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Entries in Faezeh Hashemi (5)


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?"

Iran Analysis: The Regime's Sword Wavers

SWORDEnduring America, 14 December: "What can the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guard do with a Sword which, for all the detentions and all the propaganda, dangles not as a sign of its threat but of (for now) its impotence?"

Even by the standards of this post-election conflict, the last 48 hours have been extraordinary for their rhetoric. At one point, there were no less than five regime officials (head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, Supreme Leader representative Mojtaba Zolnour, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, Tehran Governor Morteza Tamedon) throwing around threats of arrests. Yet the opposition was even more spirited and even more high-profile: both Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karroubi met the threats with defiance and more than a little humour (both were quite concerned about Yazdi's health, physical and mental), MPs offered public support, Mir Hossein Mousavi's Alireza Beheshti challenged the regime's continuous "lies about imperialism", and Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, held up the Green Movement as the representative of the ideals of Imam Khomeini.

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

And the outcome today, on the eve of the holy month of Moharram? A regime, nervous and possibly a bit frightened, which can neither swing its Sword of Damocles nor keep it steady.

Yesterday afternoon EA correspondent Mr Azadi began putting the pieces together. On Tuesday, Yazdi had put out his scathing ridicule of the "joke" of Karroubi and threatened Hashemi Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi, with arrest if he stepped foot in Iran, Tamedon had talked both of security forces on alert for troublemakers on Friday and of Rafsanjani, and Zolnour apparently said all the opposition leaders should be rounded up. Then yesterday, it emerged that both Larijani and Moslehi were telling important groups of officials and clerics that the evidence was in place to hold trials; the Minister of Intelligence was now spinning a conspiracy tale in which representatives of Hashemi Rafsanjani had planned the post-election conflict in Britain with foreign agents.

The speeches were not necessarily co-ordinated. Indeed, because they probably weren't, they were far short of successful. Larijani's statement, which should have been the most significant given his official position, was a bit lost in crowded airspace, while Moslehi's speech --- at least to my outside eyes --- comes across as extreme. Is the regime really saying that Mehdi Hashemi and Rafsanjani's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi (who is in Iran), go on trial as part of the inner circle of the "velvet revolution"?

Instead of cowing the opposition into submission, the volley of regime shots were met by a furious counter-attack. Karroubi was careful, in a well-crafted response, to focus on Yazdi rather than swinging at officials such as Larijani and Moslehi, but Rafsanjani, durig the course of the day, took on not only Yazdi ("Get Help", "Get Cured") but the regime in general. Perhaps the former President was planning, after months of relative silence and uncertain manoeuvres, to surface but it appears that the attacks on him and his family helped make up his mind.

The irony is that, if the regime had kept its mouth shut or at least been more measured in its attacks, it could have left the opposition, rather than itself, in wobbling confusion. The Green movement seemed to be undecided, or even split, over tactics for the first day of Moharram. Should it join the Government-authorised marches, behind the message of "The Ideals of Khomeini are Our Ideals", or should it stand aside and let the regime have the field of demonstrations to itself for the first time in six months?

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi put out a letter, with a picture of Mousavi, favouring a public appearance but other activists balked: 1) some feared this would lead to violent clashes; 2) some did not want to associated with any march in honour of Khomeini, even if it had the symbols of resistance of Imam Hossein, whose death is marked by Moharram; 3) some argued that staying away would embarrass the regime when the outcome of a relatively small demonstration showed the lack of support for the Government. This morning, the argument is still unresolved.

Yet this debate in the opposition camp is secondary to the image of the regime's fist-shaking being met by a smack from Karroubi, who had been muted in recent weeks, Rafsanjani, and others. So why did it make such an inept move?

The more I look at events, the more I think that in part the answer is a fear of Rafsanjani. It was notable, for example, that Moslehi's attack did not name any other leader apart from the former President: Mousavi, Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami were all absent from the speech. And it may be equally notable that Tehran Government Tamedon specifically referred to Rafsanjani's 6 December speech in Mashhad as an unacceptable challenge to the regime.

At the time of the speech, we published not only an extract from the speech but an analysis pointing to discussions between senior clerics and Rafsanjani as part of a renewed effort for a "National Unity Plan" or similar political compromise between the regime and the Green opposition. This prospect was challenged by others as an illusory hope but we still maintained this: what mattered was whether the regime thought the initiative was serious, causing it discomfort and prompting a response.

