June 20, 2009

The latest from Iran – Saturday

9:27 pm: We’ve posted a drastically improved translation of Mousavi’s statement. See the 6:34 pm update. A million thanks to Ali S.
8:28 pm: NIAC Calls for New Election in Iran
Condemns Government’s Use of Violence and Killing of its Citizens
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest organization of Iranian-Americans in the US, released the following statement in response to ongoing violence in Iran:
The National Iranian American Council strongly condemns the government of Iran’s escalating violence against demonstrators and reiterates its demand that the government cease using lethal force against unarmed protesters and bystanders.
The only plausible way to end the violence is for new elections to be held with independent monitors ensuring its fairness. Such elections would be consistent with the Iranian constitution.
We support President Obama’s decision not to take sides in the disputed election, particularly in the absence of any candidate calling upon him to do so. At the same time, the White House needs to speak vociferously against the bloodshed taking place before our eyes.
While the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy is not new, Iran will never find internal or external balance unless the human rights, will, and needs of its people are met.”
Trita Parsi, president of NIAC, said: “If action is not taken now, the violence will consume everyone.”
Dokhi Fassihian, a member of the NIAC board, added: “The Iranian-American community and all Iranians in the diaspora are shocked and devastated by the brutality that has been committed against the Iranian people in the past week. Images being sent out of the country clearly indicate the severity of the situation and demand the world’s attention.”
8:04 pm: Mehr News reports [Persian] that the Assembly of Experts announced their full support for Khamenei’s Friday address
Huge news. The Assembly of Experts is the organization that has responsibility of electing and supervising the Supreme Leader.

7:30 pm: Basij taking detained to mosque/headquarters: A close friend of ours just got a call from his grandmother in Tehran.


My grandmother just called me; it’s about 3:40 AM in Tehran. My grandparents live across the street from a Mosque that is also a Basij base. Last week on Saturday she told me that she saw Basijis gathering riot gear and assault rifles from the mosque. According to her, about an hour ago she saw basij vehicles transporting arrested individuals to the mosque. She has been watching from the window and so far, no one has left the building yet.
This mosque/basij base was used in the 1999 student uprising as makeshift jail, and it was rumored that many student were tortured there. My friend Samir had his arm broken at this mosque by Basij officials in 1999 when he was a freshman at the university and wrote political poems for the school’s newspaper. Samir was my neighbor back in the day and was known by many as a political activist. This led to the brutality that was used on him.
The mosque is located off of Vali Asr Sq. in Shahid Saeed Kabkanian St. I took a pic of the mosque when I was in Tehran last summer. In the bottom right corner of the picture you can see the basij insignia.

6:34 pm: Mousavi’s Statement (Much improved, updated translation – Courtesy the amazing Ali S.)

