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Why Do We Need to Stand Up to the MEK?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttVUXDF717U]

The push to remove the MEK from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is intensifying in Congress and in pro-war circles in Washington.

A vote is coming before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week on whether to endorse removing the Iranian Mujahedin from the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations lists.  This would enable it to operate freely and even receive U.S. funding for renewed attacks in Iran.

And John Bolton and Daniel Pipes, who have openly called for the U.S. to bomb Iran, have recently ratcheted up their calls for the MEK to be taken off the terrorist list.

Supporters of the Mujahedin don’t care that the group has no support in Iran. They favor the Mujahedin because it uses violence and terror.

We are standing up to the Mujahedin for three reasons:

1) Delisting the Mujahedin and unleashing its violence would be a major blow to the non-violent, pro-democracy movement.

As Iranian-Americans, we more than anyone else should know from experience that violence can defeat a dictator, but it cannot give us democracy. We have to break the cycle of violence, not perpetuate it.

2) Delisting the Mujahedin would unleash a major force for war.

For years, the Mujahedin have lobbied for the US to attack Iran and to help install MEK leader Maryam Rajavi into power.  We’ve seen how effective they have lobbied for war even while they are a designated terrorist organization.  De-listing them will be a major boost to their lobbying campaign to start a US-Iran war.

3) Delisting the Mujahedin threatens the free, peaceful voices of the Iranian-American community

For years, the Mujahedin have smeared and defamed anyone and any group who differed with them, including Iranian-American organizations and even individuals like Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

As Iranian Americans, we have the ability and responsibility to help break the cycle of violence that has engulfed Iran.  NIAC is the only organization standing up to prevent this from happening.

But we need your help.

Join us in taking a stance for non-violence, democracy and human rights.

Donate $100 today for our efforts to prevent war, protect the pro-democracy movement and break the cycle of violence.

  • 7 July 2011
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • MEK, Neo-Con Agenda

MEKterror.com

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcreI2qaj9I&feature=player_embedded]

Yesterday, NIAC launched www.MEKterror.com, a resource for information on the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and to mobilize grassroots action to put an end to the MEK’s campaign of political pressure and intimidation in Washington.

Despite being designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department—which is supposed to prevent terrorist groups from receiving material support from or coordinating activities with Americans—the MEK and its affiliates are doing just that.  They have been given a free hand to organize an unprecedented political and media blitz in Washington to pressure Congress and the State Department to remove MEK from the terror list.  Why are the laws not being enforced?

The decision on MEK’s terrorist listing will be coming from the State Department soon, likely in August.  We  need to make sure that decision is based on the facts, not manipulated by (likely illegal) political pressure.  We also need to make sure elected officials and policy makers are not fooled by the MEK into thinking they are supported by the Iranian people, Iran’s peaceful democracy movement, or the Iranian-American community.  So, we launched our campaign to provide factual information about the MEK and to organize grassroots action to ensure the voices of the Iranian-American community are accurately represented.

To help take action, please send a letter to U.S. government officials calling on them to enforce the law and explaining why Iranians and Iranian-Americans do not support MEK, despite the groups absurd claims.  For more information about why NIAC is engaging in this effort, what would be the ramifications of taking MEK off the terrorist list, and further ways you can support the campaign, visit www.MEKterror.com.

  • 20 June 2011
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian American activism

Each Iranian: One Voice Campaign

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjo4MHA2VuA]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B88yLjz3zVs]

On Friday, June 19, twelve political prisoners in Iran started an indefinite hunger strike in protest over the killing of two fellow political prisoners, Haleh Sahabi and Hoda Saber, Green Voice of Freedom reported.

One day after that, Kaleme, the opposition website close to Mir Hossein Mousavi, called on all Iranians around the world to join the Each Iranian: One Voice Campaign by creating a 2-3 minute video statement in solidarity and support.

Shirin Ebadi, Maziar Bahari, Hamid Dabashi, Mohsen Kadivar, and other prominent Iranians have joined this campaign, raising their concerns about the life of these twelve prisoners and calling on the Iranian regime to release them and all other political prisoners in Iran.

