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  • 9 September 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 2 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Iran hedges its bets on Syria

How shocking it was this week to see statements by leading Iranian officials offering advice and criticism on Syria’s handling of its protests.  One must grimace at the utter hypocrisy of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi talking about the Syrian people’s “legitimate demands”, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying “a military solution is never a solution” to protests and voicing support for the implementation of reforms.

If only Iran had heeded its own advise with its protests over the disputed elections of 2009.  Did not the people of Iran have “legitimate demands” during their protests?  And did not the Iranian government use a “military solution” to end its own protests?  Where was Ahmadinejad with his support for democratic reforms then?  Oh yeah, he was benefiting from the very lack of such reforms in his highly suspicious and non-transparent reelection.

Meanwhile, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi remain under house arrest in isolation since they called for demonstrations in solidarity with Arab protestors in February.  Is this Ahmadinejad’s idea of “talks” with the opposition?

Yet this is just the beginning of the hypocrisy.  Not only does Iran’s recent advice and criticism on Syria not match how they have handled their own protests, but it is not even consistent with how Iran has acted with Syria’s current protests.  For it has been widely reported that Iran has been assisting Syria with their violent crackdown by sending them trainers, technology, and even snipers.

In fact what is now being called the “legitimate demands” of the Syrian people were up until last week being referred to as a foreign conspiracy that the Supreme Leader Khamenei said “the hand of America and Israel is evident.”  The Iranian ambassador to Syria even referred to the protestors as “foreign mercenaries.”  What a difference a week makes.

This newfound compassion from Iran towards the treatment of civilians is even more unbelievable given that Iran has still refused to let the United Nations human rights monitor into the country.

Additionally, Iran faces a credibility problem in the area that it has gone to great lengths to cultivate a positive image of its self—the ‘Arab street’.  A recent poll by the Arab American Institute found that the image among Arab populations of Iran has fallen rapidly since 2006-2008.  AAI’s Jim Zogby says that Iran owed its popularity to its “active defiance to the West,” but this has diminished amidst the “Arab spring,” the Iranian response to its own protest movement, and a reduction in “bellicose” rhetoric coming from a U.S. that is increasingly considered less relevant among Arab populations.

The extreme importance of Syria as an avenue for Iran to maintain influence in the Levant makes Iran’s recent statements appear less like change of heart regarding Syria’s uprising and more like a calculated hedging of their bets on the outcome of the protests.  If the uprising does succeed in the overthrow of Assad then Iran will need to be able to salvage some remnant of their former relationship.  So Iran’s crocodile tears over Syria’s harsh treatment of the protestors are likely a very transparent attempt to create a visible history of support for the protestors.

With Syria being so strategically important and as Iran places such a high value on its imagine in the Arab street, it is not a cynical suggestion to say that these recent statements by Iranian officials have nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with Iranian officials protecting their own power by hedging their bets.

  • 16 August 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • MEK

Iran’s Greens Warn U.S. Against Supporting the Mujahedin

Kaleme, a leading Green movement newspaper run by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has a very strongly worded editorial today warning foreign governments (ie, the U.S.) not to support the Mujahedin-e Khalq.  This comes shortly after 37 activists warned against delisting the MEK from the U.S. terrorism list, and is yet another sign of how concerned the Green Movement has become about the possibility that the MEK will get off the terrorism list and win U.S. backing.

The editorial makes clear that the MEK has no support in Iran, and that any foreign support for the group would have very serious consequences. According to Kaleme, support for the MEK would benefit the very Iranian hardliners who are trying to destroy the Green Movement and “defame” the U.S. in the eyes of the Iranian people.

The translation, courtesy of Parisa Saranj, is below. The Persian text is available on Kaleme’s website.

