Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (23 April): "We Were First"

1730 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. Ali Akbar Javenfekr, the managing director of the State news agency IRNA, has effectively apologised for his newspaper's handling of the Supreme Leader's message to the people of Shiraz, saying that IRNA "devoted its efforts to the goals of revolutionary ideals and the Islamic system".

IRNA had altered the official release from the Supreme Leader's office, omitting Ayatollah Khamenei's support for the Ministry of Intelligence and implicit slap-down of President Ahmadinejad and his advisors for trying to force out the head of the Ministry, Heydar Moslehi. Khamenei's office then told media not to rely on reports from IRNA.

While apologising, Javanfekr made no reference to the Moslehi affair.

Meanwhile, the conservative stie Alef has removed its story about President Ahmadinejad's refusal to work with Moslehi.

1710 GMT: Ahwaz Watch. Reporters Without Borders has condemned the use of force by Iranian authorities in Khuzestan Province, with national and international media prevented from covering the incidents.

RWB claims the crackdown has continued this week with several arrests of writers and media contributors, including Ali Badri (of the blog Shataljarhi, Ali Torofi of the blog Karoniat), and poets Hamin Hairi and Shahid Amori.

1635 GMT: Foreign Affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has rejected President Obama's accusation that Syria has sought Tehran's help to suppress protests: "We reject these declarations. Our foreign policy is very clear -- we do not intervene in the domestic affairs of other states."

1630 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Prominent human rights attorney Mohammad Seifzadeh, who had been missing for more than two weeks, has been detained in Oroumiyeh in northwestern Iran.

Seifzadeh, a co-founder of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, was sentenced in the post-election crisis to nine years in prison.

1610 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. Great footwork from Press TV in its English-language summary of the Supreme Leader's message....

The website begins with the safe presentation of Ayatollah Khamenei defending Iran against the devious foreign media:

“Do not let disputes and divides to appear, and the enemy [to succeed in] its propaganda and political malice,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Saturday.

The Leader referred to the foreign media hype about the resignation of Iran's Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi “which is not that important,” and said “in their analyses they say that there is a division in the Islamic Republic of Iran, dual approach leadership has came into existence and the president has not listened to the Leader.”

Having established this solid defence of the nation, Press TV then slips in the Supreme Leader's diplomatic takedown of the President's office over their attempt to push out Moslehi:

Stressing the fact that Ahmadinejad and his Cabinet were serving the country, Ayatollah Khamenei said the Leadership did not intend to “interfere in the government affairs and decisions, unless he feels that a greater good has been ignored.”

Ayatollah Khamenei added that regarding Moslehi's resignation, "It was felt that a greater good had been ignored."

The Leader advised the country's officials to refrain from arguing and said, "The establishment of the Islamic Republic is a powerful apparatus, and the leadership is steadfast in rightful stances."

"As long as I am alive and have responsibility, I will not let the movement of the Iranian nation towards the ideals deviate in the slightest way," the Leader concluded.

1600 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. The conservative website Mehr has posted its account of the Supreme Letter's address to the people of Shiraz, and it confirms Ayatollah Khamenei's support of the Ministry of Intelligence and warning not to undermine it.

State news agency IRNA, which supports President Ahmadinejad and backed his effort to remove Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, continues to ignore the passage in the Supreme Leader's speech.

1550 GMT: Questioning Elections (Conservative Edition). Conservative MP Nurollah Heydari has told Khabar Online that he has doubts about next year’s Parliamentary vote, “When a section of the government, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, acts against the law, how can we trust that it will carry out healthy elections?”

Heydari said that “distributing government handouts to certain individuals and regions” was one of the “illegal” actions of the Ahmadinejad administration: “Funds distributed as Norooz benefits and gifts from the office of the president at gatherings and galas with artists and actors are not adequately accounted for." The MP also expressed suspicions about financial handouts given under the guise of “assistance to deprived regions and the development of sports facilities” and “government handouts to some MPs for so-called regional projects".

1525 GMT: The House Arrests. After more than two months of strict house arrest, Fatemeh Karroubi, has been allowed to leave for medical examinations.

Karroubi and her husband Mehdi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard were put under the control of the security forces in mid-February, as the opposition planned to march in support of the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia.

1400 GMT: Labour Front. The Assistant Minister of Labour, on the eve of May Day, has reportedly said the word "strike" is "imported" and should not be used.

1330 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. The dispute over the "resignation" of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi continues, with an interesting twist as he Supreme Leader spoke in Shiraz today.

Ayatollah Khamenei's office put out the statement that the only reliable information on the matter was the news they distributed. It then allegedly drove home its point by saying that media should not use material put out by the State news agency IRNA.