One of the twelve political prisoners, human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi, has reportedly been granted release from prison–winning an appeal to have his sentence reduced to time served.  In his place, Mehdi Eghbal has joined the hunger strike.  The others participating are Bahman Ahmadi Amooei, Hasan Asadi Zeidabadi, Emad Bahavar, Ghorban Behzadian-Nejad, Mohammad Davari, Amir-Khosro Dalir-Sani, Feizollah Arabsorkhi, Abolfazl Ghadyani, Mohammad Javad Mozaffar, Mohammad Reza Moghisseh, and Abdollah Momeni.

Hoda Saber and Haleh Sahabi are the most recent political prisoners that lost their live under the brutal pressure of the regime on imprisoned activists. Haleh Sahabi was killed at her father’s funeral while she was temporary released from prison to attend the ceremony. In protest of Haleh’s death, Hoda Saber started a hunger strike and, three days later, he died after being brutally beaten by officers of the security force.

Many of the videos can be found at Green Voice of Freedom and are included after the jump.

  • 1 June 2011
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, UN

Haleh Sahabi killed at father’s funeral

Haleh Sahabi, a human rights activist and women rights champion, died today in a scuffle that broke out with Iranian government security forces at her father’s funeral, Reuters reported.

Haleh was arrested for participating in protests following the 2009 election, and temporary released to attend the ceremony. Her father, Ezzatollah Sahabi (1930-2011) was a politician and former parliament member who spent about 15 years in prison before and after the Islamic revolution, and also was a member of the interim government installed after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.  He resigned in protest over the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.

Iran state news agencies and Iranian officials denied that Haleh died at the hands of security forces and instead have said she died as a result of a heart attack due to the high temperatures. However, eyewitnesses, including Ayatollah Montazeri’s son and Haleh’s uncle, indicate that she was killed after being hit and punched by regime militia and they hold the regime responsible for her death.

Shirin Ebadi, in her interview with Deutsche Welle Persian, pointed out that Haleh’s death is considered a murder and can be investigated by the UN Human Rights Council.

In addition, the U.S. State Department called for an investigation into Haleh’s death.

NIAC issued a statement condemning the killing:

Haleh Sahabi’s death at the hands of Iranian government security forces marks the tragic closing of yet another chapter in Iran’s long struggle for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  Just as her father dedicated his entire life to achieving a democratic Iran, Haleh ultimately lost her life in pursuit of this cause and, like him, died as a political prisoner.  Iran’s government must release all prisoners of conscience and end the systematic repression that has led to so much suffering in Iran but failed to diminish the Iranian people’s aspirations for a brighter future.

  • 15 February 2011
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 4 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, UN

NIAC Applauds Senate Call for Human Rights Monitor

NIAC applauds Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and 23 other Senators who today called for the Obama Administration to work with the international community to establish an independent U.N. human rights monitor on Iran when the U.N. Human Rights Council convenes this March. The action taken by the Senators in support of greater international scrutiny of Iran’s human rights abuses comes just one day after thousands of Iranians defied threats from the Iranian government by taking to the streets in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia and expressing their own aspirations for democracy and rule of law.

The Senators endorsed this action in a letter to Secretary Clinton that was strongly supported by NIAC.

“The establishment of a U.N. human rights monitor is an important, overdue step to address the Iranian government’s abuses,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director. “Iran’s destiny can only be decided by the Iranian people, but as human rights violations continue in Iran, the international community must be loud and clear that universal rights must be respected.”

The Senate letter is critical of the Human Rights Council’s failure to take any concrete measures to address Iran’s human rights situation in the time that has followed Iran’s disputed June 2009 elections. The letter states, “Establishing an independent U.N. human rights monitor charged with monitoring and reporting on Iran’s human rights violations is an important effort to provide some protection for Iran’s human rights and democracy movement.”

NIAC has joined Iranian human rights defenders like Shirin Ebadi and international human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch in calling for the UN to establish an independent human rights monitor on Iran.

