TEHRAN, Iran – With titans of the Islamic republic entrenched against each other, crowds of protesters clad in green and black pressed into President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s home turf Thursday to make the case that he won re-election through massive vote fraud.
The fourth day of demonstrations came as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, was expected to address the nation at today’s prayers. Despite Khamenei’s status, analysts said he had little room to maneuver: There appeared to be no constitutional mechanism to end Iran’s biggest political challenge in 30 years.
Dressed in black to mourn those killed in recent clashes and green to mark their allegiance to rival candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, the protesters moved into traditionally conservative southern Tehran. They poured out of a subway station into the vast Imam Khomeini Square. And witnesses said they filed quietly through the Grand Bazaar, the vast labyrinth of shops and wholesalers that was once the country’s economic nerve center.
The Guardian Council, the nation’s constitutional watchdog, agreed to review specific complaints of Mousavi and two other candidates running against Ahmadinejad but has not broached the widespread belief among Mousavi supporters that the vote was rigged.
The unrest has left at least 12 dead and led to the arrest of government critics. The Association of Human Rights Activists in Iran maintained that at least 32 people were killed, but that number could not be confirmed. Protesters have clashed with pro-government vigilantes from Ansar-e Hezbollah and the Basiji militia.
Within the Iranian establishment, moderate and reformist clergy and political figures are joining forces against Ahmadinejad and his hard-line factions.
“I am really worried,” said Mohsen Rezai, one of the three losing presidential candidates and a former commander of the Revolutionary Guard. “In order to prevent a crisis from happening, our government, the candidates and our dear people have to do something.”