Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Association of Combatant Clergy (2)


The Latest from Iran (28 December): The Regime's Arresting Strategy

ASHURA52115 GMT: Battling with Statements. The Assembly of Combatant Clergymen has condemned those it says are responsible for violence on Ashura, namely the security forces and plainclothes militia: "The Almighty God will cut off the hands of these deceived fools." The Assembly added:
Today we should cry blood that on the day of Hossein’s Aashura and after all sorts of insults to Imam Khomeini’s family and his legacy by the phony defenders of the revolution, there was an attack on the prayer hall [in Jamaran, where former President Khatami was speaking] that is a reminder of the name and memory of the Imam. The peaceful ritual of commemorating Aashura was attacked by clubs, batons and chains and by insulting slogans. Those who [did this] made the utmost insults to both Ashura and Imam Khomeini and then beat and bashed innocent people.

Daftar-Tahkim-Vahdat, the main reformist Student Alumni Organisation, also issued a statement:
What a regret that a government that considers itself to be risen from religious teachings and a national revolution, on the noon of Ashura opens fire on innocents and does what even the most notorious rulers of this country throughout the history [e.g. the Shah deposed in 1979] had not dared to do.

2055 GMT: Taking Sides? We've posted the video of President Obama's statement (see 2020 GMT) and it's even harder-hitting than we thought:"History will be on the side of those who seek justice"

2035 GMT: How Many Detained Yesterday? Rah-e-Sabz reports that 400 to 500 protesters were arrested Sunday in Isfahan, including the brother and two nephews of former Minister of Interior Abdollah Nouri. Human Rights Activists News Agency are now saying 1100 people have been transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran.

2025 GMT: Dastghaib Calls for A Movement. Ayatollah Dastgheib has issued a statement for fellow marja (high-ranking clerics) to join him in calling on the Government to adhere to the Constitution.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Obama Condemns “Violent & Unjust Suppression” (28 December)
NEW Iran: Ashura’s Message “Iranians Are Not Punching Bags” (Josh Shahryar)
NEW Iran: A Point of No Return?
Iran: A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura
Iran: The False US Friends of the “Iranian People” (An Open Letter to Charles Krauthammer)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 3rd Set)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 2nd Set)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December)
The Latest from Iran (27 December): The Day of Ashura

2020 GMT: Obama Speaks. The US Government has definitely decided to throw rhetorical support behind the Iranian opposition. The President, in a press conference which will focus on the foiled attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jet, has taken the time to comment on events in Iran.

Obama hailed the "courage and conviction" of Iran's people and said the Government must respect their rights:

We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained....The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens. What is talking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It is about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice.

1900 GMT: They Burned 18 Garbage Bins?! Sometimes you have to admire the Iranian regime. It is walking a fine line between showing that Sunday's protests were serious enough that the demonstrators must be punished but not so serious enough that they pose a threat to the regime. This is tonight's magical public-relations solution:
Head of the Public Relations office of Tehran's Safety Services and Firefighting Organization Behrouz Tashakkor said 838 firefighters were dispatched to various locations in Tehran on Ashura. "Nine residential buildings, 9 vehicles, 7 shops, 2 banks and 3 power stations were set on fire [by anti-government protestors]," Tashakkor said.

The Iranian official added that "18 garbage bins" were also set on fire.

1855 GMT: Karroubi Targeted? Saham News reports that Mehdi Karoubi, attending an Ashura mourning ceremony with his family, was attacked by plainclothes militia as he left the mosque. Karoubi’s car was attacked and vandalised, breaking the front windscreen, before onlookers intervened.

1840 GMT: More on Emad Baghi's Arrest (see 1140 GMT). An EA contact has given us the following information:

This morning plainclothes officers entered Baghi's home, with others standing at the door. They insulted his wife and daughters and turned him home into a garrison and badly beat his brother-in-law. As Baghi was taken away, he read a verse of the Qu'ran calling for tolerance and patience in difficulties. One of his captors said, "His life is short enough that he can see the future."

One of the accusations against Baghi is his interview with the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in a movie recently broadcast by BBC Persian.

Baghi's whereabouts tonight are unknown.

1740 GMT: The BBC has published a comprehensive list of Western countries which have strongly criticised the Iranian Government's bloody crackdown and called for Tehran's restraint.

1555 GMT: Where is Mousavi's Body? According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the body of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali is being held by Government authorities while investigations are carried out on a death "under suspicious circumstances".

1530 GMT: Javan Farda reports that the son of Ayatollah Jaleleddin Taheri has been arrested in Isfahan. Taheri has been under pressure in recent days after his attempt to lead a memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

1444 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz is reporting that metro stations in central Tehran have been closed. The likelihood is that this is because of Government fears of escalation of protests at 7 Tir Square.

1440 GMT: Arresting the Martyr's Mother. One of "the others" arrested at the house of activist Mahin Fahimi (see 1335 GMT) was the mother of Sohrab
, who came to prominence when it emerged in July that he died from Basiji gunfire on 15 June.

1435 GMT: First Clashes of Today? We are getting reports of a crowd gathering in Tehran's 7 Tir Square and clashes with security forces.

1405 GMT: Keeping Rafsanjani in a Box. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani did not make an appearance yesterday, but that does not mean that the regime pressure on relented --- indeed, since that pressure might have muted Rafsanjani on Ashura, why not maintain it?

Fars News keeps up the campaign this morning, claiming that Rafsanjani's daughter Faezeh Hashemi joined "rioters" on Ashura after spending her holidays in the north of Iran (in other words, she partied during the first days of Moharram and joined the protests just for fun).

1400 GMT: The Arrests. Another vital list, this one from Neo-Resistance, which posts these details of arrests:

Ebrahim Yazdi (former Foreign Minister)
Emad-e'Din Baghi (Human Rights Activist)
Morteza Hadji (Minister of educaion during Khatami era)
Leila Tavassoli, daughter of Mohammad Tavassoli
Seyed Hosein Mousavi Tabrizi (Head of the clerical Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qom)
Alireza Beheshti Shirazi (Editor in Chief of Mousavi's online journal Kalameh Sabz)
Ghorban Behzadian Nejad (Mousavi consultant)
Mohamad Bagherian (Mousavi consultant)
Rasouli (deputy of President Khatami's Baran Foundation)
Forouzandeh (Manager of Mousavi's office)
Mohammad Sadegh Rabbani (retired university professor who used to be the general prosecutor 20 years ago, arrested yesterday 27 December)
Mohammad Moin (son of former Presidential candidate Mostafa Moin, the former Minister of Science and higher education, arrested 27 December)
Heshmatollah Tabarzadi (Student Activist)
Haleh Sahabi (Women's Rights activist)

1355 GMT: Reports that journalist Mostafa Izadi arrested.

1350 GMT: We Break for This Official Announcement. Press TV: "Brigadier-General Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, on Monday defined the 'actions of a group of hooligans on such days of mourning' as another 'low act' incomparable to anything seen before. He described the 'small group of vandals' as marginal compared to 'millions of real Ashura mourners'."

Now back to regular programming....

1342 GMT: Essential Information. HomyLafayette has posted a summary with information on those swept up in the Government's wave of arrests. Josh Shahryar has compiled information, complete with map, on the locations across Iran of protests yesterday. And an EA reader points us to an excellent collection of photographs from the Ashura protests.

1335 GMT: Claims coming in that Government forces entered the home of peace activist Mahin Fahimi, arresting her, her son, and others.

1303 GMT: Mousavi's Body. We continue follow conflicting reports over the fate of the body of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali with reports that it was taken from the Ebn -e-Sina Hospital by Government authorities.

1258 GMT: Deaths and Arrests. One of those killed yesterday was the son of Shahin Mahinfar, the prominent IRIB journalist.

An Iranian source reports that Abolfazl Ghadyani of the Mojahedin has been arrested.

1236 GMT: There are unconfirmed reports that the head of the Iranian Embassy in Norway has resigned citing his support of the green movement.

1205 GMT: The Human Rights Activists News Agency claims that 550 people arrested on Sunday have been transferred to Evin Prison.

