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Entries in Neda Agha Soltan (3)


The Latest from Iran (11 August): Coded Messages 

1245 GMT: The President's Man. Definitely looks the battle within is escalating....

Ahmadinejad Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai has hit back at the criticism of Iran's military chief, General Hassan Firouzabadi, that the aide's remarks on Iran and Islam "are a crime against national security" (see 0650 GMT).

Rahim-Mashai announced in a meeting with IRIB managers and editors of state broadcasting that he will file a suit against Firouzabadi to enlighten the public: "I'm forced to follow these ugly accusations by judicial means."

1235 GMT: The Human Rights Lawyer (cont.). Mohammad Mostafaei has rejected the allegation of financial fraud, made by the Tehran Prosecutor General (see 0900 GMT): "If they want to sue me because of the accounts of my clients, they have to do the same with all marjah (senior clerics) who have charity accounts."

1210 GMT: MediaWatch. Green Voice of Freedom has launched a Turkish edition.

1200 GMT: The Hunger Strike: A relative has said Keyvan Samimi will continue his hunger strike in Evin Prison until the 15 who have taken food are transferred to "general" Ward 350. Families have still not been allowed to visit the detainees.

1145 GMT: More on "Election Manipulation" Revolutionary Guard Audio. A follow-up to our feature on Tuesday....

In an interview with Rah-e-Sabz, Alireza Alavi-Tabar assesses the divisions between "pragmatic" and "radical" hard-liners in light of the audio.

0945 GMT: Calling the Broadcaster to Account. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has launched a campaign against the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, accusing him of cooperation with Iran's intelligence service and violating human rights.

ICHRI's Hadi Ghaemi said Ezatollah Zarghami should be dismissed because he worked with Government interrogators in the production of televised confessions and trials and the "Fitna" (Sedition) series against leading opposition figures and activists, as well as the distortion of cases of post-election victims such as Neda Agha Soltan.

0925 GMT: Culture Corner. The Supreme Leader has reportedly cancelled conference on “Pursuit of Job Security and Social Welfare for Cinema Professionals”.

A prominent cinema director told Rooz, “Agents from the Intelligence Ministry have called for the cancellation of the gathering through threatening phone calls. Finally, they told us that the office of the Supreme Leader was against this gathering” and that, if the event went on as scheduled, it would be confronted harshly.

The Supreme Leader is not having much luck, however, with his recent proclamation against music.

Melody and Safoura Safavi, two sisters from the Iranian band Abjeez (Persian slang for sisters), have responded with less than enthusiasm. Safoura Safavi said, "I think it's -- I'm sorry to say this, to use this word -- but it's ridiculous. I mean, you can't prohibit something like music. And of course, it's a way to control because, in a way, saying that, it shows how strong the force of music is [in Iran]...."

0920 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Last week, there were reports that Farah Vazehan had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. However, a reliable source has told RAHANA that Vazehan has been sentenced to death for mohareb (war against God).

0900 GMT: The Human Rights Lawyer. Mohammad Mostafaei, the lawyer forced to flee Iran because of possible arrest, may be in Norway, but the Iranian authorities haven't forgotten him....

Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi has said that Mostafaei is accused of "financial fraud."

0830 GMT; Shortages and Violence. Rah-e-Sabz claims that people in Ahwaz in southern Iran are trying to stage protests in front of the Governor's office because of bad water, rising youth unemployment, and unpaid wages. A seven-member Government commission has been sent from Tehran to the port offices of Abadan and Khorramshahr amidst accusations of fraud and corruption.

Three days of clashes between security forces and residents in Dahdez in Khuzestan in southwestern Iran have allegedly killed seven people. The protests are over shortages and problems in basic services.

Turkey, despite claims of increasing supplies, reduced its gasoline exports to Iran by 73 percent in July, according to data from the Istanbul Exporters Association of Chemical Materials. Turkey supplied 2.5 percent of Iran's total gasoline needs during the month.

Japan's Toyota Motor Corporation has suspended auto exports to Iran indefinitely to avoid any potential repercussions in the US market. Toyota exported about 4,000 automobiles to Iran in 2008, but only 250 in 2009.

0840 GMT: Iran-US Talks? Set aside Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, and the interesting passage in his interview with The New Yorker is his renewed call for discussions with the US on regional issues in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Mixed, even confusing, signals continue from the Supreme Leader's office on the possibility. Former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, has denied a report that he "welcomes" nuclear talks with the US. However, Iran has never rejected talks, and "negotiations with other countries such as P5+1 member states (the US, Russia, France, Britain, China, plus Germany) and the Vienna group (the US, Russia, France, and the International Atomic Energy Agency) -will be carried out while considering the Islamic Republic's rights".

