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  • 7 May 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Who is Mousavi Challenging in His New Statement?

Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a statement just a few days ago calling for the implementation of each and every article of the Iranian constitution. According to Mousavi, the full implementation of the law is the only peaceful solution to the existing crisis in Iran, and he commits to this path forward.  His English translated statement can be found on his Facebook page. Mousavi’s official site – Kalameh – provides the full text in Persian.

Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented

Mir Hossein Mousavi stressed that the full implementation of the constitution without any personal interpretations against the clear rulings of the constitution is the only solution for achieving national unity and reinstating the rights of all ethnics groups and said: “Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented and if there is any issue in this matter that should be put to a referendum.”

Which abandoned articles of the Iranian constitution is Mousavi referring to, and what are the road blocks that he sees in this proposed path forward?

He is most likely challenging the full – unquestioned -authority of the Supreme Leader which even under the existing Iranian constitution is supposed to be monitored by the Khobregan Council; a council that because of the nature of its appointment by the bodies under the control of the Supreme Leader himself is unable to make a sound judgment in questioning the Leader himself.

Mousavi almost never talks about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly. The two have a history of a ferocious political fighting in the early days of the Iranian revolution, and it appears that neither of them is ready to move away from that history.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, the Iranian constitution was amended and voted on. That was when the Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurisprudence – Velayat e Motlagheye Faghih – was inserted into the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Almost overnight, Khamenei, a Hojatoleslam back then and  a man who was a subordinate of Mousavi in government was elevated to a position of an Ayatollah, and became the sole absolute power in the Islamic Republic. Thereafter, Mousavi disappeared from the political arena for twenty years.

Although the principle of Velayat Faghih is enshrined in the constitution, there also exist other chapters and articles that are supposed to monitor its performance.  But these articles are never enforced.

Being absent from the political arena in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi, “felt a sense of danger” as he called it, and re-entered politics to challenge the existing absolute authority. As opposed to American political culture — which can be much more direct or blunt —  the Iranian way of conducting politics is hidden beneath loads of sarcasm, metaphor, poetry, and peculiar Persian literature, which is another reason why it is so difficult for foreign governments to understand the Iranian side of the story.

But now Mousavi is back, and is challenging a twenty year old – undisputed – stronger-than-ever, absolute authority that appears to be more frustrated with its own inability to contain popular resentment.

Mousavi never refers to this personal authority by its name, but his subliminal messages appear more and more transparent as his movement progresses.

  • 26 March 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Reporting for Duty?

Hossein Yekta, a high ranking member of the Basij militia and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, said this week that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already declared “war,” but “no one is reporting for duty.”

Raja News, one of the most hard line news agencies in Iran reported that Yekta tells student Basijis to get into war formation because the war has already started, and it started in the universities.

“There is only one person in the country that can declare war, and that is the Supreme Commander of All Armed Forces. Only two times has there been a declaration of war in the Islamic Republic. Once in the eve of September 22, 1980, and the other was just a while back when “Agha” declared war on a full scale cultural attack that was launched against us.”

A friend of mine once told me that there are three social phenomena that can each change an entire generation: revolution, war, and mass immigration.  Those who experience these events are bound to have radically different perspectives than the generation that follows them, which is precisely what happened in Iran.  The generation that brought about the revolution all of a sudden found itself in a war with Iraq a year after taking power, and that war along with the revolution itself produced a mass immigration effect.

Today, many of the hard-liners in the Islamic Republic are the ones who obviously didn’t emigrate out of the country. They participated in the revolution, and many of them fought in the Iran-Iraq war. A generation with noble deeds in mind that is finding it harder and harder every day to re-gain the respect that it once had in the society. This generation’s mindset is still in the revolutionary days of Iran.  But that doesn’t sit well with the young and vibrant generation – a Green generation – that now makes up the majority of the Iranian population.  This new generation has no memory of the revolution, nor of the eight-year war that devastated the country in so many different ways.

The hard-liners view national policy like it’s a battle on the front-lines; as it was when they were in Khoramshahr, Talaieyeh, Majnoon Shahr and other border cities in which they fought.  They were celebrated in the ’80s for their courage, but the war is over. It was over twenty years ago.

Iranians today are hearing the war rhetoric getting louder and louder after last year’s disputed presidential election. The hard-liners realize that the youth do not relate to their values, so they think they must be supported by foreign elements. That is the reason why the establishment refers to its domestic struggle as a war, a “soft war.”

I think about what my friend said, and I think about it a lot. I agree with him that the first decade of the Islamic Republic did change an entire generation of Iranians; but I also believe that they will have to reconcile with the changing times one way or another.  I believe the new generation – the Green generation – will shun this “war” ideology, regardless of how loudly the establishment trumpets it.

