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

One Year Later: Are We Missing the Real Story?

Much attention has been given to the absence of large street protests on the anniversary of Iran’s disputed elections. This focus on street protests however, largely misses the point of the opposition movement today.

“A government that is scared of a corpse is a weak government,” Shirin Ebadi said, referring to the government’s decision to bar families of killed protesters from holding public funerals. Attacks on Mehdi Karroubi and  raids on the offices of Grand Ayatollahs Saane’i and Montazeri show the increasing desperation of Iran’s rulers. Every website managed by WordPress (the most popular blog hosting platform on the web) has been filtered since this past weekend in Iran (including this blog), and the Revolutionary Guards have even set up a “Facebook Espionage Division.”

All of this indicates that the Islamic Republic is a regime that has become afraid of its own shadow.  And this is the real story of the past year.

Pundits in the West have been quick to write obituaries for the Green Movement because it’s been unable to maintain the mass protests we last saw on Ashura. They ignore the fact that the regime has now become permanently on edge, and every crackdown against the opposition is a testimony to this.

One year on, the real story is that a pro-democracy movement that had long been simmering under the surface has finally been thrust into the spotlight.

Those who expected to see the toppling of the mullahs within a year failed to grasp the difficulty of such a task in an authoritarian state. Ayatollah Khamenei understands better than anyone the fragility of his authority, and his actions in recent weeks are the best indication of this.

Movements in pursuit of democracy and independence are long, protracted struggles. At times, the efforts of the people manifest themselves in public displays of strength. But even more important are the times in between where ordinary citizens retreat to their homes and places of worship to discuss the future of their country, and to engage in a spirited discourse about the future of their political system. And this has been the most fundamental achievement of the Green Movement: to craft an alternative narrative for Iran’s future that abandons the status quo.

Once that idea catches on in the minds of the people, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality.

Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi points out in the Green Movement charter issued on the anniversary:

“By rejecting the ruling establishment, by going back to their own homes and developing and expanding their social networks, strong and reliable relations between the various strata of the nation have been established. The social networks have created miracles in the area of informing [the nation] of political-social and cultural [developments]. All we need to do to understand this is to glance at their artistic productions, the amount of news and information that is exchanged, and the analyses that are going on in a completely democratic way. The Green Movement has created a powerful wave of debate and discussion concerning the critical problems among the people that is unique in our recent history.”

This debate — more than the number of people out on the streets or in the jails — is the true measure of the movement. Those who ignore this are missing the biggest story of the past year. “Just because there are less people on the streets does not mean that the movement has weakened, but that the criticism has taken a different form,” Shirin Ebadi said on Tuesday.

Joe Klein of Time Magazine said in reference to Iran on Sunday that “this is the greatest mismatch between a people and a government of any country in the world.” Very true. And that mismatch — not displays of strength on the street — is what will ultimately bring about the change Iranians have long been waiting for.

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 December 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 8 Comments
  • Iran Election 2009

The Significance of Today’s Events

 

Copyright AP

The hardline newspaper Kayhan reported that there were "a maximum of 5000" in the crowd mourning Montazeri's death. (h/t enduringamerica.com)

 

Today clearly breathed new life into Iran’s opposition movement. Opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi both took the risk and attended alongside countless other mourners. (Mousavi’s convoy was reportedly attacked en-route back to Tehran by plain-clothed security officials who cut off the convoy and bashed in a window of one of the cars and injured one of Mousavi’s bodyguards.) 

Khamenei issued a rather insulting statement of condolence, which the NY Times reports sparked boos, chants of “we do not want rationed condolences” and “death to the dictator” from the crowd of mourners in Qum. Khamenei’s statement follows:

“We have become informed that the sublime jurisprudent Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has departed this life. He was a competent religious authority and a prominent expert and many students attended his classes. A long portion of his life had been dedicated to the movement of the revered and great Imam (Khomeini), and he strived and suffered hardships on this path. In the last years of the Imam’s life, he (Montazeri) was faced with a difficult test. I ask Almighty God to forgive him through His mercy and to accept the hardships suffered during his life as atonement. I extend my condolences to his bereaved wife and children and ask God to bestow forgiveness and mercy upon him.”

