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The Latest from Iran (15 December): The Path to Moharram

MOHARRAM11955 GMT: Dealing with Insults. Tabnak reports that a special order has been has issued from high-level officials declared that anyone who insults the heads of the three branches of Government (Presidency, judiciary, legislature) and the head of Assembly of Experts "will be dealt with severely".

(Crazy question: since Hashemi Rafsanjani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, will Ahmadinejad allies like Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who have implied Rafsanjani and his family have acted illegally, "be dealt with severely"?)

1909 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh has published his latest message to students.

1904 GMT: Montazeri on Responsible Protest. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has declared that the regime "raises the 'overthrowing' charges so that they can repress people; possibly they send some individuals among the people to chant slogans in favour of overthrowing the system".

Montazeri continued, “If the authorities give permission for free and peaceful gatherings, they will witness that the majority of people do not want anything but to reinstate their denied rights and be compensated for them. They want the freedoms that have been clearly mentioned in the Constitution and, in general, the reform of the system.”

NEW Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
NEW Latest Iran Video: The University Protests (15 December)
NEW Iran: US State Department Pushes for “Proper” Sanctions in 2010
NEW “Where is My Vote?” (Part 2): TIME Snubs Green Movement as “Person of the Year”
Latest Iran Video: And Your University Protests Today…. (14 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Challenging the Regime’s Forces on 16 Azar (7 December)
NEW Iran: Scott Lucas in La Stampa on “Khamenei’s Final Warning”

NEW Iran: “Arrests” and the Regime’s Sword of Damocles
The Latest from Iran (14 December): Taking Stock

1850 GMT: Tavakoli Moved to Solitary Under Eyes of Revolutionary Guard. A reliable Iranian activist reports that Majid Tavakoli, the student leader detained during the 16 Azar protests, has been brought to Revolutionary Court and then put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison's Ward 240, overseen by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.

1830 GMT: Ahh, Someone Noticed. Several hours after we mentioned the case of jailed Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, largely absent in the US media, the high-profile blog The Daily Dish summarises the claim of his lawyer that he was sentenced to 15 years on the basis of little, if any, evidence.

1715 GMT: Video has come in of a protest today at Razi University in Kermanshah.

1555 GMT: The Khaje Nasir University Demo. Reformist sites explain that today's protest (see video) was over the arrest of Kamran Aasa, whose brother of Kiyanoush Aasa was killed in the post-election conflict.

1545 GMT: Warnings and Protest Claims. On a pretty slow day, Morteza Tamedon, the Governor of Tehran Province, has grabbed a couple of headlines by declaring that security forces will be mobilised to deal with any demonstrations on the days of Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December). Tamedon also waved aside the request of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for a permit for a march honouring the image of Imam Khomeini, since they could protest the recent "burning of Khomeini" in a statement.

The Islamic Republic News Agency has put out its interpretation of today's demonstrations at Tehran Azad University, with 700 students rallying for the Government and 100 opposition students gathering nearby. Hmm.... Might want to check that against the video.

1420 GMT: Radio Farda has a report on one of the student demonstrations/discussion at a packed seminar in Tehran.

1310 GMT: Guides and Videos. Mr Azadi has written an introduction to Moharram, the holy month that begins on Friday, and we have the first video from today's university protests.

1125 GMT: Conservative Bust-Up? Iranian state media is now reporting a story we heard yessterday from sources: Tehran's Chief Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has filed a lawsuit against the websites of Jahan News and Alef News for "insulting" President Ahmadinejad.

Alef belongs to the prominent member of Parliament and relative of the Larijani brothers, Ahmad Tavakoli, who has been critical of Ahmadinejad on numerous occasions since June. Jahan is connected with MP Ali Reza Zakani and is often labelled as linked to "Iranian intelligence circles".

1000 GMT: We've posted a separate entry on the manoevures within the US Government on sanctions against Iran. The State Department is trying to get control of the process, being pushed by Congress, to ensure international support.

0935 GMT: The "Other" American Prisoner. A paradox: while "Western" media overheated yesterday over the passing comment from Iran's Foreign Minister that the three US hikers might be tried, none of them seems to notice the latest developments in the case of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, sentenced this autumn to 15 years in prison. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has issued a statement that "the case against the Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh contains no evidence to support the allegations against him, according to...interviews with Masoud Shafie, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer".

