Iran Election Guide

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Entries in The Huffington Post (2)


The Latest from Iran (26 April): Points of View

2030 GMT: Economy Watch. Mohammad Nabi-Habibi, the Secretary General of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party, has said that the government has not had any major achievement in the privatization process: “Over the recent years, some works have been done to privatize the state-run organizations and strengthen the private sector, but the steps have not yielded any notable result so far."

NEW Iran Document: Mehdi Karroubi “We Will Make The Nation Victorious”
NEW Iran: The Mousavi 4-Point Message "Who Defends the Islamic Republic?"
NEW Iran Exclusive: A Birthday Message to Detained Journalist Baghi from His Daughter
Iran Special: Tehran, Defender of Women’s Rights (P.S. Don’t Mention Boobquake
Iran: The Green Movement and the Labour Movement (Assadi)
Iran: Hyping the Threat from Tehran (Walt)
The Latest from Iran (25 April): Build-Up

2025 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Sama Nourani of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters has reportedly been released on bail.

2015 GMT: Our colleague Josh Shahryar has a new opinion piece at The Huffington Post, "Iranian Diaspora Needs to Act": "What the Green Movement urgently needs from the Iranian Diaspora, especially in the United States, is to come together and form a strong voice of political support for the cause of Iran's democratization - if not outright liberalization."

1525 GMT: Ahmadinejad "Look Over There!" Speaking to Iran's police officers, the President today denounced "satanic tools" of oppression.

This may have initially shocked his audience, but eventually it became clear that Ahmadinejad was not referring to them. Instead, his target was nuclear weapons, military invasions, and the veto power granted to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The President continued, "America belittles nations, and questions human values, whereas valuing humanity requires culture. Belittling nations only reaps inflexibility, distance, and malice."

1515 GMT: The Der Spiegel Profile of Karroubi (With a Bonus Surprise). The German magazine's piece on Mehdi Karroubi is now out --- it's more a portrayal than an interview --- and features the cleric's defiance, "The people are just waiting for a spark....I am prepared to accept all consequences."

The surprise,however, is not in the Karroubi material: to be honest, we've heard it before from the resolute opposition figure. Instead, the twist comes in an insert on another Presidential candidate, the "conservative" Mohsen Rezaei:
Does he see himself as an alternative to Ahmadinejad? The corners of Rezaei's mouth turn up in a slight smile: "I will serve my people where I can."

The retired general prefers to avoid critical questions, and seems intent on stirring his tea, as if the sugar could somehow solve his loyalty problems. Like Karroubi, Rezaei refers to "Dr. Ahmadinejad" and avoids using the word president. And like Karroubi the reformer, Rezaei the conservative says: "It can't go on like this."

1450 GMT: Over to You, Dr Rahnavard. And now it's Zahra Rahnavard putting out a declaration. She calls on the Government to free all imprisoned workers and teachers and to hold free and democratic elections.

1445 GMT: We have now posted a full English-translated version of Mehdi Karroubi's statement to former reformist members of Parliament, "We Will Make The Nation Victorious”.

1345 GMT: Karroubi Fights Back. Mehdi Karroubi's website Saham News carries a summary of his latest discussion with former reformist members of Parliament. The cleric, who had to deal with false rumours of his ill health last week, denounced the "new wave of psychological warfare" of the regime. He has promised that, despite this campaign, the opposition's resistance will only increase.
1245 GMT: Photo of the Day. Reformist leader and former Minister of the Interior Mostafa Tajzadeh is surrounded by supporters and well-wishers before his return to prison. Tajzadeh, who was on temporary release, was formally given a six-year sentence last week.

1000 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. The chief executive of the French oil company Total, Christophe de Margerie, said today that it will cease gasoline sales to Iran if the United States passes legislation to penalise fuel suppliers exporting to Tehran.

0925 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz's latest list of detainees has 2560 names. The website estimates that the total arrested since the June election is probably 18,000.

One of those detainees, journalist Mohammad Reza Yazdan-Panah has been indicted for "acting against national security".

0920 GMT: Stop Blogging. Now. RAHANA reports that Google-owned Blogger has been filtered in Iran.

0915 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online posts some troubling figures for the Government, with a 4:1 imbalance between Iran's imports and its exports.

0855 GMT: Is the Government Rattled? There is a notable sharpness today in the attacks on opposition figures by pro-regime newspapers. Kayhan announces that even if former President Mohammad Khatami repents, people will not forgive him for his "sedition".

Resalat asserts that staff from the reformist sites Rah-e-Sabz and Balatarin, with former Minister Ataollah Mohajerani as intermediary, received money from British intelligence officials. The newspaper also "reports" that "the dumb Sheikh [Mehdi Karroubi] met with organisers of fitna [sedition], who proposed to restart this on the election anniversary" but that Mir Hossein Mousavi does not want a call for demonstrations.[

0845 GMT: Interpreting Human Rights. Leading reformist Nasrullah Torabi has drawn a lesson from Iran's withdrawal of its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, with its negative effects on Tehran's standing: the step confirms the news of Iran's human rights violations.

