It may sound fishy to have 50 cities where more votes were cast than there are eligible voters to cast them. But it’s not! More on that and the rest of the big news coming out of Iran.
• On Saturday, protesters were met with an unprecedented show of force. Security personnel filled the streets and used batons, water cannons, tear gas, and sometimes bullets to break up rallies. Early that morning, a bomb blast at the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini was blamed by state media on a suicide bomber. Seventeen people have been killed since the uprising began, officially, though the actual death toll may be higher. State radio ISNA announced that 457 were arrested Saturday. Sunday was relatively calm.
• A statement posted online by the Revolutionary Guard ominously warned Iranians to prepare “for a resolution and revolutionary confrontation with the Guards, Basij [pro-government militia], and other security forces and disciplinary forces” if they continue to rally in the streets. Some protests have been reported today nonetheless.
• The Guardian Council, which is investigating accusations of electoral fraud, announced that the vote total in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters. But because Iranians aren’t required to vote in their home districts, that doesn’t necessarily point to fraud. Meanwhile, a report by Chatham House in London found irregularities in the election and called the result “highly implausible.”
• One of Saturday’s casualties was a woman named Neda Soltani, who was standing on the street beside her father when she was shot. (You can see it here; be warned that it is very, very graphic). The video and her story have spread around the Internet on social networking sites, and may galvanize greater outrage against the government crackdown. One reformist politician has posted a message on his Facebook page asking for people to gather in Tehran this afternoon to mourn her.
• According to the Huffington Post, the website Peiknet has posted a letter signed by 40 senior clerics on the Assembly of Experts calling for an annulment of the election.
• In a news conference today, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman once again blamed Western governments and media for promoting unrest.
• The opposition may be gearing up for a nationwide strike.
• Reporters Without Borders says that 23 journalists and bloggers have been arrested in Iran. In addition, a Canadian correspondent for Newsweek, Maziar Bahari, has been jailed without charges. The BBC says its correspondent in Iran, John Leyne, has been told to leave the country.
• President Obama continues to walk a fine line in his response to the situation in Iran. In a statement released on Saturday, he calls “on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.” In an interview with CBS aired this morning, Obama expressed concern about becoming “a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States.”