“The United Nations has appointed human rights monitors to address human rights crises in other countries, but not in Iran,” said Abdi. “The Iranian people deserve better.”

The following senators signed the letter to Secretary Clinton: Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M).

Following is the text of the letter:

  • 20 January 2011
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, US-Iran War

Leading Diplomats, Experts and Organizations Call on Obama to Reinvigorate Diplomacy with Iran

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Elwood
Phone: 202-423-7957
Email: phile@brownlloydjames.com

Washington, DC – On the eve of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul, a diverse group of diplomats, arms control experts, Iran experts, democracy and human rights defenders, and leading Iranian-American, Jewish-American, and pro-peace organizations issued a statement urging the Obama Administration to reinvigorate diplomacy with Iran.

The experts include Ambassador John Limbert, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran; Sir Richard Dalton, the former British Ambassador to Iran; Bruno Pellaud, the former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Gary Sick, who served at the NSC as the principal White House adviser on Iran; and Chas Freeman, the former American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Full text of the statement:

January 20, 2011

As the United States prepares for the upcoming round of multilateral talks with Iran, it is imperative that the Obama Administration reinvigorate its diplomacy by pursuing engagement with Tehran more persistently, setting realistic objectives, and broadening the US-Iranian dialogue.  Diplomacy is the only sustainable means of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, avoiding the dangerous folly of military confrontation in the Middle East, and enabling progress in other critical areas of US interest, such as Afghanistan and the human rights situation within Iran.

Reinvigorating diplomacy means seeking to engage Iran more persistently.  The upcoming Istanbul meeting is only the fourth meeting on the nuclear issue involving both the United States and Iran, and no breakthrough can be expected without additional talks. Fortunately, time exists to pursue a diplomatic solution.  Both US and Israeli officials have made public statements recently acknowledging that Iran remains years away from having the capability to construct a nuclear weapon.

Reinvigorating diplomacy also means pursuing realistic objectives. Unrealistic outcomes, such as insisting that Iran cease uranium enrichment entirely, however desirable, must be set aside.  Focus should instead be placed on establishing monitoring and verification mechanisms that can ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is, indeed, used solely for peaceful purposes.  Secretary Clinton stated in December that the United States would be prepared to recognize a peaceful enrichment program on Iranian soil.  This is a productive step to achieve a satisfactory compromise for which the Administration should be commended.

Finally, reinvigorating diplomacy means addressing issues with Iran beyond the nuclear file. Tehran presents challenges and opportunities in many other areas of importance to US national security, including the stability of Afghanistan and Iraq, drug trafficking, and the human rights situation in Iran itself.  The US should seek common ground in all areas of interest and not hold progress in one area hostage to resolution of others.  Indeed, progress on human rights or Afghanistan may create a better climate for progress on the nuclear issue. The US engagement agenda must be expanded to reflect this.

Diplomacy with Iran will not be easy and no quick fixes should be expected. Iran must also negotiate in earnest and make the serious compromises necessary for resolution of the nuclear issue.  The concerns of the IAEA, the P5+1, and the international community more broadly must be addressed by Iran on the basis of transparency and cooperation.  Resolving decades of enmity between the US and Iran will require that both sides work to create openings for successful engagement.

Only reinvigorated diplomacy holds the promise of bridging the many divides between the US and Iran and achieving a sustainable solution that prevents a disastrous military confrontation, prevents an Iranian bomb and the additional proliferation that would follow, and protects the human rights of the Iranian people.

