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  • 14 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran

IRI’s Helping Hand

Hardline backers attacked and vandalized Grand Ayatollah Saanei's office on Sunday.

While some Iranians came out to protest on the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential elections this weekend, others came out to attack Mehdi Karroubi and the offices of Grand Ayatollah Saanei and late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Karroubi, who traveled to Qom on Sunday for a mourning ceremony, planned on visiting Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, and the family of late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Shortly after arriving at the house of Saanei, a group of pro-regime backers encircled Saanei’s house, chanting slogans against Karroubi and Saanei. They also attacked Karroubi’s car, which despite being bulletproof, was still heavily damaged due to the severity of the attacks.

While these attacks were not particularly surprising — just another statistic added to the many other attacks this past year — what was surprising was the IRGC’s aid to Karroubi. The IRGC not only urged the violent crowds to disperse, but Karroubi also took refuge in a building owned by the Revolutionary Guards per their request until 4 in the morning on Monday when he finally left for Tehran. He escaped through a corridor made by the anti-riot police to ensure safe passing of Karroubi’s car.

As any Iranian who first points to an underlying conspiracy as the reason for an unnatural event taking place, I assumed it was the regime that set up the entire thing. Photos of Saanei’s office greatly resembled photos of university dormitories attacked by the Basij following the elections last year. Plain clothed thugs were hired by the regime, I thought, and then the IRGC came to the ‘rescue,’ showing the regime’s kindhearted nature, even to the opposition. It would serve for a brilliant propaganda campaign. But after fruitlessly searching on Press TV for any news of this event, I realized I was slightly off.

But only slightly. The place to look was Raja News, not Press TV. The state media was broadcasting the event, and of Karroubi’s flee from the people on domestic news sites, not international ones. The state-run media seemed to mock Karroubi for escaping a violent crowd — though I couldn’t imagine anyone in their right mind doing differently.

And all the while, the police did nothing. Shortly after Karroubi escaped, police and security forces stood by, watching while the mob attacked Saanei’s house and office and vandalized the late Montazeri’s office.  Said opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s son Hossein:

From the sudden gathering and the behavior of this group, it is obvious that they did not act by themselves and have orders.

This elaborate, and very organized plan, served the regime quite well. First of all, it allowed them to score some cheap points through the fear of violence.  Also, the IRGC very deliberately prevented the mob from going too far — because the last thing they want to do is create another martyr for the opposition movement.

Iran was shaken up after the death of Neda, and again, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri last year.  Another martyr would serve as the very flame needed to ignite the relatively smaller protests on the anniversary this year and turn them into something bigger, resembling the protests that followed the previous deaths. And so the IRGC prevented that from happening.

To be clear, this could have been a very major event — and it appears the senior leadership in the IRGC knew it.

For me, it wasn’t the violence that was surprising — thankfully, no one was hurt — it was its target: two grand ayatollahs, Montazeri and Saanei.  I was looking through the pictures of Saanei’s attacked office and saw a broken mohr.  A Mohr is a small clay tablet that Shi’a Muslims use to pray.

There’s no better illustration than this of what Montazeri meant when he said Iran is no longer Islamic nor a republic.

  • 28 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Regime doth protest too much

It seems that despite any claims to the contrary, the Islamic Republic is still at least a little bit fearful for its safety and survival with the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections.

This can be seen in the detaining of artists, hikers, Canadian journalists, and French academics (among many others). It can be seen in the execution of Kurds, Afghans, Bahai’s, and election protesters. However, perhaps the most controversial, the most offensive, and the most un-Islamic, is the recent declaration of a documentary to be released by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to “complete the removal of ambiguities surrounding the murder of Neda Agha Soltan” and provide “new evidence” about the West’s version of events. In other words, to prove that Neda’s murder was staged.

I understand the obsession with Western conspiracies, as there have been many in Iran’s history. I myself am often the first to point to an underlying conspiracy as an explanation for things. Nonetheless, it is clear to any reasonable person that Neda’s death is not a conspiracy. If the initial evidence was not enough to prove it, the regime’s reaction was.

Neda’s family was threatened to make false confessions attributing her death to the West. Her family was prohibited from holding a funeral for her, despite funerals being very important in Iranian and especially Muslim culture. Neda’s fiancé and the doctor who tried to save her life in the video, both scared for their lives, left the country. Her grave was desecrated by supporters of the regime. And now, after all this time, the regime brings it up, yet again, by pointing its finger to others.

