June 14, 2009

Live-blogging election unrest, day two

10:59 update: NIAC members have been sharing their stories with us all day. Here is another, this one alleging more fraud:

One close friend of mine worked as election official in Shiraz. He says they received 70 ballot boxes, in which 40 of them were with broken seals. The answer to the question of “why the seals are open?” was that the boxes move in the car during transit, so the seals came off. He says the votes in the 40 open boxes were all for Ahmadinejad and Moosavi was leading in the rest of the 30 boxes.

9:07 update: Things are slowing down for us this evening. We’ll be back in full force tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who contributed stories and reports from loved ones and to the wonderful NIAC staff (particularly our amazing interns) who have worked tirelessly all weekend to keep this information up-to-date.
I also want to invite our readers in the greater-DC area to NIAC’s policy conference Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill. “The US and Iran: Between Elections and Enrichment” will take place in the Capitol Visitors’ Center from 8-12, where we will welcome members of Congress and some of the best Iran experts in the world.  Obviously, there will be lots to discuss.  Find all the details and the list of speakers here.
8:56 update: More from relatives in Tehran:

WE NEED HELP. WE NEED SUPPORT. Time is not on our side , waiting and making sure means more casualties, more disappointment, more brutality.

In response to a question of what the Iranian people want the U.S. and American people to do, his response was as follows:

The most essential need of young Iranians is to be recognized by US government. They need them not to accept the results and do not talk to A.N government as an official, approved one. They need help by sending true information. All the medias are under arrest or close control. Help them have the information.
They only try to show the fraud to the world. Help them please. You can not imagine the level of brutality we saw these two awful days.

8:13 update: A friend of NIAC sent us the following message she received over IM from a protestor in Tehran:

[W]e just returned to the protest, it has continued and will continue…Today is the second day that we’re continuing – tell your friends in Iran to continue protesting because communications between this society are cut off. The news is reaching us from Paris.  You should continue protesting abroad too.
Today Karroubi will march in our protest from Tajrish to Vali Asr at 11 at night

7:50 update: A powerful message from a friend of NIAC in Mashad, Iran:

“[We] are still safe, but to tell you the truth, all of us are feeling sick of what we have to see on streets these days. This afternoon, [we] saw five policemen attack a middle age lady. They beat her brutally, with no mercy. She tried to escape with her young daughter but they got her. I stopped and tried to help her, but three men in civilian clothes attacked my car, and I had to drive away because [my daughter] was with me. Tonight, people shouted “Allah o Akabar” from their roof tops, but hundreds of police forces on bikes swept the streets and marked houses from which they could hear voices. Tomorrow, I will go to a lawyer to ask for a [foreign] visa. This country will not be a safe place anymore, and I don’t want to repeat my parents’ mistake in 1979 by staying and watching.”
I entered facebook with an anti-filter, but I don’t know how long will it work. Please help us by sending emails. All internet news services are blocked, and we cannot understand if what we hear is true or false. Please tell U.N officials about police violence. People are dying here. Don’t leave us alone.

7:10 update: In case there were any doubt whatsoever, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is making his position very clear. He just endorsed the election results for a second time. “Elections in Iran are the soundest, the healthiest of their kind,” he said to cheering supporters. “Some people inside or outside the country … say that the vote has been disrupted, there has been fraud. Where are irregularities in the elections?”
7:00 update: We would be remiss if we failed to mention that tens of thousands of people heeded Ahmadinejad’s call for a victory celebration, attending rallies in central Tehran. Of course, we should also note that no one risked life or limb to attend Ahmadinejad’s rally.
6:45 update: From a very trusted Iranian colleague of ours in DC:

I received news today that SMS remains shut down and  Internet connections in Iran have been slowed down to below 1kbps limiting email usage.  Apparently the only pro reform newspaper being printed is Etemad-Emelli belonging to Mr. Karroubi and it was printed with white pages due to censoring.  No other pro-reform papers were printed. Also, cell phone companies have been shut down so, cell phones cant be used.  Tomorrow Mousavi has announced he will appear in public. Some say he has a permit for a public gathering, but others say this is not the case – if not, then the stage is possibly set for more clashes.
In the meantime, the unleashing of the anti-riot police and informal militias like the basij is terrible.  For some time now my concern has been that the sanctions, economic isolation and subsequent unemployment among the young is providing the hardliners with the perfect conditions for recruiting young, poor men into their militias and ‘para-police’ forces – teaching them to be violent and tying their livelihood to the protection of the state.  People in the city are witnessing them (and experiencing them) on the streets of Tehran now.