0710 GMT: Washington's Human Rights Intervention. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called on Iran to release all political prisoners, expressing alarm about the fate of several specific detainees who are "in danger of imminent execution". She specifically named Jafar Kazemi, Mohammad Haj Aghaei, and Javad Lari.

0820 GMT: The Regime's Backfiring Culture of Fear. Writing in The National, Michael Theodoulou considers how the regime efforts to quash the opposition through allegations of foreign-supported regime change --- recently through the statements of the head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati --- have run into difficulties.

0800 GMT: The Brazil Front. Brazil has accepted UN sanctions against Iran, despite concerns over measures and its proposal with Tehran and Turkey on talks over uranium enrichment.

Brasilia has also made a formal offer of asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery.

0730 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Agence France Presse has picked up on the claimed ending of the hunger strike by 16 detainees in Evin Prison.

A Revolutionary Court has sentenced reformist journalist Badrolsadat Mofidi to six years in prison and banned her for five years from journalism. Mofidi was convicted of "conspiring to commit crimes and propaganda against the regime".

Mofidi, the secretary of the Iran Journalists Association, was imprisoned for more than five months after the June 2009 election before being released on bail.

A website has described the abuse of Kurdish activist Ahmad Bab, who was detained last September.

0705 GMT: Opposition Messages. Former President Mohammad Khatami, marking Nationalist Journalists' Day, has said that the real sedition in Iran is spreading awkward lies. He compared the rigged election to the CIA-backed coup of 1953 and declared, "We should learn from this oppression."

Mehdi Karroubi has issued a message for the holy month of Ramadan, "Let us pray to God to save our valiant prisoners, held by the rule of oppressors."

0700 GMT: Talking Tough. Former Revolutionary Guard commander General Hossein Kan'ani Moghadam has said that Iran has dug mass graves to bury U.S. soldiers in preparation for an American attack.

0650 GMT: The President's Right-Hand Man. Hmm, this is getting interesting....

Khabar Online reports --- passing on news or making mischief? --- the alleged comment of Iran's head of armed forces, Brigadier General Hassan Firouzabadi that the remarks of Ahmadinejad Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai "are a crime against national security".

0620 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Uncoded Message. Meanwhile, Press TV and Khabar Online has picked up on the President's interview with The New Yorker, featured in EA yesterday.

Press headlines Ahmadinejad's claim, "US Worst Suppressor of Media, People", but adds his offer to “help bring the US out of the crises” it has created in Iraq and Afghanistan: “Iran is ready to help them, based on justice and respect....I hope there is someone with an ear among US politicians to understand this and brings no more deaths to the people in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as US soldiers.”

Khabar --- Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani's outlet --- features Ahmadinejad's claim that western politicians "have no idea about Iran" as "all my opponents are free". The President is also quoted as saying that Iran's people are friends of Jews, but Europe should take back its Jews, or give them a place in Alaska, the USA, or Canada.

0600 GMT: We begin this morning with several intriguing, if sometimes coded, messages.

The easiest to decipher is a letter from Mir Hossein Mousavi, issued last Thursday and now translated by Khordaad 88. Mousavi, referring to Iran's Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century, makes clear that the "dictatorship" of authorities is not acceptable, even when it is carried out in the name of religion. We post the text in a separate entry.

We have also posted an analysis of a more mysterious intervention from former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. In a section of his memoirs which has "randomly" appeared on his website, Rafsanjani recalls how the first President of the Islamic Republic, Abolhassan Banisadr, was forced to step down. But could the passage also be a reference to Iran 30 years later?

And then an EA correspondent re-reads a statement by Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf on the recent "I am the Rule of the Prophet" fatwa by the Supreme Leader. Earlier this week we noted this as a defence of Ayatollah Khamenei amidst the pressure on him.

Our correspondent, however, thinks that Qalibaf may have amore complex message, supporting the Supreme Leader but also pointing out limits on his authority. He notes these passages from Qalibaf's interview:
In my view, the Exalted Supreme Leader is not articulating authorities that go beyond the boundaries of religious jurisprudence, and the ceiling for these authorities is the limits of the religious law (canon), the expediencies and the preservation of the Islamic system and public interests....

