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The Latest from Iran (30 December): Rallies and Rumours

IRAN GREEN2205 GMT: The Iranian regime, as it blames foreign media for fomenting unrest, continues the attempt to block the services. Voice of America and BBC Persian report sustained jamming efforts.

2055 GMT: The Hidden Story? An Iranian activist makes the interesting and important claim that the rumours around Mousavi and Karroubi have obscured a major story tonight --- "500 thugs attacked students with knives and machetes" at Mashhad University. We've got footage of the clash in our video section.

2050 GMT: Nothing has happened to change our opinion of 1915 GMT. We are treating Iranian state media's story of "two opposition figures" fleeing to northern Iran as rumour or disinformation.

2020 GMT: Reuters is carrying the opposition's denial of IRNA's story:
Hossein Karoubi, the son of moderate defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi, said his father and opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi were still in Tehran.

"My father and Mr. Mousavi are in Tehran and IRNA's report is baseless. They are still pursuing the people's demands," Hossein Karoubi told moderate Parlemannews.

2005 GMT: Andrew Sullivan has gotten wind of what appears to be a five minute video of a group of security forces disarming after being surrounded by a crowd of demonstrators. We've added it to today's video page.

1915 GMT: Rumours. We're off on a 90-minute break. At this point, we consider the Islamic Republic News Agency story of the Karroubi/Mousavi flight to northern Iran "unconfirmed", with the possibility that it is either a rumour being elevated to "news" or a regime disinformation campaign.

Both the Karroubi and Mousavi camps have denied the story. It should also be noted that the rumour was being spread earlier today that Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard had been detained, and no confirmation has followed.

BBC Persian is interviewing one of Karroubi's sons about 1930 GMT.

1910 GMT: We've posted footage of demonstrations today at Shahryar Qods Azad and Mashhad Universities.

1905 GMT: The Regime Rally (cont.). Peyke Iran, which has published photos indicating a smaller rally than the "hundreds of thousands" cited by other outlets (see 1853 GMT), is now off-line. (1926 GMT: Website is back up.)

1853 GMT: The Regime Rally. CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr claims "hundreds of thousands" at today's gathering. He said that at Vali-e Asr Square, he could not get further because of the dense crowd. From a bridge, he watched an area from Imam Hossein Square to Enghelab Square, a distance of about 18 kilometres (11 miles).

NEW Latest Iran Video: University Protests (30 December)
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NEW Latest Iran Video: The Strength of the Regime? (29 December)
Latest Iran Video: Today’s University Protest (29 December)
Iran: A List of the Ashura Detainees
Iran: The Regime’s Fightback?
The Latest on Iran (29 December): A Desperate Swing of the Fist

1850 GMT: Mousavi Denial? It looks like Mousavi camp is also denying the IRNA story of "flight" to northern Iran, informing American ABC News that Mousavi is still in Tehran.

1840 GMT: Karroubi Denial of "Fleeing". Mehdi Karroubi's son Hossein has denounced reports that his father and Mir Hossein Mousavi "rumours" spread by Iranian state media. Hossein Karroubi says his father is still in Tehran "working for the people".

1820 GMT: Meanwhile, Some Rhetoric. Speaking to the Islamic Association of Students in Europe, the Supreme Leader said the Western condemnation of the recent events in Iran had been prompted by the influence of "Zionist media".

1815 GMT: IRNA on Mousavi and Karroubi? The Islamic Republic News Agency's account says two "riot leaders fled from Tehran" to Mazandaran amidst "demands for their punishment".

1810 GMT: Mousavi and Karroubi in "Protective Custody"? Returned from a break to find Rah-e-Sabz is checking an Islamic Republic News Agency that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been taken to a small town, Kalar Abad, in Mazandaran in northern Iran "for their protection" under the watch of Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard forces. Rah-e-Sabz cautions that this might be a falsehood.

We are urgently checking the news.

1410 GMT: The office of reformist member of Parliament Nasrullah Torabi has been set on fire.

1403 GMT: The "Millions" and Ahmadinejad. Press TV is pushing the line that "millions" turned out today to demonstrate for the regime and against the Ashura "rioters", showing claimed footage from Shiraz, Tabriz, Gilan, Arak, and Sistan-Baluchestan as well as Tehran. Press TV is backing this up with coverage of the Maryam Rajavi statement (see 1000 GMT) as proof of MKO "terrorist" involvement.