1200 GMT: Answering Our Question. Masoud at The Newest Deal has a lengthy analysis which responds to our interim assessment this morning, "Point of No Return?". His reply? "One thing that is certain is that there is no turning back."

1140 GMT: The Regime Strikes Back (Cont.). The strategy of the Government is to "break" the movement --- much as it appeared to do in June, in July, in August, in September --- with arrests and disruption of communications.

EA sources confirm that Emad Baghi, the founder of the Association for Defense of Prisoners Rights, has been arrested. (Parleman News has now reported this.) A reliable source writes that Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, leader of the banned Democratic Front of Iranian People, has been taken from his home.

The site Rah-e-Sabz is under sustained cyber-attack and, of course, Kalemeh has been hindered by the arrest of its editor (see 1040 GMT). It is also reported that Etemaad newspaper has been closed.

1040 GMT: The Regime Strikes Back. A pattern is emerging of the Iranian Government trying to regain the initiative through arrests last night and this morning. Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, the editor of Mir Hossein Mousavi's Kalemeh, has been detained.

1010 GMT: The Mousavi "Assassination" Story (The Official Iran Version). Fars News tries to put both the Ashura demonstrations and the death of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew into "proper" perspective. As with the death of Neda Agha Soltan in June, the killing of Seyed Ali Mousavi was carried out by specially-trained teams, linked to the 10 "terrorists" slain by Iranian forces. The story will then be taken up by foreign media as proof of the evil of Iran's regime.

0955 GMT: The Mousavi "Assassination" Story. The New York Times has a lengthy and very useful article, written by Robert Worth and Nazila Fathi. In the review of Sunday's events, one passage is striking, especially if the line is taken up by other US media (who have in past have been fond of filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as a "spokesman" for the Green movement):
Unlike the other protesters reported killed on Sunday, Ali Moussavi [the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi] appears to have been assassinated in a political gesture aimed at his uncle, according to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an opposition figure based in Paris with close ties to the Moussavi family.

Mr. Moussavi was first run over by a sport utility vehicle outside his home, Mr. Makhmalbaf wrote on his Web site. Five men then emerged from the car, and one of them shot Mr. Moussavi.

0950 GMT: Correct us if we're wrong, but it appears that the reformist site Rah-e-Sabz, an important source for news, has not updated since 0120 GMT (4:50 a.m. in Tehran).

0935 GMT: Non-Violence and Self-Defense. We've posted a provocative analysis by Josh Shahryar of the events of Ashura, "Iranians Are Not Punching Bags".

0930 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has more on what appears to be a Government raid on the offices of the Assembly of Teachers and Researchers of Qom. Earlier it was reported that Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, the head of the Assembly, was arrested.

0845 GMT: The Regime (Tries to) Strike Back. Unconfirmed reports that, in addition to the arrest of prominent reformist Ebrahim Yazdi, Iranian authorities have detained Mir Hossein Mousavi's advisors Mohammad Baghriyan and Ghorban Behzadian-Nejad.

0755 GMT: We're still getting amazing video from yesterday. The latest clip --- of heavily-armed security forces pinned back against a wall by protesters --- will go up in two minutes.

0745 GMT: A day to catch up with news, to stand back and assess.

My own impression --- and this is personal, not an "official" EA line --- is that the protests of Ashura were an important marker that the Iranian Government will not stand, at least with its current President and its current political approach. How much farther this goes --- is this now an indication that only sweeping changes in the Iranian system, extending to the authority of the Supreme Leader, will avert even more dramatic showdowns? --- is what I cannot quite grasp.

We've posted two "thinkpieces" setting out the possibilities: late last night, I wrote a "5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction" and this morning we've set out some thoughts in "A Point of No Return?"

The Latest from Iran (17 December): An Uncertain Regime

MOHARRAM22145 GMT: Mowj-e-Sabz Suspends Publication. The editors and reporters of the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp, a key source of information in the post-election crisis, have announced tonight that they are suspending the posting of articles.