The meaning of this fatwa is that, if a person obeys and follows the Supreme Leader's governmental rulings but based on his own reasoning and personal understanding questions the correctness of those rulings, according to the Supreme leader's own fatwa we cannot accuse that person of being against velayat-eb faqih. In fact, the Supreme Leader has emphasized that the standard is not to embrace every view expressed by the Supreme Leader. We can only call a person anti-velayat-e faqih when that person opposes the vali-ye faqih's (i.e., the Supreme Leader's) governmental rulings, not when he does not subscribe to every view that is articulated by the Leader. This fatwa guarantees the rights of the citizen under the Islamic system. Therefore, a person who follows another source of emulation should only follow those fatwas that have been issued by that source of emulation....

With this fatwa, the Supreme Leader has in fact expanded the insiders' geography and gave it a greater depth....We now understand what the Supreme Leader means when he talks about the people who fall inside the system. We now understand and have become more convinced that his approach is one that is geared toward attracting the maximum number of individuals.

And Qalibaf also may have also had a message for those who tried to use the Supreme Leader's words to go after political opponents, inside as well as outside the Iranian system:
The same people who until today would accuse anyone that they wanted of being anti-velayat-e faqih (clerical authority)...were using that label as a political tool to strengthen or weaken other actors or eliminate them from the political scene altogether.

The Latest from Iran (6 August): The Campaign Against Ahmadinejad's Aide

1925 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Lede, the blog of The New York Times, has now noted the hunger strike of the 17 detainees in Evin Prison.

1915 GMT: The No-Longer-Missing Lawyer. Human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei is under European diplomatic protection after Turkish authorities released him today from a detention center for illegal immigrants.

An Amnesty International  official says Mostafaei is expected to travel to Norway.

1730 GMT: Looks like we should name this the "Attacking Rahim-Mashai" thread. Another prominent member of Parliament (and Ali Larijani ally), Ahmad Tavakoli, has joined the criticism of the President's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, for his statements putting forth Iran rather than Islam as a source of emulation for other countries.

Tavakoli has insisted the Parliament will not remain silent in the face of the remarks.

NEW Iran-US Special: The 4-Step Collapse of Obama’s “Engagement” Into Confusion
Iraq and Iran: Has Ayatollah Sistani Challenged the Supreme Leader’s Authority? (Nafisi)
Iran-US Special: Obama Extends His Hand “Engagement, Not Conflict”
Iran Feature: Free Speech (and Some Laughs) in the Theatre (Tehran Bureau)
The Latest from Iran (5 August): Challenges

1625 GMT: Re-packaging the Friday Prayer. Press TV's entry on the Friday Prayer by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (see 1325 GMT) changes the priority to the message that "a possible US attack on the Islamic republic will jeopardize American interests in the world". Khatami's attack on Presidential advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, highlighted in other media accounts, seems to have disappeared.

1325 GMT: Your Friday Prayer Update. In a shocking development, the US was not the main target of today's Tehran Friday Prayer, delivered by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

So who got the honour?

Why, it's President Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and brother-in-law, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai!

Khatami, without naming Rahim-Mashai --- or, as Fars put it carefully, "an implicit reference to the words of a Government official" --- criticised those who put Iranian nationalism before Islam.

Earlier this week, Rahim-Mashai has said that it was Iran, rather than Islam, that now stood as an example for emulation by the rest of the world.

Elsewhere in the speech, Khatami went after the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, for his confirmation that the US had war plans for Iran. But, you know, that just couldn't match up with the apparent transgression of the President's favourite advisor.

(And what do you know? Moments later, I spot an article from Parleman News on Rahim-Mashai as the cause of division amongst principalists. And Tabnak is reporting the comments of conservative member of Parliament Ali Motahari that Ahmaidnejad must question Rahim-Mashai about his remarks.)

1200 GMT: The Battle Within. Ali Asghari, a member of the Expediency Council, has warned that principalism without reformism ends up in dictatorship.

1055 GMT: Talking Tough Today. The commander of Iran's army, Major General Ataollah Salehi, has warned enemies of a "crushing defeat" if they attack: "The army is ready to deal a heavy blow to any aggressors against Iran territories."

0955 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has issued a statement of support for the 17 hunger strikers in Evin Prison and their families.

0935 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online claims that only 20% of workers are receiving their food supplies for the holy month of Ramadan.

0930 GMT: Fretting. Looks like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is a bit worried: he has warned the board of Tarbiat Modarres University of the possibility of a "stronger" sedition. He declared that if young people are not religious, then the Revolution will be weakened.

0920 GMT: The Sale of History. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyed Mohammad Hosseini has declared, "We must promote the Iranian culture to find purity, because the world is hungry for this." He announced that he would give permits for books seeking this aim.