Signed,

Barry Blechman, co-founder, the Stimson Center
Professor Juan Cole, University of Michigan
Sir Richard Dalton, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London; Former British Ambassador to Iran
Debra DeLee, President and CEO, Americans for Peace Now
Jonathan W. Evans, Legislative Representative for Foreign Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Professor Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii
Chas W. Freeman, Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and President, Middle East Policy Council
Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr., (USA, Ret.) Chairman, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Col. Sam Gardiner, United States Air Force, Retired
Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Amb. John Limbert, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Executive Director, United4Iran
Paul Kawika Martin, Policy Director, Peace Action
Stephen McInerney, Executive Director, Project on Middle East Democracy
Robert Naiman, Executive Director, Just Foreign Policy
Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council
Bruno Pellaud, Former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Professor Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
John Rainwater, Executive Director, Peace Action West
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Professor Gary Sick, Columbia University
Professor John Tirman, Executive Director and Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for International Studies

  • 2 June 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

What the fuel swap means for a “new era in diplomacy”

As experts urge Western powers to consider the fuel swap proposal, here is an overview of what is at stake for some of the major powers involved, from special niacINsight correspondent Shawn A:

Brazilian ambitions to assert itself on the world stage — and its capacity to frustrate US efforts on Iran — took center stage last week in a nuclear deal sure to complicate the Obama administrations Iran policy. In an agreement hailed by the LA Times as possibly a “stunning” breakthrough, Iran agreed to send 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey to be stored and safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Although world powers have voiced skepticism about the value of this new deal, it is not at all clear that Obama’s efforts to pass a new round of sanctions will be successful. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, who mediated the agreement, has a significant vested interest in its success. Brazil has its own enrichment facility that it concealed for some time and wants to make sure that Iran’s nuclear rights aren’t inhibited and turned into a legally binding precedent that could be turned against them. President Lula, who was accompanied by 300 businesspeople to Tehran has increased trade with Iran under his term and is planning an even greater increase: from $1.2 billion to $10 billion.

With the Obama Administration committing its focus on the sanctions track of its “dual-track strategy” on Iran, Brazil stepped into the vacuum, seizing on the opportunity to gain prestige on the international stage. President Lula — the man who dropped out of the fourth grade to become a shoeshiner — has overcome a lifetime of obstacles and is even now being considered as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize next year. It is also believed that he seeks to be Secretary-General of the UN after his term expires after this year.

  • 3 May 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran

May Day in Tehran: The protest you may have missed

Though most Iran watchers this weekend focused on the impromptu protest which followed Ahmadinejad’s surprise speech at Tehran University, another tense gathering occurred outside the Labor Ministry.

Approximately five thousand people were walking outside of the Labor Ministry on Saturday, May 1st around 5:30 pm in honor of International Labour Day. Factory workers have been increasingly laid off due to Ahmadinejad’s short sighted policies to fix Iran’s severely weakened economy.

One participant who found out about the event through a text message told NIAC, “There was a guy videotaping us from the beginning and he followed us everywhere, it was very nerve racking. There were also undercover cops everywhere so you didn’t know who to trust.” Our contact suspected he was being followed because he was accompanied by two other young men.

According to Iran News Agency (INA), an opposition site, three people were arrested. INA also confirms our contact’s description of a “very tense atmosphere.”

The gathering followed Mir Hossein Mousavi’s message on Thursday, April 29. As IGV reported, he, “cited inflation, decline in production, corruption, the spread of deceit and mismanagement, unpaid wages of workers, the continuing shut down of plants and their operating at low capacity, as some of the current problems in the country.”

In comparison to protests last year, it would seem that this one was a failure. If people stood in groups of more than ten, motorcycle cops would run up to them and break them apart and only about fifty daring people started to chant anti-government slogans, but were quickly silenced.

But the failure of this protest is only on the surface, by taking a deeper look, it shows the paranoia of the Iranian government. The opposition did little to spread the word about the event as nothing was written on Mousavi’s Facebook page and only a few websites had mentioned the possibility of a gathering. Unlike the little preparatory work by the opposition, the Iranian police were out in full force with hundreds of motorcycle and undercover cops videotaping and methodically breaking up groups—once again displaying their fear and paranoia.

What the government has is force and perhaps it can successfully stop people from protesting, but it is not sustainable. Rather than creating new ways to improve Iran’s weakened economy, the government is using its resources to monitor and control their own citizens. As our contact told us, “I don’t think we’ll be able to have the same level of protests as last summer, but this does not mean that our fight is over.”