The signs are already there: “no one is reporting for duty.”

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions

March 8th, International Women’s Day, was celebrated with even more passion this year in Tehran.

Zahra Rahnavard – the outspoken wife of the presidential election challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi –  issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles during the past nine months.  She referred to the Green Movement as a very diverse network of ethnic groups, unions, students and of course women.

Rahnavard referred to the women’s movement in Iran as one of the most constructive approaches in shaping the future of freedom and democracy under the umbrella of the newly born Green Movement.  Representatives from Mothers for Peace – another organization formed after the disputed June 2009 elections that actively supports the Green Movement — joined Rahnavard in expressing alarm about the potential for the democratic movement to be derailed by punitive economic sanctions imposed by the west.

Non-violence in a civil disobedience struggle is a major principle for Mothers for Peace. Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.

  • 18 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

“My Upbringing Taught Me to Have My Own Opinion.”

Narges Kalhor, an outspoken and eloquent Iranian film maker who also happens to be the daughter of a top adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made headlines last October by attending a human-rights film festival in Germany.  Following Iran’s controversial presidential election, many Iranian artists and film makers expressed support for the opposition “Green Movement,” and Kalhor was certainly no exception. However, her father’s position in the Iranian administration put even a brighter spotlight on her opposition stand against the Islamic Republic. She received political amnesty from Germany right after she obtained a tip that her life would be in danger if she returned to Iran.

In her yesterday interview with BBC Persian, Kalhor once again was not shy in revealing her deeply critical views on her own father and the Islamic establishment as a whole. Referring to the post election aftermath in Iran Kalhor said:

“They are taking away the very basic rights of any human being from us. We have always been objecting to the status quo in Iran, but the maximum extortion took place after the election. We had never reached a level [until now] that we felt we had to stand up and fight for our rights.”

Like Narges Kalhor, Iranians, no matter where they live, have deep cultural and social roots in Iran. This is the nature of their culture, and if they ever feel that their identity is being attacked they will regroup regardless of their differences. They have shown that repeatedly throughout history.

The “Islamic Republic” was very controversial from the beginning, both for its name and its brutality in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. And today, thirty years later, many Iranian citizens ask themselves if Islam — or any other religion/ideology for that matter — can be a pillar of guidance in Iranian modern governance. Kalhor says that she doesn’t have any problem with Islam. What any individual believes is strictly a personal matter, and one must not abuse a line of thought to implement his/her personal interests.

Many in Iran today are comparing the Islamic Republic’s behavior with that of the Shah. The Shah also believed that if his opponents left Iran then he would be safe to rule. That didn’t exactly happen. His opposition managed to regroup and get international attention abroad without worrying about the Shah’s repression, and they eventually succeeded in toppling his dynasty.

Kalhor also shared her view on the Iranian revolution and the ongoing reform movement in Iran. “The revolution was a mistake. Reform must have happened.” Kalhor identifies herself as a child of the revolution, and says today again in Iran we need reform “step by step” instead of another revolution.  “I personally prefer to take a path where no more blood is shed.”

  • 21 January 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 14 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran

Secretary Clinton on Internet Freedom and Iran

In what was touted as a major policy speech announcing the State Department’s new Internet freedom initiative, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton today committed the US to a broad new effort to advance and protect the right of all people to access the Internet freely.

In her speech, Clinton highlighted the important role that cyber communications have played in Iran, describing online organizing as “a critical tool for advancing democracy, and enabling citizens to protest suspicious election results.”

Clinton’s comments on Iran also focused on  reports of Iranian government efforts to intimidate Iranians abroad, as well as the death of Neda Soltan:

In the demonstrations that followed Iran’s presidential elections, grainy cell phone footage of a young woman’s bloody murder provided a digital indictment of the government’s brutality. We’ve seen reports that when Iranians living overseas posted online criticism of their nation’s leaders, their family members in Iran were singled out for retribution. And despite an intense campaign of government intimidation, brave citizen journalists in Iran continue using technology to show the world and their fellow citizens what is happening in their country. In speaking out on behalf of their own human rights the Iranian people have inspired the world.

And their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice.

Clinton framed Internet freedom as a human rights issue, noting that the right to free expression and to receive information is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Article 19 of the Declaration states that all people “have right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Letter from a Tehran Jail

In the New York Times today, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett–both of whom I deeply respect–argue that the protesters in Iran make up a small, demographically isolated minority of Iranian society, and their activities therefore have very little chance of enacting real, substantive change in Iran’s political system.  For evidence of the protest movement’s weakness, the authors pose three questions:

“First, what does this opposition want? Second, who leads it? Third, through what process will this opposition displace the government in Tehran?” 

