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Sunday
Feb202011

The Latest from Iran (20 February): So What Happens on 1 Esfand?

2225 GMT: More Political Prisoners. Tehran University School of Science student Sohrab Jafari and law student Habib Farahzadi were arrested today.

2135 GMT: More 1 Esfands. In an interview with Radio Farda, Mehdi Karroubi's advisor Mojtaba Vahedi gets to the point: he is impressed with the turnout today and there will be more protests until demands are met.

Vahedi adds that mounting casualties will only have the same effect as 1979, building up a rally of mourning.

2100 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student activist Iman Siddiqui of Babol University was arrested today. It is his third arrest since the June 2009 election.

Tehran University student activist Farnaz Kamali was seized today.

Five students from Khaje Nasir University have also been detained.

1950 GMT: Tonight's Chants. Mardomak reports that the signature calls of defiance, Allahu Akbar (God is Great), could be heard in sections of Tehran this evening.

1930 GMT: House Arrests. Opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi briefly spoke with his family yesterday to reassure them of his wellbeing and that of his wife, Zahra Rahnavard.

Mousavi and Rahnavard have been cut off by the authorities from almost all contact, including with their daughters, since last Sunday.

1800 GMT: First-Hand Account. A protester writes....

The number of demonstrators was about the same as Feb 14 [25 Bahman], but scattered across two axes instead of one (which was the case with Feb 14). Violence by the security forces was significantly lower than Feb 14, although their numbers were much much more (the whole city was virtually turned into a military fort). Demonstrators were mostly walking in silence, except when attacked by the security forces.

1730 GMT: Catching Up. A summary of recent reports from BBC Persian....

"Hundreds" demonstrated in Isfahan. The situation, according to one eyewitness, was "similar to martial law" with confiscation of satellite dishes and disruption of mobile phone and Internet service.

The gathering in Shiraz was bigger than the rally last Monday, with the elderly helping young protesters escape detention.

There was a heavy security presence in Mashhad.

1655 GMT: After Dark. Daneshjoo News is claiming that protests are expanding in Tehran tonight, including in Mirdamad, 7 Tir Square, and Vanak Square.

1645 GMT: In Kurdistan. Mardomak is reporting unrest in Kurdish cities, including Sanandaj, Mahabad, Yaveh, and Marivan.

Human Rights Activists News Agency is also claiming 80% of shops participated in a general strike in Bookan.

1635 GMT: It Ain't So. The Deputy Governor of Tehran is denying anyone has been killed in clashes today.

The denial is carried in Fars News, which earlier today reported "total calm" in Tehran. However, Fars breaks that line to report on the arrest and release of Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (see 1547 GMT). Fars says she ws freed when she denied she was making "provocative statements" but was merely out shopping.

1630 GMT: Photograph of claimed protest in Isfahan:

1615 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Professor Abdollah Sadri, member of the Faculty of Mining and Material Science Engineering at Amir Kabir University, was arrested on 14 February in the 25 Bahman protests.

The university told Sadri's students that he was at a conference abroad. When they learned from Sadri's family of the detention, the students went to Alireza Rahaei, the head of the university. They were told that “a person who disturbs the country should pay for his conducts and the university does not have any responsibilities toward him."

1610 GMT: RAHANA is reporting at least 50 people arrested in Shiraz.

1605 GMT: Saham News claims clashes continue between protesters and security forces in Motahhari Avenue in Rasht.

1600 GMT: BBC Persian is now confirming that police indeed used live ammunition on protesters in Hafte Tir Square. At least one protester has been killed there. The channel that security forces used tear gas on Vanak Square protesters.

BBC is also reporting from an eyewitness that security forces opened fire on protesters in Mahabad in Kurdistan.

1547 GMT: State outlet IRNA reported that Hashemi Rafsanjani's daughter Faizeh Hashemi was arrested today as per for directing protests with "strong statements and provocative slogans" near Vali Asr. 

1510 GMT: Student activist Iman Sedighi was arrested in Babol today and transferred to an unknown location according to Rahana. 

1500 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz cites Daneshjoo News to confirm the death of a protester in Hafte Tir Square. It claims several others were injured in the attack. 

1450 GMT: A Street Journalist is reporting that security forces won't let protesters gather in Abresan in Tabriz; most of the protesters are students. 