While the Iranian government managed to successfully block BBC Persian service into Iran, another critical audience couldn’t possibly miss what happened today. One of the readers at the New York Times’ The Lede put it best: 

Qom is in many ways the heart of the last Revolution (how it ended up anyway) and its aftermath. Until now, the regime has tried very very hard to isolate Qom from the protest movement. The security presence there has always been reported as very high to prevent any protests. […] With today’s protests in Qom, and the clergy’s close-up view of it (perhaps for the first time for some of them) it will be interesting to see what the Qom clergy does in the days and weeks to come.

The next day to watch is Sunday, when two major days of mourning coincide: the day of mourning for Ayatollah Montazeri (the seventh day after his death) and the religious holiday of Ashura, which marks the martyrdom of the Imam Hossein.

  • 8 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Violence Spills into Day 2

Payvand via Radio Zamaneh is reporting that members of the Basij and Revolutionary Guard (Sepah; IRGC; Pasdaran) have stormed Tehran University and Shahid Beheshti University.

According to Amir Kabir Newsletter, Revolutionary Guards and Basij forces have entered the campuses… and engaged in beating the students with the assistance of university security.

Amir Kabir reports that the Revolutionary Guards and Basij have attacked students with batons and pepper spray, arresting some and forcing others out of the campus.

Basij forces have entered Shahid Beheshti campus in several buses and attacked the law departments, closing down the classes.

Reportedly several class at University of Tehran have also been shut down. Reports tell of plain clothes and police breaking windows of the Technical Department of University of Tehran and throwing tear gas bombs into the building. The Students have reportedly taken shelter in the halls of the building and lit fires to fight the tear gas.

The New York Times is also reporting on the violence today and further harassment of Mir Hossein Mousavi:

The violence continued Tuesday on the campus of Tehran University, where security forces were using tear gas and arresting students, according to reports and video clips relayed through Twitter and Internet postings. There were protests at large squares near the university as well, witnesses said. Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that the clashes began after groups of pro-government students carrying pictures of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, clashed with protesters on campus.

On Tuesday, the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi — who was reportedly prevented from attending Monday’s demonstrations — had a tense standoff with angry security men who had surrounded his office, according to opposition Web sites.

As Mr. Moussavi was leaving his office in a car, dozens of men on motorbikes, some wearing masks, blocked his way and chanted angry slogans against him, the Gooya News Web site reported.

Against the advice of his security team, Mr. Moussavi got out of his car and angrily shouted at the men, “You are on a mission — do your job, threaten me, beat me, kill me.” Mr. Moussavi’s security detail then took him back inside the building.

However, there are signs that the movement may be moving away from Mousavi:

But in recent months, it has become unclear how much Mr. Moussavi speaks for the opposition, which includes many who appear to be taking a more radical approach and demanding an end to the theocracy. During Monday’s demonstrations, there were fewer people with clothing or banners in the trademark bright-green color of Mr. Moussavi’s presidential campaign. And there were more chants aimed directly at Ayatollah Khamenei — a taboo that has increasingly eroded since the election. In addition to the now common chants of “death to the dictator,” some protesters chanted, “Khamenei knows his time is up” on Monday.

Green Movement and Iranian Government Clash Flares Up

While Iranian authorities continue their campaign against the growing opposition, the Green Movement does not appear to be letting up, even as some of its leaders’ efforts were thwarted from participating. Yesterday’s National Student Day protests were preempted by arrests of student activists from universities across Iran as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights. Nevertheless, tens of thousands protested in solidarity with the Green Movement against the current Iranian government in “the biggest anti-government rallies in months.” Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, widely regarded as the movement’s leaders, were feared to be under house arrest.

According to AP:

Plainclothes men on motorcycles — likely Basijis — also harassed the opposition’s leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, at his Tehran office on Tuesday. Up to 30 men on motorcycles, some in masks, blocked Mousavi as he tried to drive out of his office garage and chanted slogans against him, two opposition Web sites said, citing witnesses.

Mousavi got out of his car and shouted at them, ”You’re agents, you’ve been tasked with threatening me, beating me, killing me,” before his aides hustled him back inside, the Gooya News Web site reported. The men left several hours later and Mousavi was able to leave.

“When Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard arrived at Tehran University’s art faculty, where she is a professor, female Basij members tried to stop her and attacked her and her entourage with pepper spray, opposition Web sites reported, citing witnesses.

Protesters took some of the boldest actions yet in their demonstrations against the ruling clerics, breaking “the biggest taboo in Iran—burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.”

