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June 15, 2009

Updates from Iran: liveblogging post-election unrest

10:56 pm: We invite all 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 8am-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. Tuesday is the last day to RSVP!
Our boss, Dr. Trita Parsi, has been everywhere lately, including, on occasion, in the NIAC office. You can find his analysis on the situation on Democracy Now, Diane Rehm, and if the past few days are any guide, he’s probably on CNN right now.
10:00 pm: We translated this earlier, but it got lost in the mix. (We do more than just blog!) Ayatollah Sanei responded to Mousavi’s letter by saying the following:

“I was hoping that your election, with your experience and devotion to and blessings of Imam [Khomeini] and his loyal friends, would please the people of Iran. Regretfully, this did not happen. Be certain that administration of justice and respect for people’s rights and votes, which are evident in your letter, are only possible through informing all the people.”
Sanei further explained “I am obligated to pray for you and all the men and women of this country and for the continuation of the holy objectives of Imam Khomeini’s Islamic Republic.” Sanei concluded by wishing Mousavi success with the support of the people, universities, and esteemed clergies, as well as in protecting the people’s rights.

9:07: Dennis Ross, the Obama administration’s special adviser on Iran, has been reassigned to the National Security Council “with an expanded portfolio,” according to Time. While we don’t know what those duties will entail, my initial reaction is that this makes sense. Ross has much more experience with the Israel-Palestine issue than with U.S.-Iran.
8:43: The Washington Post reported that the crowds stretched five miles yesterday. One of our sources who lives nearby pulled out a map and did his own calculation: 15 km (9.3 miles)!
7:28 pm: President Obama just made a very important statement about the situation in Iran. (Video and rush transcript below the fold):

Rush Transcript Follows [7:56 pm update]

Obviously, all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be, that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes — the United States can be a handy political football, or discussions with the United States [can be]. Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence I have been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values, and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they are rightfully troubled.
My understanding is that the Iranian government says they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren’t on the ground, we did not have observers there, we did not have international observers on hand, so I can’t state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election. But what I can say is that there appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy who now feel betrayed. And I think it’s important moving forward whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views.
Now with respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran: I have always believed that as odious as I consider some of the statement of Ahmadinejad, as deep as some of the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy, diplomacy with no illusions, about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, making sure that Iran’s not exporting terrorist activity. Those are core interests not just to the United States but to a peaceful world in general. We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we’ll see where it takes us.
But even as we do so, I think it would be wrong for me to stay silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days. And what I would say to the people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and is inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was. And they should know the world is watching, and particularly to the youth of Iran, I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected.

5:57 pm: More irresponsible saber-rattling from members of Congress…
California Republican Dana Rohrabacher says on his twitter feed:

The fraudulent Iranian election has mobilized opposition to the Mullah regime; the U.S. should back them, now’s the time for a regime change

Rohrabacher has the honor and distinction of representing one of the highest concentrations of NIAC members in any district in the country, yet his comments are absolutely contrary to the overwhelming opinion that we have been hearing from Iranian Americans.
Which reminds me: have you contacted your lawmakers yet? They need to hear from you to know what they should be doing with all this.
5:26 pm: Video of Basij firing into the crowds, which led to the attack on the Basij base mentioned below. [Warning: This video contains graphic images.]
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5:13 pm: A source from the Washington Times is reporting that foreign press has been “kindly asked” to leave Iran. No word yet on what will happen if they (politely) refuse.
5:12 pm: From a relative in Iran:

1- Basij opened fire to the crowd. First blood is shed. Things are going to be more violent from tomorrow.
2- Jenati, head of Guardian Council appeared on IRIB channel 2 tonight 10.30 pm local time, and announced that he received a letter from supreme leader to investigate the election process … HE ADDED ALTHOUGH HE DOESN’T SEE A MAJOR FRAUD in the reports… he will obey the leader and will send HIM (not media) a full report within next 10 days!!!
In my opinion , this is only a game to buy 10 more days to suppress the riots. I think, if the politicians knew that Jenati is one of the main supporters of A.N and supposed to be a member of central team of the coup, then nobody hopes that this player will judge fair.

