LOS ANGELES TIMES: Reporting from Tehran — Massive rivers of people defied authorities and poured into Tehran’s Freedom Square today chanting “Death to the dictator!” and “We want our vote back!” in an unprecedented display of civil disobedience and a rebuke to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reelected president over the weekend amid allegations of rampant voter fraud.
The protesters defied Interior Ministry warnings broadcast on state television and radio that anyone showing up would be beaten or worse. They managed to find out about the event and turned out in droves despite a media clampdown that included the shuttering of numerous opposition websites — including those linking to challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi — the jamming of satellite news channels and the shutdown of text-messaging systems.
Generally, the event appeared peaceful. In the crowd, women in flowing black chadors mingled with factory owners. College students wearing the headbands and ribbons of green, the color of the Mousavi campaign, walked side by side with government employees with salt-and-pepper hair. Bazaar laborers in black T-shirts and motorcycle deliverymen waved their hands in the air alongside elegantly coiffed women in designer sunglasses.
They came tentatively at first, worried that security forces would crack down harshly.The pro-government Basiji militiamen stood along the sidelines, appearing stunned by the magnitude of the crowd. They have become the scourge of the Mousavi supporters after fighting demonstrators for two nights and storming Tehran University the previous night, injuring dozens of students. But the crowd was defiant. “Rockets, tanks, Basiji no longer have any effect on us!” they chanted, updating a popular slogan from the 1979 Islamic Revolution. MORE
RELATED: For two decades, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has remained a shadowy presence at the pinnacle of power in Iran, sparing in his public appearances and comments. Through his control of the military, the judiciary and all public broadcasts, the supreme leader controlled the levers he needed to maintain an iron if discreet grip on the Islamic republic. But in a rare break from a long history of cautious moves, he rushed to bless President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for winning the election, calling on Iranians to line up behind the incumbent even before the standard three days required to certify the results had passed. Then angry crowds swelled in cities around Iran, and he backpedaled, announcing Monday that the 12-member Council of Guardians, which vets elections and new laws, would investigate the vote. Those sensing that important change may be afoot are quick to caution that Ayatollah Khamenei, as a student of the revolution that swept the shah from power, could still resort to overwhelming force to crush the demonstrations. MORE
[Illustration via PAYVAND]