The New York Times reports further symbolic breaks from the current government as protesters “carried an Iranian flag from which the signature emblem of ‘Allah’– added after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution— had been removed.” Iranian authorities stepped up their threats against demonstrators while attempting to barricade universities to contain protests. Iran’s top prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, warned on Tuesday that the judiciary will be harsher than in the past:

“So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied,” Ejehi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Azizullah Rajabzadeh, announced that 204 protesters, including 39 women, were arrested in the capital during Monday’s demonstrations. They were detained for ”violating public order,” including setting fire to vehicles and chanting slogans, he said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Large demonstrations are expected to occur on December 12th, the 6-month anniversary of the disputed June 12th elections. Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is spreading the word about the Global Day of Arts in Support of Iran’s Civil Rights Movement on December 12th, when activists and artists will come together under the banner of ArtsUnited4Iran. Sponsors of associated worldwide events will include Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, ARTICLE 19, and Front Line. More detailed information can be found at United4Iran:

Iran experts and activists speaking out in support of the civil rights movement in Iran include Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University Professor and CNN commentator; Hadi Ghaemi, Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran’s International Coordinator; Omid Memarian, Iran expert for Human Rights Watch; and Reza Moini, Iran expert for Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Following the UN General Assembly’s resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran on November 20, 2009, members of the international community are calling on the Iranian government to:

  • Respect Freedom of Assembly, Expression, and Press,
  • Free all Prisoners of Conscience,
  • End Rape and Torture in Prisons,
  • Hold Those Responsible for Committing Human Rights Crimes Accountable.
    • 2 December 2009
    • Posted By NIAC
    • 0 Comments
    • Events in Iran

    Today’s Headlines from Payvand (via Radio Zamaneh)

    Tehran University Students Invite Opposition Leaders to Student Day

    Over three thousand students of Tehran University have signed a petition inviting opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to attend Day of the Student ceremonies at their institution on December 7.

    The students urge the two opposition leaders to renew their protests to the election events by attending the ceremonies, and to reaffirm their resistance against “despotism.”

    The opposition has announced that protesters will once more take to the streets by attending the December 7 ceremonies.

    For more, click here.

    “Heavy Sentence” for Journalist Saeed Laylaz

    Saeed Leylaz, Iranian journalist and leading economist was sentenced to 9 years in prison. Mr. Leylaz was arrested in the post-election protests to the alleged fraudulent victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential elections. He was the editor-in-chief of Sarmayeh daily newspaper which was banned recently. Mr. Laylaz has been an outspoken critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic policies.

    For more, click here.

    Divisions Exposed at Parliamentary “Unity Session”

    Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) held the 2nd annual Unity Session on Tuesday. But based on the photos of the gathering, and based on the remarks of the Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, this session actually highlighted the deep divisions in the political establishment and the society at large that have surfaced since the June presidential elections.

    Many seats were left empty at what was supposed to be a “unity session.” Also, archenemies [Ayatollah Ali Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful head of the Expediency COuncil, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose presidency is considered as illegitimate by the opposition, failed to attend the gathering, even though they had been invited to address the session. Speaker Larijani, whom some believe is siding with Rafsanjani, has this to say in this regard: “Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Rafsanjani did not arrive. I pray to God for their health and safety, and I hope God will resolve all issues.”

    For more on the Unity Session and for pictures of an empty chamber, click here.

    “The foreign policy apparatus in Iran has frozen”

    “‘The foreign policy apparatus in Iran has frozen,” IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei has told the New York Times. ElBaradei’s comments come in light of Iran’s apparent unwillingness or even inability to accept the deal that their own diplomats negotiated with the P5+1 and the IAEA.

    While the talks were successful in getting the IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear facility under construction in Qom, Iran’s government rejected the deal (verbally) on the grounds that they were not willing to trust Russia or France with the majority of their low-enriched uranium stockpile.

    ElBaradei came up with a clever response, which was to find a third party country that both sides could trust that would hold the uranium – with Turkey appearing to be the most likely candidate.

    However, instead of responding favorably to this deal, Iran simply responded with their own counter-proposal. It certainly plays into the narrative presented by CFR Iran expert Ray Takeyh on Friday:

    In the coming months, Iran will no doubt seek to prolong negotiations by accepting and then rejecting agreed-upon compacts and offering countless counter-proposals. The United States and its allies must decide how to approach an Iranian diplomatic stratagem born out of cynical desire to clamp down on peaceful dissent with relative impunity.