In addition, the Guardian Council’s spokesperson said on a news show tonight that Mousavi’s letter of protest is too general, and if the Guardian Council does not find fraud in the election process, then based on section 3, article 80 of the election law, Mousavi could be sentenced to 3 years in jail for “Efteraa” (libel).
Amazing. Even before the investigation begins, the threats are already starting.
5:02 pm: There have been shootings in the street. There are photos here, which I am not going to post here because they are very graphic.
4:58 pm: Larijani sets up a committee to investigate violence in parts of the country

According to Hamshahri and other news sources, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Majlis (parliament) of Iran, has assigned a committee to investigate the recent violent events around the country including last night’s events at the University of Tehran dorms. The committee will work under the supervision of Hojatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Hasan Abutorabi. Larijani said:

“after unprecedented participation of the Iranian nation in the 22 Khordad elections, now that that our great people are celebrating, news of unfortunate events in some areas including the University dorms are arriving and there are those who intend to create propaganda news for foreign media.”

Larijani asked the committee to give him a non-biased report as soon as possible. “Our most important responsibility today is to create peace and avoid conflict.”
4:53 pm: Obama to speak about the situation in Iran in 7 minutes.
3:57 pm: The estimate we had of 100,000-200,000 seems like it was too small…
Also, here is a photo showing what we said earlier about the police standing by during the massive rally:
3:31 pm: A new source for all-Iran news, Kodoom.
A new website launched today–http://www.kodoom.com, the first sorting service for all Iran-related news. According to the press release:

The service uses advanced robots and algorithms to constantly monitor hundreds of major news agencies in Persian (Farsi) and English, to sort and list Hot news by category. The service is similar to what Yahoo and Google offer mostly for American and European news.

3:14 pm: More information on the demonstration scheduled for this evening, via email:

RALLY TODAY, Monday, 15-Jun, AT 6PM IN WASHINGTON D.C. TO BE HELD BY LOCAL IRANIAN AMERICANS Demand of a new election – massive fraud reported in the elections in the past 24 hours.
Sara Sarkhili 617.901.9445
Babak Talebi 202.340.0408
DC-area Iranian Americans will be rallying on Monday, June 15 at 6:00pm in front of the Iranian Interest Section at 2209 Wisconsin Ave NW in protest of the recent outcome of the Iranian elections claiming an Ahmadinejad victory. This event follows two previous rallys and a march that took place over the weekend attracting 600+ people.
The expected crowd of several hundred will be standing in solidarity with Iranians around the world in demand for the real vote of the people be counted. Iranian Americans reject the ‘official’ count being reported by the Iranian interior ministry and demand a full investigation of the election fraud as well as demanding a new election be held.
We ask that mainstream U.S. news outlets refrain from recognizing the ‘official’ results and stand with the Iranian people in demanding accurate results. Iranians have been protesting the results with massive demonstrations throughout the country which have been cracked down violently by the riot police. Various forms of communication are being restricted including mobile phones, internet, websites, social groups like facebook, and youtube which have been an important means of communication in the current situation. We ask that the voice of Iranians living here in the US be heard and reflected by the mainstream US media.

In addition, the US cities of Houston, Tulsa, Minneapolis, Champaign, Illinois, Amherst, Costa Mesa, and Raleigh have also scheduled rallies over the next few days against the Iranian elections. A former NIAC intern also informed us of a rally in Chicago Tuesday June 16th at 4:30 in the Daley Center. World-wide protests will be held in Melbourne, Berlin, Auckland, Edinburgh, and Geneva.
3:04 pm: A news flash from Reuters has just come over the wire (h/t Guardian):
2:45 pm: Basij base attacked
“Reliable news from Iran has arrived that after the death of one person by Basij, the Basij base in Azadi Sq. has been burned down and the commander in that base has been killed.” [The fire is being confirmed by an eye-witness.]
2:42 pm: Lots of photos from this weekend’s events could be called iconic, with many poignant depictions like this one of Iranian society as it wrestles with the possibility of radical change. Some have been particularly moving because of the compassion that normal Iranians have shown each other, including protesters helping police and vice versa, all the while surrounded by chaos.
Many bloggers have criticized the mainstream media’s coverage of this weekend’s events, and I have been no exception. But in all sincerity, our hats are off to the brave journalists, photographers, and others on the ground in Iran helping to get information out to the rest of the world. Thank you.
1:56 pm: New statement issued by Mousavi, translated from http://mowj.ir/ShowNews.php?7230:

“I have submitted my request for canceling the elections to the Guardian Council.”

“I am certain recent reactions are not for me, but it is out of concern for the new political order that is being imposed on our country.”

