By: Innessa Melamed, Pace International Law Review, Senior Associate
Iran’s presidential election was held on June 12, 2009. Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ran against three challengers, including Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Despite opinion polls and numerous surveys that were taken prior to the election, Ahmadinejad emerged as the overwhelming winner with 63% of the votes. The people of Iran were outraged and took to the streets to protest the election result. All three challengers, as well as the protestors claimed that the election was rigged and their votes were stolen.
The international community reported actively on the protests as the Iranian government did its best to suppress voices that opposed the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s reelection. To stifle the organization of the protestors, the Iranian government engaged in widespread censorship of newspapers, internet sites and mobile phone communications. Popular internet sites such as Facebook and YouTube were heavily filtered and others were expressly blocked; websites associated with BBC and The Guardian were shut off. The government blocked the usage of cellular phone services such as text messages. On June 20, 2009, the Ministry of Culture banned international media from reporting on the protests unless they received permission from the Iranian government.
The international response to the aftermath to the Iranian election has been mixed. President Obama stated, “We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran.” Vice President Biden expressed his concern regarding the government employing censorship to suppress the liberal voices of the country. In response to such concerns, Ahmadinejad stated, “[d]on’t worry about freedom in Iran . . . Newspapers come and go and reappear. Don’t worry about it.”
Several other countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia, Romania and Poland have expressed concern regarding the alleged irregularities of the election and have urged the Iranian government to respect fundamental human and political rights and to put an immediate end to the use of force against protestors. Numerous other countries such as China, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Pakistan and Venezuela have expressed congratulations to the newly elected president. Such countries have issued statements showing their acceptance of the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s reelection and expressing hope for stability under his continued regime.