6:24 update: Check out my piece over at HuffPo, building on a thread we’ve been developing here for the last two days: “On Iran, the Power of Obama’s Silence”
6:10 update: Amid the fray, I failed to notice the press release that United Against Nuclear Iran put out today.  The group, whose website still names Obama administration Iran point-man Dennis Ross as a “co-founder,” has spent the last week pushing for new sanctions against Iran.  We can only assume they were aware that their push coincided with the run-up to the election…

New York, NY –  “President Obama offered the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian people.  Iran has rejected that hand.  Since President Obama’s inauguration  we have seen more nuclear enrichment from Iran and more missile tests.  And now Iran has reelected President Ahmadinejad – a hard-line, holocaust-denying radical.  America and the international community must increase Iran’s economic isolation and Americans can take action today to do just that.” – Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, President, United Against Nuclear Iran

This puzzles me.  Obama has said he would extend the hand of diplomacy, but I think it’s a bit premature to say “he offered it” and “they rejected it.”  In case you haven’t noticed, the Iranian government is in a bit of an uncertain spot right now.  We may want to wait a little while before jumping to conclusions.
5:47 update: Amazing video.  On the rooftops in Tehran, people sounding out into the night “God is Great,” the same chant that was used during the revolution in 1979, only now with a decidedly different subtext. [Note: the video is from June 9, before the election. Thanks to our readers for calling that to our attention.]
5:19 update: From an Iranian American and NIAC member in California:

I just talked to my relatives in Tehran. The atmosphere is just like in 1978-79. Sporadic demonstrations continue throughout the city with tires and other objects burning in the streets to dissipate the tear gas. People have left their houses’ doors unlocked for demonstrators to have a safe haven to escape when the riot police attacks them. The solidarity and unity of the people is amazing. Luckily, Mousavi and Karoobi have both asked people to continue their peaceful opposition to the massive rigging of their votes. The regime has made a strategic mistake as it appears that people this time are not going to relent.

5:13 update: A colleague of ours translated a note from Iran Daily today:

‘How many votes did the candidates receive in their hometowns?’ Iran Daily, Sunday 14 June 2009.
‘… In Aradan, Semnan, the hometown of the elected president, of  10,000 votes, Dr. Mahmud Ahmadinejad received 9,000 … In the  village of Lali, in Khuzestan, the hometown of Mohsen Rezai, Ahmadinejad received 830 votes out of 900…  In Shabestar (East Azerbaijan), the hometown of Mir-Hossein Mousavi,  Dr. Ahmadinejad received 5,000 out of 7,000 votes, and Mousavi around  2,000. In Aligordaz (Luristan), the hometown of Mehdi Karoubi,  another presidential elections canddidate, Ahmadinejad received  39,690 votes, Karoubi 14,512 and Mousavi 9,330 votes.

4:35 update: Foreign media crackdown underway. NBC and ABC have had their cameras and film confiscated. BBC has been ordered out of the country.
3:53 update: Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana went on CNN today and said President Obama should take sides publicly in the disputed election in Iran.

“First and foremost, we need to take a half step back from this administration’s olive branch-and-apology approach to enemies and countries that have been hostile to the United States of America and our allies,” Pence said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“I’m hoping, before the end of the day today, the President of the United States will speak a word of support for Mr. Moussavi and for the dissidents and the reformers within Iran,” said Pence, referring to the defeated challenger to incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At this moment, when absolutely no one knows with any certainty what is going on or what will happen–when no one even knows what Mousavi wants–this is absolutely the wrong thing to do.  Iran has a long history of rejecting foreign meddling in its internal affairs, and even the most prominent human rights activists have told US lawmakers the best thing they can do is stop trying to get involved.  The hardliners have become so skilled at using statements like this to justify the harshest possible crackdowns.
I’d like to ask Rep. Pence if he has spoken with Mr. Mousavi in the last 24 hours.  Does Rep. Pence know for certain that Mousavi even wants his help?!  This is a dangerous game.  (Video available here).
3:23 update: We are in touch with a number of our friends and family in Iran, finding out news on the ground as best we can.  If you are in contact with anyone in Iran, or would like to share information that you’ve come across, email us at [email protected].
(We’ve had to archive our threads to keep the site loading quickly.  Click below to see the rest)

3:13 update: Weighing in on the supposedly leaked “real” election results:
We’ve been very hesitant to publicize any of the so-called “true” election results that have surfaced, since it’s the easiest thing in the world to make up numbers and plug them into a graph and present it as fact.  But this comes from mowj.ir, where “an informed source” inside the Ministry of Interior’s Election HQ says

All 9 communiques of the MOI were written and planned in advance; numbers were faked via a software program which distributed vote counts among polling stations in such a way to make everything look plausible.