  • 15 March 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 8 Comments
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Yeah, not so much…. Nice try though.

The Supreme Leader on Sunday called for Iranians to shun Chaharshanbeh Souri, deeming it “void of religious roots and cause of great harm and corruption.” Chaharshanbeh Souri takes place on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year (tomorrow night), preceding Norooz and Saleh Tahveel (the Spring Equinox marking the New Year). More from Radio Zamaneh via Payvand News:

This fire festival… is an ancient Iranian pagan festival which involves the building of bonfires and symbolic gestures and chants that summon the fire to burn all sickness and lend its energy to a healthy new year.

A number of Shiite clerics have described the event “superstitious” and called for its dismantlement.

Iranian opposition forces have announced that they will take part in the events of the last Wednesday Eve of the year, which falls on March 16, and use it as an opportunity to reaffirm their protests against the current government which they claim has come to power through election fraud last June.

And from AFP via Yahoo! News:

Iranians celebrate the fire festival by lighting bonfires in public places on the night before the last Wednesday and leaping over the flames shouting “Sorkhiye to az man, Zardiye man az to (Give me your redness and I will give you my paleness).”

Some clerics see the ritual as heretical fire worshipping, although it has been marked in Iran for centuries and, like the Persian New Year itself and some other ancient rituals, has survived the advent of Islam.

For thousands of years Iranians have celebrated these holidays through thick and thin. No matter what culture or religion was thrust upon them by foreign invaders, they maintained their New Year festivals. Even those in the Diaspora have continued the celebrations abroad.

They’re not going to stop now.

  • 11 February 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 8 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Bearing Witness: 22 Bahman

NIAC is liveblogging the events of Feb. 11 in Iran, which marks the latest day of planned opposition protests as well as the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.  We encourage readers to share their own news and insights in the comments section below.

2:36 pm: More from the Senate presser.  John McCain, speaking about the new Iran Human Rights Sanctions Act:

The United States must lead an international effort to support the human rights of the Iranian people, and to put that effort at the center of our policy toward Iran.  This is not about picking winners in an internal Iranian matter. It’s about standing up for the universal values we hold dear and championing the cause of all who seek to secure those values for themselves.

1:49 pm: Senate focuses on Iran human rights. As Laura Rozen reported this morning, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are introducing a bill imposing sanctions on Iran — nothing new there — but this time the focus is not on the nuclear program, but rather the human rights violations going on.

The scheme is straightforward: the bill requires the President to draw up and periodically update a list of names of individuals who have committed human rights abuses in Iran,” a Senate aide says. “These individuals are then subject to a set of targeted sanctions, including a visa ban and various financial restrictions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”

The list will also be public, so that other governments and people around the world, including in Iran, can see who these individuals are, the aide continued. It also includes a presidential waiver that can be exercised on a case-by-case basis. “The overall sanctions scheme lifts when the President can certify that the Iranian government has taken certain tangible steps to improve the human rights situation inside the country, such as releasing all political prisoners.

The press conference, which is still going on, is available here, via C-Span.

12:46 pm: “Allah-u Akbar,” “Death to Dictator” rooftop chants tonight. JARAS is reporting that opposition supporters are planning to shout “death to the dictator” alongside their usual chants of “Allah-u Akbar” tonight.  (h/t NYT)

12:42 pm: Most mainstream news outlets have validated my initial assessment earlier today (9:02 am) about the government using security services to maintain relative control over the opposition’s activities.  Tehran Bureau called it an “anti-climax,” and AP is reporting many opposition supporters being deflated at the size and strength of opposition rallies compared to the pro-government one.

[T]he massive security clampdown appeared to succeed in preventing protesters from converging into a cohesive demonstrations. Large numbers of riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militiamen, some on motorcycles, deployed in back streets near key squares and major avenues in the capital to move against protesters.

Without playing the game of counter-factuals, it is important to note just how differently today could have gone.  Following Ashura, which rocked the hardliners to their very core, many expected today’s protests to be even larger and more well organized.  Many more dreaded the possibility that Basij and security personnel would fire on the crowds and kill scores.  Obviously that did not happen today, though the Basijis were as violent as ever in dispersing the crowds.

