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Entries in Islamic Republic News Agency (8)


The Latest from Iran (31 December): Is That All There Is?

REGIME RALLY21805 GMT: We're taking a break to celebrate New Year's Eve with friends and families.

To all EA readers, we wish you the very best with hopes for a peaceful and prosperous 2010.....

1800 GMT: Reports continue of clashes across Tehran, but with little information that can be verified.

1610 GMT: Setareh Sabety reports the following from an eyewitness source in Iran:
I went a tour around the city, antiriot police are standing in most of main streets....Lebaas shakhsihaa [plainclothes forces] are on their bikes almost everywhere. Many shops from Vali-e Asr Square to Famemi are closed. No slogans or green presence to see.

1540 GMT: Protests, Force, and Mourning. Peyke Iran offers the following summary of developments:

People in shrouds came out to protest at Sadat Abad in Tehran. Government authorities and security forces took control of Enghelab Square by closing the underground stop and dispersing demonstrators. Thousands of people paid respects at the grave of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali, who was quickly buried yesterday.

1508 GMT: Conflicting Reports on Clashes. An EA source, passing on information from a witness in Iran, said 7 Tir Square --- where clashes had been reported --- is currently quiet.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Protests Against and for the Regime (31 December)
NEW Iran: The Rafsanjani Interview on France 24 (28 December)
NEW Iran: The Regime’s Misfired “Big Shot” at Legitimacy
NEW Iran: How Significant Was the Regime’s Rally?
Latest Iran Video: University Protests (30 December)
Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest

1500 GMT: Setting Up the Clampdown. Well, no doubts about where Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani now stands --- he's alongside those in the Government preparing to bring the hammer down on the opposition. In a speech in Khorasan-Razavi Province, he addressed "rioters":

Who do you think you are that you violate the rights of the people? The public have the right to ask the judiciary to punish you. The people and clerical community should rest assured that by showing up [to condemn the Ashura protests], they have compelled the relevant authorities to take action against the elements of Fitna.

1450 GMT: Unconfirmed claims of clashes throughout Tehran. Rah-e-Sabz reports that security forces have used tear gas on crowds in 7 Tir Square and that conflict continues, with numerous arrests, in Vali-e Asr.

1400 GMT: We've posted first footage from today's demonstration at Azad University in Mashhad, a day after violent clashes between students and security forces.

1315 GMT: The World's Worst Disinformation Campaign. First glance at the Islamic Republic of News Agency shows that the Ministry of Intelligence issues a warning (again) that protesters will be dealt with and that Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani is extolling yesterday's rally as a reminder of the great days of the Islamic Revoluton.

Second glance discovers IRNA exposing its own propaganda stunt on Wednesday. Apparently the rumour of the flights of opposition leaders spread "passivity and confusion" in their supporters. Which, given that IRNA started the rumour, might be translated as we attempted to spread "passivity and confusion" amongst the supporters.

Guys, small tip: it's no longer "disinformation" when you're busted for the "dis-" in the information.

1300 GMT: More from Mashhad. Rah-e-Sabz reports that students, including some injured in yesterday's clashes at the university, are still missing.

1215 GMT: Students at Mashhad University have effectively closed the campus today in protest at attacks on demonstrators yesterdays.

1200 GMT: A Military Presence? Rah-e-Sabz is now reporting that military units are stationed at major intersections in Tehran.

1105 GMT: New Videos. We've posted Hashemi Rafsanjani's Monday night interview with France 24 and today's rather small rally for the regime in Karaj.

1005 GMT: The Police Recording on Ashura. A lot of buzz this morning around a purported police communications recording, posted on YouTube, during Sunday's events. The general tone of the conversation, summarised in English by an Iranian activist, is of concern and confusion.

1000 GMT: Nervousness. As chatter spreads of a possible opposition rally in Tehran at 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT), Rah-e-Sabz (Jaras) claims, “Hundreds of military forces and tens of armored vehicles … are moving toward Tehran. Some of the vehicles are used for suppressing street riots."

We have to add that the report is unconfirmed.

0955 GMT: Speaking of Students.... Student leader Bahareh Hedayat is another post-Ashura detainee. Her speech on 5 December to a Dutch conference, "International Solidarity with the Iranian Student Movement", can be viewed on YouTube.