Supposedly, the initial results that the MOI announced were based only on the first 500,000 ballots received, and that set the rest of Friday’s events in motion.  According to this site, the real results were:

  • Mousavi – 21.3 million (57.2%)
  • Ahmadinejad – 10.5 million (28%)
  • Rezai – 2.7 million (7.2%)
  • Karroubi – 2.2 million (6%)

Obviously, this should be taken with a huge grain of salt.  But Mowj is the unofficial website for the Mousavi campaign, so we wanted to present it here for you to interpret yourself.
2:20 update: An interesting letter from a family member in Iran, explaining a few of the reasons he thinks Ahmadinejad won the election.  Although this individual discounts rumors of cheating–a view that is not necessarily representative in Iran–it does provide a glimpse into a few of the complicating factors that may have contributed in some way to the situation we’re facing today.

According to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, renowned Iranian filmmaker, Ahmadinejad is an skilled actor and is a master of demagoguery.  I believe he won because of the following reasons:

  1. He pretends to be on low income people’s side determined to introduce the factors of corruption and powerful characters such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Nategh Nouri to people just like he mentioned them in the media [during his campaign].
  2. In recent months and just before the elections, Ahmadinejad raised the salaries of many retired people and academics.  It’s interesting that he doubled low salaries so he can attract the low-income individuals even though we have such a high inflation.
  3. Last year, he introduced to the Majlis an economic plan to get rid of subsides and give the earnings to the low-income people and those under the poverty line.  This plan has not been approved yet but it is very interesting to the people in lower income classes.
  4. Even though he gave false and phony data about inflation, unemployment, and economic growth, it did not make any difference for two reasons: first is ignorance of the masses to indicators and second is inability of his competitors to assert themselves.  In the presidential debates, Ahmadinejad would question the character of his competitors instead of answering the questions.  For example, he accused Karoubi of receiving 300 million toman (~$300,000) from someone who is now in prison.  He also accused Mrs. Mousavi of forging her degrees.  In general, he was very aggressive in the debates and would put his competitors in a defensive mode.
  5. Ahmadinejad made an advertising movie of himself and his family which was very effective among the masses.  His simple life is similar to low income people.  This is despite the fact that during his first term some people acquired a lot of wealth because of Ahmadinejad’s bad economic decisions, housing prices during the last four years tripled, industrial production decreased, many factories closed and unemployment increased.  Import of goods such as rice, tea, sugar, and Chinese goods mostly helped the importers who are Ahmadinejad’s biggest supporters.  It’s interesting that several of his ministers are very wealthy including his mister of the interior.
  6. An increase in the price of oil and a $280 billion revenue allowed Ahmadinejad to not only raise people’s salaries but also to give cash, goods and even gold coins to the people who came to greet him whenever he visited a town or a village; just like the Qajar kings.  Many of the agencies under the supervision of the supreme leader helped him in this matter.
  7. The armed forces, specially the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij are Ahmadinejad’s supporters.  Their penetration in the villages and small towns, and the fact that they are often from the lower income classes, played a major role in Ahmadinejad’s victory like the previous elections.
  8. Regarding foreign policy, Ahmadinejad acts as if his diplomacy on the nuclear energy has been very successful by forcing the United States and others to accept Iran’s enrichment program and making Iranians proud.  On foreign policy issues, his competitors only criticized him for isolating Iran and creating enemies.

The election results show that many analysts who thought a 60 percent participation would lead to Ahmadinejad’s loss were wrong.  Official data and anecdotal evidence show Ahmadinejad was mainly popular in small towns, rural areas and among the low income people.  His opposition came from large cities and especially Tehran.
Historicallly, those who surf on the waves created by deluding the masses use the same methods.  Hitler was something of a demagogue before coming to power.  Chavez in Venezuela is the same.  Unfortunately, uneducated and ignorant masses become the main supporters of dictatorships.  Regarding Iranians, superstitious and religious beliefs has added to this cause like Ahmadinejad’s supporters who believe his government is approved by the absent Imam.  Now that he has won, he may well claim similar things in the future.

1:30 update: Tehranbureau is reporting that Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, has made a public appearance calling for a national strike on Tuesday and a peaceful protest Monday in 20 cities across the country.
1:05 update: According to our private phone conversations with people in Tehran, hundreds of parents have gathered by a police station in Yousef Abad, now known as Seyyed Jamal Aldin Asad Abadi, with their hands raised to the sky saying “Obama, please help us, they are killing our young children.”  They were gathering there because their kids are missing and they were trying to find out where they are.
Also, according to eyewitness accounts, gunshots could be heard last night until 3am in Elahiyeh, alongside chants of “God is great!” from people on their rooftops.  This was a widespread tactic in the 1979 revolution, in which people were urged to take to their rooftops and shout “Allah-u Akbar.”
Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi has taken off his clegry robe in protest.
12:27 update: Video from Esfehan shows the unrest is by no means limited to Tehran.
12:04 update: There’s a large crowd protesting outside the Iranian Interest Section right now. People on the scene estimate there are over 200 people participating in the “Where’s my vote?” protest and a smaller contingent of about 30 monarchists.
11:52 update: One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers translated this story:

Grand Ayatollah Sanei in Iran has declared Ahmadinejad’s presidency illegitimate and cooperating with his government against Islam. There are strong rumors that his house and office are surrounded by the police and his website is filtered. He had previously issued a fatwa, against rigging of the elections in any form or shape, calling it a mortal sin.

