NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media.
Iran’s embattled opposition leader vowed Thursday that he wouldn’t back down from challenging what he called a rigged presidential election despite the regime’s attempts to isolate him, telling the hard-liners: “I won’t leave the picture.”
Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, proclaimed the landslide winner of the balloting, accused President Barack Obama of meddling in Iran’s affairs. “Correct yourself,” he told the U.S. leader, urging him to “show your repentance.”
On his Web site, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi leveled unusually strong criticism at the Islamic regime’s leaders, saying they were “the main factor for the recent violence and unrest and have spilled the blood of the people.” His allegation came nearly a week after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the opposition to end street protests or be held responsible for any “bloodshed and chaos.”
Khamenei has refused to order a new vote despite the biggest demonstrations in the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“I am not ready to withdraw from demanding the rights of the Iranian people,” Mousavi said, adding that he was determined to prove electoral fraud.
“They are not aware that I won’t leave the picture with these accusations,” he said.
Authorities arrested 70 university professors Wednesday after they met with Mousavi, and all but four were later released, his Web site said. Those still in custody included Qorban Behzadiannejad, Mousavi’s former campaign manager.
Mousavi’s political adviser, Mohammad Reza Tajik, denied reports that Mousavi was under house arrest.
State media reported that in addition to the 17 protesters killed in the unrest, eight members of the pro-government Basij militia were killed and dozens more wounded by weapons and knives.
Khamenei has unleashed the Basij and the feared Revolutionary Guard, authorizing them to use whatever force is deemed necessary to squelch dissent. He has also ordered a large security detail around Mousavi — ostensibly to protect him, but presumably also to restrict his movements.
There were no reports of rallies Thursday. Another opposition figure, reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi, had planned a march but it was postponed for lack of a permit, a day after club-wielding security forces dispersed a group of protesters outside Iran’s parliament.
Mousavi’s Web site, Kalemeh, said he applied for permission to hold a gathering to commemorate the “martyrs” of the postelection campaign. The statement did not elaborate or give a date.
Despite being soundly backed by Khamenei, whose word is law in Iran, Ahmadinejad appeared to have lost some face both at home and among traditional allies.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani was among 185 of 290 lawmakers who stayed away from a victory celebration for Ahmadinejad earlier this week, several Tehran newspapers reported.
Iran’s most senior dissident cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, warned the authorities that trying to snuff out dissent would prove futile.
If people are not allowed to voice their demands in peaceful gatherings, it “could destroy the foundation of any government” no matter how powerful, he wrote.