0940 GMT: Blacklisting the "Star" Students. Farnaz Fassihi offers an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal, "Regime Wages a Quiet War on 'Star Students' of Iran". Fassihi explains:
In most places, being a star means ranking top of the class, but in Iran it means your name appears on a list of students considered a threat by the intelligence ministry. It also means a partial or complete ban from education.

The term comes from the fact that some students have learned of their status by seeing stars printed next to their names on test results....

The phenomenon started in the summer of 2006, the first academic year in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first term in office. Some grad-school applicants noticed stars beside their names on the report cards issued by the government-run college-placement agency.

Students with one star could return to school after signing a consent to give up political activism, according to Iranian human-rights and activist groups. Two-star students faced semester suspensions and interrogation sessions, and three-star students were banned from education for life....

More than 1,000 graduate students have been blocked from higher education since the practice began in 2006, according to statements by Mostafa Moin, a former education minister, in official media in September.

Star treatment is reserved for graduate students, although undergrads also face suspension for political activity, according to student-rights activists. Several hundred undergrads have been suspended for as many as four semesters, according to student activists and human-rights groups in Iran. Under Iran's higher-education law, students are dismissed from school if they miss four terms.

0845 GMT: The Regime Cuts Off Its Defender? An interesting moment in a discussion on Al Jazeera English's "Inside Story" on the significance of the Ashura protests.

Kian Mokhtari, a journalist in Tehran, was joining the US-based analysts Gary Sick and Trita Parsi (each of whom made solid points about the political situation). In his first contribution, Mokhtari began, "The Government did not come down harshly on the demonstrators at all." He assured, "Because it is Ashura, no firearms were issued" to security forces.

But then he added, "Iran Government is investigating the issue as we speak." Click. Mokhtari was gone, never to be heard from again in the 24-minute programme.

0800 GMT: We begin this morning with two analyses of the regime's effort on Wednesday to quell opposition by establishing its political and religious superiority. Josh Shahryar offers a reading of the big rally in Tehran. We connect that event to last night's rumour of the "flight" of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to northern Iran to ask if the regime was able to secure its legitimacy yesterday. (Answer: No.)

That impression is reinforced by the overnight switch-back of State media, dismissing the Islamic Republic News Agency report of "two opposition leaders" scurrying out of Tehran. "Informed sources" (from which part of the Government?), speaking to Fars News, "denied earlier reports that Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi have fled Tehran amid security concerns".

Iran: The Regime's Misfired "Big Shot" at Legitimacy

REGIME RALLYNews and rumor from Iran on Wednesday was dominated by two stories: the pro-regime rally and last night's report in Iranian state media, now denied, that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had fled Tehran for Mazandaran province in the north of the country. Each was surrounded by uncertainty and confusion --- how big were the rally and others claimed around Iran? were the most prominent figures in the Green Movement under house arrest --- and, at the end of the night, many were wondering, "What does this all mean?"

Maybe the best way to approach the question is to recognise that the stories are not separate.

Put bluntly, as we did at the start of Wednesday, this was the regime's big push for a display that it was in control. Unsettled by the failure over 6+ months to quell opposition and rocked in particular by the high-visibility takeover of Ashura by its foes on Sunday, the Government responded quickly with the claim of credibility.

Iran: The Regime’s Misfired “Big Shot” at Legitimacy
Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
The Latest from Iran (31 December): Is That All There Is?

Thus the call to its supporters to appear on Wednesday, surrounded by the loudest trumpets of state media. It will still be debated today whether the response was tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, whether their appearance was voluntary or "bought" with free transport, free foods, and days off from school and work, whether the footage from outside Tehran was genuine or even significant --- see Josh Shahryar's analysis for EA --- but on the surface, the regime was able to put up images of a filled Enghelab Square in the capital and rallies in cities such as Tabriz and Shiraz.

What may be most striking, however, was the tone and messages surrounding the event. We noted yesterday that the regime has been showing its "negative" strength by detaining and condemning the opposition but has not been as forthcoming in a "positive" campaign showing how it is providing for the welfare of Iranians.

The Tehran rally did nothing to dispel that impression. There was nothing, for example, to assure the audience of the merits of President Ahmadinejad and his Cabinet, an absence brought out in the post-rally discussion on Press TV. The "positive" extended only as far as "the Supreme Leader is your rightful, just, and magnanimous Leader".

Even that message, given by Ayatollah Alamalhoda of Mashaad, was secondary to the black opening. There are the forces of Satan. The forces are the rioters. Satan is the United States. And Britain. And other foreign governments. And the terrorist MKO (whose political wing, it should be noted, played into the regime's hand with its ill-timed assertion of a key role in the Ashura protests). Stand against all of them.

That, at least to my outside ears, does not sound like an attempt to gain legitimacy through assurance or hope. It strikes the tone of fear. There is even the unstated message --- especially for those who were not at the rally but watched it on state television --- "You may not have complete faith in us, but look at the other guys."

Which brings us to what may have been the second part of the regime campaign. The question this morning: did Government officials feed the story of the flight of "two opposition leaders" to the Islamic Republic News Agency? If they did so, then this is the clumsy fulfillment of an overall message that was to be displayed yesterday: we have threatened them, we have condemned them, we have vanquished them.

Only this step in the strategy did not work. Within an hour, the story was fraying, as the Mousavi and Karroubi camps, despite the Government restrictions on them (their top advisors arrested, their houses and offices surrounded) were able to get out the message that the two men were still in Tehran and still "fighting for the Iranian people". IRNA did not follow up its claim, and overnight other state outlets like Fars and Press TV said the tale was untrue.

Which means that, as Enghelab Square and other squares across are empty of demonstrators this morning, that the regime has the problem of "What Will You Do Now?" After the hundreds of arrests since Sunday, after the fanfare that "millions" of Iranians will turn out to erase all doubt of the political stability of the Supreme Leader (just to repeat, Ahmadinejad has been left behind), after all the invective and threats of the foreign-terrorist-Satanic menace to Iran, legitimacy has not been assured.

Of course, the opposition faces the same question of "What Will You Do Now?". But the opposition has the luxury of taking days, even weeks to make its next high-profile appearance. The regime does not: it is supposed to rule each and every day.

And it is a rule that weakens each and every day when the primary message is all about "them" and not about what the Government is doing for the good of those Iranians who supposedly turned out for it on Wednesday.


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)
NEW Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
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.


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 (27 December): The Day of Ashura 

Mideast Iran2225 GMT: Karroubi Comments. Mehdi Karroubi has issued a statement offering condolences for today’s martyred protesters and condemning those carrying out oppression: “The sins that you have committed today cannot be forgiven by God. If you don’t have a belief in God, at least be a human.”

Karroubi offered a sharp comparison, asserting that even the Shah respected the day of Ashura and gave orders for people to be able to commemorate it as they wished..

2155 GMT: Closing and Wondering. As we get to the end of the day, a tentative assessment of the signficance, "A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura". (For those who want to see what 24 hours can bring, see our analysis yesterday in Edward Yeranian's article for the Voice of America.)

2150 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that the brother of Abdollah Nouri, Minister of Interior in the Rafsanjani and Khatami Governments, was severely beaten in Isfahan today.

NEW Iran: A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 3rd Set)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 2nd Set)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December)
NEW Iran: A Tehran Map for Today’s Events
NEW Iran Uncovered: The Top-Secret Obama-Ahmadinejad Relationship
NEW Iran: The False US Friends of the “Iranian People” (An Open Letter to Charles Krauthammer)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Attack on Jamaran Memorial/Khatami Speech (26 December)
Latest Iran Video: Eve of Ashura Protests (26 December — The Jamaran Videos)
Latest Iran Video: The Eve of Ashura Protests (26 December)
The Latest from Iran (26 December): The Eve of Ashura Demonstrations

2040 GMT: Desperation. Press TV, citing Fars, reports --- presumably with a straight face:

A source with the Iranian Intelligence Ministry has announced the arrest of a number of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorists in the anti-government protests that sparked in central Tehran.

At right, a stunning photograph to set beside the story: an anti-riot officer, wearing a green headband given to him by demonstrators, joins the "MKO terrorist" crowd.

2035 GMT: Martial Law?! Rah-e-Sabz is reporting that martial law was declared at 9 p.m. local time in Najafabad.

The website is also claiming "unprecedented police violence" outside the IRIB buildings.