The last 48 hours mark that response: the Government is worried about Rafsanjani, possibly even more than the protests on the streets or the Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami alliance. My hunch --- and it is only a hunch --- is that regime officials think Rafsanjani might have planned a high-profile appearance, if not tomorrow than at some point leading up to or on  the special day of Ashura (27 December), to mark his defiance of the Ahmadinejad Government. For the first time since his Friday Prayer of mid-July, the trumpet (or alarm, in the ears of the regime) would be sounded: Hashemi's Back, Hashemi's Here.

If true, that's a pretty significant development in the ongoing battle. But I think the threats also come from a second fear, and this one may be more important.

The regime is worried about its own supporters. Uncertainty and fright comes from the prospect that the large numbers won't show up tomorrow. The Friday Prayer congregation at Tehran University will be full, but how many will then go on the streets? And, if they are on the streets, how loud will they be for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad rather than Imam Hossein?

For six months, from the day-after-election "they are all dust" victory speech of Ahmadinejad to the 19 June Friday Prayer speech of the Supreme Leader to this Sunday's reprise of Ayatollah Khamenei --- not to mention the actions beyond the speeches from detentions to security presence to the steady propaganda brumbeat --- the regime has relied on attack.

But a swinging sword does not necessarily find its target. And it does not necessarily bring legitimacy (irrespective of the words of Machiavelli). So tomorrow's test is not of how many come for the opposition but, arguably for the first time since 12 June, how many come out for the Supreme Leader, for the President, and for current regime and its actions.

The Latest from Iran (14 December): Taking Stock

IRAN GREEN1745 GMT: Swinging Wildly. A couple of punches from regime supporters this afternoon. The Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guard, told Presidential staff that the Khomeini Archive, run by the late Imam's family, is "a base for monafeghin (hypocrites)". The term "monafeghin" is commonly used to refer to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the group which has tried to overthrow the Islamic Republic since 1979, often through violence.

And Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi took aim at Hashemi Rafsanjani. Yazdi claimed that, when he was head of Iran's judiciary, Rafsanjani asked him to cover up a criminal case against the former President's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. Yazdi also questioned the intellectual credentials of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

1604 GMT: Confirming the Sentence. We had learned days ago that economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz had been sentenced to nine years in prison. The break-down of the sentence has been released: five years for acts against national security by holding meetings with foreign embassy officials, one year for participating in the protest march of 15 June; two years (and 74 lashes) for insulting officials, one year for propagandizing against the Establishment in his economic analyses over the last eight years.

1558 GMT: Pushing the Issue. For the first time in months, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have requested a permit for a march from the Ministry of Interior.

NEW 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
Iran Analysis: Sifting the Propaganda – Government About to Arrest Opposition Leaders?
Latest Videos from Iran’s Universities (13 December)

The Latest from Iran (13 December): Bubbling Over?

1555 GMT: Sanctions? Oops! "A senior official says that a meeting by five world powers on Iran's nuclear program has been canceled due to China's opposition.

The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany had planned to meet Friday. The official from one of the five world powers demanded anonymity Monday because his information was confidential.

The meeting was to be in Brussels or on the sidelines of the Copenhagen summit." (hat-tip to EA reader)

1510 GMT: Josh Shahryar's latest Green Brief, covering Sunday's events, is now out, covering protests at up to nine Iranian universities, the threat of arrests, and the Supreme Leader's speech, amongst other events.

1500 GMT: There's Mahmoud! The President has met our concerns about his absence (0905 and 0725 GMT) from the domestic crisis with this comment, "The enemies of the Iranian nation are now frustrated and want to take revenge through insulting the country's sanctities....The enemies should fear the typhoon of the Iranian people's anger." Ahmadinejad accused the opposition of being "against the nation" and "agents of foreigners".

1215 GMT: Your New Top Story (if You're Not in Iran). Looks like the "Western" media will surge this morning with a single sentence from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at a news conference, passed on by the Associated Press via The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times: the three US hikers detained this summer in Iran had "suspicious aims" and will go on trial. CBS News is now headlining, and CNN now "confirms" (cracking journalism since the press conference was hours ago).