Kaleme: Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK); The symbol of Treason, Violence and Terror in Iran

I am saying, as someone who cares, the MEK with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead. You, [the leaders of the government] don’t bring them back to life for the sake of scoring points and taking revenge.” — Mir Hossein Mousavi, Statement no.17

In the modern history of Iran, there is no organization, no party and no cult more infamous than the MEK amongst the Iranian nation. The Iranian people are yet to forget how their beloved children were terrorized and martyred in the worst ways possible. And, thousands of family members and children of those murdered are still alive and witnesses to these crimes. The Iranian nation does not forget how this organization, along with Saddam Hussein, craved for the lives and honor of Iranians and assisted him in the suppression and massacre of the people of Iran and Iraq. Iranians are proud of the years they stood against the MEK and Saddam and on any opportunity possible they praise the hundred thousand martyrs of the Iraq-Iran war. Iranian people know very well that this organization used unlawful and illegal sources, which initially belonged to the Iranian and Iraqi people. They are well aware that the MEK owes its remaining financial power and its limited existence to the support which Saddam Hussein provided them during the war against our country.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of “violence and terror” in Iran and the slightest mention of this word [MEK] and the remembrance of this organization is needed to remind the Iranian audience of the violence, terror, and treason they caused. As long as the groundwork of this organization is cult-like behavior, the only solution for them is to submit to foreigners in order to stab its own people in the back. Any country that supports this organization defames itself among the Iranian people and remains infamous for defending violence and betrayal.

Leaders who are deceived into supporting the MEK are only making the wall of mistrust between the nations taller and are bringing back to life the bitter memories of anti-Iranian policies, such as 1953 coup.

Mojahedin-e Khalq are outcasts of the Iranian people; even before being the outcast of the government. To invigorate the ominous name of the MEK is only the wish of sinister enemies of democracy and rule of the people in Iran. Seekers of violence whether by MEK’s side or against them would be happy to see them empowered since violence creates violence.

The presence of this terrorist group in any part of the world could become an excuse for those in power in Iran to have unlawful confrontations with critics and protesters. They [those in power] would be the only group welcoming the official presence, even if they pretend to be their enemies.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of violence, animosity, submission, and reliance on foreign powers. Thus, the organization is illegal and is the reminder of the most bitter of betrayals. Today, Iranian people who have become the example for nonviolent resistance, anti-dictatorship and independence for other countries, do not accept “violence and submission” and do not look kindly on the support of any government that relies on violence and submission.

In supporting the great Green Movement, we continue to consider Mojahedin-e Khalq hypocrites who “with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead.” And we repeat Mir Hossein Mousavi’s warning by saying “No nation should bring them back to life for the sake of rewards and if they do so, they will remain infamous in the memory of the Iranian people.”

Ahmadinejad Accuses Opposition of Supporting Sanctions

Earlier this week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to the latest round of international sanctions by lashing out at his political arch nemeses, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hossein Mousavi, during a televised conference with the heads of Iran’s propaganda machine, the IRIB.  Ahmadinejad didn’t call them out by name, instead referring to them as those “who were responsible for forcing the Imam [Khomeini] to drink the poisonous chalice” — referring to UN Security Council resolution that brought an end of the Iran-Iraq War.  These individuals – Rafsanjani and Mousavi — “were complicit with the West” in imposing sanctions against Tehran and trying to “put an end to our government,” Ahmadinejad claimed.

Of course the leaders of the Green Movement have repeatedly spoken out against international sanctions.  Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad pretended as if the opposite were true – not unlike much of official Washington – in order to attack the Green Movement as treasonous.

This being Ahmadinejad, he went even further. He declared “we wanted this from God –we were waiting for them [the Green Movement] to come,” alluding to the brutal crackdown on protests that ensued after his disputed re-election.

Despite Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric, his standing is not nearly as firm as he would have the world believe.

Ahmainejad’s allegations come a week after the head of the IRGC, Ali Jafari, admitted for the first time in public that some IRGC officials are supportive of the Green Movement.  According to Rahe Sabz, top officials, such as the Supreme Leader and top IRGC officers decided to forcibly retire 250 members of the Guards who had sided with Mousavi after last year’s disputed presidential election.

These two events together show the depths of the rifts that continue to grow by the day within the Iranian government.  Ahmadinejad’s striking accusations are surprising, even for someone as strident as Ahmadinejad. He is, after all, accusing the head of one of the most powerful institutions in the Islamic establishment of colluding with the U.S against his government.  Moreover, while there was always some speculation that certain members of the IRGC were at odds with the government’s brutal reaction to the demonstrations, Jafari’s announcement further demonstrates that the IRGC is not a monolithic institution with unwavering allegiance is to the Supreme Leader.