2030 GMT: Ashura & Mousavi. A crowd have gathered outside Ebn-e-Sina Hospital to mourn and support the family of Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali died in the hospital today after being shot in demonstration in Enghelab Square.

2020 GMT: The US Comments. The White House has issued the following statement:
We strongly condemn the violent and unjust suppression of civilians in Iran seeking to exercise their universal rights. Hope and history are on the side of those who peacefully seek their universal rights, and so is the United States.

Governing through fear and violence is never just, and as President Obama said in Oslo -- it is telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

2005 GMT: AUT News reports on Internet chatter we've heard all evening: Mohammad Moin, the son of Mustafa Moin, former reformist Presidential candidate and Minister in the Rafsanjani and Khatami Governments, was arrested today.

2000 GMT: The Ashura "Martyrs" in Tehran. Rah-e-Sabz has named the five people killed in the capital today: Mehdi Farhadi Nia, Mohammad Ali Rasekhi, Amir Arshadi, Shahram Fraji, and Seyed Ali Mousavi.

1950 GMT: What We're Watching. Reports of clashes outside buildings of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and in squares and avenues across Tehran: Mirdamad, Karegar, Enghelab, Azadi, Tajrish, and 7 Tir.

1835 GMT: And Tonight? From a distance, it feels like the final round of a heavyweight boxing match. The challenger --- having landed some mighty blows and even putting the champion (if you can call the regime "champion") on the ropes --- has punched himself/herself out.

So the protests tonight are smaller, with security forces preventing a mass gathering. For example, groups tried to congregate in Mohseni Square but were contained along Mirdemad Avenue.

Yes, it feels like the final round. Except that you and I know it is far from the final round, right?

1715 GMT: I'm Telling You, They Set the Koran on Fire! That's Fars News' latest attempt to tarnish the protests (which only hours supposedly had not occurred).

1705 GMT: A 3rd set of videos from today is now posted.

1635 GMT: Rouydad is now reporting on the Arak protest and clashes, and we have video from there and Najafabad.

1550 GMT: Beyond Tehran. Josh Shahryar is summarising:
Protests in Mashhad can be confirmed now. Protesters gathered outside Grand Ayatollah Sane’i’s house and at Imam Reza’s Shrine. At least 17 people were arrested – most of them students. Many people were injured in clashes as well.

Protests in Babol can be confirmed too now. Many protesters – including a young girl – were beaten badly by security forces here.

The number of people arrested in Tehran has reached at least 10. The number is probably going to rise. At least 4 people were also killed here.

So far, the protests could be confirmed in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashhad, Babol, Ardabil, Qom and Najafabad.

In addition, an Iranian source is reporting protests and clashes in Arak.

1510 GMT: Mousavi's Nephew Dead. A "close aide" to Mir Hossein Mousavi has confirmed the killing of Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali by security forces this afternoon.

1500 GMT: Understatement of the Day. Press TV takes the gold medal: "The Iranian capital on Sunday witnessed sporadic anti-government protests on the anniversary of the Shia Muslim Ashura religious event."


1420 GMT: Parleman News is reporting that Seyed Ali Mousavi, Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, was shot and killed in today's demonstrations. Mousavi was reportedly slain in Enghelab Square around noon local time (0830 GMT).

1350 GMT: Rouydad News is reporting clashes in Tabriz, with "probably at least four" killed.

1330 GMT: The Official Interpretation. Islamic Republic News Agency writes that a "cult of Mousavi" has caused chaos in Tehran, damaging public property and inconveniencing citizens.

IRNA also tries the story of a group of students out to cause trouble, with foreign media on hand to report "uproar and chaos".

Fars News reports on same lines,

1245 GMT: Taking the Streets? We have been busy looking at and uploading footage, starting a second set of vide0s, of the demonstrations. The images indicate that, at least for periods today, protesters have beaten back security forces --- despite the first deaths in months --- and taken control of sections of Tehran.

Rah-e-Sabz, still under cyber-attack, has reported, "Police forces are refusing their commanders' orders to shoot at demonstrators in central Tehran....Some of them try to shoot into the air when pressured by their commanders."