The station also briefly features President Ahmadinejad's statement, issued after a Cabinet meeting, that "efforts to destabilise Iran would not affect the nation".  and that the US and Western leaders should learn from their past mistakes.

1335 GMT: Rahnavard Arrested? Meanwhile, we're watching closely the rumour, which began circulating about an hour ago, that the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, has been detained.

1308 GMT: That's pretty much it, as Press TV goes back to the studio for the anchorwoman and "analyst" (journalist Nader Mokhtari) to repeat the standard line of "masses" of "religious" Iranian people standing against a foreign-stimulated opposition.

However, mark this exchange: Mokhtari and the anchorwoman are at great pains to say "this isn't a pro-Ahmadinejad rally....this has absolutely nothing to do with the President of Iran". is not over the issue of legitimacy of President Ahmadinejad but "an outpouring of grief" and "the support of the establishment". Could this be a distancing of the defence of the regime from a defence of the President?

1258 GMT: Now the emphasis is on the "greatness" and "magnanimity" of the regime based on "religious jurisprudence", with the Iranian people as a model for all Muslims. However, "we should not remain passive" any longer and "we should take the initiative" against those plotting conspiracies.

1255 GMT: And Now the Warning. Ayatollah Alamalhoda says that a deadline should be set for repentance. If protesters do not repent, they should be treated as "mohareb" (enemies of God), with the attendant punishment.

1250 GMT: Heavy criticism of those responsible for "fighting" on Ashura: "the Leader of the Islamic Revolution invited the rioters to return to the right path".

1243 GMT: Speeches have begun with tagline, "We have to accept rule of current religious jurisprudence." Quickly, the theme is that the United States is pushing the "party of Satan" protesting against the Iranian regime.

The speaker is Ayatollah Alamalhoda, the Friday Prayer leader of Mashhad.

1236 GMT: A wider shot around the Press TV correspondent ("Iranian nation" against the "disrespect" of Ashura, 16 Azar, etc.) establishes that there are thousands in Enghelab Square.

1230 GMT: Etc., etc. Nothing new to report from the rally. You can just put our comments from 1147 to 1208 GMT, like the Press TV coverage, on a loop and replay....

....Adding this: "a red line has been crossed", according to the anchorwomen, with the opposition's demonstrations and disrespect on Ashura.

1208 GMT: Press TV's correspondent finally shows up on camera in a fairly tight shot, surrounded by a few dozen protesters. That doesn't stop her from claiming "millions" have turned out. Ominously, she emphasises the line that demonstrators are demanding the "punishment" of opposition leaders like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

1206 GMT: Ahh, Those Two Locations. It is now clear --- for those who have recorded this historic moment, follow a large black flag being fluttered --- that Press TV is claiming "two locations" for two shots from different angles of the rally in Enghelab Square.

1205 GMT: Press TV keeps trying to go to a correspondent, but she is still failing to show up "because the crowd is so loud" that she cannot find a location for the interview with studio.

1157 GMT: A Glitch in the Line? The Press TV anchorman rambles on and says, against a split-screen purportedly showing the rallies, that shots are of protests in "two different locations" in Tehran. However, he never names those locations.

Otherwise, this is the narrative: "MKO-Foreign Governments inciting violence, particuarly Foreign Minister David Miliband of the UK-Also President Obama-MKO-Foreign Interference".

1147 GMT: Press TV has now cut into programming to show live shots from Tehran. Initial close-range shots of the crowd give way to a long shot which (sorry to be uncertain) may or may not be of today. The anchorman's description is boiler-plate claim of continuing pro-regime demonstrations, with emphasis on rallies on Tuesday as well, against the "vandalism" of the opposition and "its violation of one of the most sacred events on the Muslim calendar".

An addition to the party line, however, is the focus on "MKO terrorists" declaring their role in the Ashura "riots" (see 1000 GMT).

1145 GMT: The Ritual Warning. Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam has repeated the party line, including the hint of the death penalty, with the declaration, "There is no more room for tolerance over participants in illegal rallies....Those who participate in illegal rallies will be confronted more harshly and the judiciary will confront them more decisively."

Ahmadi-Moghaddam added, "Some of the protesters on Sunday are considered as mohareb (enemy of God) and will be confronted firmly." Capital punishment can be imposed on "mohareb".

1140 GMT: We're watching for first references to the pro-regime protest called for 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) in Tehran. So far Press TV English has not cut into its programming to provide an update.