0855 GMT: A "Sensible" Engagement? An interesting passage from today's editorial in The Guardian of London:

"It has become a cliche to say there are no good options about Iran. This does not mean that Washington is doomed to choose the worst option – barring military assault – each time negotiations fail. Giving diplomacy no more than three months to work, as opposed to sanctions on Iran which lasted for more than 20 years, may have been a mistake. So too was limiting the talks to the enrichment process alone. There are many other fronts on which Iran should be engaged."

0600 GMT: The Counter-Attack of Engagement. For days, the Iran news from the US Congress has been of a push towards stricter sanctions, with a bill proposing measures against the gas and oil industries as well as other financial penalties. A group of Congressmen offered an alternative yesterday with the introduction of two proposals.

The Stand with the Iranian People Act would pursue "targeted" measures against companies providing the Iranian regime with software and technology for Internet censorship and surveillance, cutting off their US Government contracts, and impose travel restrictions on "human rights abusers" within the Iranian Government. At the same time, the measure would "enable US non-governmental Organizations to work directly with the Iranian people".

The Iranian Digital Empowerment Act would remove restrictions on companies and private citizens in the US who wish to send software to the people of Iran, including communication and anti-censorship tools, by clarifying that sanctions do not apply.

0530 GMT: After a week of activity and rumour, there was a relative calm yesterday. The regime did launch a few attacks on its foes, with Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi's attack on Hashemi Rafsanjani and the Supreme Leader's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps speaking darkly of the "hypocrites" (who just happen to be the Khomeini family) running the Imam Khomeini Archives. President Ahmadinejad, after almost a week's silence on the internal crisis, offered a few words about the offensive act against the Imam, then apparently returned to his battle with Parliament to get passage of economic legislation. The sense was that the Government was either planning its next manoeuvre or scrambling about, trying to figure out where to go after the "burning of Khomeini" episode.

Meanwhile, University students made clear, in quadrangles and in classrooms, that they are not going to ease the protests before Moharram begins on Friday. Mir Hossein Mousavi set down the lines for the upcoming challenge --- demonstrate peacefully and lawfully while making clear that it is the regime that has committed injustices and denied rights --- as he and Mehdi Karroubi emerged after a meeting to announce they would request a permit for a march, protesting the insult to Imam Khomeini, from the Ministry of Interior. Former President Mohammad Khatami also chipped in with a general statement of support for protest.

Reader Comments (20)

SInce *someone* will eventually say so, I'll do it. It's December. :)

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill Mason

Moharram: Khamenei's Last Battle?
Yesterday Le Monde discussed announced strategies of both camps for this upcoming event:
In order to suffocate popular protests, the regime has installed operational headquarters in every region, composed of police and Bassiji forces and responsible persons from local IRIB stations. Le Monde cites an Iranian student, who fears that further oppression may lead to a civil war. Here an abstract in Persian:

@ "Burning of Khomeini"

Comments to a comment from BBC Persian refer to Said Emami, who confessed that killing Ahmad Khomeini and bombing the Imam Reza shrine at Mashhad was ordered by Khamenei's headquarters (beyt-e rahbari). These fatwas were issued by Ayatollah Khoshvaght (SL's deputy) and confirmed by Mesbah Yazdi, Fallahian, Badamchian and Mohseni Ejei:

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

What will be the most significant dates of Moharram?


December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry


Thank you (for those coming late, yes, I did put up 15 November in the original post --- but it was early in the morning).


December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas


How much weight do you give to the Le Monde story?


December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

The significant days are 25- 26 Dec., called Ashura Tassua; the first day of Moharram is next Friday, 18 of Dec.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

RE Le Monde story - I just read it and I'm not sure it contains anything really new, not even: "In order to suffocate popular protests, the regime has installed operational headquarters in every region, composed of police and Bassiji forces and responsible persons from local IRIB stations."

These articles from October and November report on moves to reorganise and redistribute IRGC and Basij forces throughout 29 provinces:
and to enlist TV and radio media in the fight against "soft war":

As for the police, they're already all over the friggin' place in Iran! ;-)
I know from personal experience, having been arrested "for my own security" after having the temerity to get out of our car with my camera-toting husband in a small town near Rasht in 2008. We ended up spending a very interesting hour with the head of the local foreign police, but still.....

