June 17, 2009

Liveblogging: Between Elections and Enrichment

11:15 pm: Today was a remarkable day at NIAC.
The National Iranian American Council has a three part mission: to educate, to advocate, and to build bridges. Today, we held a major policy conference on Capitol Hill with a fantastic group of experts to educate lawmakers and their staff about the current challenges facing U.S.-Iran affairs and the situation in Iran. Simultaneously, we helped connect the Iranian and American people through this blog by breaking news and translating news stories the English-language media has overlooked, analyzing how Washington is reacting to events, and relaying stories from inside Iran. (Thank you to all the NIAC members and readers who have shared their stories with us.) We have also been sharing your views with your elected officials about what you think the U.S. should do or not do in response to the events transpiring in Iran.
If this is something you’d like to support, we encourage you to check out our website, learn more about us, and consider lending your support. Everyone at NIAC has been working around the clock to handle the extraordinary circumstances and challenges we have faced in recent days. But it is our supporters who make it all possible. Thank you.
11:08 pm: The blog should load much faster now.
10:27 pm: Press TV reports that Khamenei endorsed the possible Guardian Council partial recount of votes, though he dismisses “vandalism and some crimes that were committed.”

“If the election result had been other than this, such incidents would have occurred nonetheless,” [Khamenei] said.
Ayatollah Khamenei said a recount of the vote could be held, should the investigations show such a measure is required.
The Leader said any recount must be done in the presence of representatives of the presidential candidates so that everybody is assured.
“Those in charge of supervising the elections are always trustworthy people, but this should not prevent an investigation into possible problems and clarifying the truth,” Ayatollah Khamenei concluded.

What is interesting to note is that the Chair of the Guardian Council which would review votes — Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati — is staunchly pro-Ahmadinejad. He is one of the founders of the conservative Haqqani theological school in Qom.
10:22 pm: Tehran Bureau confirms what we reported this morning: Ibrahim Yazdi, the dissident veteran of the 1979 revolution who is a leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran — has been arrested.

Yazdi was arrested at 3:00 pm today in Pars Hospital in Tehran. He was hospitalized yesterday because of health complications. He and close to about 100 others were taken from the hospital to Evin prison. During last few days, dozens have been arrested from the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) in different cities of Iran.

6:40 pm: Karroubi issued a statement today [Farsi] inviting people to participate in Friday demonstrations starting from Hafte Tir Sq. and to attend the Friday prayer at 11am. He has asked people to wear black.
Karroubi accuses the government of betraying the people’s trust and praises the silent demonstrations, saying “silence is full of untold stories.”
Karroubi then had even stronger words:

“Those who are bothered by the greatness of such a civil behavior tried to blame the fires and other destruction on the nation and supporters of reform. They are masters in engineering trouble, as they are masters in engineering elections, and in the process, they murdered a group of our countrymen. I express my condolences for these murders… They [the vigilantes] try to scare people and ignore their protests by censoring the media and showing propaganda…

Karroubi, invited people to continue their participation and warned against plots by suspicious individuals to turn peaceful demonstrations violent. “Their ultimate goal is ending the presence of this great nation. Do not hesitate to participate.” In the end, Karroubi said he will not recognize Ahmadinejad as the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
6:13 pm: A friend of NIAC, who had been scheduled to leave Iran tells us why he has decided to stay:

I can’t leave here with all this stuff going on. I’d feel like a coward. I went today with our family friends to the huge protest in Meydoon-e-Haft-e-Tir today. I don’t know if you’ve seen the footage but the crowd was HUGE. Mousavi, Karroubi (who I saw) and all these movie stars were there too. At night the whole city was filled with people saying Allah o Akbar and even some creative slogans “Rahbar-e-maa olagh-e vah yek dastesh ham cholaq-eh.” [“Our leader is a donkey…” – the rest isn’t politically correct.] Yesterday we didn’t get the word fast enough of where Mousavi’s protest got moved to so we almost got beaten up by these Basij even though my 9 y/o cousin was with us….we had to run into this pharmacy to get away from them AND we didn’t even have any pictures of Mousavi or anything. Anyway…. regardless of what happens, Iran will be completely different when all this settles.”