But I do not want to argue that Neda’s death was indeed the work of the Islamic Republic, because there are many others who have done that before me. Rather, I would like to point out the regime’s psychological insecurity, at bringing up a death from nearly a year ago. This documentary, like the recent arrests, executions, and detentions, is to be released shortly before the one-year anniversary of the June 12 elections. These events all happening in the span of a few days are more than a coincidence; they are to continuously dissuade people from participating in expected protests. This documentary is likely meant to undermine the powerful symbol she has become as well as the legitimacy of the opposition movement in Iran.

But how long is a family to suffer? The Islamic Republic ought to stop exploiting and hurting the Iranian people simply to allay its own fears and insecurities. Besides, who is really going to believe that the blood coming from Neda’s death was from a ketchup bottle?

As one of the many who cried upon watching Neda’s death, I can only imagine how her family must feel. My advice to the Islamic Republic: show a little Muslim compassion, it is what we are best known for. Let the dead rest in peace. And let the living finally move on.

The Bastions of the Paramilitary

Hossein Sajedi, Tehran’s police chief, said yesterday that despite the fact that “some media” (read: Mousavi and Karroubi) have called for rallies on June 12, Iranian security forces will confront any “illegal” demonstrations. “Police will confront any illegal gatherings … police are vigilant and in charge of public order and security,” he said.

My question to Mr. Sajedi is: what is the definition of an illegal demonstration? Is it one that involves students staging a sit-in at their university? Is that illegal? Are singing and holding up peace signs also a threat to national security?

On Saturday and Sunday, students at Tehran’s Islamic Azad University staged a sit-in as protest against the fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections and calling for the release of their classmates who had been imprisoned in the months after the election.

Apparently, this was deemed illegal, as security forces broke up the protests. According to Daneshjoo News, at least four students who were critically injured by Basij forces, rather than receiving medical attention, have been arrested.

I fear for a government which violates its own constitution in arresting those partaking in peaceful protests. Of even bigger concern though, is the way the government has transformed the country’s bastions of knowledge into bastions of the paramilitary. As a result of the sit-in and the attacking security forces, afternoon classes were canceled, reminiscent of the way classes were often canceled for the same reason shortly after the 1979 revolution. In addition, security forces threatened students with harsh sentences from the university’s disciplinary committee, a clear violation of university rules.

When the university officials become involved in oppressing their own students, the very nature of the university as a free and safe atmosphere is threatened. Not only is the canceling of classes obviously detrimental to the students’ learning, but this oppression will undoubtedly negatively affect many students’ forms of thinking at an age when they are most receptive to new ideas. While this may be the aim of the regime, this generation is the very future of the country. And to attack one’s future generation and their chance of flourishing is not only stupid, it is also self-destructive.

  • 21 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Ethnic Overshadowing in Iran

The domestic situation in Iran has been overshadowed by recent talk of the deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, imminent UN sanctions, and Congress’s push for unilateral sanctions.

While last week’s protests against the execution of five Iranians encompassed all Iranians, there was especially large participation by Iranian Kurds. (Recall that four of these five Iranians were Kurds.) This fact has not been  emphasized for several reasons.

First of all, to emphasize the Kurdish aspect of these execution would allow the government to paint the Green Movement as a “separatist movement” similar to PJAK or PKK, which conflicts with the nationalist narrative that Mousavi has worked so hard to construct.  More importantly, however, it has been noted that these executions were more of a warning against the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections than as a crackdown on an ethnic minority. The parallel can be seen in the executions prior to the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in February, also meant to deter protests.

Nonetheless, the role of ethnic conflict in Iran’s internal politics has only increased in recent weeks.  Protests following the controversial hangings took place throughout Iran, and in several cities in other parts of the world, but the protests in Iranian Kurdistan were especially dramatic. Many Kurdish cities in Iran went on strike on May 13 in response to the executions, including Mahabad, Ashnaviyeh, Sanandaj, Boukan, Saghez, Marivan and Kamyaran. All businesses in the area were closed as well as most of the schools, as many students refused to attend school. Due to growing tensions in the area, security troops were stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatened shop owners in the bazaar, demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said. In response, the Islamic Republic arrested another Kurd, this time human rights activist Ejlal Ghavami.