CNN is claiming that at least 5 people have been injured in Shiraz. Meanwhile, RAHANA reports that protesters have been beaten in Rahnamaei Street in Mashhad. 

1445 GMT: There are reports that at least 3 protesters have been killed in clashes in Tehran so far. We cannot confirm this yet. 

1440 GMT: Khamenei's website has been rendered useless by cyber attacks. 

1430 GMT: BBC Persian reports of clashes in the intersection between Mirdamad Avenue and Valiasr Avenue of the use of tear gas on protesters. 

1420 GMT: Witnesses are telling BBC that today, there are more security forces on the streets of Tehran than February 14. 

1415 GMT: BBC is reporting of protesters gathering in Isfahan's Enghelab Square. 

1410 GMT: BBC Persian confirms that protesters are trying to form gatherings in Rasht now. 

1400 GMT: Internet connection has been slowed down by the government, Rahe Sabz reports. It also adds that cell phone lines have been disconnected in Central Tehran. 

1350 GMT: This just in: phone calls to Tehran from outside Iran have been restricted

1345 GMT: Pro-Ahmadinejad Fars News Agency claims this today: total calm in Tehran.

1340 GMT: BBC Persian is reporting from Eye-witnesses that gunfire has been heard from Abbasabad in Northern Tehran. 

In Shiraz, security forces are trying to disperse protesters and not let them get a foothold in Mulasadra Avenue. They are being helped by Basijis in the attacks on protesters.  

1308 GMT: BBC Persian is confirming that people have started to gather on the streets of Isfahan and Shiraz. 

In Shiraz, protesters have clashes with security forces, who used batons to try and disperse the crowds. The focal point seems to be Mulasadra Avenue. 

1302 GMT: Sporadic clashes continue near Valiasr Square. Security forces are stationed inside the square and are using batons and tear gas to disperse the gathering protesters to the side streets. Protesters have managed to gather on Keshavarz Blvd near the square and are continuing to chant. 

1257 GMT: There are unconfirmed reports that a protester has died in clashes in Tehran. 

1255 GMT: @Madyar reports that heavy clashes are taking place between protesters and security forces in Amirabad Street in Tehran. 

1250 GMT: Reza Sayah of CNN tweets: 

Tehran witness - 4pm clashes @ Gharib & Rev. Ave. 4 people detained 

1240 GMT: BBC Persian now reporting gathering and chants against the SL in Parkway, an intersection close to the RadioTValso heavy security presence in Vanak sq

1218 GMT: Escalation? BBC Persian reports heavy presence of security forces making their way into Vali Asr Square and sounds of ambulance sirens.

There are reports that Gmail and Google Talk are blocked in Tehran. EA can confirm that Gmail is blocked outside Tehran, but Google Talk is still operating.

1203 GMT: 1 Esfand. BBC Persian is reporting tear gas fired at crowd in Vali Asr Square.

Saham News is also reporting protesters gathering in 7 Tir Square, Vali Asr Square, and Sohrevardi Street.

1150 GMT: The First Protests? The opposition site Rah-e-Sabz is reporting protest in front of the State TV building on Vali Asr Street, chanting Allahu Akbar (God is Great), as well as crowds at Hafte Tir Square, and Enghelab Avenue.

1145 GMT: 1 Esfand Caution (cont.). Key MP Ahmad Tavakoli, an ally and relative of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, has echoed Larijani's call (see 1010 GMT) for restraint in dealing with protesters. At the same time, he repeated Larijani's line that the US and Israel were behind last Monday's 25 Bahman marches.

1140 GMT: Diplomatic Defection. More on the resignation of Ahmed Maleki, the nephew of Mehdi Karroubi, from his post at the Iranian Consulate in Milan, Italy --- a claimed statement from the diplomat explaining his reasons has been posted.

1128 GMT: 1 Esfand. Reza Sayah of CNN reports from an eyewitness, "1000s of security forces patrolling major squares & intersections. Internet at a crawl. No protesters."

1115 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reformist politician Mohsen Armin has been summoned to Rajai Shahr Prison.

Iranian authorities have rescinded the pardons, issued on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on 11 February, of several prisoners. Arsalan Abadi, detained during the Ashura 2009 protests and sentenced to nine years (later reduced to three) and university student Kianoush Kamrani, sentenced to five years (later reduced to two) are among those affected.