For those who yearn for democratic progress and respect for human rights in Iran, as we do, days like today will always be difficult to watch.  It’s a catch-22: for the “greens” to prevail, many believe they will have to endure massive violence, brutality, and chaos.  But the world can hardly abide the violence, brutality, and chaos that we have already witnessed.  And so, faced with this difficult challenge, many in the West on Facebook and in the blogosphere simply turn against one another, choosing to engage in petty backbiting rather than keeping the focus where it belongs: on the struggle that continues to be waged by average, ordinary people in Iran.  Frankly, they couldn’t care less what we think or what our problems with one another are.

12:13 pm: Our contact in Iran (11:58) also points out a big distinction between the various types of security personnel surrounding the demonstrations — the ordinary police forces versus the Basij, or as our contact calls them the “gladiators.”  For those on the ground in Iran, the ordinary police force is much more ambivalent about cracking down on opposition activities — the guards at the makeshift prison that was overrun by protesters were police, not Basij, which made a big difference to the opposition supporters.

11:58 am: A contact in Iran who attended the rallies in and around Azadi and Sadeghieh Square this morning told us of his experience, which left him bruised and cut from scuffling with security forces.

According to the source, the biggest difference between today’s events and previous demonstrations was the amount of undercover police among the crowd.  The moment anyone indicated an opposition or “green” point of view, plainclothes militiamen would come out of nowhere and take that person away.  One gentleman remarked about all the buses funneling people in from out of town, only to be whisked away by three undercover agents.

Our contact was also one of the protesters shot with an orange paint pellet, to mark him for arrest at a later time.  He managed to find a hiding place where he could wipe the paint off of his pants to evade detection.

Finally, during the morning’s rallies, he recounted an experience where three protesters were being held by police in a makeshift pen, when a group of other opposition supporters came to the rescue.  They so outnumbered the police guards, throwing rocks and yelling for their release, that the crowd broke down the holding pen and freed the three.

11:35 am: IAEA on Iran’s “modest” new enrichment. AP obtained an internal IAEA document regarding the enrichment work announced in this morning’s speech by President Ahmadinejad, which for the first time took  uranium above the 5% level in Iran. “Iran expects to produce its first batch of higher enriched uranium in a few days but its initial effort is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities,” it said.  “It should be noted that there is currently only one cascade … that is capable of enriching” up to 20 percent, said the document.

The document, relying on onsite reports from International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, also cited Iranian experts at the enrichment plant at Natanz as saying that only about 10 kilograms — 22 pounds — of low enriched uranium had been fed into the cascade for further enrichment.

Agency inspectors were told Wednesday “that it was expected that the facility would begin to produce up to 20 percent enriched … (uranium) within a few days,” said the one-page document.

11:22 am: Tehran Bureau has an interview with Karroubi’s son, Hossein.

How is your father Haj Agha Mehdi Karroubi? We’re treating him for burns to his face and eyes. He’s having trouble with his lungs too. He was badly attacked with pepper spray. Plainclothes agents (vigilantes) approached him and kept spraying it in his eyes. He’s resting at home though; he’s not been hospitalized.

Any news of your brother Ali?

We haven’t been able to figure out where he is. Everyone we call claims to have no information on him. We believe he’s in the custody of the law enforcement agency.

11:05 am: Recap. Most reports indicate that people are heading home right about now.  The day was characterized by the contrasting styles of the one large government-sponsored rally in the morning with tens of thousands of people, versus the numerous smaller and nimbler gatherings by the opposition forces.  There have been no confirmed cases of protesters being killed, (though rumors abound), and most likely the number of arrests is in the low hundreds.  Protests occurred in most of the major cities, but the heaviest presence was felt by far in Tehran.