Hosseini may want have a word about his cultural mission with the President's chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai: according to Rooz Online, the Cultural Heritage Organization, headed by Rahim-Mashai, plans to sell some of Iran's historic artifacts.

0915 GMT: Backing the President? Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi of the Assembly of Experts, one of the most vocal supporters of the Government, has given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mixed support against claims from "hard-liners" that he has been soft on cultural issues. Haeri Shirazi, criticising Western values in Iranian education, refers to the President's campaign to "Islamise" schools but leaves the impression that Ahmadinejad has not been up to the mark in enforcing hijab.

Haeri Shirazi also made a spirited defence of the Supreme Leader's authority.

0910 GMT: Oil Crash and Squeeze. Peyke Iran is reporting that two planes of the National Iranian Oil Company have collided at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran.

Citing Reuters, the website adds that Turkey's exports of gasoline to Iran have increased.

0640 GMT: A Message to Washington. Reformist member of Parliament Amir Taherkhani has said the US is unwise 2 let "Zionists" have a free hand, warning that adventurism will cause a crisis.

0633 GMT: Missiles and False News. Peyke Iran, quoting Deutsche Welle, claims that the "news" of delivery of four S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran --- two from Belarus and two from an unspecified source --- was removed by Fars News within two hours of publication.

0629 GMT: No Justice. In an interview with the mother and lawyer of Neda Agha Soltan, the woman shot to death by a Basij militiaman on 20 June 2009, Fereshteh Ghazi claims that the suspect in the case has disappeared.

0625 GMT: The Guards and the Economy. Mehdi Eliasi, writing in Rooz Online, has evaluated how the increasing involvement of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in the economy is undermining the foundations of the private sector.

0615 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A group of students and alumni of Azad University of Tehran have released a statement objecting to Ali Malihi’s four-year prison sentence and his detention in solitary confinement, expressing concern over his physical and psychological state and well-being.

Malihi has been detained for seven months, spending about 40 days in solitary. He is one of the 17 political prisoners now on hunger strike.

0605 GMT: The Campaign Against Jannati. It is not just opposition clerics and politicians who are pressing Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, after his recent claim of $1 billion given to the Green "leaders" and another $50 billion promised by the US and Saudi Arabia for regime change. Conservative member of Parliament Nayyereh Akhavan has also declared that Jannati should show the documents proving his allegation.

0545 GMT: Mousavi and the Hunger Strike. Mir Hossein Mousavi has praised the resistance of 17 political prisoners on hunger strike in Evin Prison, while asking them to end it:
All seekers of freedom and righteousness have heard your message and have witnessed your resistance for your humanitarian and legitimate demands.

Now that that your message and your families’ struggle has spread across the globe and within the country, the nation is concerned about your health as Green assets for the country. We urge you to end your hunger strike and call on prison officials to respect the rights of all prisoners based on the flawed rule and regulations that exist and not to allow for the country’s reputation to be further tarnished in the eyes of the world’s nations.

The 17 strikers include Bahman Ahmadi Amooei (journalist), Hossein Nourinejad (journalist and member of Islamic Iran Participation Front), Abdollah Momeni (student activist and spokesperson for the Office for Fostering Unity), Ali Parviz (student activist), Hamidreza Mohammadi (political activist), Jafar Aghdami (civil activist), Babak Bordbar (photojournalist), Ebrahim (Nader) Babaei (civil activist and wounded veteran of the Iran-Iraq war), Kouhyar Goudarzi (human rights activist and weblog writer), Keyvan Samimi (journalist), and Mohammad Hossein Sohrabi Rad.

0535 GMT: International Front. Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Emomali Rahman of Tajikistan were in Tehran on Thursday at the opening of the “Fourth Meeting of Persian-Speaking Countries”, and meet with high-ranking Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There were few substantive details in Fars News, which said Karzai and Rahman supported peaceful nuclear energy and agreements were signed to combat terrorism and fight drug trafficking. However, Karzai's visit comes as the US is escalating its effort in Afghanistan and may be looking for Iranian co-operation.

0525 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Green Voice of Freedom claims that authorities are putting pressure on political prisoners by "exiling" them to prisons distant from their hometowns, thus hindering the ability of families to visit them.

Student activist Atafeh Nabavi, who was detained in the mass protest of 15 June 2009 and is serving a four-year sentence, has written an open letter to the 17 hunger strikers in Evin Prison:
I know that when you began your action, you knew that any protest in this country will have disproportionate costs. I honor your stance and your weakened existence, and I wish that you get what you deserve in this unfair battle.

