Eyewitness: Iranian militiamen shot 300 rounds during Monday's protest
Iran's Guardian Council offered a partial recount of the presidential vote Tuesday as pressure mounted from the biggest rally since the revolution, in which eight were killed.
Amid scenes reminiscent of the street turbulence that led to Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, the country's powerful Guardian Council said on Tuesday it is willing to conduct a partial recount of the contested presidential election after eight were killed in a massive protest Monday.Skip to next paragraph
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Even state television announced the death toll at the protest, in which hundreds of thousands rallied in support of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, claiming widespread fraud led to President Ahmadinejad's victory. The state TV anchor said that organized "wicked people" had "attacked and caused massive destruction," resulting in the deaths.
An Iranian journalist who witnessed the shooting told the Monitor that, in fact, the gunmen were plainclothed basiji militia in riot helmets and body armor who fired an estimated 300 bullets from a rooftop – roughly half into the air, and the other half directly into the crowd, over the course of an hour.
"The guy shooting from the roof was very calm, not like he was shooting at people," said the witness. The ideological militiamen, who operate under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guards, fired as if "they were just trying to empty their guns into the ground, very cool, very relaxed."
The resulting images of protesters with green armbands carrying away their dead comrades – with looks of horror on their faces and shouts for help on their lips – evoked the prolonged bloody protests that shook Iran before the 1979 revolution.
Back then, soldiers of the pro-West shah fired directly on student protesters, prompting a growing cycle of violent 40-day mourning protests, which produced yet more dead "martyrs" each round and eventually led to the fall of the government.
The government on Tuesday announced sweeping restrictions on foreign journalists, ordering that no rallies were to be reported upon without official approval. Since the vote, intelligence agents have been in Iranian newsrooms, supervising.
"Nothing short of declaring the election result null and void would actually stop the protest of the people," said Professor Zibakalem of Tehran University.
"The government is thinking all the time: 'If I stand tough, if I react violently, it will stop people from demonstrating,'" he added. "What the government doesn't realize is that to react severely and try to suppress the people, it will only intensify people's anger."