0843 GMT: Larijani Watch. Just because he is manoeuvring against the President does not mean Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has to go easy on the US --- indeed, because he is criticising Ahmadinejad, there is even more cause to take the tough line on Washington. In his latest speech, Larijani declared that "people will stand against the US with their lives". (sorry, misunderstanding, your IRGC has to do that ;-)

0838 GMT: Removing Mousavi. The new Constitution of the private group of Iranian universities, Islamic Azad University, has removed Mir Hossein Mousavi from the Board.

0835 GMT: Thanks for That, Ayatollah Khamenei. In his speech to Iran's police forces on Sunday, the Supreme Leader said that respect for people is necessary.

0830 GMT: Karroubi Watch. And while we're summarising Mir Hossein Mousavi's latest steps, Rah-e-Sabz offers Mehdi Karroubi's interview with Der Spiegel, in which he declared that he would be pursuing a demonstration "to protect our Constitution" on the anniversary of the election, 12 June, and called the Ahmadinejad Government a "disaster" for Iran. We're still waiting for the German version.

0825 GMT: Whipping the NGOs Into Shape. Mohammad Reza Alipour, the Deputy Tehran Police Commander, said on Saturday that the police intend to organize non-governmental organizations in a “centralized” way. Alipour explained, “The police’s concern is that there is insufficient supervision over citizen organization and in some of them there is administrative chaos….There is no oversight for issuing licenses for these organizations.”

0815 GMT: The Chinese Angle. Amidst the tangle of signals of Beijing on sanctions, oil imports from Iran, and trade, Mehr News Agency is upbeat:
Iranian and Chinese finance ministers met in the U.S. on Sunday and underlined plans to enhance economic ties and increase the mutual trade level to $20 billion. The Mehr News Agency reported that on the sidelines of the World Bank summit in Washington, Shamseddin Hosseni met Xie Xuren.

Hosseini pointed to Iran's immediate privatization policy and said that foreign companies, especially Chinese firms, can cooperate in the country's lucrative investment projects such as oil refineries and petrochemical plants.

Most of the cheerleading for the trade boost comes from the Iranian side, with the Chinese representative "expressing his satisfaction with the Iranian official's suggestions and noted that the two countries were in a reconstructing phase of their economies meant to benefit their nations".

So is Beijing really boosting its economic stake in Iran, just throwing up reassuring noises, or keeping all its economic and political options open?
0800 GMT: Interpreting Mousavi. With Mir Hossein Mousavi making a flurry of speeches this week, we've offered a quick analysis of his four key points, "Who Defends the Islamic Republic?"

0500 GMT: No significant shifts on the news front this morning. The Ahmadinejad Government has been relatively quiet. Speaker of Parliament Larijani continues his sniping at the President and his inner circle, but without making a significant move. Opposition figures such as Mousavi and Karroubi, with their statements, are signalling a build-up in activity, but plans have yet to emerge. And on the international front, the discussions on the nuclear front --- notably yesterday's encounter between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano --- still offer more the style of engagement rather than the substance of breakthrough.

A moment, therefore, to look at some points of view. There's an interchange on Press TV on the latest US Government steps on nuclear weapons which offers an opportunity to hear the thoughts of Tehran University students. There's a readers' discussion, sparked by a Tehran Bureau article on "Azeris and the Green Movement", on issues amongst Iran's ethnic groups and the dynamic with the national challenge to the Government. And there's our own readers' dialogue on the legitimacy of the 2009 election and the politics and "justice" beyond it.

And, for a personal point of view, there are the thoughts of Maryam, expressed in a letter to her father, journalist  Emad Baghi, as he celebrated his 48th birthday in Evin Prison on Sunday.

Iran: 4 Ways the US Can Help the Green Movement (Shahryar)

Josh Shahryar writes for The Huffington Post:

Let's face it. On the question of what the U.S. government should do with Iran, the American public is bitterly divided --- less divided than on health care reform, but still very much so. The hawkish side of the spectrum, seeing an enemy in the Islamic regime, advocates a US attack on Iran or at least on its nuclear installations. The dovish side continues to embrace the policy of sympathetic ambiguity; they neither want an attack nor do they have a way of getting the nuclear issue resolved. All the while, the Iranian regime continues to play the West like a fiddle.

The Latest from Iran (3 April): Celebration

It gets interesting, however, when the question of the Green Movement comes up. Both sides generally agree that it is the moral responsibility of the US Government to help it. But while the dovish side expects the US to simply make a few gestures of goodwill, the hawkish side is urging the government to do more than just send Nowruz greetings to the people who are facing detention, torture, and death for demanding their rights.