1135 GMT: Reports now of protests in Babol.

1130 GMT: Still a fluid situation with reports of gatherings and clashes throughout Tehran and in other cities. We have posted the first set of videos from today, including dramatic footage of protesters fighting back against security forces, especially at College Bridge (Pole Kalej). One report claims the forces relinquished Val-e Asr Square to demonstrators.

1025 GMT: Reformist websites are now confirming the 4th death. Reliable sources says a 5th person has been killed outside Amir Kabir University.

0955 GMT:  4th Death? Sources are reporting that a person has been killed in demonstrations at Vali-e Asr.

0950 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz confirms that its site is under attack.

0940 GMT: Mardomak confirms no live footage from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, unlike past years, of Imam Hossein Square in Tehran.

Meanwhile, Ironic Journalism Award of Day goes to Press TV. After showing ceremonies in Zanjan (but not Tehran), the channel reported very seriously that Moharram marches have been banned in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

0930 GMT: We've posted the first claimed video of today's protests and also the link to a useful map of Tehran.

0925 GMT: Beyond Tehran. Reports now coming in of protests in Isfahan, Shiraz, and Najafabad.

0915 GMT: Deaths of Protesters? Rah-e-Sabz (which is up but is difficult to access because of overload) is reporting three people killed and two injured in the area near Kalej Bridge (Pole Kalej).

0830 GMT: We are watching carefully the torrent of claims of clashes across the capital, including claims that security forces have backed away at certain points in the face of determined protesters. BBC has now posted, "Tehran police 'fire tear gas at opposition protesters'."

0815 GMT: Mardomak reports tear gas fired in Enghelab Square and clashes in Imam Hossein Square. After clashes at Amir Kabir University, the crowd has been dispersed.

0810 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz, before it went down, also reported tear gas at Vali-e Asr.

0805 GMT: Fancy a Lighter Moment? It promises to be an intense day, so if you need a break, have a look at our special world exclusive, based on minutes of investigative journalism, "The Top-Secret Obama-Ahmadinejad Relationship".

0755 GMT: Watching reports of clashes at Imam Hossein, Vali-e Asr, and Enghelab Squares.

0745 GMT: The reformist site Rah-e-Sabz, a key source in recent days for "Western" media, has just gone down. The site had just reported tear gas used in Enghelab Square and the closing off of Vali-e Asr crossing.

0740 GMT: Mardomak is reporting clashes at Ferdowsi Square and heavy traffic around Pol-e Choubi.

0715 GMT: First unconfirmed reports of clashes in Tehran, mainly at Imam Hossein Square and 17 Shahrivar Street.

0711 GMT: Nothing to See Here, Go Away. Press TV still repeating the history and religious background of Ashura over and over, against live shots from Taft. Just keep talking --- even though nothing new is being said --- and maybe no one will notice the current political context and events.

0700 GMT: Press TV are carrying live shots of the Ashura ceremony in Mashhad and Taft. No word of Tehran, however.

0655 GMT: The reformist website Rah-e-Sabz reports an "extensive security presence" in Tehran, noting in particular forces around Imam Hossein and 7 Tir Squares.

0640 GMT: Drama and Polemic. We've posted stunning footage of yesterday's attack on the Jamaran memorial.

And we've finally caught our breath to highlight our analysis of the embrace of the "Iranian people" by American "false friends", trying to use the movement to extend US power in the name of the "new birth of freedom".

0625 GMT: A hat-tip and a heads-up for coverage of events. While we were down because of host problems yesterday, we noticed the good work being done by the LiveBlogs of The Daily Nite Owl (EA correspondent Josh Shahryar) and of IranNewsNow. Both are already in action this morning.

0605 GMT: AUT News reports that, in addition to the disruption of the Jamaran memorial and the speech of former President Mohammad Khatami by plainsclothes "thugs" (see yesterday's updates), 2000 Basiji surrounded the mourning ceremonies at Dar al-Zahra last night.

Ferehsteh Ghazi has a detailed report, in Persian, of the events and violence at Jamaran. Robert Mackey's blog for The New York Times draws from several sources for a summary.

0600 GMT (0930 Iran time): The holy day of Ashura, marking the death of the third Imam, Hossein, at the hands of Yazid's forces at the battle of Karbala, has begun. Government forces reported "in large numbers at all intersections from Enghelab to Azadi Squares" in Tehran.