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Entries in Thomas Erdbrink (28)


Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Political Prisoners and Public Executions (Arseh Sevom)

Two Iranian muggers, just before their public execution on Sunday in Tehran

Prison furloughs have been given to a number of prisoners of conscience even as Sakharov Prize winner Nasrin Sotoudeh was called back to prison after just three days. Public executions spark debate. Iranian State Television airs an “exposé” of CIA spying. Parliament debates restricting foreign travel for all women under 40 while the continuing house arrest of former presidential candidates is called into question. Finally the Iranian Coalition for Peace reaches out to President Obama.

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Iran Opinion: The Crisis in Medical Care --- It's Not Just About Sanctions (Uskowi)

Perhaps someone should remind the Iranian regime that India happens to be a major pharmaceuticals producer and that the Iranian oil money sitting in Indian banks in local currency is available for medical purchases. Easier said than done I'm sure, as Iran may not see the upside in solving the "medicine shortage" in the country when it can get so much anti-sanction publicity from it.

In the meantime. Iranian patients are sure to be left to fend for themselves with no light at the end of this tunnel, as the regime clings to its nuclear policies and the West remain committed to forcing Iran to change its behaviour through sanctions.

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Iran 1st-Hand: Life in the Time of a Currency Collapse (Erdbrink)

In the Iranian capital, all anyone can talk about is the rial, and how lives have been turned upside down in one terrible week. Every elevator ride, office visit or quick run to the supermarket brings new gossip about the currency’s drop and a swirl of speculation about who is to blame.

“Better buy now,” one rice seller advised Abbas Sharabi, a retired factory guard, who had decided to buy 900 pounds of Iran’s most basic staple in order to feed his extended family for a year.

“As I was gathering my money, the man received a phone call,” said Mr. Sharabi, smoking cigarette after cigarette on Thursday while waiting for a bus. “When he hung up he told me prices had just gone up by 10 percent. Of course I paid. God knows how much it will cost tomorrow.”

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The Latest from Iran (14 August): Recovering from an Earthquake

See also The Latest from Iran (13 August): The Political Aftershocks of the Earthquakes

1739 GMT: The Labour Front. Complaining about no wages for eight months, 600 steel workers protested today in front of the Ministry of Industry.

1722 GMT: The Battle Within. Yesterday we reported:

Iran News Network claims that two former Ministers have asked for a staff from the Executive, legislative, and judicial branches to be organised to manage the country, effectively taking power from the Government.

Radio Farda suggests the two ex-Ministers could be Iran Inspector General and former Minister of Interior Mostafa Pourmohammadi and former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Today Robert Tait of The Daily Telegraph of London adds a third name and the claim that the appeal was made to Ayatollah Khamenei:

Three of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's former ministers have called on Iran's supreme leader to form an emergency "government of all the talents" that will effectively curb the president's power.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the former foreign minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who served as interior minister, and Davoud Danesh Jafari, the ex-finance minister, have urged the radical move in a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, citing the country's "sensitive and critical situation".

It calls for the establishment of a special cabinet of "wise men" made up of the heads of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, which would then govern Iran for the next year until Mr Ahmadinejad's term ends.

Mr Ahmadinejad would be a member of such a body as head of the executive branch. But his powers would be diluted and prestige drastically reduced....

In an editorial, [pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper] Iran criticised the former ministers' note as an attempt "to portray the country's situation as critical and justify extraordinary approaches outside legal boundaries to resolve an artificial crisis".

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The Latest from Iran (2 July): Winners and Losers in the Economic Crisis

See also Iran Feature: A Cleric's Best-Selling DVD Guide "Lovemaking is Like Jihad"
The Latest from Iran (1 July): The European Union Cuts Off Imports of Tehran's Oil

2010 GMT: Diplomacy Watch. ISNA highlights an interview with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who declares, “The other side has no choice but to come to an agreement with Iran. Otherwise, instead of interaction, the next option will be confrontation, and I don’t believe that any rational mind is after confrontation given the latest developments in the region.”

Salehi urged Iranians to be confident, "We have been subjected to sanctions for the past 33 years “come in addition to previous ones, and it isn’t a problem....[We must] show national unity and have resistance and patience against these sanctions because one has to pay the costs for preserving one’s independence."