1030 GMT: Karroubi's Declaration. Saham News publishes a letter from Mehdi Karroubi to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani. The opposition cleric denounced the regime's campaign against "so-called leaders of sedition" and declares that he will always stand "in defence of the legitimate rights of the Iranian people"

1010 GMT: 1 Esfand Caution. It looks like Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani is also trying to put a limit on the regime's campaign against the opposition. Following Ali Motahari's criticism of house arrests, Larijani claims that the use of force against people will lead to nothing, as it only makes the opposition more determined.

0955 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Abdolnaser Mahimani, the head of the Golestan Press House, has been released on bail after a week in detention.

0945 GMT: A Military Message? Some Internet eyebrows raised this morning by a report, on a Revolutionary Guard site, of a speech by the head of Iran's armed forces, Hassan Firouzabadi.

Firouzabadi, ostensibly addressing generals in the Arab world, declared that a nation guided by divine principles "cannot be stopped by bullets": "Other governments must learn the lessons of Tunisia and Egypt and align themselves with their peoples." He pointed to the example of military commanders executed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to indicate what happens to those who don't defend the new nation.

On the surface, that is a call to militaries in Arab countries to uphold the "proper" revolution. But, with rumours of splits in Iran's military forces swirling, some are wondering if Firouzabadi might be sending a message closer to home.

And there's another theory: Firouzabadi's references to the past 30 years and puts out the message that a regime cannot win by oppression. So if that is true in Egypt and Tunisia, could the head of the military be indicating that it is also true in Iran?

0854 GMT: Worried? Fars News is claiming, ahead of today's planned rallies, that teams of the banned Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) have entered the country to shoot at people.

The claim is an extension of regime efforts to paint demonstrators as violent and to claim as "martyrs" those who die. When protester Sanee Zhaleh was killed in last Monday's 25 Bahman march, pro-regime outlets declared that he was a member of the Basij militia who was slain by the MKO.

0850 GMT: Labour Front. Rooz Online reports on the significance of the recurrent strikes at Abadan's oil refinery.

0840 GMT: Diplomatic Defection. Ahmed Maleki, the top diplomat at the Iranian Consulate in Milan in Italy, has resigned in sympathy with the opposition movement.

Maleki's resignation is the first from Iran's foreign service since two diplomats in Norway and Japan quit in early 2010.

0835 GMT: An Unlikely Defender. Conservative MP Ali Motahari, a prominent critic of the Government, has hit back at the call by Ayatollah Jannati in Tehran Friday Prayers for the house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

Motahari, in comments in Ali Larijani's Khabar Online, said a legitimate trial was necessary: “The people’s demands for prosecution of the perpetrators of the sedition is more logical and legitimate than what you have proposed. All the verdicts that you have issued are subordinate to a prosecution and cannot be executed without processing the charges in a valid court and issuing legal sentences.”

0830 GMT: House Arrest. Fereshteh Ghazi offers a summary of the latest news on the house arrest of opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, from the cut-off of communications to the metal wall erected outside their home.

0745 GMT: Around the World. Support marches have been planned in cities from Stockholm to Toronto. Turin in Italy got a head start on Saturday with a rally:

0640 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Foreign Edition). Two German journalists, Marcus Hellwig and Jens Koch, have returned to Berlin after more than five months in prison in Iran.

The "crime" of Hellwig and Koch was to interview the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman condemned to death for adultery. Yesterday, a court in Tabriz suddenly reduced their 20-month sentences to $48,400 fines.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who accompanied the two journalists on a Government plane, had sought their freedom in discussion with Iranian leaders including President Ahmadinejad. He thanked his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, for efforts to commute the sentences.

0600 GMT: Today is the 1st day of the Persian month of Esfand. It does not have a special political significance like an 11 Bahman, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, or a religious distinction such as Ashura. 

The Green Movement's hope is that, at least in a small but significant way, this changes. Having opened up some space for renewed protest last Monday (25 Bahman) by putting out tens of thousands on Iran's streets --- despite every punch thrown by the regime --- the opposition is trying to expand that public foothold a bit more with marches, called suddenly after the deaths of two protesters during the 25 Bahman demonstrations and the regime's imposition of house arrest on figures like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. 

Marches are not expected until about 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT), so before that, we will be looking for signals and catching up on other news from the country.

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