He added that people are extremely worried because they believe the achievements of the revolution are in danger. Mousavi plans to continue his political activities within the framework of the law. Addressing the people, Mousavi said “today I requested the cancelation of the election results to the Guardian Council and I believe this is the only way we can recapture public’s confidence and their support of the government.”
1:37 pm: A Iranian American in Portland sent the following to an Iran-focused listserv:

The person who is updating the Mousavi’s Facebook has this to say about the slogans that they are promoting for night rooftop protests:
1- “allah-o-akbar” God is Great
2- “la-allah-a-ela-allah” There is no God but God
Mousavi asks that only these two slogans be used; The first slogan is to signify that God is the ultimate authority, and NO one is at its level. The second slogan signifies that there is only ONE God and no one else is God. Both slogans at this situation challenge the self claimed authority of Khamenei as the leader of the Islamic Republic. He goes on to say that a coup is in process that wants to define the parameters of the conflict and escalate the confrontation. It is our duty to limit the confrontation so that we do not give them the excuse; these slogans are not questionable by any measure.

1:34 pm: From Mousavi’s Facebook page:
Following Mousavi’s meeting with the Supreme Leader this morning, this poster appeared on Mousavi’s official facebook page. On it is written: “peace be upon the 3 sacred and spiritual seyeds: Khomaini, Khamenei and Mousavi”
The page also mentions the meeting that Mousavi and the supreme leader had. It states that, the supreme leader will look into the election, however he would like Mousavi to remind his supporters to return back to their residences and not to undermine the state security.
1:06 pm: Election protests spread to cities around the globe
The recent fiery demonstrations regarding the disputed Iranian elections have spread to cities all over the world. Iranians have taken a stand, and posed the question, “Where is my vote?”
Yesterday, rallies were held across the country, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and DC. In addition, rallies were held in countries throughout the globe in England, Sweden, Canada, and France.
Although Iranians have come together to protest the Iranian elections, their opinions are far from unified. While some people support Mir Houssein Moussavi, others clearly desire a complete regime change in Iran. The most important thing for Iranians to agree on now is the safety of the people in Iran, and the urgent need for their human rights and right to peacefully voice their concerns.
More information on demonstrations in your city can be found on facebook for upcoming events, like for those in Sweden, Montreal, and Washington DC.
Also, more info available at www.whereismyvote.org
1:01 pm: Ultra-conservative websites Kayhan and Rajanews have been taken down by attacks. Kayhan is a newspaper very closely affiliated with the Supreme Leader. The two sites had previously been the main supporters of Ahmadinejad. The online warfare (which we have *luckily* been spared up to this point) is a very interesting aspect of the ongoing conflict.
12:48 pm: More on today’s rally from eyewitnesses we trust:
The rally was scheduled to be from 4-6 pm, going from Englab Sq. to Azadi Sq. The Ministry of Interior did not provide a permit for the rally according to our source, and the first 3,000-4,000 people were met by armed forces in full riot gear and a number of Basij officials in street attire. By 4 pm, there were 100,000-200,000 people ready to attend the rally, and Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami, Khatami’s brother, and Karbassji (former mayor of Tehran and affiliate of Rafsanjani) all showed up.
The armed forces did not engage the crowd and the crowd started to chant “arm forces, support support” i.e “nuroyeh entzammy: hemayat hemayat”. According to the source, there will be a rally tomorrow for Mousvi tomorrow at 5 pm in Vali Asr Sq. and there will be a national strike by all of Mousavi’s supporters.
He says Mousavi’s supporters are outraged by Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric towards them, calling them a “bunch of yahoos and no-gooders, whose aims is to disrupt the nation and its security”
12:38 pm: Translations from: http://twitter.com/sasan_j

“Dr. Jebhe Dar Maralani, the president of Tehran University’s College of Electronics resigned in protest to last night’s killing of five students.” [Unconfirmed]
“From Ahvaz: Around Ahavaz bridge the sounds of gunshots can be heard. People have gathered in Naderi street. Cell phones have been disconnected in this city.”