Although the green movement may seem to be on hiatus, people in the U.S should not make the mistake of believing that the movement has been crushed by the government. While protestors have grown weary of taking to the streets to be beaten, the political schisms in Iran show no signs of healing, and only time can tell what will happen next.


  • 16 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

What Mousavi’s Charter Means for the Green Movement

Mir Hosein Mousavi’s latest statement — called a “charter” for the Green Movement — is the clearest sign yet that the Iranian opposition is transforming from a purely reformist movement to one demanding more fundamental change to the political system.

Mousavi made a strong case for the separation of church and state in Iran — a direct challenge to the Supreme Leader’s religious and political authority — asserting that that “Laws of the land including the constitution are not eternal and unchangeable.”

“The constitution is not engraved in stone,” He said.

This proclamation can be interpreted as a warning to the ruling elites — that the opposition will not stand idle in the face of political persecution, and will be compelled to take more forceful measures against the government if their demands for the rule of law continue to be rebuffed.

Another leading figure, Sayed Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was jailed during the post-election turmoil, has written an important analysis of the current state of affairs in Iran, apologizing for the “mistakes of the first decade of the Revolution,” which included violence and repression on the part of many leading opposition figures today.

We all made many mistakes at that time but, today, instead of continuing the positive aspects of what we did, [the rulers] are continuing the same mistakes…Let me state it as clearly as possible, that our consenting silence regarding the [the actions of the] revolutionary courts [in the 1980s] was our mistake; but mass arrests of law-abiding critics, rendering the protesting citizens “Kahrizaki” and shooting at them directly are so repugnant that they can no longer be referred to as “mistakes.”

Tajzadeh echoed the Ayatollah Khomeini’s declaration that “every generation must decide its own fate,” continuing:

We cannot claim to be adherents of the Paris declaration [by Ayatollah Khomeini in the fall of 1978] about democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, the press, political parties and the Voice and Visage, women’s and ethnic rights, free elections, and republicanism and its link with Islam, but not speak out against the root cause, reasons, impediments, and mistakes that prevent these from materializing.

Some may argue that the opposition is no longer viable, and that the hard-liners have solidified their hold on power since last year.  But the tactics they have used to remain in power have in fact created more and more opposition. By ruling through fear; by outlawing normal political activity; by employing cruel methods to silence dissent, Iran’s hardliners are only swelling the ranks of opposition and increasing popular disaffection.

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.

Why Rafsanjani is so important for the Greens

Six months ago in Mashad, Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a speech to a group of Iranian student activists saying: “If people want us, we will govern; and if they don’t, we will have to go.”

This might have seemed like nothing new, but it wasn’t coming from just anyone — it was said by Hashemi Rafsanjani,  Iranian cleric and a two-term Iranian president.  Still to this day known as one of the most powerful individuals in Iranian politics, Rafsanjani leads the body that has the power to unseat the Supreme Leader.

This one statement, coming from Rafsanjani, cracked the entire foundation of Velayat- e- Faghih — the rule of God’s representative over man and country.

Just a few days ago, Rafsanjani reiterated his statement when delivering a speech at the anniversary of a religious ceremony in Tehran. After welcoming his guests, Rafsanjani started speaking about the will of the people and how people are in charge of their own destiny. He said God will not take anyone to Heaven by force who doesn’t want to go himself; each person has the right to choose for him or herself the path he/she will take.

“We have to find the path of God ourselves with our own will. Our own will and that is what is important.”

These subtle political messages are common among Iranian clergies, and they regularly communicate with each other through speeches at different sermons, which can be extremely frustrating to an outsider. Rafsanjani later said:

“The path of good vs. evil has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to be around until the end of time. Humans have been and must continue to be responsible and free to choose their own path in this world.”

No wonder the hard-line conservatives have been severely attacking Rafsanjani lately. He has been around even before the Iranian revolution and has actively been one of the main pillars of the Islamic Republic establishment since its inception. At this point in time, though, he is coming to realize the incompatibility of the current establishment with the new Iranian generation and the democratic world.

He is aware that significant reforms will be needed in order for modern Iran to survive, which is exactly what the Green Movement has been saying for the past year. If the system does not bend with the demands of its people, then it will be just like what Rafsanjani said, but perhaps much harsher.

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.

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.

  • 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.

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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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