Needless to say, none of the potential answers proves satisfactory.                                                                                                

The Leveretts are entitled to their opinion, sacrilegious as it may be to some.  But in downplaying and even denigrating the activities of Iran’s dissidents, I fear that they will have justified the accusations that are sure to be flung their way–accusations of acting as apologists for the government, of disparaging a courageous and non-violent protest movement, and even of siding with Iran’s violent regime. 

I am reminded of the Letter from a Birmingham Jailthe famous essay by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he decries the so-called “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” more concerned with the negative peace of the status quo than with bringing about that which is right through urgent action.  By action, of course, Dr. King was talking about civil disobedience. 

Like the “white moderate” in King’s letter, the Leveretts do not dare pin their hopes on seismic changes righting Iran’s political injustices.  Instead, they recommend the US acknowledge the movement’s futility, embrace Iran’s current leaders, and secure America’s strategic interests through rapprochement.  But their cynicism, which dismisses a popular movement without a manifesto, charismatic leader, or strategic playbook, ignores the plain and simple fact that repressive governments are inherently unsustainable. 

People who have awoken to the dawn of a freer and more open society cannot be pushed backwards and kept permanently in darkness.  Like Dr. King, the Iranians who take part in the protest movement–even if they are a minority–engage in civil disobedience in order to “bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive” in their society.  Iranians have not always lived in fear of roaming militias or cyber-surveillance teams watching their every move online; nor have they been closed off to alternatives structures that value individual liberty over ideological fealty.

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever,” King said. 

The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.

In the case of Iranians, the “something within” is the long and arduous journey toward a democratic system of governance–a journey that began with the Constitutional Revolution in 1906, caught a fleeting glimpse of success with Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, erupted chaotically in 1979, and has been brewing once again since June 12.  The “something without” is their forebears: Gandhi, Mandela, King, and Walesa.

I agree with the Leveretts’ conclusion that Iran’s government is not about to crumble under the pressure of the protest movement.  But I believe now more than ever before that democratic change in Iran is bound to occur eventually.  The events of the past seven months have revealed a conflict embedded deep within Iran that will not go away.  It might be suppressed for awhile, but it won’t be extinguished. The struggle for rights will continue, and, to paraphrase President Obama on the night of his election, the Iranian people will “put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”

  • 6 January 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions

The Latest Tool for Iran’s Opposition: iPhone Apps

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post

Iranians will soon have a new tool at their disposal to broadcast their protests and their government’s repression to the outside world. Voice of America announced last week that it will unveil a new application for iPhone and Android mobile devices that will enable Iranians to upload videos, photos and other content to the VOA’s Persian News Network. The app will be available for download on VOA’s website, as well as through VOA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, and even from the Apple store.

This development may seem minor given that Iranians are already using camera phones and Twitter accounts to funnel information to the outside world. But the significance is that, until a recent policy shift, it has been illegal for American software to go to Iran–meaning that the Iranian uprising, which itself could be described as an open source movement, has been denied access to some of the most innovative communication and networking software available due to obsolete US policies.

  • 28 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Trita Parsi on CNN: Why the US should care

Trita went on CNN yesterday to discuss why Americans should care about the roiling demonstrations in Iran. He was also asked about the IRGC’s role in an increasingly militarized Iran, and what that might mean for the days and weeks to come.

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more about “Trita Parsi on CNN: Why the US should…“, posted with vodpod

  • 18 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

The Basiji Road

“Now that I look back on it, I feel those men deserve pity,” says Ebrahim Mehtari.  He is responding to an Al Jazeera English interview question, asking “If you could face your torturers again, what would you say to them?”

“It’s a difficult question, but I feel they are more tortured than me…[They] need help. Because these guys – knowingly or unknowingly – have become part of a system which has turned them into machines of torture and death.”

Ebrahim Mehtari – a pro-democracy campaigner and a participant in the protests that happened after the 2009 election in June – provides an interesting perspective on the Basijis and the crackdown that ensued as a result of Iran’s unrest. Mehtari himself physically abused and sexually assaulted at the hands of Iran’s hardline security forces, believes that the polarized narratives between the government and its basiji forces against opposed – or even non-aligned – citizenry creates an identity clash that justifies extreme violence and violations of human rights.

“The reality is that even those who claim that they do not know what is occurring in the jails are only deceiving themselves. Many illegal prisons exist inside Iran where, once the prisoner is incarcerated, his jailers believe they own him.

They tear you apart because they have lost their humanity and see you just as an animal would. For them, the end justifies the means.

For a long time they have been dividing people into two groups: Either ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’; and ‘outsiders’ have no rights. Inside Iran’s prisons, anything can easily happen.”

This viewpoint is substantiated by a former Basij member himself who tells of his experience right before and after the June election in Iran:

“Any hint of protest was to be firmly supressed. If anything occured, to attack. Attacking people meant nothing. As I told you, anyone who thought differently to Ayatollah Khamenei and outside of the Velayat Faqih [the Iranian Supreme Leader] was considered an outsider. Therefore his protest has no place, therefore his opinion and protest is meaningless.

It was simple. It was not for us to think anything of them – both voters and protesters. In our view, it was not a protest against the issue but a protest against Ayatollah Khamenei himself. And it’s just not comprehensible to us that someone should want to question him. He is our guide.”

Mehtari also opines that while Iran’s government expresses itself as following the highest moral principles found in Islam, Mehtari and the opposition are filled with disgust to such blatant “lying”:

“For a long time Iran’s rulers have spoken a great deal about morality – and to be fair, part of this ruling system was genuinely moral – but today my country is infected by a disease of lying and immorality, and this sickness is spreading throughout the state.

The people shouting in the streets whose blood is spilled, who are tortured and raped in the prisons or killed, or suffer other hardships at the hands of the system – everything they endure is the result of a disease called “the lie”, and the loss of morality.

And at the same time, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can – blatantly – sit on that chair, stand on that platform at the UN and announce that ‘I am coming from a country where people are very hospitable’.

When those men can sit in front of cameras and stand on platforms and say: ‘We are all moralists, we are the sacred Islamic Republic system …’ perhaps they should delete the word ‘sacred’.

He and his cabinet spread nothing but superstition, lies, insults and immorality.”

This dissonance between the Iranian government and its citizenry also finds itself building rifts within the Basij and Iranian security forces as well. The immorality triggered the interviewed former Basij member into disillusionment as he observed the atrocities and abdication of Islamic morality that he swore to uphold:

“This is such a heavy burden, my head hurts. The faces, the screams are with me every moment. It’s not something you can forget or separate yourself from.

They [the captured protesters] were pleading, they were crying, they wanted help.

There were two men of the Sepah [IRGC officers] and they came forward as we approached. We asked what all the noise was about. They said ‘Nothing, this is Fath Al Moin (aid to victory).’ We said, ‘What do you mean, what are you doing? Who’s in there?’

Because they were Basij from the provinces we didn’t know them. We asked: ‘What’s happening, why are they crying?’

As we pursued the matter the confrontation got worse and they said ‘You have no right to enter.’ My relative said: ‘What do you mean? I’m one of the leaders here. You can’t tell me I have no right.’ And it really was so, but they didn’t allow us entry. We were all responsible and we clashed. After a few minutes a vehicle came into the courtyard.

Someone must have alerted the others that we were trying to prevent them from achieving what they set out to do, the Fath Al Moin.

They had come for us to prevent the scene from deteriorating. They said our superior had summoned us. They said, ‘Let’s go. Haji wants to speak to you.’ My relative was furious and very frustrated.

When we got there he said, ‘What is this? Sexual abuse is a serious crime. Who gave this order? Who authorised this? Haji calmly replied with a smile, ‘This is Fath Al Moin. It’s a worthy deed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Why are you complaining?’

When he said this Haji thought it would calm my relative down to know this. But the opposite happened, he became more upset. He raised his voice saying, “What do you mean it’s not a recognised crime? That it’s a good deed? Haji saw that he had lost control and said, ‘What’s the big deal? Nothing’s happened. What is the issue here?’

My relative said again, ‘What do you mean what’s the big deal? Is there anything more filthy than this, more ugly than this? With children, these are children, they haven’t done anything. They’re from our own home town.’

Haji saw that he couldn’t control him, that he wanted to return to the base and stop what was going on. He [Haji] said: ‘You can stay here for now. Tomorrow we’ll have a meeting about it, we can discuss it and see what the issue is.’

I insisted on staying with him. But Haji said: ‘You go and rest and we’ll get him home. You go, the driver will take you home and wait there. We’ll call you.’

The pain and the shame in front of people and before God. I’ve lost my world and my religion. I never thought that these matters could be contaminated like this. I thought that I was continuing the path of my uncles and our martyrs. All my interest and enthusiasm: to have the integrity for martyrdom.

We really saw ourselves as upstanding and separate from others. We really believed that what we did was correct, that we were serving the people, that we were serving God and that our mission was nothing but worshipping God. But now I am ashamed in front of people, even say that I was mistaken, and I am ashamed in front of my religion. I committed crimes, knowingly and unknowingly.

Now I’m left with my conscience punishing me for what I did. I hope that God and people forgive me.”

  • 11 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“It’s not easy being Green”

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

In honor of the Iranian protesters, Minnesota Public Radio and Kermit the Frog update a classic Muppets song:

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_Iwq7HPLfM”]

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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