While this may have been the end of it, ethnic tensions seem to have only increased, this time across Iran’s borders. On the same day of the protests in Iranian Kurdistan, Iran temporarily detained an Iraqi border guard after mistaking him for a member of the Kurdish rebel group PJAK.

Additionally, this past weekend Iranian artillery bombarded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish rebels opposed to Tehran were said to be holed up.

“From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) Saturday until [Sunday] morning, Iranians fired on the villages of Khanawa, Totma, Marado, Sourkan and Nalia Rach, causing extensive damage to agricultural land and losses of livestock,” said Azad Oussou.

In the bombardment, Iran’s security forces killed at least two Kurds near Iran, alleged members of a Kurdish guerrilla group near the Islamic Republic’s western borders according to a report by state television on Tuesday.

And Iran’s crackdown on ethnic minorities still continues. According to Human Rights Watch, 17 Kurdish dissidents remain on death row in Iran.

Evidence of ethnic concerns for Tehran goes beyond the preoccupation with Kurds, however. After the execution of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran last week, thousands in Afghanistan protested in Jalalabad, Herat, and Kabul. While Tehran officials put the number at six, protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges.

While the increased paranoia could be attributed to the anniversary of the June 2009 election, as were last week’s protests, this does not fully explain Iran’s recent clashes with Iraq and its “scenario” with Afghanistan. The more likely explanation is that the very overshadowing of the recent flood of news about Iran has emboldened it in its recent actions. Who will pay attention to such news when the nuclear issue and sanctions are front and center? The issue of human rights in Iran has continuously been subjugated to other issues assumed to be more important, and thus minority rights within Iran are almost completely ignored as well.

The domestic situation in Iran has been overshadowed by recent talk of the deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, imminent UN sanctions, and Congress’s push for unilateral sanctions.

While last week’s protests against the execution of five Iranians encompassed all Iranians, there was especially great participation by Iranian Kurds. (Recall that four of these five Iranians were Kurds.) This fact has been not emphasized for several different reasons. First of all, to emphasize the ethnic aspect of the execution would be a cue for the Iranian government to point out the separatist nature of the Green Movement, which has always been looked down upon in Iranian history. More importantly, however, it was noted that these executions were more of a warning against the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections than as a crackdown on an ethnic minority. The parallel was made to the executions prior to the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in February, also meant to deter protests.

Nonetheless, and despite the accuracy of both the aforementioned arguments, a recent ethnic focus on internal politics can in fact be seen. While protests did occur throughout Iran, and in several cities in other parts of the world, the protests in Iranian Kurdistan were especially dramatic. (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/05/iran-strikes-in-kurdistan-violent-protests-at-scandinavian-iranian-embassies-over-executions.html ) Many Kurdish cities in Iran went on strike on May 13 in response to the executions, including Mahabad, Ashnaviyeh, Sanandaj, Boukan, Saghez, Marivan and Kamyaran. All businesses in the area were closed as well as most of the schools, as many students refused to attend school. Due to growing tensions in the area, security troops were stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatened shop owners in the bazaar, demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said. (http://en.irangreenvoice.com/article/2010/may/13/1869 ) In response, the Islamic Republic arrested another Kurd, this time human rights activist Ejlal Ghavami. (http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Report-Kurdish-Rights-Spokesman-Arrested-in-Iran-93781959.html)

While this may have been the end of it, ethnic tensions seem to have only increased, this time across Iran’s borders. On the same day of the protests in Iranian Kurdistan, Iran temporarily detained an Iraqi border guard after mistaking him for a member of the Kurdish rebel group PJAK. (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64D5H220100514)

Even more important, this past weekend Iranian artillery bombarded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish rebels opposed to Tehran were said to be holed up.