The pro-Ahmadinejad IRNA has been at the centre of the controversy over the attempt by the President's office to force out Moslehi. Earlier this week it refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Supreme Leader's letter maintaining Moslehi in office.

In his remarks addressing the people of Shiraz, Khamenei warned that the "great asset" of the Ministry of Intelligence was being overlooked and said foreign and enemy media would try and take advantage of the situation.

IRNA, while putting out the ritual report that the Supreme Leader said he will not let the people's movement be derailed, had no mention of the Moslehi matter.

1320 GMT: Foreign Affairs. Thomas Erdbrink and Joby Warrick, writing in The Washington Post, summarise how the issue of Bahrain is escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran:

On Friday, a large crowd of students rallied outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, chanting “Death to al-Saud” in what official news accounts described as a three-day sit-in protesting the suppression of anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain. The latest protests capped a week of rising tensions in which Iranian youths hurled stones and firebombs at the Saudi Embassy while Riyadh threatened to withdraw its diplomats.

1120 GMT: Economy Watch. Iranian Labor News Agency reports that food prices have risen 25% in Tehran in the last year.

1110 GMT: Spotting the Revolution. Iranian news agencies may be slow to pick up on protest at home or in Syria, but they are remarkably good at discovering it in Britain....

Fars informs readers, "Bristol, England on the Verge of Revolt on Eve of Royal Wedding.

The incident in question is a riot over a newly-opened supermarket, Tesco Express, with local residents complaining of heavy-handed tactics by police. More than 160 officers in riot gear tried to move demonstrators, arresting four. Eight police officers and several protesters were reportedly injured.

1045 GMT: Ahwaz Watch. Activists in Ahwaz, where there have been stories of clashes with security forces killing up to 15 people, tell Deutsche Welle how Iranian authorities are preventing any coverage of the situation.

1030 GMT: Media Watch (Syria Edition). An interesting break by Press TV from the line of Iranian state media, as it notes that at least 75 people were killed on Friday in Syria. Moreover, it does so by citing the "Western" outlet Associated Press.

In contrast, State news agency IRNA declares that a group of people marched in Damascus in support of the Assad regime's reforms.

0910 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A group of 23 political prisoners has written an open letter to senior clerics comparing oppression in Arab countries and Iran and asking, "Why don't you speak out when the same happens here?"

Actor Ramin Parchami, sentenced to one year in prison for joining demonstrations and filming them, has written a letter from detention: "We bravely stormed the dark night/Set up a plan to destroy it till dawn."

0900 GMT: Economy Watch. The Friday Prayer leader of Yazd, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Sadughi, has said that the regime's claims on job creation, with promises of 1.6 million new positions in the near-future, are not realistic. The cleric noted that the creation of each job costs $25,000 to $30,000 and called on the authorities to "give real data".

0845 GMT: Getting Attention. Lots of chatter in Western media this morning about Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi as she appeared in New York to promote her latest book, The Golden Cage. In interviews with several outlets, she made a powerful case for activism and information:

If no one speaks out when a government violates human rights and uses oppression, this oppression continues. But when people are informed, they gradually become aware, and when they become aware, they begin to object. No change happens in society unless people become aware.

While supporting action in the UN Human Rights Council and targeted sanctions over human rights, Ebadi argued, "The development of democracy and human rights in any country is the duty of that country's people, and foreign countries must watch from a distance and provide help without interfering in internal affairs."

And the future in Iran? Ebadi spoke about "fire under the ashes". And there was this exchange:

Q: Will we see the democratic movement prevail in our lives?
A: This depends on whether I die tomorrow or in another 30 years.
Q: Let's say you live another 30 years. Will we see it?
A: Yes, within 30 years, of course.

0650 GMT: Media Watch (Syria Edition). A comparison of how Iran's State broadcaster IRIB, France 24, and Al Jazeera covered Friday's protests in Syria. Even if you can't understand Persian, the images speak loudly --- IRIB claims that images from Bahrain of security forces attacking people were used by international media yesterday to tarnish Damascus:

0555 GMT: Clerical Interventions. Ayatollah Dastgheib has expressed his hope that Iran's crisis will end and that Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi will be released from their strict house arrest after more than two months.

And Ayatollah Mahmoud Amjad has declared that Iran's people are being mistreated. He continued that all clerics, especially the high- ranking, are responsible, as they have power. 

0545 GMT: I'll let a long-time EA reader get today off to a spirited start.

She notes Robert Fisk's column in The Independent of London, "What if the Spirit of Rebellion Spread to Iran?": "We shall see what Syria holds for us in the coming days. But what if this spread to the east, beyond the mini-revolt in Iraqi Kurdistan to the very pillars of the Islamic Republic?"

Her concise riposte to Mr Fisk: "We Were First".

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