5:50 pm:There has been concern amongst our readers about a previous blog post that mentioned the full name of two Iranian Twitter accounts – twitter.com/IranBaan and twitter.com/gkarbaschi.
NIAC wants all readers to know that both Twitters were designed as public resources – no one with a secret identity was mentioned. “Gkarbaschi” is Gholamhossein Karbaschi, who set up an official campaign blog for reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi. “IranBaan” is Fereshteh Ghazi, a prominent human rights activist who lists her full name, occupation, and a nice picture on her Twitter account.
NIAC would never publish the identity of secret Twitters coming from Iran. Those two Twitterers were brave individuals who chose to make their names, occupations, and even a digital picture available for all to see with a click of the mouse.
4:43 pm: Iranian Americans are continuing their demonstrations throughout the country in the Where is my vote? campaign. Rallies will be held today in Los Angeles, Seattle, and DC.
The Los Angeles Rally will be located in front of Los Angeles Federal Building Wilshire and Veteran from 5pm- 8pm
Seattle Rally: Location at 2001 6th Ave # 2323, Seattle, WA 98121 at 7pm
DC Rally: Located at the Iran Interest Section at 6pm
4:30 pm: Mousavi: Participate in Friday demonstrations and mourning (translated from: http://mowj.ir/ShowNews.php?7250)

Mousavi issued a new statement today encouraging the people to show their sympathy to families of those martyred during the recent events by attending Friday prayers and peaceful demonstrations. He also asked the security forces to confront the armed un-uniformed vigilantes.
After expressing his condolence to the families of the martyrs and those wounded, Mousavi said “I ask everyone to participate in gatherings in mosques or peaceful demonstrations on Friday afternoon in any way they can and show their sympathy to the victims’ families. It is evident that I will be participating myself.”
4:27 pm: State Department officials have denied any attempt to interfere in Iran’s election aftermath after hearing Iran’s diplomatic complaint:

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to the allegation by telling reporters that the U.S. is withholding judgment about whether last week’s presidential election was conducted fairly. He said the U.S. is not interfering in Iranian internal affairs.

3:58 pm: Again from Fereshteh Ghazi:

A confirmed source has told us the Interior Ministry has refused Mohsen Rezaie’s request to announce the results of the recount by the end of today. Hence Rezaie wil officially announce his call for invalidating the elections and calling a new election tomorrow.

3:50: pm From twitter.com/IranBaan: Ghazi mentions that the Interior Ministry’s Electoral Commission has said that the contents of the individual ballot boxes cannot be revealed to Presidential candidates by law. In other words, the Electoral Commission will not let any of the candidates know the official results. Perhaps a face-saving way for the government to refuse independent inspection of the recount by any of the candidates.
3:32 pm: A group Twitter from Tehran University – which described a lot of the recent events on the ground, in real-time – posted an image with the caption “this is our wish to end this way.”
3:06 pm: CNN reports on violence that has occurred in Tehran and which appears to be spreading to other parts of the country:

Reports of violence came from outside Tehran as well. One video was posted by a person who said he had received it anonymously from a Twitter feed. It showed several people wounded by apparent gunshots, and people attempting to treat them, seemingly without medical supplies. The poster said the video was shot in Esfahan, a city about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Tehran.
‘We are fighting with our lives and the world is just watching,’ said Ali, a Tehran University student who asked that his full name not be used. ‘They see how the government is trying to silence us, how they are beating us — but they don’t come to our help. It’s OK. We will succeed, even if we have to fight alone.’

3:03 pm: Amazing video of the protests via Andrew Sullivan:


2:05 pm: The BBC is reporting that newspaper editor Saeed Laylaz and Hamid Reza Jalaipour, an activist and journalist, were arrested on Wednesday morning. Laylaz is a political and economic analyst, relied upon heavily by the Washington policy community, who had ties to the Mousavi campaign.
1:05 pm: Another update from Ghazi:

Until it’s clear what the fate of the new elections are, we will chant “Allah Akbar” three times every night – once at 10:00, 11:00, and midnight.

12:48 pm: Reliable information according to Fereshteh Ghazi:

Saeed Mortazavi, Prosecutor-General of Tehran and a prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, has ordered all of the arrests of the past few days, and he has given no legal avenues to the prosecuted or their families to find out more information.
The total number of arrests of political prisoners, journalists, and human rights activists in Iran is approaching about 500

12:30 pm: The Guardian’s Tehran correspondent Saeed Dehghan reports that Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard today joined injured students at Tehran University and condemened violence by the government and riot police.

Also, Mousavi has written a letter (in Farsi) to the Iranian security council saying that personnel from the Ahmadinejad-loyalist Basij militia are doffing their uniforms and attacking innocent people in the streets.

12:21 pm: A friend of NIAC has translated a report of casualties inside Iran from a trusted Human Rights organization:

Source: Human Rights
Activists in Iran
[Farsi: Majmu‘e-ye fa‘âlân-e hoquq-e bashar dar irân]
Numbers of dead in recent violence in Iran reach 32
Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 11:29
The Association of Human Rights Activists in Iran can confirm the deaths of 32 Iranian citizens connected to the events of June 14 and June 15, based on its own fieldwork and despite numerous other reports.
Most of these citizens lost their lives in the attack on Tehran University dormitories on June 14 and the opening of fire by the paramilitary Basij forces on June 15. The violence started after Iranian citizens protested against the results of the tenth presidential elections, and the interference of security and paramilitary forces connected to the government.
In a statement, the public relations office of The Office to Consolidate Unity [Iran’s biggest student organization] yesterday reported the killing of at least seven students during the attack on dormitories of Tehran University and other universities around the country (Amnesty International said on June 15 there had been five deaths).
According to numerous and confirmed reports, the morgue at the Rasul Akram Hospital in Tehran has also stored eight people, who lost their lives during the shooting at defenseless people on Monday June 15.
In addition, Azerbaijani human rights activists have reported the killing of two citizens of Orumiyeh during fights in that city on June 15.
Finally, sources among the doctors at Erfan Hospital (which contains ICU, CCU, NICU and 14 emergency operation rooms) in Western Tehran reported that 15 people were dead in the hospital, all connected to the shooting on June 15.
Reports of civilian deaths across the country received by the Association are very high. However, it is impossible to confirm these because of the highly militarized atmosphere and widespread arrests, so the Association can only vouch for the deaths detailed above but
will continue the process of documentation and reporting.

12:05 pm: We have unconfirmed reports from Farsi twitter accounts that Mohsen Rezaie has declared that if individual ballot counts are not publicized by end of the day today, he’ll reject recounting altogether.
11:54 am: CNN is reporting that the Revolutionary Guards is threatening to prosecute websites that it accuses of inciting riots. This is just part of the ongoing cyber-warfare between the government and the protestors. Yesterday, Mousavi supporters used Facebook to organize attacks that brought down the government news site, Ahmadinejad.ir – and Iranians are also using Facebook to distribute anti-filter software to their friends through Status Updates.
11:48 am: More breaking news from Feresteh Ghazi:

[Freedom Movement of Iran Secretary-General] Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi has been arrested.

11:30 am: Reuters reports that Mousavi has called for a day of mourning on Thursday for the seven killed by security forces in clashes:

“A number of our countrymen were wounded or martyred,” Mousavi said, calling Thursday’s day of mourning.
“I ask the people to express their solidarity with the families … by coming together in mosques or taking part in peaceful demonstrations,” Mousavi said on his website.

More info here.
11:20 am: The Guardian is reporting that more than 500,000 Iranians are participating in the silent march today:

More than 500,000 Iranians are silently marching from from Haft-e-Tir Squre to Vali Asr Square, reports Saeed Kamali Dehghan in Tehran.
Many are wearing black in mourning for those killed in earlier protests. Protesters want to go to Tehran University later to mourn the killing on Sunday of students in a dormitory.
Reuters says that “tens of thousands” of people are protesting.
One street leading to the square was packed for several kilometres, witnesses said.
Most of the protesters were silent and making victory signs. Some are holding pictures of those killed.
The authorities say the rally is banned.