The authors declare that this is the "end of a wave but the beginning of a path", as they "leave the arena temporarily to other Green [activists]". The announcement points to 22 Bahman (11 February), the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as a key date for mobilisation.

Overall impression? The Mowj-e-Sabz activists, having been under constant regime pressure and having had their domain "seized" by hackers (the announcement claims they were Russians hired by the regime) this week, are taking a step back and drawing breath. The impression is of an opposition movement preparing to move more slowly but consistently in a long-haul battle.

2130 GMT: Paying Respects. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, have visited former Vice President and recently-released detainee Mohammad Ali Abtahi in his home.

2125 GMT: More than 900 Sharif University students have signed an open letter protesting the arrest of protesters on 16 Azar (7 December).

1920 GMT: Propaganda of the Day (2). Israeli officials are putting out the story that President Obama, on his trip to Beijing in November, "warned his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations for much longer". This "part of the U.S. attempt to convince the Chinese to support strict sanctions on Tehran" matches up with leaks to the US media from a faction (probably including Dennis Ross of the National Security Council) in the Obama Administration --- which we noted --- that Israel would send the missiles into Iran if nothing was done about Tehran's nuclear program.

NEW Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Sword Wavers
NEW Latest Iran Video: Interview of the “Basij Member” on the Election and Abuses (16 December)
NEW Iran & The Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: “To Men Who Are Not Ashamed of Being a Woman” (Shirin Ebadi)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Larijani Threat to Arrest Green Leaders (16 December)
Iran Document: The Rafsanjani Speech in Mashhad (6 December)
Iran: Why the US Sanctions Game on Tehran is All Wrong
Iran Picture of the Day: Mohammad Khatami’s Cellphone
Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
The Latest on Iran (16 December): What’s Next?

The bigger story, however, lies beyond the spin. The Israeli officials added that the effect on Beijing was short-lived: "the Americans now understand that the Chinese agreed to join the condemnation announcement [at the International Atomic Energy Agency] only because Obama made a personal request to [Chinese leader Hu Jintao], not as part of a policy change". They noted that China has "refused a Saudi-American initiative designed to end Chinese dependence on Iranian oil".

If true, that means --- for all the bluster of the pro-sanctions crowd in Washington in conjunction with the Israelis --- any notion of economic punishment including the Chinese is a fantasy.

1900 GMT: Propaganda of the Day (1): On his "Go-Away-and-Play-While-The-Adults-Deal-with-the-Political-Crisis" trip in Copenhagen, President Ahmadinejad "has described capitalism and materialism as root causes for the world's environment crisis".

I don't want to be snippy, Mahmoud, but have you been in Tehran on a hot summer day when there's no wind coming off the mountain?

1715 GMT: The New Green Website. Repeating the important news yesterday: the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp can now be accessed at

1700 GMT: For What It's Worth "Do Nothing". I've had problems with Roger Cohen's treatment of Iran in recent months, in particular his dismissal of the role new media/social media inside and outside the country in this political contest, but today I find myself on his side:

All this [history of Iran's nuclear programme] says — nay, screams — to me: Do nothing. It is President Barack Obama’s outreach that has unsettled a regime that found American axis-of-evil rhetoric easy to exploit. After struggling, Obama has also found his sweet spot in combining that détente with quiet support for universal rights....

[The protesters'] cause would be best upheld by stopping the march toward “crippling” sanctions on Iran....As Elizabeth Shakman Hurd of Northwestern University has written, “the United States is empowering the dissenters with its silence.”...Obama, himself of hybrid identity, must show his understanding of this historic urge by doing nothing. That will allow the Iranian political clock to tick faster still.

(For what it's worth, my comment to a reader yesterday, "My own preference has been to put the nuclear issue to the side and suspend discussions while Iran’s internal situation is in flux. That approach brings its own issues and difficulties — how to hold back Israel, for example — but I think it’s a more effective denial of legitimacy to Ahmadinejad and Co. than the questionable stick of sanctions.")

