The effort fell apart pretty quickly. The video was clearly not from Evin, and the audio showed signs of manipulation. Tajzadeh's camp said that the remarks from the reformist had been edited together and did not refer to the 2009 election --- EA correspondents have subsequently confirmed that the audio, if not the video, is probably concerned with the 2005 Presidential vote. (We have not been able to access the video since 20 August; Government supporters assert that it can still be seen inside Iran.)
We thought that was that, although the regime maintained its attempt to break Tajzadeh, blocking any contact between him and his family for 11 days after he was returned to prison.
We were wrong. Yesterday a Government supporter eagerly wrote me, "What excuse can you provide for us now?" He linked to an item from Iran Newspaper on Network (INN). A student activist, Said Rajavi Faqih, had supposedly said in an interview that Tajzadeh's "election confession" was true: the reformists knew they lost the 2009 elections.
The only problem with the INN piece? Almost none of it was true.
EA correspondents quickly found the Rajavi Faqih interview in Rooz Online and did some other checking of sources:
1. Razavi Faqih actually said that a) while Tajzadeh doubted fraud the day after the June 2009 election, he was immediately imprisoned and so had no additional information about the manipulation; b) when Tajzadeh received the information after he was temporarily released, he changed his mind; c) Tajzadeh is now convinced of a massive “mohandessi”, i.e. a complete plan for election-rigging, long before election day. (Indeed, we reported two weeks ago that Tajzadeh had said this, just before he was summoned back to Evin.)
Razavi Faqih, for his part, denounced the regime’s efforts to regain legitimacy one year after the elections — by distorting Tajzadeh’s earlier remarks — and concluded that after a creeping coup the Islamic Republic is neither Islamic nor a republic anymore.
2. While he is an activist, Razavi Faqih is not linked to Tajzadeh and is no position to know first-hand of Tajzadeh’s beliefs or to act as a spokesman for him. (It should also be noted that Razavi Faqih is currently under duress inside Iran, with his passport taken from him so he is unable to return to Paris, where he usually resides.)
3. The reliable, “official” spokesperson for Tajzadeh is his wife, Fakhrosaadat Mohtashamipour. In a post on her personal weblog on Saturday, she published a statement that Tajzadeh managed to relay to her during their first visit since he returned to prison. In that message, he refers without reservation to election “fraud” and a “coup”.
That message is now making its way around the Internet. Tajzadeh is challenging Government supporters to a public debate over the election's legitimacy --- Mehdi Karroubi made a similar statement yesterday --- and asked the regime, if it was so confident, had not dared to publish the "seven pages" he has written in prisons detailing his thoughts.
So it appears that this latest propaganda effort, like the Fars video, will soon fizzle out. (Government supporters are doggedly pursuing the line that Tajzadeh must have made his confession in private, as his father-in-law has denounced his wife for publishing Tajzadeh's claims of a "coup".)
The INN attempt, however, takes a small place in a wider, more important story. The regime has been trying to break Tajzadeh for some time by getting him to publicly make a confession or distance himself from the reformists. When he refused to do so, he was summoned back to Evin and the Fars video was posted. He was then cut off from all contact with his family for 11 days. Still he refused to bend — unlike other figures like former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi who, at least temporarily, did so — and so the campaign against him, which included the “confession” that he has refused to make, continues.
Tajzadeh is not the only target, of course. One could add the names of other reformist politicians, journalists, and activists who have not only been told that they should be quiet, if they are to be freed, but also that they should renounce the opposition movement and testify to the Government's legitimacy.
And here is the even wider story. Tajzadeh and colleagues are counter-attacking. Two weeks ago, just before he was returned to detention, Tajzadeh joined six other reformists in the complaint --- supported by the leaked audio of a Revolutionary Guard commander setting out measures for repression of the opposition before and after the election --- that fraud had been carried out. That complaint is now being prominently featured by other critics of the Government, with Mehdi Karroubi's statement the latest volley against the regime, the Guardian Council, and the security forces.
So the curious paradox of the Government propaganda effort. A few weeks ago, I would have said that the issue of the 2009 election --- while still contested by the opposition --- had been superseded by broader questions of justice and rights. After all, there is no possible way, given the Government's suppression of the evidence, to find out how many votes each candidate actually received on 12 June 2009.
But now, with its fumbling attempts to post "confessions" or to at least break its opponents, the regime has opened itself up to more, rather than less, attention to the claims of fraud.
Where those claims will head --- to public protest or merely to the simmering of the fire under the ashes of post-election Iran --- is unknown, of course. But they are out there: opposition has not been "broken".