A reference point of history is being shaped these days and nights. People ask themselves what they should do or where they should go. I believe that it is my duty to tell you about my beliefs—tell you, and hear from you, and learn. May we all remember our historic duty, and not run from the tasks upon which the fate of our children and future rests.
Thirty years ago, a revolution was victorious in our country—a revolution in the name of Islam. It was a revolution for freedom, for humanity, for honesty and dignity. During these years—especially when Imam [Khomeini] was alive—we expended so many human resources, finances and hard work to establish this holy structure. And we gained so much—a spiritual life which we had never had before. And people tasted a new way of life which, regardless of all hardships, tasted sweet to them. What people gained was God’s grace, freedom, and the signs of a holy life. I am certain that those who have seen those days will never be satisfied with anything less.
What has happened to us these days? Why do we no longer feel that spiritual happiness? Are we missing something, which keeps us away from that spiritual space? I came to say that it is not too late, and that we are not that far from that brilliant place. I came to show that we still can have a spiritual life in today’s world. I came to speak about Imam [Khomeini’s] beliefs about radicalism. I came to say how dangerous it is to run from lawfulness to dictatorship. I came to remind people that respecting human rights does not weaken our regime, but rather strengthens its foundations. I came to say that people seek dignity and truth in their leaders, and that many of our problems are am result of lies. I came to say that we do not deserve poverty, corruption and mismanagement. I came to invite people to join the Islamic revolution in its honorable, original form, and to re-shape it into to what it must be
Although I have failed in conveying this message eloquently, the noble message of the Revolution was itself so appealing that our young generation—which is far removed from those revolutionary days, and has felt unconnected to its heritage—accepted it and created scenes reminiscent of the early days of the revolution and the Holy Defense [against Saddam’s invasion of Iran]
This young generation chose green as their symbol. And I confess that I only follow them in this way. A generation accused of nihilism has chosen “Allah o Akbar” and “ya Hussein” as their slogans. They return back to Khomeini’s name to show that this holy tree’s fruits are the same any time it blossoms. Nobody but Nature has taught them these slogans. How unjust are the beliefs of those little men who say that these are the work of foreign enemies, and call it a “velvet revolution”
As you know, we have always been faced with betrayal and lies in this way. What I predicted to be the result of by-passing the law has came to us sooner than I expected, and in a more obvious shape than I thought. The people’s overwhelming participation in the elections were because of all the efforts we had made to give them hope for the future despite all the mismanagement they saw and all the misery they felt. We tried to answer those demands which, if remained unsatisfied, may bring instability to the entire regime. If the people’s trust in us and their votes cannot be defended, or they cannot defend their rights in a civilized non-violent way, they will choose dangerous ways to do so. And all the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of those who do not allow civilized behavior.
If the immensity of betrayal and fraud is used as evidence to show that it could not have actually occurred, the republic part of our regime will be corrupted forever, and will prove the argument that Islam and republican government are incompatible. This fate will satisfy only two groups: 1) those who stood from the very beginning in front of Imam [Khomeini] and told him that the Islamic regime is a righteous dictatorship and that the people must be dragged into paradise; and 2) those who believe that Islam cannot be mixed with liberty and republican governance. The great art of the Imam was to defy both of these groups, and neutralize their incorrect beliefs. I came to immobilize these groups once more
Now, the leaders of the country hold the authority to approve the results of the election, and limit all future investigations, and have banned cancelling the election or even changing the final outcome. This is even after they have seen that, in more than 170 poll boxes, the number of ballots exceeded the number of eligible residents. They asked us to bring our complaints to the Guardian Council. But we can see that this council has proven its biased position before, during, and after the election. We know that the very first requirement for good judgment is having a neutral judge.
I insist that nullifying the election—and recasting votes—is a non-negotiable right, and must be monitored by a neutral, trustworthy national committee. This right must not be declared out of the question, as the right to protest must not be banned due to the risk of violence and bloody events.
In addition, instead of threatening us and putting the blame on our shoulders, the National Security Council must give us reasonable answers regarding the plain clothes forces who have been attacking the people and public assets, and creating the violence.

<Ali was unable to finish, so the remaining three paragraphs come from this translation.>

As I am looking at the scene, I see it set for advancing a new political agenda that spreads beyond the objective of installing an unwanted government. As a companion who has seen the beauties of your green wave, I will never allow any one’s life endangered because of my actions. At the same time, I remain undeterred on my demand for annulling the election and demanding people’s rights. Despite my limited abilities, I believe that your motivation and creativity can pursue your legitimate demands in new civil manners. Be sure that I will always stand with you. What this brother of yours recommends, especially to the dear youth, in terms of finding new solutions is to not allow liars and cheater steal your flag of defense of Islamic state, and foreigners rip the treasures of the Islamic republic which are your inheritance of the blood of your decent fathers. By trust in God, and hope for the future, and leaning on the strength of social movements, claim your rights in the frameworks of the existing constitution, based on principle of non-violence.
In this, we are not confronting the Basij. Basiji is our brother. In this we are not confronting the revolutionary guard. The guard is the keeper of our revolution. We are not confronting the army, the army is the keeper of our borders. These organs are the keepers of our independence, freedom and our Islamic republic. We are confronting deception and lies, we want to reform them, a reform by return to the pure principles of revolution
We advise the authorities, to calm down the streets. Based on article 27 of the constitution, not only provide space for peaceful protest, but also encourage such gatherings. The state TV should stop badmouthing and taking sides. Before voices turn into shouting, let them be heard in reasonable debates. Let the press criticize, and write the news as they happen. In one word, create a free space for people to express their agreements and disagreements. Let those who want, say “takbeer” and don’t consider it opposition. It is clear that in this case, there won’t be a need for security forces on the streets, and we won’t have to face pictures and hear news that break the heart of anyone who loves the country and the revolution.
Your brother and companion
Mir Hossein Mousavi

5:53 pm: New Images from today’s demonstrations

Rally-1 (20-06-09)

There have been reports saying some extra component is being added to the water guns to create a burning sensation.

Rally-4 (20-06-09)

The basij apparently have been issued red helmets.

5:42 pm: A member passed on this video, which shows demonstrators, some carrying stones, walking almost aimlessly through the streets, until it is punctuated by one of the day’s fatalities. [Contains disturbing images.]
4:46 pm: Where is Rafsanjani?
According to an online reformist news source Rooyeh,[Farsi] Rafsanjani has been in Qom meeting some members of Council of Experts and a representative of Ayatollah Sistani.

According to the source that asked to remain anonymous, during this meeting they recounted memories of the days of the Revolution.
A reasonable purpose of these meetings, according to the source, is that Rafsanjani is looking for a majority to possibly call for Ahmadinejad’s resignation.

4:27 pm: Moussavi’s open letter to the people of Iran. Released tonight at 9:21pm. It states that he stands with the people to protect the original aims of the revolution to reach human rights and democracy. He states that what they got instead was fraud, injustice, torture and lies. He states why he will not stand down and why all the security forces of Iran are brothers and sisters that should support the nation. He says the body charged with investigating the elections is not a neutral body. He calls on authorities to pull the security forces and Basij out of the streets and allow the people’s voices to be heard peacefully. The full letter in Farsi can be found here. The English version can be found here.
4:13 pm: According to Moussavi’s Facebook page, the police are pouring acid on the demonstrators.
3:59 pm: (Updated) Washington DC- The most diverse and largest crowd of Iranian Americans came out to show their solidarity for the Iranian people. Old and young generations of Iranian Americans joined forces to stand up against the violence in Iran. The approximately 1500 people that started at the Iranian Interest Section walked to the White House echoing the chanting “Where is my vote?” and “Stop the killing! Stop the Coup! Free Iran! Free Iran!” Everyone was instructed not to bring flags as to keep people from promoting their own political agendas.
However, before the mass of protesters reached the White House, there was already a group of 12 people from the MKO, whose flags outnumbered them and were chanting, “Death to the Islamic Republic.” However, they were quickly silenced and left the scene when the overwhelming larger group arrived.
Similar protests have been happening all around the US. Check Facebook to find one near you.
2:53 pm: The White House has just issued a statement on Iran:


Office of the Press Secretary

June 20, 2009
Statement from the President on Iran
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

2:45 pm: From a contact in Tehran who called and was very shaken up.

“I was out from 4-10pm. Military and Basijis were everywhere. They wouldn’t let anyone go though. Every time there was a group of us, they would shoot us with water guns and disperse all of us. They wouldn’t let us in to where we were supposed to protest.
They had paintball guns which they shot into the crowd and would arrest whoever had a paint mark on them. There was also tear gas everywhere, they would throw it at us and we would throw it back. But it was very dangerous because they all had guns.
I saw a body being carried away. People are afraid to go to the hospital to get treatment for fear of punishment.
Security and police have been confiscating cameras and arresting those who are taking footage. I saw this young guy taking a video and 5 people attacked him and throughout it all he help his hand up with a peace sign- then they arrested him. They have also handcuffed students to the Tehran University fence.
We talk to some normal police and patrolling cops- they are nice and are trying to help people. But it is the Basij and anti-riot [police] that are ruthless. They have been brought in from out of town. There are also many undercover cops.
Also, we don’t watch state media because it takes our hope away. I’m going to go back out, but my cell phone doesn’t work and I don’t know how I will find people.”

2:29 pm: While people chant through the night in Tehran, there is a debate going on in Washington that leads the NY Times to Gauge Whether Obama Is Creating Openings in Iran:

During the Bush years, Iran’s regime was able to coalesce support by uniting the country against a common enemy: President Bush, who called Iran a pillar of the “axis of evil” in a speech that alienated many of the very reformers whom the United States was trying to woo. For much of his administration, even as he strengthened Iran by toppling Iran’s nemesis Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush struck a confrontational public line against the Iranian regime.
The result, according to many experts here and in Iran, was that Iranians, including reformers, swallowed their criticism of the hard-line regime and united against the common enemy. Iranians with reformist sympathies even began advising Americans to stop openly supporting them, lest that open them to attack as pawns of America.