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Picture taking in Iran is a bloody risky and stochastic thing.
The police and security is officially entitled to stopping and asking for your permit. You get such permits only if you are a reporter or photographer or art student.
There are also plenty of places that you have signs forbidding you to snap a shot. If you are arrested in such location, expect a couple of scary encounters when you appear before the intelligence "brother" who forces you to sign a statement that you promis to never "make a mistake" ... Yup it is as ridiculously as broad and nonspecific.

Now these scarecrow tactics are not really new. Much of iri's grip on power comes from their success in psychological war; spreading and exaggerating the cruelty their 'devoted brothers' are capable of.
Growing up in the worse years of the past 30 I recall living with fear of having our lips slashed with blades hidden in cotton if basiji sisters arrested us, or getting acid splashed in the face if our hijab was imperfect!!

In reality, we were just verbally intimidated and promissed to scary consequences if we failed to oblige ...

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaj

Cue the clown shoes. Can't verify, but apparently Kayhan is trying to blame violence against protesters on, err," rel="nofollow">protesters. Heh?

Now, that's full-proof logic there! NOT! The good news, to me, is that it indicates the gov't has no plans to arrest the Green leaders.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkevina

New video: Basiji throw a student off a second-floor balcony at Hamedan University on 16 Azar:

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlee

Troubling news: Twelve Men Face Execution for Sodomy in Iran
I found this article on Perlentaucher, a German cultural magazine:

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

@ Barry

Thanks for the link. I have my doubts as to the legitimacy of the letter (it really shouldn't have been made public if it was real and also it's implausible that the officer would directly criticise the Islamic revolution in a letter to Rafsanjani).

However, I find it really interesting that so much is emerging recently that's hinting at divisions in the regular (million-man) army. Whether the actual letters/statements are real or not, I'm beginning to get the impression that something real is afoot behind it all...

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSomebody

RE Le Monde story

Catherine has obviously more news about the reorganisation of IRGC and Bassiji forces. Actually both sides are beating the psychological warfare drum for Moharram, but I really doubt the efficacy of all these IRGC moves. 16 Azar proved that they cannot suppress independent coverage. Even though the internet was blocked, the first videos appeared on Youtube only two or three hours after the protests.
And then: How can they suppress the masses chanting "Ya Hossein" and "Down with Yazid"? By shooting peaceful believers, mourning for Imam Hossein?
The Green movement has proven more than once its creativity to elude harsh reactions, there will be no difference in the month of Moharram ...

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArshama


I agree - for me, the emergence of these letters (whether genuine or not ) is fascinating in itself . I think it would have been inconceivable 12 moths ago - just like the tearing down of pictures of Khamenei. There has certainly been "movement"


December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

I have found an interesting article on Tehran Bureau on the Mousavi question within the Iranian regime. It comments on the rising chorus of hardliners pushing for punishment of the opposition and the possible tactics the regime may use against the Green Movement and Mousavi in particular such as an assasination of Mousavi under the guise of some terrorist organization. In my opinion, to me any death or imprisonment of a Green Leader even if it is painted as an accident would be disasterous. The regime can't even pull of propaganda with the burning of Khomeni's image and something so explosive as the imprisonment or death of an opposition leader would cause events to spiral out of control so fast they couldn't control it.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Also as of right no the reformist website has been hacked.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Naj (re post 8),
Actually Iran is one of the most contradictory places I've ever visited. In a month in 2008 we took 5-6 thousand photos. This year in the first 1/2 of June we took about 2400. Both times - despite warning signs and verbal injunctions - without having a single problem. The arrest I mentioned (post 7) triggered by the site of my hubby's enormous telephoto lens turned out to be a bit of a fluke. We went on to merrily take shots of the guard posts along the Azerbijan-Iranian border (all preceded by series of no photos allowed signs), and no one was camera-shy outside the polling station in a village to the north of Tehran where we 'observed' this year's elections, even displaying their purple-stained thumbs for us. An election official did tell us not to take photos, but then then stopped paying attention to us altogether!

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

The big day in Moharram is #Ashura, Dec. 27. Please do whatever you can to support the opposition Sea of Green before, during and after that day. The pressure on the regime must be sustained. How many more arrests, beatings, rapes and murders before this coup regime is gone?

December 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Hazelton

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