Iran Election Guide

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Monday
Feb272012

The Latest from Iran (27 February): Has Khamenei Met Mousavi?

Director Ashgar Farhadi holds the Oscar for his "A Separation", winner of Best Foreign-Language Film

See also Iran Video and Pictures: "A Separation" Wins Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film
The Latest from Iran (26 February): Bashing the BBC, Jailing the Journalists


1843 GMT: Elections Watch. The Basiji students of Sharif University have filed a complaint against maverick conservative MP Motahari for calling them "thugs".

Motahari was denouncing the Basiji for their protest, calling for President Ahmadinejad's control of Islamic Azad University, in front of Parliament last year.

1829 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Sahameddin Bourghani, the editor of the Iranian Diplomacy website, has been released on bail.

Like blogger/journalist Parastou Dokouhaki and journalist Marzieh Rasouli, released within the last 48 hours (see 1737 GMT), Bourghani was detained in mid-January and accused of being an agent for BBC Persian.

1823 GMT: Elections Watch. In a brief BBC Persian video about the Parliamentary elections, young people say they will not vote because Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are in detention or because MPs do not provide jobs.

1737 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Marzieh Rasouli has been released from prison on bail.

The release of Rasouli, a cultural reporter for several reformist publications, comes days after she was named as an "agent" of BBC Persian swept up in mid-January in the "Eye of the Fox" operation of the Revolutionary Guards. Blogger/journalist Parastou Dokouhaki, also named over the operation, was freed on Sunday.

Blogger Nama Jafari, detained on 14 February, has been freed on a bail on 80 million toman (about $42,000). The editor of the 35anj website, Jafari had compiled a series of protest poems and other writings about the post-election protests of 2009 under the title "Gathering at the Solitary Cell".

1730 GMT: Campus Watch. In the resolution --- possibly --- of a struggle between President Ahmadinejad and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani for control of Islamic Azad University, Minister of Science and Higher Education Kamran Daneshjoo has signed the mandate for his brother Farhad to become head of the University for four years.

Rafsanjani, who has been the dominant force in Iran's largest chain of private universities since its creation in the 1990s, had refused to sign the mandate.

1630 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Abolfazl Ghadyani has been sentenced to three years in prison for "insulting the Supreme Leader and accusing him of dictatorship".

Ghadyani had said, “The Leader permitted the fraud in the last Presidential election, and in his Friday Prayer speech after the election, he gave the order for suppression of the protesters."

Ghadyani, one of the oldest political prisoners, is a senior member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution party.

Last year Ghadyani had declared in an interview, “If, in court and in my defence, I had said that Ahmadinejad is a liar, hypocrite, dictator and violator of the law, these are not insults to Ahmadinejad. These are just his characteristics.”

1610 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch (Elections Edition). And so we have a situation where the President's own brother is being censored....

Sunday's speech of Davood Ahmadinejad in Garmsar, his native city, was cancelled on the orders of the Security Council of the city of Garmsar, a branch of the Ministry of Interior.

The President's brother was due to speak about the activities of the "deviant current", in particular, those of Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar had said on Sunday, "Criticism of the government is against the national interest because this will disunite the nation and bring happiness for our enemies."

MP Bahman Akhavan was able to get in a punch at Vice President Mohammad Reza Mirtajoddini, who had said that the Parliament is not at the top of the country’s affairs: “I am very sorry for him, and I advise him to attend a study course about the Islamic Republic's Constitution....I am happy to teach him this module."

1600 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch (Foreign Affairs Edition). Back from an academic break to find what I think is an important signal from President Ahmadinejad's media advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr in the pro-Ahmadinejad outlet IRNA --- manoeuvring amidst the firm rhetoric of the Supreme Leader and the chest-thumping of the military, Javanfekr pointed to Ahmadinejad's deployment of the prospect of talks with the "West", even if only as a tactic to split Europe and the US:

Presidential Advisor of Press affairs Ali Akbar Javanfekr said the Iranian government was after promoting cooperation and dialogue with other countries.

Presidential Advisor of Press affairs Ali Akbar Javanfekr said the Iranian government was after promoting cooperation and dialogue with other countries.

1123 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). Press TV publishes an attack article claiming that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, and the British Government are fabricating tales about the violence in Syria:

[There is[ serious doubt about the truth behind its stories as they are weirdly in line with and helpful to London’s Syria policy, which supports the ouster of Syrian president Bashar al-Asad.

It is also interesting that London claims Asad’s government is violating human rights principles in dealing with ‘protestors’ while revelations earlier this month showed the British government is training and providing arms and other support to terror squads in Syria to wage violence under the guise of demonstrators.

1115 GMT: Elections Watch. Yadollah Javani, the head of the Political Bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, has declared, "People's presence in the elections proves their support for the nezam (system) --- no one can resign his religious right to vote."

0735 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar has some choice words for the President. Claiming that decisions on the Constitution must be by the Guardian Council and not the President, Bahonar said, “Ahmadinejad has always a specific interpretation of the law and Constitution (to his own benefit), and therefore his interpretation of the Constitution is worthless."

0725 GMT: Reformist Watch. At the end of memorial ceremony on Sunday, former President Mohammad Khatami was asked by a journalist, “Do you participate in the [Friday's Parliamentary] election?” Khatami replied, "Unfortunately you write whatever you like, regardless of what I say”.

Khatami's brother Mohammad Reza and Abdollah Nouri were less guarded in their answers, saying they will not vote.

0705 GMT: At the Movies. We have now posted a separate feature on the Oscar for Ashgar Farhadi's A Separation as Best Foreign-Lanugage Film.

0655 GMT: Hunger Strike. Al Jazeera English's The Stream notes the hunger strike of detained blogger/physician Mehdi Khazali, now in its 50th day.

Last night activists staged a "TweetStorm" on Twitter, posting a rush of messages with the hashtag #MehdiKhazali about the prisoner, serving a 14-year sentence for his criticism of the system and the Supreme Leader.

0625 GMT: Currency Watch. The Iranian currency is again slipping, a month after the Central Bank took far-reaching steps to halt its sharp fall.

Voice of America posts a video report, as the Iranian Rial fell 1.5% yesterday to 19400:1 vs. the US dollar.

The Central Bank has tried to impose a single "official" rate of 12260:1, but this has little sway on the streets. The Rial was at a level above 21000:1 in January, a fall of 60% in value since September, when the Bank intervened with a rise in interest rates and authorities threatened to arrest "unofficial" traders.

0600 GMT: On Sunday, we mentioned the rumour, carried on the opposition site Rah-e Sabz, that the son of the Supreme Leader, Mojtaba Khamenei, had seen the detained opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi. The story claimed that Khamenei was seeking Mousavi's co-operation to deal with the "crisis" in Iran.

BBC Persian is also circulating the report, saying that an "informed source" amongst the opposition has confirmed that the meeting took place.

Mousavi, along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard and fellow 2009 Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and his wife Fatemeh, has been held under strict house arrest since mid-February 2011.

An EA correspondent assesses that the claim may be propaganda from the Green Movement before Friday's Parliamentary elections, both overshadowing the vote and causing uncertainty amongst those who are thinking of participating.

At the same time, I recall that last month, a well-placed EA source in Tehran offered the solid information that meetings had taken place between high-level regime officials with opposition members, urging them to bring out their followers to the Parliamentary polls.

 

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