Iranian radio reported Tuesday that seven people were killed during Monday's massive protests, the biggest seen in Tehran since the fall of the Shah 30 years ago. "Unfortunately, seven people have been killed and several others injured," the report stated, going on to allege that the protesters had been attacking a "military location" near the protest route.
It was the first confirmation of a deadly skirmish following the massive demonstration at Azadi Square in the Iranian capital on Monday that saw hundreds of thousands of protestors demonstrate peacefully on behalf of defeated reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The radio report included few details, but it confirmed statements made by eyewitnesses and corroborated the contents of a photo taken by an AP photographer. As the crowds started to disperse at nightfall, a group of demonstrators tried to set a building that houses a volunteer militia aligned with the Revolutionary Guard on fire and to storm it. Shots were subsequently fired from the building at the protestors. A correspondent with the French news agency AFP also claimed that tear gas had been deployed, leading countless people to flee the protest site in panic.
Late Monday night, the people of Tehran continued to protest from the balconies and rooftops of their homes and apartments, calling out "Death to the dictator," and "Allahu Akbar," (God is great) for the second night in a row. The calls could be heard throughout the city.
On Tuesday morning, further disquieting news emerged from the reformist camp. The office of Mohammed Ali Abtahi reported that the opposition leader had been arrested. No further details have been provided.
On Tuesday, the opposition wants to continue with its protests, claiming that elections last Friday -- which saw Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad apparently re-elected with 62.6 percent against 33.75 percent for his challenger Mousavi -- were fraudulent. Despite an official ban on further demonstrations, Mousavi supporters plan to converge on Vali-ye Asr Square in Tehran at 2:30 local time.
The protests have also spread to other Iranian cities. Thousands of demonstrators marched in Isfahan, a city of over 1 million people, conservative Mashhad, in the southern city of Shiraz and in Ahvaz, eyewitnesses told wire service AP. In Shiraz, police reportedly fired warning shots in order to disperse the crowd. The police commissioner of the Fars Province, Ali Moayeri, said his men had been authorized to shoot and that, from now on, "we will respond harshly."
"We Must Regain our Rights"
Mousavi remained unyielding at Monday's protests and called for further resistance against the alleged election fraud. During his first public appearance since Friday's vote, he told the assembled masses: "We must regain our rights, which have been stomped on. We must end these lies and rise up against the fraud." He said he was ready to pay any price. "Otherwise people won't have any trust left in the government and the ruling system," he added. Mousavi also said he had little hope that the Guardian Council would annul Friday's vote. "Many of its members during the election were not impartial and supported the government candidate," he said.
The protestors responded with a chorus of praise. "Long live Mousavi," the crowd chanted. On Monday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Guardian Council, comprised of Islamic clerics and Islamic law experts, to conduct a review of the election results. On Tuesday, the Guardian Council said it was ready to recount specific ballot boxes.
The developments in Iran this week have drawn widespread criticism in Europe, and in Brussels on Monday, European Union officials demanded that a probe into alleged election fraud must address all the complaints lodged by the protesters.
Despite the unrest back home, re-elected Iranian President Ahmadinejad arrived in Yekaterinburg, Russia on Tuesday for a summit meeting of the Shanghai Organization for Cooperation -- a group that includes China, India, Pakistan and a handful of Central Asian countries -- where he also planned to meet with journalists, the Russian news agencies Interfax and Itar-Tass reported.
US President Barack Obama has said he is a deeply disturbed by the developments in Iran. "It would be wrong for me to be silent on what we've been seeing on television the last few days," he told reporters on Monday. He said the votes cast by the Iranian people must be respected, but that he couldn't judge whether the election had been fraudulent or not. Nevertheless, he said people should have the right to peaceful protest.
The president also found warm words for the protesters and youth who had dared to question the election result. He said, "the world is watching and inspired by their participation." Obama said he still believed diplomatic contacts should be established between the US and Iran, through "tough, direct dialogue between our two countries." That path, he said, is decisive for national security interests, "specifically making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon."