chants in favor of Mousavi and against Ahmadinejad. And these voices echoed through the night through many of the neighborhoods. It was quite an extraordinary thing. Today, as I said, Mousavi had called for a big rally in central Tehran. Now he's called that off, but it's likely that people will go out into the streets anyway.
INSKEEP: And briefly, how is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad getting his message out?
SHUSTER: Well, Ahmadinejad held a lengthy press conference yesterday that was seen across the world and in Iran, and then he attended a victory celebration in central Tehran, where thousands of his supporters came out. He's essentially dismissed the opposition and the protests as people who are like soccer fans who are disappointed when their team loses.
INSKEEP: Hm. Mike, thanks very much.
SHUSTER: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mike Shuster. He is in Tehran, following a disputed election there. Now, as we've heard, Internet communication may be increasingly limited in Iran. People have had to resort to shouting from the rooftops, but we have received an email from a Tehran resident. She describes a police crackdown with tactics ranging from beatings to firing paintballs. And you can find that letter on our blog, the Two-Way, at npr.org.
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