1330 GMT: The Latest on the Marches. Still confusion and uncertainty over whether the opposition will protest tomorrow. Some Iranian websites are reporting that the Green Movement will NOT demonstrate. The latest from Mir Hossein Mousavi is that he, Mehdi Karroubi, and the Association of Combatant Clergy are still waiting for a decision on their separate requests for permits.

1140 GMT: Out-of-Date News: Mehr News' English-language website just posted this news of reconciliation:
A senior lawmaker announced on Monday that two groups -- a six-person group from the Expediency Council and an eight-member group from somewhere else -- have started efforts to broker unity among principlists and reformists. [Deputy Speaker of Parliament] Mohammad Reza Bahonar also blasted harsh criticism against Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani....Bahonar who is also the secretary general of the Islamic Association of Engineers praised Rafsanjani’s efforts for national unity....Bahonar also said opposition groups in the country must have media to express their views.

So a prospect of reconcilation, then? Not quite: Bahonar said this "on Monday", before the latest regime assaults against Rafsanjani.

What say you now, Mr Bahonar?

1015 GMT: Abuses, Threats, and the Tribute to Majid Tavakoli. We've posted three important entries: 1) a video of the speech by Sadegh Larijani (see separate analysis) threatening arrest of opposition leaders; 2) an article by Shirin Ebadi on the "We All Wear Hejab" response to the arrest of Majid Tavakoli; and 3) the video of the interview by Britain's Channel 4 of the purported Basiji militiaman.

(Note: the Larijani video is not on our lead page because the audio automatically loads when a reader scrolls.)

0920 GMT: Shutting Down Ayatollah Dastgheib. The lecture hall of Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib in Shiraz, "The Cradle of Martyrs", has been shut down. The hall was the biggest one for the mourning ceremony of Imam Hussain during Moharram.

As Dastgheib has been a critic both of the Government and of the Supreme Leader since June, speculation is that the closure is to prevent opposition protest.

0915 GMT: Clerical Boycott. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Khashani, a member of Guardian Council and the head of theological college of Shahid Motahhari, has refused to participate in the sessions of Association of Combatant Clergy as a protest against the association's failure to react against insults of clerics such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali-Akhbar Nategh-Nouri by some Presidential candidates (i.e., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).

0905 GMT: Defending the Opposition. The audio of the speeches by reformist members of Parliament Mohammad Reza Tabesh and Nasrullah Torabi (see yesterday's updates and separate analysis), warning against regime intentions to arrest political figures in the Green movement, has been posted.

0855 GMT: The Verbal Sword-Fight. Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council, also spoke at the same conference of prosecutors addressed by Sadegh Lariajni with his "We Have the Evidence" declaration (see separate analysis). Jalili's talk was more the standard formula of legitimacy, followed by insinuation of foreign-directed opposition:
Enemies cannot deny the massive turnout and the tight internal political competition leading to the elections. Indeed the election was a turning point in the Islamic Republic’s history and underpinned our political credibility in the world....Regrettably some quarters are trying to change this turning point into an opportunity for themselves. This is a major act of injustice towards the Islamic Republic.

0755 GMT: The Basiji Confession? There is a lot of Internet chatter this morning about an interview by Britain's Channel 4 Television with a man claiming to be a former member of the Basij militia. The interview includes confirmation of the torture and rape of detainees and the assertion, "In truth the orders [to manipulate the Presidential vote] didn't come after the election. The orders for all that you witnessed came before the election."

0740 GMT: The Clerics-Rafsanjani Alliance? One announcement which may be of significance amidst our recent consideration of political plans and manoeuvres: Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili, a critic of the Ahmadinejad Government in the post-election crisis, is meeting former President Hashemi Rafsanjani this evening.

0735 GMT: We've started the morning with a special analysis, "The Regime's Sword Wavers", which summarises recent developments and looks forward to the start of Moharram tomorrow. Our conclusion? "A swinging sword does not necessarily find its target. And it does not necessarily bring legitimacy".

One note to add to that analysis: all of this turmoil occurs as President Ahmadinejad is far, far away in location at the Copenhagen summit. Is he also far, far away politically, a bystander as regime officials, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the Green opposition trade blows amidst increasingly hostile rhetoric?