12:34 pm: Reports from the rally in Tehran:
Reports on the turnout in Tehran have varied widely on the turnout. We just got an estimate of 100,000-200,000 from someone on the scene. They report the IRGC backed off for the rally.
The crowd chanted “Mousavi get our vote back!” and “Armed forces, support, support (us)!”
A source tells us that least one state run media channel has shown pictures of the protests and announced that Mousavi would be at the rally, which indicates that some in the media are refusing marching orders.
That source believes the mentality changing — that people aren’t rallying because they are angry anymore, but because they believe they can have an impact.
12:10 pm: Upcoming Rallies by the Iranian Diaspora:
Washington D.C.-
Monday, June 156pm at the Iran Interest Section on Wisconsin Ave.
2209 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
London –
Monday, June 15
2pm to 10pm, Iranian Embassy
Oklahoma City-
Tuesday, June 16
6 pm at the State Capitol
12:04 pm: This is a bulletin board at the Science and Polytechnic University where pictures of professors and science faculty are posted. Students pulled down the picture of Ahmadinejad.
IUST picture2
The note says: “Notice – the picture of coup d’état president was posted in this place. Death to dictator whether it is Shah or the Doctor.”
11:23 am: Mousavi appears
11:12 am: A few more translations from: http://twitter.com/iranbaan

“Roaring wave of people, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are all together.”

“Members of the Nehzat Azadi (The Freedom Movement of Iran) have been arrested in Tabriz.”

“These people haven’t been brought here with buses, haven’t been given travel checks or potatoes either. They have come to protest the coup d’état.”

11:05 am: Just now, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported that university exams are to follow as usual. The schedule will be the same and students are required to participate in a peaceful manner.
The University of Tehran web site sent out a bulletin indicating that the destruction caused on campus was by a group of individuals whose intentions are to disrupt Iran’s security and peace. The dean of the university has expressed his appreciation for the cooperation of the students and indicated that the security officials on campus are there only for the protection of the students.
Meanwhile IRINN (Islamic Republic of Iran News) stated that the leaders of the Friday prayers from every province have expressed their appreciation from the Iranian public for a historic election while most of them have condoned the protests as unIslamic and threatening to the fabric of the society.
10:59 am: More Farsi Tweets:
Translations from: http://twitter.com/iranbaan

“People were holding signs saying: We are not sheep.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating from Engelab to Azadi. The number of people is constantly increasing as more people join to protest against the coup d’état.”

“Mir Hossein and Khatami gave a speech among people.”

“The Ministry of Science announced the exams have not been cancelled but Sharif and Esfehan Polytechnic Universities have officially announced that the exams have been postponed.”

“The Guardian Council has asked in a statement asking the candidates to formally submit their complains as soon as possible.”

Translations from: https://twitter.com/gkarbaschi

“Today accompany Mr. Mousavi and Karroubi in peaceful and nonviolent demonstration at 4pm.”

Translations from: http://twitter.com/parastoo

“Zealous Iranian, support, support – People are chanting this in our street. I’m going to the balcony to chant.”

Translations from: http://twitter.com/alirezasha

“I just talked to my cousin in Azadi Sq., there are more than three million people there.”

10:52 am: Video: Iranians defy protest ban
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10:26 am: From one of our NIAC interns:

Yesterday I received a call from one of my relatives who lives very close to Vali Asr Square in Tehran. She indicated that there is a large black cloud of smoke drifting over the city, and that she has heard a number of gun shots. Across the street from her house is a mosque that is also a strong basij base. She indicated that she could see basij officials running in and out of the mosque with assault rifles, Kalashnikovs, using the mosque as a barracks. She has also seen some of the captured activists been taken to the mosque.

10:15 am: A note from Ata’ollah Mohajerani, Khatami’s first Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, posted on Mousavi’s website:

The End of the Islamic Republic, the Beginning of the Islamic Government
A friend called who with a shaking voice asked me for an explanation on what is happening in Iran, in our country.
I said, the Supreme Leader has decided to replace the Islamic Republic with an Islamic government and that we all have to participate in this “great celebration” and be “deeply happy…”
These young people who are being beaten in the streets of Tehran and other provinces, whose faces look stunned, Mr. Mousavi and fighting clergies who issue statements, think it is possible to protect the Republic and the people’s votes. It is very clear to me that 22 Khordad 1388, four months after the revolution turned 30, the time of Republic has come to an end in our country. Ahmadinejad, with confirmation of the Supreme Leader, has obtained the necessary votes and won. Congratulations on this victory…Although no celebration happens without victims and the bigger the celebration, the larger the number of casualties…
22 Bahman was the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and 22 Khordad is the beginning of the Islamic Government.
My friend started crying louder; bitterly crying.

Some of the readers’ comments:

Tell me what I can do besides crying? I will do anything. When my brother and sister are being beaten…we are tired.

This was a beautiful analysis but I don’t want to just cry even though my heart is filled with the pain of injustice. But I believe that it is the drops that become an ocean. Mr. Mohajerani, is there no one who can lead these drops to the sea?

Death to Ahmadinejad and his supporters who deceive the people like this.

This was bitter but it is true.

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