Iranians protest election results, 2009

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Time Period:  
June 12th
August 5th
Location and Goals
To remove Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from power and instate a fairly elected leader.

Iranians turned out in large numbers to elect their President on 12 June 2009. The candidates included the incumbent and favorite of the religious authorities, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as three challengers: Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mohsen Rezaee, and Mehdi Karroubi. Authorities announced results just two hours after polls had closed, with Ahmadinejad receiving 62.63% of the vote, Mousavi 33.75%, Rezaee 1.73%, and Karroubi 0.85%.

After the announcement, Mousavi supporters began to take to the streets and protest. Many of his supporters felt the election had been rigged, citing the extremely quick announcement of the results as well as lingering suspicions surrounding the 2005 election. Protesters insisted on removing Ahmadinejad from power. Protests grew over the next few days and spread to multiple cities across Iran. In Tehran, many students protested, particularly those from Tehran University. Police constructed barricades around key government buildings, embassies, and the airport. Protests were mostly nonviolent, but some cases of looting, rioting, and clashes with police occurred. Police also used beatings and tear gas against nonviolent protesters and raided the dormitories at Tehran University.

On 15 June Mousavi appeared in public for the first time since the election, despite a warning from the government that a demonstration would be illegal. As many as two million people came to Tehran’s Freedom Square in a peaceful demonstration. However, a pro-government militia shot and killed seven demonstrators.

Protests continued for the next few days with tens of thousands of Iranians demonstrating. On 16 June, 120 professors at Tehran University resigned in response to the government’s treatment of students. The next day, multiple members of the national soccer team wore green wristbands in support of Mousavi in their World Cup Qualifier against South Korea. On 18 June, protesters gathered at Toopkhaneh Square with candles after Mousavi called to commemorate those who had been killed. Mousavi and his campaign organized some protests, but citizens also used word of mouth and social media to organize. The Iranian government began to block cell phone and internet service on days when they expected protests.

On 19 June, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a public speech denouncing the protests as a foreign plot and called on the opposition leaders to stop the protests. All three opposition candidates continued to support the protests, with Mousavi and Karroubi publicly calling for the cancellation of election results. Thousands openly defied Khamenei’s calls the next day and protested throughout Tehran. Security forces killed at least ten protesters, including a young woman whose killing was captured in a viral video. Protests slowed on the 21st, but the Guardian Council did publicly admit that there were some irregularities with elections. However, they said they had not yet determined whether the irregularities affected the result of the elections.

On 22 June, the Guardian Council declared Ahmadinejad the winner, and the foreign minister repeated the claim that the protests constituted a Western attempt to bring down Iranian democracy. The government fired General Ali Fazli, seemingly for refusing orders to fire on protesters. Mousavi called for his supporters to continue demonstrating when their lives were not at risk. Later that day, over a thousand protesters assembled, and police dispersed them with tear gas.

Protests slowed over the next few days, though violence against demonstrators by Basij forces, a pro-government paramilitary force, increased. On 28 June, the government approved Mousavi’s request for a peaceful prayer gathering for the protesters that had died. Protests continued on the 29th with drivers honking their horns to protest the government.

On the night of the 29th, the Guardian Council announced that it had recounted 10% of the ballots and reconfirmed that Ahmadinejad had won the election. Protests reignited after the announcement, but died down again after about a day. Thousands marched to commemorate victims of police violence on 2 July and 4 July. Organizers expected large protests on 9 July, the anniversary of past election protests. However, only a few thousand protesters showed up, and protesters were heavily beaten and tear-gassed.

On 17 July, protests began to reignite, with over a million people attending the Friday Prayer Sermon in Tehran, which was also attended by the opposition leaders. Police arrested some protesters and used tear gas to disperse the crowds. Demonstrations again took place on the 19th and the 21st, but both government security and Basij forces attacked protests with batons. Protesters attempted to cause an overload of Tehran’s power system by turning on appliances using large amounts of electricity at the same time, but did not succeed.

Opposition leaders began to focus on stopping the abuse of detained protesters and securing their release. However, hundreds of thousands of protesters across Iran demonstrated on July 30th to remember those who had died in the protests. On 1 August, trials of the protesters began, and on 5 August, Ahmadinejad was sworn in for his second term as President.

Research Notes
Esfandiari, Golnaz. 2010. “The Twitter Devolution.” Foreign Policy. Retrieved March 8, 2015 (

Hooman, Majd. 2010. “Think Again: Iran's Green Movement.” Foreign Policy. Retrieved March 8, 2015 (

Keller, Jared. 2010. “Evaluating Iran's Twitter Revolution.” The Atlantic. Retrieved March 8, 2015 (

Nabavi, Negin. 2012. Iran: From Theocracy to the Green Movement. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tait, Robert. 2009. “Iranians' Green Revolution Refuses to Wither and Die.” The Guardian. Retrieved March 8, 2015 (

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Timothy Hirschel-Burns 3/8/2015