The headlines read clashes erupt after Iran election declares Ahmadinejad the winner. With an unprecedented 85% of 46.2 million eligible Iranians showing up at the polls, not only is this voting history but an apparent desire for a new government.
Clashes in Tehran are the most serious since 1999. Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry and anti-riot police fought back with clubs. Plumes of dark smoke streak over the city as burning tires and garbage glow orange in streets.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the challenger in this election, said the vote was tainted by widespread fraud. It was not clear how many Iranians are aware of Mousavi’s claims. Communications were disrupted beginning Friday after voting ended. This seems an apparent blackout except for state television and radio broadcast of the Interior Ministry’s vote count. Mousavi’s midnight news conference was not seen.
Mousavi has pledged to overhaul the economy, reinstate relative social freedoms and re-engage politically with the U.S. and other Western nations. He has appeared with his wife Zahra Rahnavard and broken taboos of public affection by holding her hand.
Mr. Mousavi’s camp has also stood up to Iran’s clerical establishment which is unheard of in this country. His chief strategist is a 26-year-old doctorate student of sociology, Mohamad Reza Jalaeipour. Mr. Jalaeipour says he developed many campaign ideas after obsessively watching the Obama campaign. “I was fascinated by what was happening in the U.S. and hopeful that we can also mobilize our own people in the same way,” Mr. Jalaeipour said.
Movie stars were commissioned to make YouTube videos and social networking sites used during the campaign. Clearly, the West has come to Iran. Ahmadinejad blames Western press for the problems now surrounding the election. Western journalists have combed Iran to speak with Iranians before their election. The most amazing thing I have ever seen was a young woman in a burqa standing in line to vote.
As the camera focused on her, she stuck her hand out and flashed the peace sign. Then she stuck her hand inside again, probably as fast as she could. What an extraordinary message she shared with the world. Who can blame the Iranians, especially women and the young for a desire to live a democratic life? This Iran election is making Iranian history. It’s comparable to when the Berlin wall fell. We are seeing history before our very eyes.
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Farnaz Fasshi, Wall Street Journal
Charles Gibson, ABC News
Iran Election Turns Violent and Makes Iran History Comparable to Fall of Berlin Wall copyright 2009