0515 GMT: After a break last night, we start by noting yesterday's attack, possibly by Basij militia members, on opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi.

Karroubi was attending a funeral at Nour Mosque in Tehran when it was surrounded by individuals, allegedly armed, who threw eggs at the cleric when he left. His bodyguards tried to scatter the assailants by shooting into the air.

The news was first reported by Fars but was later confirmed by Karroubi's Taghi.

Mehdi Karroubi has been attacked by pro-government groups several times since the 2009 election, most recently in June when he was visiting Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, another critic of the Government. He was uninjured in yesterday's incident.

Iran Feature: The Activism of the Women's Movement (Mouri)

EA contacts have notified us of a new electronic journal on the Middle East and Iran, Muftah. One of its first articles is by Leila Mouri, an Iranian women's rights activist who works as a journalist with the first Iranian website on women’s rights, Women In Iran and blogs in Persian and in English.

Shiva Nazar-Ahari, a journalist and human rights defender who had already spent 9 months in Evin prison, was scheduled to appear in court on May 23, 2010 on charges of propagation against the regime for her work with the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), as well as allegations of acting against national security because of her participation in gatherings on November 4th and December 7th, 2009. A member of the “One Million Signature” campaign for women’s rights, Nazar-Ahari was arrested at her home shortly after Iran’s June 2009 presidential election. She was released for a short time in September on $200,000 bail, but her freedom did not last long. In December 2009 she was again arrested, this time as she was on the way to attend the funeral ceremony of Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri.  Despite consistent pressure from Iranian authorities, she had denied all charges brought against her and had paid the price of defiance by spending most of her prison term in solitary confinement.

While Nazar-Ahari was arrested too soon after the election to participate in the June demonstrations, many women were involved in the uprising  and played a central role in the mobilization of the Green Movement.

A more recognizable symbol of women’s participation in the protests was the young university student Neda Agha-Soltan, whose shooting and gruesome death on the streets of Tehran on June 20, 2009 became aninternational rallying cry against the heavy-handed tactics of the Iranian government. Agha-Soltan became a symbol not only of the Green Movement, but also of all Iranians who were killed for opposing the regime.  In a heavily patriarchal society, her ordeal was a reminder of the crucial status of women in the social and political life of Iran.

Agha-Soltan and Nazar-Ahari are members of a new generation of politically active Iranian women, born and raised after the 1979 Revolution. Their struggle against the oppressive policies of the Islamic Republic has been well documented, but their situation has become especially harrowing over the last year. In the wake of the 2009 protests, and under the pretext of maintaining order and protecting national security, the Iranian regime has escalated its suppression of the women’s movement. Many women activists have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to long prison terms, while others have left the country in fear of their safety. As a result, there has been a troubling decline in the activities and influence of the women’s movement, which some observers have considered to be the most potent agent for change in the country.

The Re-Emergence of Women in the Islamic Republic

The death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, coinciding with the end of the Iran-Iraq war, marked the beginning of a new phase in the Islamic Republic. After eight years of war, Iran’s decimated economy was suffering from a lack of foreign investment and buckling under the pressure of Western sanctions. The regime responded by instituting a series of programs aimed at “reconstruction,” through economic growth, rational distribution of benefits and essential changes in human resource development. It was at this time that President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanajani established the first governmental department devoted to women’s issues. Dubbed the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, it was founded in 1992 to improve the situation of women and to promote their abilities and talents, in service to the future development of the country.

The ensuing years saw increased investment in women’s education, and in turn a higher level of university-enrollment, a development that had a significant impact on the status women in society. One major factor in this regard was the “Islamicization” of universities, a series of policies aimed at the transformation of the university environment and pursued from the early days of the Islamic Republic. With traditional families feeling more confident in the piety of Iran’s universities, women began attending classes at a higher rate than in previous generation, causing a dramatic increase in the number of female students. According to the 1994 census, 40 percent of university students were female. This proportion reached 60 percent in the 2003-2004 academic year and 64 percent in 2008.

Following graduation, many of these female students entered the job market only to be bitterly disappointed with their prospects. Faced with an ailing economy and a patriarchal culture unwilling to grant them equal rights, this educated group of women began demanding changes in attitudes and policies. At the same time, the influx of educated female candidates had a perceptible effect on the percentage of women employed in different economic sectors, such as industry and agriculture, with their numbers increasing substantially. The growing presence of women in the work force gradually led to the establishment of women’s trade unions in the late 1990s.

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