1040 GMT: Death Penalty for Protest? German media are highlighting a statement by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, that the legal structure will be put in place within 24 hours for capital punishment against leaders of demonstrations.

1025 GMT: "The Velvet Revolution" Moves From CNN to IRNA. The Islamic Republic News Agency is also highlighting an interview with US-based academic Kaveh Afrasiabi on CNN as confirmation of foreign intervention against the regime. Afrasiabi told CNN, "We have seen tremendous evidence of meddling, by the UK Government in particular, during and after the Presidential election, and there is no doubt in my mind...that the British Government is determined to see regime change in Iran.

1020 GMT: The Regime Stays Negative. As we ventured in our analysis this morning, the Iranian Government appears to have put aside any attempt at a "positive" campaign to mobilise support in favour of bashing the opposition. The Islamic Republic News Agency is dominated by stories vowing punishment of protesters: Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has taken prime position for the moment with his declaration that the Iran's judiciary will "deal decisively" with the "anti-revolutionary" movement.

Moslehi also maintained the line that "foreign elements" were responsible for "assassinations" on Ashura.

1000 GMT: The Regime's Unexpected Helper? Press TV has jumped on an interview by Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance in Iran, to headline, "The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) has acknowledged that it played a role in Sunday's violent anti-government protests in Iran."

The NCRI is the political wing of MKO, which has carried out a violent campaign since 1979 to overthrow the Iranian Government. According to Press TV, Rajavi told Agence France Press that her organisation's followers "cooperated with the demonstrators and coordinated the protests". She supposedly said, "[The protests are] a call for solidarity among all those who reject the rule of the Supreme Leader, the velayat e-faqih....What we call the 'Green movement' against the electoral fraud quickly disappeared to be replaced by a deeper movement whose goal is the total overthrow of the regime."

0915 GMT: How Big Were the Pro-Government Protests? An interesting discussion amongst EA readers overnight of footage from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, supposedly showing thousands of people chanting against "rioters" and for the regime. Authenticity is far from certain --- note the debate in comments below over the trees blurred in the video --- and I am still looking for confirmation in the Iranian press.

Meanwhile, pictures of a rally by Iranian members of Parliament on Tuesday show few demonstrators beyond the MPs.

0845 GMT: We've now posted video claiming to be of the attack on Ayatollah Dastgheib's offices (see 0830 GMT) in Shiraz.

0835 GMT: Uncertainty and Rumour. Testifying to our theme today, a prominent Iranian activist, Mehdi Saharkhiz, has posted an account of a supposed meeting between the Supreme Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani, discussing the situation after Ashura.

0830 GMT: The Regime v. The Clerics. Radio Farda has more on the story, which we noted yesterday, of attacks on the offices of Ayatollah Sane'i and Ayatollah Dastghaib in Mashhad and Shiraz.

0815 GMT: In our special analysis this morning, we began from Iran's settling into "tensions of uncertainty" after the Ashura demonstrations and the regime's fightback with widespread arrests.

The uncertainty is evident this morning in news that the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Seyed Ali Mousavi, is buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, reportedly after only the Government gave only a few hours' notice that the body should now be laid to rest. No prizes for guessing why, as the regime tries to limit any post-Ashura rallies --- Seyed Ali Mousavi was killed in Sunday's demonstrations.

Or, to be precise, post-Ashura rallies of the opposition. The regime's other gambit today is the call for a mass pro-Government demonstration in Tehran. The uncertainty, even with reports that "thousands" gathered on Monday and Tuesday to condemn the "rioters" of Ashura, is whether this demonstration will be a substantive indication of widespread support, especially for President Ahmadinejad.

And then there are the uncertainties that go beyond today's events. Consider, for example, how a rumour without any clear evidence is now "news". The Twitter chatter on Sunday was that a jet, with an escort of military fighters, was ready at Mehrabad Airport for the Supreme Leader to fly to Russia. Yesterday, that chatter, backed up by a mysterious fax, turned into "news" on Radio Netherlands, and today it is worthy of publication in The Huffington Post.

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    EA WorldView - Archives: December 2009 - The Latest from Iran (30 December): Rallies and Rumours
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    EA WorldView - Archives: December 2009 - The Latest from Iran (30 December): Rallies and Rumours
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    EA WorldView - Archives: December 2009 - The Latest from Iran (30 December): Rallies and Rumours

Reader Comments (241)

On what has now become a different note ;-), U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, which purportedly describes an Iranian plan to do experiments on what the newspaper described as a "neutron initiator" for an atomic weapon, is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Guess who has jumped on the bandwagon of 'Iranian people lovers' ? US senator Joe Lieberman:

If only he loved the American people (especially the millions who would have benefited from a public option in health care reform) just as dearly as he loves the Iranian people.....