And with good reason. If the Green Movement succeeds, it will create a democratic nation which would very likely end up being an ally of other democratic nations against dictatorships in the Middle East.

But every time someone speaks up and asks the U.S. to do more than just impose sanctions and to help the Green Movement further, the common criticism is, "Well, what can the US do without interfering in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state?"

Don't be fooled. There are things the US can do to help the Green Movement. Things that would not only help the movement, but at the same time would not be direct interference in the internal affairs of another state. Here's a shortlist of some immediate steps the US can take to help:

*Thousands of Green Movement activists and supporters have crossed the border into Turkey since violence began against them. However, dissidents face a critical situation. Refugees are not permitted to permanently reside in Turkey, but many had hoped for a temporary escape from the regime. These men and women need immediate help in finding a safe haven. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' long arms are probing for them in Turkey, and regime agents easily cross the border as there is no visa requirement between the two countries.

I met a dissident in January. Through sheer luck and help from concerned Americans, he'd made his way to the US through Turkey after languishing there for over six months and living in constant fear of the IRGC. He spoke of horrific conditions where it was not even safe to take a stroll on the streets because Iranian agents roam Turkish neighborhoods looking for refugees.

The Guardian of London has already published two reports, on 3 December and 17 December, on the intimidation of dissidents in Turkey by Iranian agents. In one case, the dissident was raped. The situation has gotten so dire that Germany has decided to offer asylum to some of these refugees in Turkey, "in a gesture of solidarity against human rights abuses by the Tehran regime".

The US Government can and should follow suit, providing these dissidents refuge on its own soil and putting diplomatic pressure on Turkey to stop the violence and intimidation against them. It can also fund Iranian diaspora organizations like OMID Advocates helping refugees and fighting for their rights.

This will help the Green Movement find a foothold abroad and establish a connection between its leadership and the US Government. At the same time, lives can be saved and minds can be converted. Such an opportunity lies in Turkey, just begging for sympathetic government officials in the US to exploit it.

*The Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act was a great first step. But this only goes one way for the most part. It helps broadcast what the West is saying to Iranians, but what about the Iranians shouting out to the West? The US Government can and should further expand funding for Iranian websites that get news out to the public in the US and the rest of the world. News websites like Rah-e-Sabz and Radio Zameneh have proven invaluable sources of information about the events in Iran.

Human rights organizations like RAHANA have been the most accurate doorways to the reality of human rights abuses there. They rely on funding and donations to sustain themselves. Such outlets need nurturing if the Green Movement is going to get the word out to the public.

Right now, Iranians are managing to get information to each other. If they were unable to do so, they wouldn't be able to get thousands to come out on the streets of Iran for protests. The challenge is for their voices to be heard abroad. The Iranian government's restrictions and the clumsiness of certain media organizations are forcing the Iranian public to use Twitter and YouTube. Websites run by Iranians and websites with sources inside Iran must receive funding if the Islamic Republic's grip on the flow of information is going to be weakened.

*The Department of State has criticized Iran's nuclear ambitions extensively. However, when it comes to criticizing Iran for its violation of basic human rights, its track record is embarrassing. Human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government in the past 10 months have included illegal detentions, torture, rape, and murder.

Yet the US Government has not pressed a single resolution in the United Nations to condemn Iran's flagrant human rights abuses. The US could have used the opportunity to get the international community to open its eyes, but it is far too busy building up coalitions for sanctions. While sanctions against Iran are important, resolutions that recognize the regime's brutality are equally as important, as they deter the publics of United Nations member states from supporting their governments' favorable stances towards Iran.

The US must spearhead a UN resolution, condemning Iran's human rights abuses to set the record straight. Humanity must be made aware of how grave these crimes are if the US is to win world support against Iran and favour with the Green Movement.

*Finally, President Barack Obama needs to address the people of Iran and the Green Movement directly. Doing so, he needs to make clear in no uncertain terms that the US supports their fight for gaining the rights guaranteed to them by the Iranian Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I remember growing up during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Every time a world leader stood up and said, "We are with you," it gave the cause of kicking the Reds out a huge moral boost. The Green Movement needs just such a lift.

Short and campy little Nowruz messages that intricately sidestep the issues with broad smiles won't do. The Green Movement will not be helped much by software. It will not be helped by arranging for visas for Iranian students. It will not be helped if it is treated like a movement that has died down and was restricted to 2009. The Green Movement needs its own speech, not just an honorable mention in a speech designed to engage the Iranian regime in a discussion about its nuclear policy.

The President needs to put on a stern face and speak up like the leader of the Free World. Obama must make it clear that the Green Movement has the full backing of the U.S. government and follow it up with action.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

This is the second time I've quoted this invocation in the case of Iran. I hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears.