2009 Year in Review
Major World News Stories of 2009
Opposition Protests Presidential Election Results
For much of 2009, Iran continued to test the patience of the West and the UN by brazenly pursuing its nuclear program and using it to taunt Israel. However, June's presidential election and its aftermath revealed vulnerability in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's leadership.
Ahmadinejad was reelected on June 12 in a landslide, taking almost 63% of the vote. His main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, received just under 34%. Moussavi ran on a platform of improving human rights and reversing Ahmadinejad's hard-line policies, which appealed to many young and less conservative voters.
Accusations of ballot tampering and fraud emerged almost immediately after the election. The influential Guardian Council, a body appointed by the judiciary that approves political candidates and legislation passed by Parliament and supervises elections, acknowledged that in dozens of cities the amount of votes cast was higher than the number of registered voters. Opposition supporters took to the streets across Iran, where they met violent police retribution. As many as 1,000 people were arrested during the protests and 20 were killed. The video of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan bleeding to death in the street after being gunned down by police remains one of the most indelible images of 2009.
Protesters Use Social Networking to Communicate Beyond Iran's Borders
The protests, the largest since the 1979 revolution, continued for weeks after the election. Protesters relied on social networking sites and text messaging to communicate with others around the world about Moussavi, the election, and the demonstrations. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, called the election "fair" and ruled out a recount or an annulment of the election. He admonished protesters to end their dissent, fearing an escalation of violence, but he was largely ignored and he seemed to shift into a more sympathetic stance toward the opposition. In addition, he backed away from an earlier accusation that the opposition movement was fueled by support from the West.
There were widespread reports that prisoners were abused and raped while in custody. These allegations were corroborated by a senior official. In August, a mass trial of 100 government critics began. The defendants, who were reportedly charged with inciting a "velvet coup," were denied access to lawyers and family members.
Despite the protests, Ahmadinejad began his second term in August. But his troubles-and his bravado- persisted. In September at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, President Barack Obama announced that American, British, and French spies have evidence that Iran has built a uranium-enrichment plant near Qum. Iranian officials acknowledged existence of the facility, but maintained it is for peaceful purposes. Then, Iran test fired medium-range missiles that are capable of hitting Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf.
At talks in Geneva in early October between Iran, the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany, Iran agreed to open the plant to UN inspectors and export its enriched uranium for processing. If Iran follows through with this promise, it would significantly reduce the country's ability to produce nuclear weapons. However, Ahmadinejad quickly reneged on his offer and now faces the possibility of stricter UN sanctions.
- More from 2009 News of the World