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

I can't understand how Russa could allow a criminal to take refuge in the country when our poor Shah had nowhere to go !! they have to be forbidden to do this !! SL is like the Nazi killers of WW2 and he has to be tracked !

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

true enough: in the so-called pro-government rallies, people aren't wearing winter clothes and the blurred out trees look suspiciously green, but then i don't understand farsi, so i can't understand what is actually said and shouted. anyone?

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKarolien

The trees in that IRIB Iranian state TV video are blurry because of high compression used in reducing the size of the video for online streaming

It is not intentionally blurred out but is a result of artifacting and pixelation that compression brings.

By the way, the regime in Iran still has many millions of supporters. I would say half the country is on the regime's side, which consists of the rural population.

The Green movement is powered by the educated, mostly university students and reformists, their numbers are not as high as the millions of Iranians who live the rural areas and depend on the gov't for large subsidies and have less access to educational institutions and are more fervent in their religion.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJimGoose


Much appreciated --- will correct to make this point.


December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas


The "fax" that ordered Khamanei's jet to be put on standby for a flight to Russia has already been proven to be false by a media analyst who works for the BBC.

Plus the regime, unlike the Shah, will never leave Iran, they have nowhere to go and don't have the huge foreign bank accounts and luxury vacation homes outside Iran that the shah had.

They will stay until the bitter end and use as much force as possible to kill the revolution. They would rather die than concede.

I dont think i will be visiting this site again for news on Iran anymore :/

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJimGoose

And I am so disappointed with Larijani, the traitor, in the first rank of the demonstrators like a "Zombie";
between AN and him I prefer AN, who was the same from the beginning when the zombie is the follower of"wind's party" !

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris


Thanks for stopping by --- you will have noted that our positing of the "report" was to express our scepticism, rather than giving weight to the rumour.

Do you have a link for the BBC story?


December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

Don't worry for the " fortune " of the current leaders; go to Google and search the "wealth of iranian leaders", I think they are wealthier than Shah, but I agree with you, they have nowhere to go !!

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

The trees are blurred but you can see, from time to time in the video, trees with leaves !

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

Jim goose just like Samuel you seem to think that only Trees get blurred out with video compression well let me tell you everything would get blurred including the Signs I work in this field so let’s say, this was a rally held at a different time I could triple the amount of people using old footage and then add to the front of the Photoshoped video chants of a couple of hundred people then multiplied by sound editing to seem like a large crowd !!! So I really am glad you no longer want to read this website quite frankly you and Samuel should maybe create your own site and cosy up together and maybe just get lost

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPrince Of Persia

I would like to draw your attention to a remark by the Vice President of the Iranian Parliament Bahonar: "the deputies will create the legal basis for imposing the death penalty on protesters within 24 hours."

It appeared on several German news sites yesterday! (see Link)

I don't know how serious this is, or if it adds anything to the statements by Larijani and that other cleric (Vaez Tabasi), but... :(

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterclownfish79


Please re-post link....


December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

Oh my god !! The old politic and demographic myths are on again : "half the country is on the regime’s side, which consists of the rural population." Pure Nonsense! Iran's majority is young, rather well educated & living in the metropolitan areas etc.pp.
Next nonsense: "... the regime, unlike the Shah, will never leave Iran, they have nowhere to go and don’t have the huge foreign bank accounts ... ". As if we never heard of foreign bank accounts of the IRI "Gentlemen" - including Khameinei's Clan, Rafsanjani, some "worst clerics" til Mohsen Rezai (IRGC).

Rumours are always rumours before they can change to news, but rumours mirror always the atmosphere inside a society too.

"JimGoose" is exactly that what the name says. ;)

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulianus

@ scott lucas

as you need : link to German newspaper DIE WELT ( Larijani, Bahonar)

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulianus


Oh yes the Likes of Khameni have not a dime in the world. the poos chaps have not stolen a penny.

Shah sold Oil for 1 dollar a barrel these guys are selling it for 75 to 150 a barrel.
In Shah's time Iran was RICH country and the dollar stood at 7 toman. Now the inflation is crazy the country poor and the dollar is at 1000+ toman. U do the math which stole more !!!!

