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Election Protests in Iran

August 9, 2009

Iran has had a quasi theocracy since the ouster of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. On June 12, voters went to the polls to choose a new president. Less than two hours after the last of some 40 million paper ballots was cast, the authorities announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been re-elected in a landslide. The announcement of his victory — in which it was said that he had received more than 60 percent of the vote — prompted mass protests by demonstrators who claimed that he had stolen the election. Mr. Admadinejad’s main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, called on supporters and fellow clerics to fight the election results. Protesters poured into the streets for the largest demonstration since the fall of the Shah. But the country’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, harshly denounced the demonstrations and turned loose the police, the Revolutionary Guards and the religious militia, the Basij. Days of street battles followed, in which at least 17 people were killed, including a young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death was captured on video and became a worldwide rallying point. Hundreds of opponents were jailed, and the protests dwindled. The election was certified by the country’s Guardian Council and praised by Mr. Ahmadinejad as the “freest’’ in the world.

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