Many commenters are calling the presence of governmental security forces “stifling,” using violence and intimidation to prevent demonstrations from growing beyond relatively small numbers.  With over a month to prepare, the government’s security forces were out in full force today, immediately reacting when opposition leaders like Karroubi, Khatami, and Mousavi appeared among the people.  For much of this week, Internet service was spotty and Gmail has been taken down completely, all in preparation for today’s expected events.  (Compare this to Ashura, when the government had hardly any time at all to prepare, and the reaction by Basij and police was much more careless and led to more bloodshed).  Family members of opposition leaders were beaten or detained, and there was never an opportunity to rally supporters around the green movement’s figureheads.

10:30 am: Brutality.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kSBWG2rBV8&feature=player_embedded”]

9:32 am: Via Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page, Kalame news is reporting:

Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was intending to join the people in the demonstration from Sadeghiye Square was surrounded and attacked by plain clothes militia. The plain clothes militia physically assaulted her and beat her with batons at her head and back. Zahra Rahnavard after this incident with the support of a large crowd of people who made a human shield to protect her, was able to leave the area.

9:21 am: The Guardian relays an AP interview with protesters today, who were dejected for the same reason mentioned below at 9:02.

“There were 300 of us, maximum 500. Against 10,000 people,” one protester said.

“It means they won and we lost. They defeated us. They were able to gather so many people. But this doesn’t mean we have been defeated for good. It’s a defeat for now, today. We need time to regroup,” she said.

Another protester insisted the opposition had come out in significant numbers, but “the problem was that we were not able to gather in one place because they (security forces) were very violent.”

It should be noted that this is actually not at all the representative view for most opposition supporters being reported on today.  Many green activists on Twitter have been circulating messages saying the goal of the opposition today was to disrupt the government’s official ceremony, and that it was a victory.

9:02 am: It’s still very early to be drawing conclusions from today’s events, as people are still out in the streets.  But one thing I’m struck by is just how much the government has been in control today.  Sure, they chartered busses and lured tens of thousands to the official government rally with free food, but they have also managed to keep the opposition activities largely on their terms today.

The government’s strategy is to depict the protesters as a small group of rioting thugs, burning trash cans and disrupting order for their own radical, “foreign-backed” agenda.  Toward that end, they have been very effective at keeping the demonstrations today dispersed and nervous — less of the “million man march” and more like Seattle WTO protesters.  Above all else, the ruling elites know the danger of big crowds: strength in numbers takes over and individuals no longer feel like they will be held accountable for their actions, thus their demands get more radical and their tactics more extreme; this forces a harsher backlash from security forces, possibly including using lethal force.  And then that’s the ball-game.  That’s exactly what happened in 1979, and Khamenei learned that lesson well enough that he’ll do his utmost not to repeat it.

So today’s events (like previous ones) have seen security forces disrupt crowds before they can coalesce into a large group, arresting numerous individuals as a way of controlling the crowds before they get out of the police’s hands.

8:42 am: Josh Shahryar has catalogued most of the opposition rallies today, with his own figures for numbers arrested by police forces.  By his account, thousands gathered in Esfahan at the See-o-Seh Bridge, where security forces tried to disperse the demonstators with tear gas.  Also, protests occured in Ahvaz, Shiraz, Mashad, and of course, Tehran, with skirmishes involving security forces either arresting individuals, blocking protesters routes, or in some cases firing tear gas and beating anyone showing any sign of opposition activity.

Interestingly, many accounts we’ve been hearing involve protesters being hesitant to wear green, flash a V for victory sign, or even chant openly out of fear of backlash from security personnel.  In some cases, particularly at Azadi Square where Ahmadinejad addressed the official government rally, security forces scanned the crowd watching for any signs of “green” activity, and quickly pulled people out of the group as soon as they were given cause.

8:15 am: Indisputable. Via United4Iran, this video of protesters tearing down a photo of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then trampling on it:

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd4FRQXiwzc&feature=player_embedded“]

Remember that even in the heady days of protests this summer, it would have been unthinkable for protesters to deface an image of the Supreme Leader.  In a short eight months, the demands of the demonstrators have evolved, and their tactics have advanced as well.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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