I am anything from being a Monoarchist but please be fair and realistic. Also I have no idea where u are getting your numbers from(half the country !!!!?) , even with all the money and power they throw in they have in 6 months not been able to get even 50.000 people to attend a protest.

Finally thanks for stopping by and don't let the door hit u on the way out. One clown is enough for this site (We have our own adorable Samuel, whom we all have grown to love...)

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfshin

@10:00 ahhh good ols parasite Maryam Rajjavi is back talking without thinking.... Gotta love Mujjahedin.. The only movement that maybe as bad as the the Regime in Iran..

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfshin


Jim is correct but he missed one point. The blurring resluting from artifacting and pixelation(from lossy compression) would be uniform. The video is not uniformly blurry indicating the possibility of some manual pixelation. I have some experince due to a business I own part of that deals with high end lossless compression for the military and film industry. I believe some of the video is authentic but it also appears to be spliced quite liberally and potentially using shots from a different time. You also have to take into account trees are not green in Tehran in December! Obviously no way to confirm this but I think we can assume part is real but the guess is how much. As a note the video I am referencing was not the reuters one but the full one on the IRIB site.


December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill

I was guessing that a lot of the film footage on IRIB was from previous years, both because of the seasonal issue and because of the posters and chants which seemed a bit more banal than the current political atmosphere warrants.
A friend once told me that a third of the population in any ME country is usually for the government, a third is against, and the other third is in the middle. Assuming that's an accurate picture of the situation, the events since June would probably have put pressure on the middle third to migrate to the opposition, even if the third that supports the government remains staunchly faithful to the regime.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEdward Yeranian

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.... Just watched the video, if that is not fake I dont knwo what is. Yes only the trees get blurry and yes only in some of the shots, ha ha ha ha

Infact they forgot to blur out one tree, towards the end (80%) they zoom into the crowed then show a tree on the right its only there for a second but in the winter it is full of leaved and green as can be.. haha --- Oh yes the footage is very believable...

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfshin

Prince of persia
what a beautiful name !

Some news from France; yesterday evening ther was a debate in french TV with Mr Antoine Sfeir, a libanese philosopher and writer, Michel Taubmann, a french philosopher and writer, Madame Fariba Adelkhah and Mr Hourcade, a french researcher specialized in Iranian issu, who is very strange ! let me explain :
- In 2007, during a lecture in senate in Paris, he talked about Galibaf praising him and his bravery, saying that he is a war's heros, taking back Khorramshahr in one day, hence his nickname, Napoleon of Iran; Two years ago Hourcade was for Galibaf and spoke against AN.
- in 2009, after the elections in Iran and the uprising of iranian people , hourcade said , that it's the " swan song" and the end of the regime.
- few time after, I saw him in a meeting, and he said to me : " Madame, who are your oppositions leaders ? there is one who was prime minister and during his mandate a lot of people were killed; the other one is an old religious, therefore AN, son of the smith, is the better one, and everywhere you have the rigged elections !!
- Ashura's evening he said that the regime is very strong and won't never collapse.
- yesterday's night, during the debate, he followed the others people on the stage, saying it's the end of the regime !!

An other follower of "wind's party"; since I am involved in iranian politics, I meet too much this kind of people !
For what I am glad , is finally the acknowledgement of the existence of "Green Movement", all over the world even by Obama administration and Niac (Hi ! green Activist); All the guest on the stage talked, not that it's a revolt, but a second "revolution", and they said that after 30 years of oppression, iranian people want to get rid of the regime !!
My story is to cheer you up, in this day of pro regime's demonstrations!

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris


thank you for posting the Bahonar story so quickly. I still hope he is just making threats.

Regarding the IRIB video: it looks a bit like a "best of" compilation from former events, but that's just my impression.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterclownfish79

Towards what? - This was discussed on AJE's Inside Story on Tuesday, December 29, 2009. Presenter Hoda Abdelhamid interviewed Gary Sick and Trita Parsi (in what turned out to be a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society), and very briefly Kian Mokhtari, an Iranian columnist and journalist who managed to get out one seemingly pro-regime comment before his telephone connection from Iran was cut off.

Good discussion touching on: Is the opposition taking advantage of religious events to show force? Are these protests affecting the stability of the government? How deep is the rift among Iranians? Where is this all going to end up?

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

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