1050 GMT: The Regime's Scramble. A reader reminds us that the Peyke Iran "exclusive" (0915 GMT), on the Armed Forces self-confessed failing to contain the opposition, is from a memorandum from September after the Qods Days protests. The question that prompts is whether, again in light of our analysis this morning, the Armed Forces would revise that assessment three months later.

1040 GMT: The Regime Persists. I guess the Government can't just step away from its "burning Khomeini" game, despite all the complications it has caused. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has claimed that several people have been arrested over the incident.

1030 GMT: Don't Give Them an Excuse. Mir Hossein Mousavi has moved to pre-empt any regime pretext for a crackdown, such as the alleging burning of Khomeini's image, as well as to contain any notion of a "radical" opposition: "From now on all protests and demands should be pursued peacefully and lawfully. Nobody among us should make a pretext for those who are against people."

Mousavi then renewed the "peaceful" challenge:

People have a right to question, they should not be confronted violently....If people's questions were answered and they were not confronted violently we would not see some controversial moves today. People want an end of the security-obsessed atmosphere as in such an atmosphere radicalism grows.

0915 GMT: Analysis Confirmed, Regime Scrambling To Contain Opposition? An EA reader, commenting on our morning analysis about the weekend's threat of arrests, points out a Peyke Iran story: the article claims to have an admission from Iran's Armed Forces that it has failed to contain the Green Movement.

The report from the General Staff allegedly evaluates that the Green Movement has not been fostered by foreign intervention and that it is not following a specific political agenda but is a social and cultural movement. The officers say that, despite isolating the movement's leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami), the opposition has persisted. Efforts to out-number and overwhelm the demonstrators through counter-protests of Government workers have been hindered by the apathy of the workers or, in some cases, their refusal to heed the call.

An interesting note: the General Staff evaluates that women have been the chief instigators of the protests.

0905 GMT: The Regime Keeps On Spinning. Press TV puts out a boiler-plate story under a dramatic headline, "Figures slam sacrilege of Imam Khomeini portrait". We reported almost all of the comments in yesterday's updates but there is one interesting addition today, in light of our question (0725 GMT), "Where's Mahmoud?".  "Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Tuesday described the incident as an 'objectionable' move 'that he wished he had never witnessed'."

Hmm, that's six days ago, which is about six years on the calendar of Iranian political developments --- what's Mahmoud been doing since then?

0725 GMT: After a weekend of tension which did not culminate in 1) high-profile arrests or 2) a resolution of the mysterious letter/audio purportedly from Iranian army units ready to "stand with the people" if violence continues but did point to the persistence of protest on university campuses, it is a morning to pause and assess. We have a special analysis on the meaning of the regime's threat, capped by the Supreme Leader's speech yesterday, to vanquish the opposition once and for all.

There's also an important related issue for us to consider before an analysis tomorrow: Where's Mahmoud? It's notable that, in all the public manoeuvres of the last few days, President Ahmadinejad has been off to the side, meeting foreign delegations and waving his fist on the nuclear issue but saying little about the internal situation. Is he being politically sensible in standing back from the front line or has he been put to the side by others, i.e., the Supreme Leader, returning to the shadows that he occupied in the early weeks of this crisis?

Much of this is beyond the "Western" media. The New York Times, for example, has a good article by Michael Slackman this morning on the "burning" of the image of Imam Khomenei. Unfortunately, it's a piece already overtaken by events --- Slackman never notes the threat of arrests of opposition leaders and thus the wider significance of Ayatollah Khamenei's Sunday address.

CNN is just catching up with the "We Are All Majids/All in Hejab" protest over the detention of Majid Tavakoli.  The Times of London, meanwhile, is going off on one of its regular sensational strolls in the nuclear woods, claiming from mysterious (and unnamed) sources and buttressing the claim with Israeli comment, "Secret document exposes Iran’s nuclear trigger".

The Latest from Iran (10 December): Reading the Chessboard

16 AZAR POSTER5 2015 GMT: Josh Shahryar has posted an overview with new data on the 16 Azar marches.

1930 GMT: Back from the Iran conference in Durham to find a write-up in The New York Times ( on the Internet attention to the case of Majid Tavakoli, the student leader arrested in the 16 Azar (7 December) demonstrations. It's a good piece on an important matter of Iranian "justice" and dissent, quoting Twitter-prominent activists/bloggers "madyar" and "omidhabibnia".

One correction, though. The article kindly cites me for posting Tavakoli's last entry on Facebook before he was detained. All the credit should go to Setareh Sabety, who brought the piece to Enduring America.

NEW Breaking News: Khamenei Wins 2009 “Dictator of Year”
Iran Analysis: Are Rafsanjani and National Unity Plan “Spent Forces"?
Iran: Latest Updates On Demonstrations
New Videos – Protests Continue at Tehran Universities on 18 Azar
Iran Exclusive: Clerics and Rafsanjani Plan The “Third Way” of Unity

1645 GMT: Propaganda of the Day. Javan, the newspaper of the Revolutionary Guard, says Mehdi Karroubi sent a letter to former President Mohammad Khatami declaring, "You are not part of the movement and have been useless for reformists."

Nice try, gentlemen.

1235 GMT: Rumour of Day. Following yesterday's rumour that plans had been made to fly the Supreme Leader to Russia if life became too difficult for him in Iran, this claim races our way: "Jamaran (the area in northern Iran where Imam Khomeini lived) is being fortified to defend the Supreme Leader against mutiny and provide safe escape in case of ambush"

1215 GMT: The Economic Battle. It is being reported that the Guardian Council, finding the amendments of President Ahmadinejad's subsidy reform bill unacceptable, has returned the legislation to the Parliament.

1015 GMT: An EA reader points us to yet another regime attack on Hashemi Rafsanjani, this time from Minister of Intelligence Moslehi in Qom. The reader summarises, "It is an indication that the risk of Rasfanjani turning into Trotsky is still real."

0905 GMT: What Does This Iran-Syria Meeting Mean? Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi met in Damascus yesterday to discuss bilateral defense relations.

Ritual statements followed the discussion. Al-Assad said the development of defense ties between the two countries could “contribute significantly to regional security and stability”. Vahidi said Iranian-Syrian defense ties could “play a positive role in establishing peace in the region”.

Behind the rhetoric is a political story to be explored. Vahidi's meeting followed a trip to Syria last week by the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, which was marred by a bus explosion and rumours of strains between Iran and Syria.

0855 GMT: Green Humour Highlight. Tehran City Council member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar, celebrating 16 Azar, gave a green chocolate to the sister of the President, Parvin Ahmadinejad, and said, "Eat it so that you become Green too."

Apparently Parvin Ahmadinejad refused to eat the chocolate .

0820 GMT: A Not-So-Incidental Note on Rafsanjani. As we continue to assess whether Hashemi Rafsanjani still has political influence, the regime maintains the pressure on his family.

A group of pro-Ahmadinejad Tehran University students have issued a statement condemning Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter, for taking part in the 16 Azar protests on the campus, claiming that Hashemi is not a student of this university. They have asked Iran's judiciary to take action against her.

Fars News is also playing up the claim by a member of Parliament, Zohreh Elahian, of "very strong evidence" that Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi, had an important role in leading post-election protests and thus Judiciary has to take action against him. She also asserted that 120 MPs have written a letter to the head of Itran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, asking him to put the leaders of post-election protests, such as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, on trial.

0810 GMT: I'm just catching up after being on the road to London and now to northeast England. Still have to go through all the comments on yesterday's post on clerics, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the National Unity Plan but the discussion has already led me to re-evaluate the political dynamics in a morning analysis, "Are Rafsanjani and the National Unity Plan 'Spent Forces'"?

Meanwhile, protest is far from a spent force, although the centres of demonstrations were limited to Tehran and Sharif Universities yesterday. Inevitably, there would be a need to draw breath after Monday's 16 Azar protests. The question may now move to what is planned for the celebrations of Moharram, which beginning in just over a week. So far, no sign of specific plans for protest.


Iran's 16 Azar: A Review of the Day's Events Throughout the Country

16 AZAR TEHRAN5Josh Shahryar reviews the protests of 16 Azar:

7 December 2009, 16 Azar in the Persian calendar, brought fresh waves of protests across Iran. While slightly smaller than those of 4 November, the protests showed yet again that the government in Iran is facing a serious challenge from the opposition. The 7th of December, National Student Day, is traditionally a day when students gather to celebrate. The appearance today of students and opposition supporters without their leaders is a troubling sign for a regime that has already tried everything from intimidation of peaceful protesters to torture and imprisonment of reformist activists.

Because of the government ban on foreign media and severe restrictions on reformist news outlets, the flow of information was very slow compared to previous protests. However, opposition demonstrators were able to get the news out through online social media, and it gives us a fairly complete picture of what happened in Iran.

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Protests can be confirmed to have taken place in the cities of Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kerman, Hamedan, Arak, and Najafabad. There is also partial confirmation of protests taking place in the cities of Sanandaj and Yasuj. There was, however, no confirmation for the protests that were reported to have taken place in Tabriz, Ahvaz, and Shahre Kurd. There were also rumors of protests in other cities which included Rasht, Zahedan, Sari, Karaj, and Oromieh. No part of Iran seemed to have escaped the anger and hopes of the opposition.

Here’s an account of what happened in Tehran and some information about other cities where protests could be fully confirmed:


In preparation for the protests, the government had already restricted Internet access across the city. Cell phone connections were jammed in the central part of the city where most previous protests had taken place. Even though protests were to start at 1500 hours Iran time, all major universities were surrounded by security forces in the early hours of morning and only students with valid identity cards were being allowed to enter the premises. There was an army of security forces in Central Tehran today. In some parts of the city, there were more security forces than protesters.

Despite this, protests started around noon in the area around Tehran University when students started to chant anti-government slogans. Chants also started in Tehran’s Sharif Industrial University, Elm o San’at University and Amir Kabir University. They were soon joined by hundreds of other Tehranis who started gathering and chanting in Enghelab Square and Vali Asr Square.

Clashes broke out when other protesters started attempting to enter Tehran University. Demonstrators chanted "Death to the Dictator", "Death to Khamenei", and "You traitor destroyed our homeland." Despite the clashes in Vali Asr and Enghelab Squares, Tehran University was the major scene of confrontation.

Riot police beat people with batons and fired tear gas indiscriminately at Enghelab and in Tehran University. People were attacked in other parts of the city as well. Reports confirm dozens injured; however, no one was reported to have been killed. By the end of the day, reports emerged that at least three dozen people and possibly many more were arrested by the security forces. There were reports of guns being fired in some parts of the city, but all shots were confirmed to have been fired in the air to scare the protesters.

The only major opposition figure that took part in the protests was former president Hashemi Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. She joined protesters in Tehran and videos of her emerged being accompanied by other protesters. The video shows protesters accompanying Hashemi and chanting, "Thank you, thank you." There were also rumors of Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard joining the protests, but this could not be confirmed by reliable sources. [Editor's note: see our updates reporting that Rahnavard was at the Tehran University campus, where she was assauted by a group of women.]

It is fairly difficult to estimate how many people joined the protests. However, by looking at pictures and videos from different parts of the city and universities, it can be safely said that somewhere between five to ten thousand people took part in protests throughout the day. It is worth noting that there was a government-sanctioned protest in Tehran University as well and more than a thousand government supporters took part in that.


Several hundred students gathered in Mashhad University and chanted anti-government slogans and sang the patriotic song Yaare Dabestani. There were confirmed reports of clashes or protests outside the university.


Hundreds of students and ordinary Shirazis protested in Shiraz’s main university and the central part of the city as well. People were again stopped from entering the institution’s main grounds if they weren’t students. Reports of clashes from the city have been confirmed. There were also reports of arrests, but none could be verified.


More than a thousand students gathered in Razi University, which is the largest institution of higher education in the city. At least 200 security forces were present around the university and prevented people from entering the premises unless they had valid student ID cards.


Bu-Ali Sina University was the main site of protest. Clashes here were perhaps the most violent. Reports of bloodied students being carried away from the scene of clashes were reported by multiple sources. Numbers here were also in the hundreds.

Arak, Kerman, and Najafabad

Protesters chanted in the three cities’ main universities. The protests remained largely peaceful. Not much further could be confirmed. Numbers in these cities were also comparable to Shiraz and Mashhad.

This report was compiled using information from eye-witnesses, Iranian opposition websites and media contacts outside Iran. Government-run media in Iran reported almost nothing about the protests so their view of the events is anyone’s guess.