Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (8 March): From International Women's Day to the Assembly

2125 GMT: Claimed video of the security presence in Tehran today:

2115 GMT: The Assembly of Experts. Reuters offers an overview of the significance of today's vote removing Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of the Assembly, with EA making this cameo apperance:

In the short-term Ahmadinejad has scored a victory in terms of his immediate authority within the establishment, but it raises questions for those beyond Rafsanjani who may have questions about that authority.

It is a question of who's next?

1835 GMT: The Arrests. Amidst the report that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard have been under strict house arrest --- rather than detention --- since mid-February, a timely reminder from the children of Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi: "We have no information on them and deny any news of house arrest. We must see them ourselves."

1830 GMT: Bright Idea of the Day. Ebrahim Nabavi looks over the 20 months since the 2009 Presidential election and suggests, "The next election results should be publishd six months beforehand to save money on posters."

1825 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ali Bagheri of the reformist Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution has been released today on $50,000 bail.

Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has denied the existence of a new detention facility for "major suspects of sedition".

1815 GMT: Monday's Protest. Five videos have been posted of a claimed demonstration and security forces in Sari in northern Iran. The protest was reportedly directed at Bahman Housing Cooperative, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.

1800 GMT: Protest. Back from a break to find further reports of a substantial security presence, not only in Tehran but also in Mashhad.

1610 GMT: Protest. A Tehran witness reports a line of Basij militia patrolling on motorbikes at Enghelab Square --- the lead biker is carrying an Iranian flag and videotaping.

1550 GMT: Protest. RAHANA claims nine men and one woman were arrested in Tehran's Vali-e Asr Square.

Photos claiming to be of the security presence today:

1540 GMT: Protest on International Women's Day. Our first update on the security situation and the opposition....

Witnesses in Tehran report thousands of security forces manning major squares and intersections. An opposition website says hundreds have marched in peaceful protest at Mirdamad Ave and Madar Square, watched by security agents. Police have blocked the roads to the key points of Enghelab Square and Ferdowsi Square. Traffic congested, with many drivers honking their horns --- in one case, security forces ripped off the license plate of a car but gave it back when the driver apologised for using his horn.

1530 GMT: The Arrests. Back from a break to find important news from Kalemeh, the website linked to Mir Hossein Mousavi, that Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard are now are in their home under interrogation.

The whereabouts of Mousavi and Rahnavard have been uncertain since 13 February ---it was thought that at some point between then and 24 February, they were moved from house arrest to detention in an unspecified location.

Kalemeh is indicating that, contrary to the recent reports, Mousavi and Rahnavard have been under strict house arrest --- unable to talk even with their daughters --- the entire time.

1230 GMT: Coincidence? As the vote to remove Hashemi Rafsanjani as leader of the Assembly of Experts is confirmed, Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi says two suspects who insulted and threatened Rafsanjani's daughter Faezeh Hashemi have been identified.

The incident, covered in EA's updates, was captured on video.

1145 GMT: The Assembly of Experts. We have posted a snap analysis by Mr Tehrani of Hashemi Rafsanjani's future after he was pushed out of the leadership of the Assembly this morning.

The Associated Press offers a useful survey of the Assembly's significance and Rafsanjani's situation. And Nikahang Kowsar is even more incisive with his cartoon of Rafsanjani, popularly known as "The Shark":

1135 GMT: The Arrests. Students of activist Zahra Rahnavard --- detained last month with her husband Mir Hossein Mousavi and with Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi --- have posted an open letter calling for her release.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has expressed concern over the detention of the Karroubis. Mehdi Karroubi is a former Speaker of Parliament.

1050 GMT: Looking for a Cyber Job? Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran's Passive Defense Organisation , has said, “Regarding the cyber issue, we welcome the presence of those hackers who are willing to work for the goals of the Islamic Republic with good will and revolutionary activities."

1040 GMT: Campus Watch. Seyed Hossein Javdani, a history lecturer at Payame Noor University in Mashhad, claims that Iran's security organisations have told his university to ban him from teaching because of "articles...written in various websites".

1030 GMT: The Assembly of Experts. Tabnak reports that 64 of 80 voting members of the Assembly of Experts supported Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani. Initially, the tally was 63, but a ballot was found at the bottom of the box.

Despite the scepticism of some EA readers, we are certain the altered vote has nothing to do with embarrassment over a possible connection with President Ahmadinejad's 63% in the disputed 2009 election.

The further line from Iran's state media is that Rafsanjani in the end said, for the sake of national unity. he would not stand against Mahdavi Kani: "If he was ready and accepted responsibility, I would certainly not nominate myself, so that we could eliminate the differences and this sacred institution would not be damaged by my side." Rafsanjani, according to outlets from IRNA to Fars to Mehr, said divisiveness was becoming "very serious" and said the country should be "vigilant to keep people united".

0830 GMT: The Assembly of Experts. IRNA is also declaring (see 0720 GMT) that Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani has won the election for the leadership of the Assembly with 63 votes, defeating the current leader, Hashemi Rafsanjani.

0820 GMT: International Women's Day. Nobel Prize laureate, lawyer, and activist Shirin Ebadi highlights the case of her detained attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh (see 0553 GMT), sentenced in December to 11 years in prison: "If the people who come to the defence of people whose human rights are violated cannot do their jobs, who will ensure that such values as equality and justice are upheld in Iran?"

0720 GMT: The Assembly of Experts. The two-day meeting of the Assembly has opened in Tehran, with speeches from the current leader, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and from officials such as Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. The pro-Ahmadinejad IRNA is already trying to frame events, with the emphasis that Rafsanjani has no objection to the challenge of Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani for the leadership.

Press TV is already calling the outcome of the contest: "Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani is set to announce his candidacy for the post, following a plea by over 60 members of the [84-member] body to accept the leadership position as the next chairman of the body."

Fars had already put out this line, declaring that Mahdavi Kani has 63 votes and adding that Rafsanjani will support the Ayatollah as the new leader.

0555 GMT: International Women's Day. Websites are featuring Simin Behbahani's "I Know a Woman" to mark today. The opening lines from the English translation:

I know a woman
Who in a corner of the house
In between washing and cooking
In the kitchen
Sings the hymn of love

Her eyes are simple and lonely
Her voice tired and sad
Her hope lying in the bottom of tomorrow

0553 GMT: International Women's Day. PEN International, the leading organisation for freedom of expression, has highlighted the case of detained attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh:

On 8 March 2011, while the world celebrates International Women's Day, human rights lawyer, journalist and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh will have been in prison for six months, and faces another 10 1/2 years in jail. Her sentence is part of a systematic assault on human rights defenders and activists in Iran, many of whom are subject to arbitrary arrest, travel bans, closure of their organisations and harassment. PEN International is calling for Sotoudeh's release, and an end to arrests and persecution of all those who speak out on human rights abuses. 

0550 GMT: Unity? Speaking at a meeting at Tehran University, reformist MP Jamshid Ansari has called for national dialogue and a return to law.

0530 GMT: We are two very different developments today. 

To mark International Women's Day, opposition groups have called for demonstrations. I am not expecting this to bring out many protesters; the declarations are more symbolic, both in expressing support for and reaching out to women's rights organisations and in continuing to establish the opposition is still present inside Iran.

There will definitely be a gathering of 84 men today as the Assembly of Experts, currently led by Hashemi Rafsanjani, convenes. The declarations from the meeting will be the template rhetoric of support for the Supreme Leader and a call for unity. Far more important will be the outcome of the election for the leadership: Rafsanjani is being challenged by Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, who has been put forth by pro-Ahmadinejad groups.

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