11:02 am: Some prominent conservatives inside Iran have expressed reservations about Ahmadinejad’s victory speech characterizing Mousavi supporters as “brushwood and thorns.”
Habibollah Askaroladi, a member of Iran’s Expediency Council, has said that no person created by God can be called “brushwood and thorns.” Askaroladi is a member of the central committee of the Islamic Coalition Party, one of the main conservative parties in Iran. He also mentions details of Monday’s Expediency Council meeting, where other prominent conservatives come out against Ahmadinejad’s victory:

“Last time the Expediency Council met, the results of the Presidential elections had just been announced, and I spoke to you, Chairman Rafsanjani, about some objections you had. You and [Former Majles speaker Ali Akbar] Nategh-Nouri mentioned you had strong objections, but that you would not make them public until you had permission. I want to thank you for pursuing objections within the system’s power structure and instead writing your letter to the Supreme Leader. I wawnt you to go forward with your opinions as the elections progress.”

More info here (In Farsi).
10:14 am: First-hand account from Iranian women’s rights activist Fereshteh Ghazi on today’s protests:

“People are demonstrating on the streets silently and peacefully – there are nearly 100,000 out right now and the number appears to be increasing.”

9:47 am: In response to Ahmadinejad calling Mousavi supporters “brushwood and thorns” at the victory rally Monday, Iran’s most famous classical musician has ordered that Iranian government television/radio never play his music again. Mohammad Reza Shajarian told BBC Persian in an interview:

“Don’t broadcast my voice on Seda va Sima [IRIB Music channel] ever again: my voice is like brushwood and thorns, and it will forever remain brushwood and thorns!”

9:24 am: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman issued a statement today about the post-election unrest in Iran, telling the rulers of Iran that they should know Lthe world is watching”:

“One can only admire the courage and commitment of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians – men, women, young, and old – who have taken to the streets in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election to peacefully express their desire for change, as is their right. The campaign was characterized by unusually lively and relevant candidate debates, and it is heartening to see the Iranian people themselves engaging in meaningful political discourse. As the Iranian regime reacts to unfolding events, it should keep in mind that — notwithstanding restrictions that it has imposed on the media — the rest of the world is watching closely.”

6:49 am: According to Nico (who apparently never sleeps), Rafsanjani called an emergency meeting of the Assembly of Experts. Reza Aslan went on CNN and said this:

There are very interesting things that are taking place right now. Some of my sources in Iran have told me that Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who is the head of the Assembly of Experts — the eighty-six member clerical body that decides who will be the next Supreme Leader, and is, by the way, the only group that is empowered to remove the Supreme Leader from power — that they have issued an emergency meeting in Qom.Now, Anderson, I have to tell you, there’s only one reason for the Assembly of Experts to meet at this point, and that is to actually talk about what to do about Khamenei. So, this is what I’m saying, is that we’re talking about the very legitimacy, the very foundation of the Islamic Republic is up in the air right now. It’s hard to say what this is going to go.

More info here (Farsi).
6:48 am: Morning News Roundup
The New York Times does a good job summarizing the events of the last day here.

But there were signs on Wednesday that the authorities were preparing to deepen a crackdown on the way news about the protest is being spread. On Tuesday, the government revoked press credentials for foreign journalists and ordered journalists not to report from the streets.
And on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported, the powerful Revolutionary Guards went further, threatening restrictions on the digital online media that many Iranians use to communicate among themselves and to send news of their protests overseas.

And their reporters notebook describes the scene in Esfahan:

For a sense of what may await Iran’s discontented when there is no one around to report on it, consider Monday night in Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city and a five-hour drive from the nearest foreign TV camera.
As in Tehran, large parts of the city — the squares and boulevards — were scenes of smoke and flames, tear gas, stones crashing into windows, bloodied heads.
The uprising seemed more organic than organized — groups of a few dozen merging into groups of a few hundred, converging on lines of helmeted riot police officers, chanting “Death to the dictator!”
But in Isfahan the police response seemed far tougher.
At one point, a white S.U.V. with a red ambulance-style light raced up behind a knot of protesters and smashed into them, running one over before racing a few blocks to the protection of the riot police.
Bands of Basiji, the authorized plainclothes vigilantes riding motorbikes and wielding long truncheons, were let loose by the hundreds to sow fear far afield from the actual unrest. Many wore the green headbands of the opposition — possibly to camouflage, or to confuse.

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