Mousavi Joins Tehran Protest Mourning RallyDeaths

As demonstrations continue, government reaches out to opposition leaders.

June 18, 2009, 9:39 AM

June 18, 2009 — -- Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi joined throngs of anti-government protesters today to mourn the deaths of at least eight demonstrators killed in the wake of last week's contested elections.

The protesters, seen on TV footage, many wearing black and holding photos and the names of those killed, jammed Iman Khomeini square, according to various media reports. They were responding to a call by ousted opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to hold a day of mourning.

"Why did you kill our brothers?" read one sign, Reuters reported, "Our martyred brothers we will take back your votes," read another.

Mousavi, whose foiled presidential bid has become the rallying point for the six days of massive protests, was seen on TV footage in the crowd speaking briefly, but it was not immediately clear what he told the crowd. Foreign media are still officially barred from covering unauthorized demonstrations.

There are no reports of violence or arrests.

Mousavi and fellow reformer former president Mohammed Khatami publicly demanded the release of all opposition members under arrest. Overnight, former foreign minister Nehzat Azadi was taken by police from his hospital bed.

Mousavi and two other candidates were invited today by Iran's Guardian Council to a meeting to hear their grievances this Saturday.

A council spokesperson said the group had begun to investigate some 646 complaints of voting irregularities from last Friday's vote, Reuters reported.

As the massive demonstrations in Iran enter their sixth day, opposition members were already in the streets.

People are marching peacefully, often in silence -- a deliberate response to the violence used by police and pro-government paramilitaries as popular anger grows over the disputed presidential election in which President Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by "a large margin."

With foreign reporters now forced to leave the country, it is the protesters who are the world's eyes and ears on the ground, filming protests on their cellphones and distributing the footage on Web sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Many of them are facing threats to their safety and some are worried for their lives. A 24-year-old Iranian, who requested anonymity for safety reasons, spoke to the BBC and said, "I am worried because I received a phone call, a recorded message [...] saying to me: You have been protesting. If you go out again and do protest again, you will be arrested soon."

"Yesterday I considered staying home instead of going out," he said, adding that he still went out and plans to protest today as well.

"Across the country, I hear that people are unhappy, [in] big cities, small cities, towns and villages. I hear the violence is much more in smaller cities than in big cities because the media is showing what is happening in Tehran but not what is happening in Shiraz or Isfahan," he said.

He said he was determined to keep protesting, adding, "if we go on this way, I think and I feel, a change might happen."

Protesters Use Digital Technology to Attack Iran's Leaders

Dissidents are also using digital technology to attack the Iranian government. When Ryan Kelly, a 25-year-old British Web developer designed software to track Ebay auction results and football scores, he had no idea that one day, his software would be used by dissidents to attack Iranian government Web sites.

Kelly's software found on his personal site allows users to automatically refresh Internet pages every few seconds, an action which can end up overloading the host page server and making the page "unreachable" as the bandwidth is exceeded. Dissidents inside and outside Iran have been using the software to disable Iranian government pages, including President Ahmadinejad's Web site.

"On Monday morning," Kelly said, "I got an email from a friend telling me that my page had gone down, because it had received thousands of hits. The server was overloaded, so I took the page down."

Kelly's page hits had gone from 700 on a normal day to 41,000 on Monday.

"Soon after I took down the page," he said, "I started getting hundreds of e-mails, from people all over the world, from Iran, the U.S., Australia, telling me, "we are using your site to attack the Iranian government, so please put it back up." A few hours later, I put it back online."

"I don't think it's fair for their voices to be subdued. It just seems like the right thing to do, to help them."

Kelly said he never thought his software would play a role in world-changing events, "It just shows the power of the Internet."

Now, the government is trying to turn technology against the opposition.

Pro-government sources have set up fake opposition Twitter pages to disseminate false information and propaganda. One such page "persian_guy" sent out fake tweets under my name -- jimsciuttoABC, which blamed the protests on "upper class" Iranians.

Pro-opposition pages have sent out a list of the fake pages.

The 24-year-old protestor who spoke to the BBC said that several Web sites in the country "have been blocked for a long, long time."

As protests continue, he said, "I am concerned what might happen, I am an Iranian, and I know Iranians. The more the violence [by police], the more they would protest, the more the violence, the more they would want what they are not being given."

Protesters Await Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei 's Response

Heeding the public mood perhaps, Iran's ruling Guardian Council has now said that it will meet with the presidential candidates on Saturday.

Before then, many eyes are on the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who will deliver Friday prayers at a Tehran mosque. The country will be listening.

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