“From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) Saturday until [Sunday] morning, Iranians fired on the villages of Khanawa, Totma, Marado, Sourkan and Nalia Rach, causing extensive damage to agricultural land and losses of livestock,” said Azad Oussou. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hH925s3QsKRthLnNPG8qheENUvJw)

In the bombardment, Iran’s security forces killed at least two Kurds near Iran, alleged members of a Kurdish guerrilla group near the Islamic Republic’s western borders according to a report by state television on Tuesday. (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE64H1TZ.htm)

In addition, Iran’s crackdown on ethnic minorities within the country still continues. According to Human Rights Watch, 17 Kurdish dissidents remain on death row in Iran. (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/11/iran-executed-dissidents-tortured-confess)

Evidence of ethnic concerns for Tehran goes beyond the preoccupation with Kurds, however. After the execution of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran, thousands in Afghanistan protested last week as well in Jalalabad, Herat, and Kabul. Protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges while Tehran officials put the number at six. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8679336.stm)

Granted, because of the diverse nature of the population, minorities have always been of concern to Iran, and not only in the Islamic Republic. Nonetheless, with these recent incidents, one can only wonder what has spurred the recent increase in concern.

JARAS: Tajbakhsh to be Released from Prison

According to the Jaras website, the most prominent Iranian opposition website, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, top researcher and sociology professor from Columbia University will be released from prison for Norooz, most likely by the end of today.

Citing an unnamed source, Jaras is reporting that Dr. Tajbakhsh will be released by tonight or tomorrow. It appears that the Iranian government is releasing a large number of its political prisoners for Norooz, though the judiciary has set outrageous bail amounts for each detainee. It is reported that Dr. Tajbakhsh’s bail is set at $500,000 US.

Dr. Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American who holds dual citizenship, was arrested in the aftermath of June 2009 disputed election, and has been sentenced to five years in prison for his alleged political activities against the establishment. Following the great international outcry by a variety of human rights organizations, Tajbakhsh’s original sentencing of fifteen years was reconsidered by an appellate court and was later reduced to five years instead.

NIAC has repeatedly called for Tajbakhsh release, as well as for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

Rafsanjani: National Healer?

As one of the main pillars of power in the Islamic establishment, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani played a significant role in what became the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Depending on one’s political affiliation, Rafsanjani to this day is still either highly respected or highly feared in the  internal political circles of Iran.

Rafsanjani 75, a pragmatist who deep inside believes in reforms to sustain the Islamic Republic, is the head of two very important institutions; the Assembly of Experts, which is an oversight and an electoral body to choose the Supreme Leader, and the Expediency Council that is the author of all macro policies in Iran. The Expediency Council is also a mediator for the legal disputes between the Guardian Council and the Parliament.

This past summer, it wasn’t long after the first bloody protests and after Ayatollah Khamenei issued his ultimatum to the protestors that Rafsanjani proposed his own solution to the crisis.  Eight months later today, he continues to reiterate his previous positions. He is moving forward to try to build a process for reconciling the reformists and hardliners in the hopes that they might pull the country out of the present crisis.

Hasan Rouhani, head of the Defense and National Security Commission within the Expediency Council, is now moving forward on a piece of legislation to decrease the Guardian Council’s role in the election process.  The proposal would create a new National Election Committee to oversee the election process, cutting the influence of the Supreme Leader and eliminating the role of the Guardian Council.

Although this legislation has to be approved by the Supreme Leader to become law, it is such a compelling idea that Khamenei might have to think twice about rejecting it.  If it does win approval, it just might be the momentum Rafsanjani is looking for to seek a national reconciliation.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 14 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Uncategorized

Reformist Cleric Arrested

Radio Zamaneh reports (via www.payvand.com) that Iranian reformist cleric Mohammad-Taghi Khalaji was arrested yesterday by the Qom Intelligence Department. Khalaji’s son Mehdi affirms that when arrested, Khalaji’s computer and personal documents, such as his passport, were confiscated as well. Mehdi Khalaji further reports that his mother and sister also had their passports confiscated and they were told not to leave the country.  The Khalaji family had been planning to visit Mehdi, who currently lives in the US and works at the DC think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Mohammad-Taghi Khalaji is a prominent Qom cleric close to reformist clerics Ayatollah Montazeri and Ayatollah Sanei. He was arrested and imprisoned three times before the Revolution as a political activist.

Mehdi Khalaji reports that his father had given a speech on the night of Tasua, the Shiite Holy Day in Ayatollah Sanei’s home criticizing government pressure against clerics and opposition leaders.

Mohammad-Taghi Khalaji supported presidential candidate Mousavi and has spoken out several times condemning the Iranian government for their brutal crackdown on election protestors.

  • 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.

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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