Iran Election Guide

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Tuesday
Jan042011

Belarus Updates: A Cancelled Press Conference and Possible Sanctions

2045 GMT: More searches and interrogations by the security services today: Anastasia Loiko of the human rights group Vyasna, Alexander Makayev of the Businessmen's Movement, human rights activist and journalist Vladimir Khilmanovich, and activists Andrei Presnyakov and Alexander Petkevich.

1725 GMT: Presidential candidate Vitaly Rymashevsky, who was released yesterday from detention but then cancelled a press conference to avoid re-arrest (see 0940 GMT), has given a cautious interview.

Rymashevsky said he had written President Lukashenko but it was not possible to reveal the contents of the letters. He added that his first priority was to secure the freedom of other detainees.

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Tuesday
Jan042011

Afghanistan Snapshot: Meeting the Mayor of Kandahar (Marlowe)

“The Taliban have already taken over in Kandahar! Come out onto the streets and see. There is no government there!” Or so Rangina Hamidi, the American-educated daughter of Kandahar’s mayor, Ghulum Hamidi, warned me in Kabul last month. Her remarks echoed a recent survey of 1,000 men in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. It found that 51 percent would prefer justice to be administered by the Taliban and 59 percent think the Taliban would do a better job of running the economy than the current Afghan government.

Rangina gave me her father’s phone number, adding that he answers his own phone. “They killed the last two guys who did that and he can’t find another one to work for him.”

When I arrived at Kandahar Air Base on the way back from a U.S. Army embed, I suggested to the mayor that he send a car to take me to his office. “Why don’t you stay on the base?” he replied. “I will come to meet you at the civilian side of the airport.”

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Tuesday
Jan042011

Iran Feature: Oh My God, They Killed Valentine's Day!

Now this week's Culture Shocker. The Iranian Labor News Agency reported on Sunday:

In the run-up to Valentine's Day on February 14 the printing works owners' union issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of any goods promoting this day....

Printing and producing any goods related to this day including posters, boxes and cards emblazoned with hearts or half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned....

Outlets that violate this will be legally dealt with.

No explanation for how Cupid might be encouraging regime change, but one has to assume that "Western love" is somehow different from "Iranian love".

The problem is that Iranians seem to have missed the distinction. In recent years, cards, chocolates, red velvet roses, and teddy bears (OK, that last one may be a menacing sign of Cultural Doom) have spread across Tehran. A proposal to offset Valentine's Day with an Iranian "Day of Love" for  the wedding anniversary of Ali, the first Shia Imam, and his wife Fatemeh did not catch on.

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Tuesday
Jan042011

The Latest from Iran (4 January): Calling a Regime Bluff?

Cartoon: Nikahang Kowsar2035 GMT: He's Coming Alert. Amidst his denunciation of the West in his speech in northern Iran today, President Ahmadinejad also brought this news: the Epiphany of the "Hidden Imam" is very near.

The Hidden Imam is the mystical 12th Imam of Shi'a Islam.

2025 GMT: Parliament v. President (Bank Edition). Iranian Labor News Agency reports that the Parliament is making another attempt to take control of the Central Bank from President Ahmadinejad.

The Majlis is proposing that the head of the Bank, currently named by the President and approved by the Bank's General Assembly, will now have to be approved by Parliament. The Majlis is also altering the membership of the Assembly, although the President will remain the head.

An earlier version of the bill was rejected by the Guardian Council after the Government refused to implement it.

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Tuesday
Jan042011

Two Tunisia Analyses: What Has Caused the Current Protests? (Khreeji and Alexander)

Over the last five years, the fabric of President Ben Ali's authoritarianism has frayed. Once it became clear that the Islamists no longer posed a serious threat, many Tunisians became less willing to accept the government's heavy-handedness. The regime also lost some of its earlier deftness. Its methods became less creative and more transparently brutal. The government seemed less willing to at least play at any dialogue with critics or opposition parties. Arbitrary arrests, control of the print media and Internet access, and physical attacks on journalists, human rights and opposition party activists became more common. So, too, did stories of corruption -- not the usual kickbacks and favoritism that one might expect, but truly Mafia-grade criminality that lined the pockets of Ben Ali's wife and her family. The growth of Facebook, Twitter, and a Tunisian blogosphere -- much of it based outside the country -- made it increasingly easy for Tunisians to learn about the latest arrest, beating, or illicit business deal involving the president's family.

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Tuesday
Jan042011

Gaza Youth Breaks Out: The Manifesto for Change

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world. 

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.

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Monday
Jan032011

WikiLeaks and Iran: How the "Tehran Trial" Killed US Exchange Programmes with Tehran

A telling example from the WikiLeaks documents of how "engagement" became a casualty of the post-election atmosphere in Iran....

In August 2009, less than two months after the disputed Presidential election, the Iranian authorities held a mass trial of more than 100 defendants in Tehran. The proceedings were more for show than for due legal process: unlike most hearings, they were held in public --- indeed they were televised --- and they were accompanied by a series of high-profile "confessions".

The general indictment for the trial laid out a buffet of academic, cultural, and social initiatives which now constituted a "velvet revolution". Almost any episode in which an Iranian professional had met an American or European counterpart could now be used as proof of complicity in an attempt at regime change.

Unsurprisingly, the effect of the post-election detentions and the public trials was to suspend these exchanges and discussions.

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Monday
Jan032011

Egypt Round-up: Sunday's Protests --- And What Might Happen Today

2130 GMT: There is a steady stream of reports via social media of protests in the Shubra area of Cairo tonight, with renewed clashes with police.

1400 GMT: Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqqi has urged private television channels to heed objectivity and avoid inflammatory coverage when reporting on the Alexandria bomb.

Al-Fiqqi insisted that "nationalist dimensions" should be the focus of reports.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan032011

Belarus Updates: Presidential Candidate Rymashevsky Released

1000 GMT: The Belarus Prosecutor General has insisted that former Presidential candidates are not complaining about their conditions in detention.

0925 GMT: Presidential candidate Vitaly Rymashevsky has been released on condition that he not leave Minsk. Yuri Klimovich of Rymashevsky's staff has also been freed after 15 days of jail.

Four other opposition candidates, including Vladimir Neklyaev and Andrei Sannikov (see separate entry for video), are still in prison.

About 150 other detainees are expected to be released after serving 15-day sentences. Around 700 people were seized during protests on Election Day on 19 December.

Monday
Jan032011

Belarus Video: The Moment Candidate Sannikov and Journalist Khalip Were Arrested

An amateur video captures the moment when Belarussian forces stopped the car of Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov and his wife, journalist Iryna Khalip, taking the two to the prison of the state security service, the KGB. Khalip was speaking on Russian radio when the autombile was stopped.

Both Sannikov and Khalip are still detained.