2:11 pm:

The sounds of “Allah o Akbar” has just started, and is louder tonight than the nights before. And tonight, alongside their Allah o Akbar, people are chanting “Mahmoud [Ahmadinejad] is committing crimes and the Supreme Leader is supporting him! – from Iranbaan [translated]

She also says people are shouting “ya [hail] hossein” again. In addition to referencing Mir Hossein Mousavi, the chants carry a greater meaning. “Ya Hossein” is chanted in order to bring attention to injustice by Shias. It refers to the third Shia Imam, Imam Hossein, who is the iconic tragic figure of the Shia religion.
1:54 pm: An email from a reader:

Apparently the supreme leader of Iran is into shareware, doesn’t want to spend money on the full version of the web portal he is using to remove the “Trial Version” logo right on front the front page. Check it out: http://english.khamenei.ir
I thought we could all use a smile an grim day like today. It makes for a very funny image given that Khamenei could never fill Khomeini’s shoes.

1:42 pm: Getty has published photos from today here, including a number of photos of two leading MEK figures, Maryam Rajavi and former president Bani-Sadr. The two leaders, who are strong advocates for an invasion and regime change in Iran, are now speaking out in support of Mousavi in an apparent bit of political opportunism, taking advantage of Mousavi’s huge popularity.
1:35 pm: There is a high quality video showing major violence at Shiraz University. At one point the camera man yells at security forces and pleads with them not to beat an old lady but they do so anyways. The video shows people calling security forces traitors, mercenaries, and other insults
1:28 pm: More news from iranbaan:

Channel 2 of Iran State TV is showing some “confessions” of students who have been arrested. One of the arrested students has said on state TV that he had been in contact with an MEK [Mujahadin-e Khalq] member in England, who ordered them to start unrest.
Due to today’s unrest in Tehran and other cities, Mousavi has decided not to publish today his address to the Iranian public.

1:22 pm: More video from facebook of street demonstrations from today. Our translation of what the crowd is chanting:

“I welcome death
I welcome death
But not subjugation
But not subjugation”

We were not seeing things like this a few days ago.
1:18 pm: Very gruesome video of a girl shot by Basij in Tehran today. Translation from Facebook:

Basij shot to death a young woman in Tehran’s Saturday June 20th protests At 19:05 June 20th Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me. Please let the world know.

12:52 pm: Iranian Americans who attended the demonstration this morning in DC are reporting that, out of fear of being harassed when they go back to Iran, Iranian Americans have started changing their names on their social networking pages.
12:43 pm: Iranian state media reportedly lying about what Obama is saying:
This morning a friend of NIAC who gets Iranian Satellite TV here said that state-run media showed President Obama speaking about Iran this morning. However, instead of translating what he actually said, the translator reportedly quoted Obama as saying he “supports the protesters against the government and they should keep protesting.
Assuming this report is correct, it shows the Iranian government is eager to portray Obama as a partisan supporting the demonstrators.
12:29 pm: Iranbaan:

In Shiraz, at Daneshjoo Square, there is great unrest.

Mirhossein said amongst the people: We have learned from our fathers that the blood of the innocent shall fall upon the guilty.

12:20 pm: Via Huffington

Reports: Embassies accepting injured Iranians. Several reports on Twitter report that the Australian, British, and Dutch embassies are taking in Iranians injured during today’s violence.

12:17 pm: Iranbaan: (Translated by Ali S.) Mousavi, speaking among the people, has just announced that he has performed the ceremonial washing (ablutions) in preparation for martyrdom
موسوی دقایقی پیش در میان مردم اعلام کرد: من غسل شهادت کرده ا
Motorcycle riders are chasing protesters from alley to alley and are severely beating them.
11:37 am: Iranbaan: Mousavi is speaking among the people now at the beginning of Jeyhoon Street.
فوری: میرحسین موسوی در میان مردم و در ابتدای خیابان جیحون در حال سخنرانی است
11:21 am: People Chanting “Marg Bar Khameini” (“Death to Khameini”)
Translation by Nikta:
[Policemen retreating from the crowds. Cameraman repeats what the people in the streets are yelling: “Marg bar Khameini”]
“The cops ran into the garage.” Laughter.
“Who are they cursing? Marg bar Khameni? Wow, the people.”
“The wave of trash are now coming.”
“Looks like they have [indiscernible]
(It can be assumed that the people taking the video do not view the demonstrators highly.)
11:20 am: A reader comment:

“The garden of Love is GREEN without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow and joy.” — Jelaluddin Rumi

11:19 am: If this is true, and it corresponds to other things we have heard since Khamenei’s sermon, we are entering a very different phase. Iranbaan says (translations by Ali S. and Sanaz):

“Worrisome news is coming from Shiraz, Tabriz and Esfehan.”
In response to the violence of the security forces, people are now beginning to shout “Death to Khamenei”
Another twitter, Iranelection, says the demonstration “has turned into scattered street fights parallel to Enghelab-Azadi Sq”

10:49 am: Incredible video from BBC Persian showing violence in the streets and shootings from the rooftops today. Readers who know Persian/Farsi can watch BBC streaming live here.
10:49 am: More from Twitter (Translated by Ali S.):

Commander Radan [Tehran police chief] is on the news threatening activists and news reporters.
Press TV just announced that Mousavi and Karroubi will be held accountable for any casualties today #iranelection
Most of the people in the streets are carrying Qurans
The protests have turned very violent in the streets from Enghelab to Azadi, and has been extended to Setar Khan area. It has been rumored that one person has been killed
“I, in the name of a reporter am saying that the bomb at Imam Khomeini shrine was not the work of a terrorist but the work of the regime itself.”
“This type of activity [regime bombing shrines] has a long precedent. A while back, a bomb exploded at the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad and some people were killed. They caught someone and made him confess on television. But later it became clear that the bombing had been the work of the Intelligence Ministry. And now they’re doing the same thing in order to give an excuse to crush the people.”
“People are throwing stones at the anti-riot police and plain clothes militia”
“Because of the harsh treatment by the plain clothes militia and security forces, protesters are shouting harsher slogans”

10:14 am: Video from Azadi Square today
9:54 am: Al Jazeera:

Iranian police have reportedly used tear gas and water cannon against thousands of people gathering to protest against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president.
Al Jazeera’s Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran, said there were reports that riot police had been deployed to every major square in Tehran.
We hear that in some of the main squares in northern Tehran, the riot police and plainclothes forces outnumber the people – let alone the Revolution Square, which was supposed to be the main point where apparently the protesters were going to begin their protest,” he said.
“They have started to impose their presence on the crowd, then they’re going to start to restrict the presence of the people by pressing them back.
“Now it is tear gas, I’m sure it won’t take them very long to start using other kinds of ammunition.”

9:51 am: Still more from twitter:

Appears plain clothes police in Vanak Square are mostly 15-16 year olds.

9:50 am: More from Iranbaan:

Arabiya TV quoted Fars news agency announced the shrine of Imam Khomeini in Tehran is exploded
the blast in khomeini’s grave was the work of a shoe-bomber.

This report should be viewed with some skepticism. It could be a pretext for the use of force against demonstrators.

9:25 am More from Iranbaan
Translated courtesy of Ali:
at Enghelab, they plan on using tear gas and water hoses and batons to stop the protesters
police and plain clothed militia are blocking the first wave of the protesters
the arrests by plain clothes militia and anti-riot police has begun at enghelab

پلیس و لباس شخصی ها جلوی تشکیل هسته اولیه تظاهرات را گرفته اند و مردم را محاصره کرده ان
خیابانهای اطراف کاملا مسدود شده و نیروهای انتظامی به مردم اجازه نمی دهند به تجمع کنندگان بپیوندند
از هم اکنون بازداشت های گشترده در انقلاب شروع شده و بسیاری از مردم توسط لباس شخصی ها و گارد ضد شورش بازداشت شده اند

9:11am More from Iranbaan:

Intense clash in Enghelab
iranian tv reports mousavi and karoubi announce today’s march has been canceled. this is a downright lie.
The rally of Silente continues today in Iran. Some witnesses are reporting gunshot in Azadi St.
Mohsen safaei Farahani, another reformist top-figure, arrested
Mobiles in the Enghelab area have been cut off
enghelab sq and the streets are filled with police and plain clothes with batons in hands #iranelection

9:00 am Reuters: Riot Police Blocking off Protests Site

Iranian riot police were deployed in full force in central Tehran on Saturday, blocking off an area where supporters of defeated election candidates had planned a protest rally around 4 p.m (1130 GMT), a witness said.
The witness, who declined to be named, said riot police were preventing people approaching a main street near Tehran University, where demonstrators had planned to gather.


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