The Iranian opposition sought permission yesterday to hold a ceremony to mourn those killed in protests over last month’s election, in a new challenge to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“We request permission to hold a ceremony to commemorate the 40th day after the deaths of our citizens who lost their lives following the start of the saddening events,” Ahmadinejad’s challengers Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi wrote in a letter to the Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli.
The ISNA news agency, which carried the letter, said the organizers planned to hold the ceremony in central Tehran’s Grand Mosalla, an open prayer venue.
The Web site of Etemad Melli, the political party of Karroubi, said the ceremony was to be held on Thursday.
Authorities have banned such gatherings since the violence that followed Ahmadinejad’s hotly disputed re-election and have placed tight restrictions on foreign media.
In the immediate aftermath of the June 12 vote, hundreds of thousands of protesters poured onto Tehran streets, triggering the Islamic regime’s worst crisis since the 1979 revolution.
Reports say at least 20 people were killed and scores wounded.
“The ceremony will have no speeches. It will consist only of recitals from the Koran and participants will be asked to pay their respects in silence,” Mousavi and Karroubi said.
Their call came a day after the two joined reformist former president Mohammad Khatami in urging Iran’s clerics to intervene to prevent “oppression” by the authorities against detained protestors.
They accused the regime of “savagery” and said its “interrogation methods are a reminder of the dark era of the Shah,” Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was toppled in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The reformist Etemad newspaper reported that two protestors have died in custody.
As Ahmadinejad’s opponents pressed on with their efforts to mobilize their supporters, the president faced continued fire from his own hardline supporters.
They accused him of defying supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by not sacking his pick for first vice president pick Esfandia Rahim Mashaie immediately after being ordered to do so by Khamenei on July 18.
The conservative Justice Seeking Students Movement urged the parliament to question Ahmadinejad on “why he was late in obeying the leader’s order and accepted [Rahim Mashaie’s] resignation instead of sacking him.”
“The appointment and [failure to] sack Mashaie is an unprecedented act in the history of the revolution,” the group said in a statement carried by ISNA.
The group also took strong issue with Ahmadinejad’s decision to appoint his close friend as chief staff just hours after he stepped down as first vice president, charging that that too was an act of defiance against Khamenei.
In his July 18 letter, the supreme leader told Ahmadinejad that Rahim Mashaie’s appointment would cause “division and frustration among your supporters.”
“It is necessary that the appointment be cancelled,” he said in the letter carried by state broadcast media.
The outspoken Rahim Mashaie had enraged hardliners last year by describing Iran as a “friend of the Israeli people.”
But he remains “one of Mr Ahmadinejad’s inner circle of trustees,” independent analyst Mohammad Saleh Sedghian said.