Supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi are staging mass demonstrations in the capital Tehran. The gatherings are in direct defiance of the country’s highest authority.
Iranian exiles in Germany have also taken to the streets
Thursday’s protests mark the fourth day Iranians have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Defeated candidate Mousavi, who has led the protests since the weekend election, called Thursday a "day of mourning" to honor those killed in earlier protests on Monday. According to Iranian television, the number killed in protests was seven. Other sources, however, are claiming that over 20 people were killed.
Mousavi urged his followers to wear black to mark the occasion, one day after tens of thousands of protesters marched down a main street of Tehran in silence and with masks over their mouths.
The call to rally again was in open defiance of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who urged the nation to unite behind the Islamic state.
Germany in favor of protests
Meanwhile, in a rare show of unanimity, representatives from across the political spectrum in the German parliament have offered support for the demonstrations underway in Tehran.
Speakers from Germany's main political parties warned against forcing Iran into a position of isolationist politics. Deputy foreign minister Gernot Erler said Germany and Europe had an "existential" interest in including Iran in a "regional and global partnership."
"No one in Germany, no one in Europe wants an Iran in political isolation," said Erler, a member of the ruling coalition partner Social Democrats (SPD), in a debate in the lower house of parliament Bundestag on Wednesday. Following a carefully worded statement alleging "irregularities" in Iran's presidential election, Erler said Iran should "seriously and transparently" review the election results.
Speakers said the political debate was a show of support for democratic institutions and freedom of speech and not an attempt to impose Western values or political desires on to the Islamic Republic.
An international eye on Iran
Conservative politician Ruprecht Polenz from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) said "establishing international attention" on Iran was crucial. Polenz, chairman of the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, called for an open show of international support for the demonstrators. He said this would protect freedom of speech and impede violations.
Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi continue protesting in Tehran
Erler called for an immediate end to media restrictions and urged authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations. He said those arrested during the protests should be immediately released, condemning the use of force that has caused the deaths of at least seven demonstrators.
The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) said it supported efforts by US President Barack Obama to extend an open hand to Iran. FDP foreign policy expert Werner Hoyer said this did not mean bowing to pressure from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but instead showing support for the so-called "homegrown" push for more democracy. This would include women's rights and changes to the Iranian penal system, which still includes the death sentence by stoning.
However, Norman Peach from the Left party warned the West against imposing its will on a country that had in fact elected Ahmadinejad. He said it was largely intellectuals who were clamoring for a re-election.
New elections, if necessary
Earlier on Wednesday, the co-chair of the Green Party, Claudia Roth, met with exiled Iranian opposition leader Mehran Barati. Roth said an active response from Germany and a united European response that could include a new UN-monitored election was necessary.
Iranian opposition politician Mehran Barati lives in Germany
"We are here to protest against the severe violations of human rights in Iran," Roth said following her meeting with Barati. "Human rights are universal so it is also our responsibility to make clear and to speak out loudly that we are deeply concerned about what is going on in Iran."
Roth said the election was "not at all fair," calling it "a democratic poll but manipulated."
"We ask for a new election," Roth said. "We ask for transparency. We ask that the opposition, that the power of reform is recognized in Iran."
Roth added that Chancellor Merkel and other European leaders needed to speak out more clearly against the situation in Iran.
"I think it is our common responsibility to now support those in Iran who are fighting for democracy," she said.
Protests on Berlin's streets
While politicians in the Bundestag were attempting to define what role the government should be playing, Iranian exiles and students took to the streets in Berlin to put pressure on the German government.
Iranian-German student Dorna was part of a small protest outside Berlin's Foreign Office.
"We want our voices heard all over the world," Dorna said. "Especially the Iranian people should know that we support them and that we are with them. We want Iran to be free and to be a democratic republic and not a republic of fundamentalism and dictatorship."
The debate in Germany comes ahead of a summit in Brussels where Chancellor Merkel will meet with other European leaders to discuss the situation in Iran. Iranian students have said they will coordinate Germany-wide demonstrations on Sunday, calling on Berlin to exert political and diplomatic pressure on Tehran that could include non-recognition of the new government and added economic pressure.
Author: Tanya Wood (glb)
Editor: Susan Houlton