11:23 update: Ghalamnews (Mousavi’s newspaper) reports Mousavi is calling for a peaceful march along Valiasr street in Tehran and in 19 other cities on Monday and a national strike on Tuesday. Before the election, Mousavi supporters formed a chain down the entire 18 kilometer length of Valiasr.
11:03 update: There is incredible video coming out of Iran showing the danger, fear, and compassion in the streets of Tehran. (h/t Nico Pitney at Huffington)
10:03 update: It has been confirmed that 120 faculty members at Sharif University have resigned in protest of the election, and are gathering in front of the university for a demonstration.
After a much-needed rest, we’re back.  Thanks so much to everyone who has commented, linked, read, twittered, and posted news of the events as they unfold in Iran.  We will continue to try and keep you updated all day today as news comes in.
This, from the extraordinary Nico Pitney at Huffington:

Ahmadinejad declines to guarantee rival’s safety. CNN’s Christian Amanpour got into a bit of a verbal scuffle with Ahmadinejad during his press conference just now. Her questions were: “What is the situation with your challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi and will you guarantee his safety? And why have opposition reform individuals, officials, been arrested?”
Ahmadinejad responded (CNN’s translation):

The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world, and there’s the rule of law in this country, and all the people are equal before the law. And the presidential election has witnessed people’s massive turnout. As I said, even in a soccer match, people may become excited and that may lead to a confrontation between them and the police force. This is something natural. A person coming out of a stadium may violate the traffic regulations. He wil be fined by the police no matter who he is, an ordinary person or even a minister.

So these are not problems for the people of Iran. 40 million people have participated in the election and these 40 million people will safeguard the elections, based on the Iranian culture. There is no partisanship based on the Western concept. In fact, the people are friends with one another, and they’re going to cast their votes in favor of any candidate they like, and of course, such a voting process will not lead to any hostility among the people. And you go to the streets you see that people are friends with one another, and in Iran, no one asks the other whom you’re going to vote for.

The situation is very good, and Iran is on the threshold of making considerable progress. And definitely in the next four years, the status of Iran in the world will be further promoted.

At this point, Amanpour tried to re-ask her question, using what seemed to be the tried and true reporters’ technique of claiming she had “missed the translation.” Ahmadinejad shouted something at her, apparently (though it wasn’t translated on CNN) something like, ‘no follow-up questions.” She responded, “No, just the first question,” and tried to repeat herself, but he cut her off. “Yes, I did respond to your question,” he said, before repeating his traffic law example and declaring himself the “president of all Iranians.”
Soon after, the Associated Press reporter asked a seemingly snarky question, noting that Ahmadinejad’s statements about engaging the United States amounted mostly to a proposal to debate President Obama at the United Nations. He asked if Ahmadinajad was open to direct talks with the U.S. to improve bilateral ties. Ahmadinejad said he wasn’t going to discuss such proposals.

A friend of NIAC sent us the following message she received over IM from a protestor in Tehran:

ok – listen to what I am saying! Tell everyone that we just returned to the protest, it has continued and will continue. The international court has announced that if the street protests continue for 48 hours, they will announce that the elections will be invalidated officially. Today is the second day that we’re continuing – tell your friends in iran to continue protesting because communications between this society are cut off. The news is reaching us from Paris, you should continue protesting abroad too

Tuesday night in Iran they have announced a general strike throughout society – no one will go to work.

Today Karroubi will march in our protest from Tajrish to Vali Asr [main avenue in Tehran] at 11 at night

The coming 48 hours is very important. They say that the Iranian Army is with us but we haven’t seen any evidence, they detained us and used tear gas on us. This morning they annoyed the hell out of us, we got beaten very badly and they used pepper and tear gas on us

Today there were massive pro-Ahmadi protests there were many, many people – tens of thousands of people – but it was forced and they bussed in many of them, we are greater in number than Ahmadi supporters although we’re spread out across the nation, tell anyone you know inside Iran to join the rebellion, we only need 48 hours! The situation is bad, but it will be fixed, it’s just that we don’t have news from each other inside Iran.

Tell everyone on Facebook that for tear gas wash your faces with milk and plain yogurt, and then after if your skin is still burning wipe fish oil across it and then wash it off with regular soap with cold water.

Back to top