Article by Morgan Dinsdale, AP

More than 100 Iranians and their supporters protesting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory marked the second day of a hunger strike Thursday with songs, speeches and demands that the United Nations investigate human rights abuses in Iran.

The hunger strikers wore green sashes to mark their support for the Green Movement, born after hundreds of thousands of supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets to protest the June 12 elections, claiming he was robbed of victory. Another 100 supporters not on a hunger strike joined the protest across the street from U.N. headquarters.

Led by prominent Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who spent six years imprisoned in Tehran for his investigative journalism, Hunger Strike at the U.N. is calling on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy to travel to Iran and investigate allegations of human rights abuses.

It is also demanding the release of Iranian activists, students, journalists and ordinary citizens arrested after the election. The three-day hunger strike will culminate in a march on Saturday sponsored by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and six Nobel Peace laureates. It will culminate in a rally across from U.N. headquarters, coinciding with The Global Day of Action – United for Iran, taking place in more than 80 cities around the world.

“This is a population that understands democracy, that has fought for it for centuries, and knows when its rights are being violated,” said Bitta Mostofi, a protest organizer. “Iranians know what their rights are under their own constitution and are exercising these rights peacefully. President Ahmadinejad has violated much of this rule of law.”

Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian studies at Colombia University, said “what has happened in this particular movement is the transmutation of a political revolution into a civil rights movement.”

“We are witnessing the rise of a civil rights movement, a shift away from ideological battlefields towards civil liberties, especially in the youth of Iran,” he said.

With roughly 70 percent of Iranians under the age of 30, Dabashi said the new movement was reminiscent of the U.S. civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and 1960s – and in its commitment to nonviolence.

“The principal of nonviolence is at the front of the movement,” Mostofi said. “Iranians have a vivid history of violence and are uninterested in any violent means of change. This is a nonviolent movement consciously.”

The movement’s pursuit of civil rights has gained the backing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Laureate and significant figure in South Africa’s battle against apartheid.

“You in Iran who want democracy and accountable government are on the winning side and we support you,” he said in a statement Wednesday released by the group. Saturday’s march will stop briefly at South Africa’s U.N. Mission to note his support.

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