    International scrutiny remains trained on Iran’s nuclear program, but outside that glare, the structure and orientation of the Revolutionary Guards are changing dramatically. The regime in Tehran is establishing the infrastructure for repression. The leadership of the Guards and the paramilitary Basij force have been integrated and are much more focused on vanquishing imaginary plots by a (nonexistent) fifth column.

    Takeyh then argues — as we have been — that human rights should should be elevated in the talks with Iran. Takeyh then takes it a step further:

    Western officials would be smart to disabuse Iran of the notion that its nuclear infractions are the only source of disagreement. Iran’s hard-liners need to know that should they launch their much-advertised crackdown, the price for such conduct may be termination of any dialogue with the West.

    Radio Free Liberty also talked to a number of reformists who argue any deal that ignores human rights will be fundamentally flawed and likely viewed with suspicion.

    Reformist journalist Serajedin Mirdamadi, who campaigned for opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi ahead of the contentious June election, tells Radio Farda that a deal with Tehran that is solely focused on the nuclear issue will not be a lasting one.

    • 28 October 2009
    • Posted By Matt Sugrue
    • 2 Comments
    • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

    Khamenei says questioning the election is “the biggest crime”

    Ayatollah Khamenei stated on Wednesday that questioning the results of the June election is a crime. According to an Associated Press article, Khamenei said “The day after the election, some people, without logic or reason, called the glorious election a lie,” and disputing the election results is “the biggest crime.”

    The Supreme Leader’s statement contains an implicit threat to opposition leaders Mahdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, who continue to question the veracity of the election results. Khamenei also said that he “sent private messages to those who continue to question the election telling them they may not be able to control the future direction of events.”

    Thus far, the government has refrained from arresting Karroubi and Mousavi; although, Karroubi is the subject of an investigation over his allegations that government forces raped and tortured protestors after the election. During rallies, protesters have reportedly shouted “If Karroubi is arrested, there will be insurrections across Iran.”

    While Khamenei did not order the arrest of the two leaders, his statements may indicate that he is running out of patience with the opposition.

    • 21 October 2009
    • Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad
    • 0 Comments
    • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

    Iranian MPs File Complaint Against Mousavi

    mousavi20octRadio Zamaneh – 100 Iranian members of the parliament filed a complaint against Mir Hossein Mousavi with Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ezhei, Iran’s deputy attorney general.

     According to lawmaker Hamid Rasaie, the MPs complained about Mousavi because his statements and actions “have severely damaged the image of the regime…”

     “We initially hoped that Mousavi would change his actions that were aligned with the enemy, but today we are witnessing that he is continuing his activities,” said Rasaie.

     This news comes a couple of weeks before November 4th (13th Aban) possibly to discourage people from protesting that day.  Mowj Camp reports that Iranian youth are are already distributing flyers on busy streets corners in Tehran, inviting people to come out.

    • 28 September 2009
    • Posted By David Elliott
    • 5 Comments
    • Sanctions

    Opposition leaders say sanctions will hurt the Iranian people; gov’t won’t care

    The reformist Presidential candidate turned opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi has officially spoken out against further economic sanctions. He joins the outspoken Mehdi Karroubi, who came out against sanctions earlier this month.

    “We are against any sanctions against our nation,” Mousavi said in a statement posted on Rouydadnews reformist website.He said sanctions “will impose agonies on a nation who suffers enough from miserable statesmen.”

    He added: “The country is on the verge of crises which will mostly hurt the poor as a result of wrong and adventurous foreign policies of the government from which our people suffer.

    “We might have simplistically thought this is an advantage for our green movement, but it is not,” said Mousavi, who along with his green-wearing supporters regard President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election as “illegitimate.”

    “Which one of them can be expected to care about the agony their behaviour imposes on people?” he asked of Iran’s current leaders. “If we don’t care about what harms those living in this land, nobody will.”

    Human rights advocates like Shirin Ebadi have argued that any new sanctions imposed against Iran should be targeted specifically at Iranian government officials, not Iran’s general population. Unfortunately, the primary tool the US Congress is considering is a refined petroleum embargo — just in time for winter. The IRGC probably won’t have any trouble getting gasoline or heating oil, but what about Iran’s poor and middle class, many of whom are out risking their lives to protest against the government?

    The US should stand in solidarity with the Iranian people, not stand on their backs.

    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,

    [signature]

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