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Iran Feature: Seeking Acceptance as a Single Woman (Erdbrink)

When Shoukoufeh, an English literature student from a backwater town, set out to rent an apartment for herself here in the capital, she first stopped at a jewelry store and picked up a $5 wedding ring.

Accustomed to living with lies to navigate the etiquette of Iranian society, where women are traditionally expected to live with their parents or a husband, the 24-year-old would prominently flash her fake white-gold band to real estate agents and landlords who would otherwise be reluctant to lease an apartment to a single woman.

“To them and my neighbors, my roommate and I are two married women away from their husbands to pursue our studies,” she explained. “In reality, we are of course both single.”

There are no official statistics on the number of women living by themselves in big cities in Iran. But university professors, real estate agents, families and many young women all say that a phenomenon extremely rare just 10 years ago is becoming commonplace, propelled by a continuous wave of female students entering universities and a staggering rise in divorces.

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Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- From Political Prisoners in Danger to Pepsi's Logo on the Moon (Arseh Sevom)

A Pepsi Logo on the Moon?Pepsi Logo on the Moon: Hoax or PSYOPs?

Most eyes were fixed on the sky in Iran last week. First, of course, there was the transit of Venus, with Iranians joining millions all over the world to observe the once-in-a-lifetime event. Then Shargh newspaper published reports of sightings of “strange lights” and “luminous objects” in the sky over a number of towns, which in the past have turned out to be drone sightings.

Last but not least, an Internet hoax was taken seriously by many, including official news agencies, in Iran. An unfounded report posted by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) was the source of a rumor that Pepsi had managed to launch its latest promotional craze by beaming its logo onto the moon. Reports from Iran confirmed that thousands showed up on rooftops to watch the launch of the project for themselves.

The hoax started a conversation within the Iranian blogosphere with many finding the incident reminiscent of 1979 when people all over Iran were convinced they saw Ayatollah Khomeini’s face in the moon.

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Remember Iran Flashback: "How Not to Cover Iran's Elections --- The Awards Ceremony" (12 June 2009)

From Colin Freeman in The Daily Telegraph: "The jostling crowds of a rock gig moshpit, and the carefully choreographed build-up of a World Wrestling Federation grudge match....Rather like promoters for the Rolling Stones or the late James Brown, the president's aides like to keep his fans waiting....One speaker yelled with razzmatazz worthy of TV darts presenter Sid Waddell."

My favourite allusion? "Rather like the punk rock group the Sex Pistols, or the singer Pete Doherty, it is not unusual, apparently, for the president to plan a gig but then fail to show."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Sid Vicious. I'm not sure it does much for political analysis, but it's an image that burns on the mind.

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Iran Snap Analysis: Rearranging the Political Chairs --- What Has Changed?

A year ago, at the height of the conflict between the Supreme Leader and President Ahmadinejad --- marked by the fight to control the Ministry of Intelligence, and culminating in the President's defeat and an 11-day boycott of his duties --- we assessed that Ahmadinejad was now a "lame-duck" occupant of his office. He would not be removed, as this was cause instability and more in-fighting over the issue of who would replace him, but he would be contained and constricted by his rivals and the Supreme Leader's office.

And so it goes. The President will serve out the last year of his term, with more pressure put on those around him, such as Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. But he is unlikely to do more than put out his rhetoric and proclaim the myth of his legacy.

The bigger question, for example, is whether the Supreme Leader's office has arranged a Parliamentary outcome that guarantees it will have no problems with the Parliament as well as the President.

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Iran Feature: The Regime Locks Down the Internet (Erdbrink/Flock)

Throughout today, Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran-based correspondent of The Washington Post, has been noting the gradual lockdown of the Internet in Iran. His rolling comments are noted in a blog by Elizabeth Flock, while Erdbrink's article follows:

Iran begins blocking access to Gmail, other sites
Elizabeth Flock 

When Thomas Erdbrink, The Washington Post’s correspondent in Tehran, logs on to the Internet in Iran, he never knows whether Gmail and Google Reader, The Post or Facebook will open for him. Increasingly, this is the error message he sees instead of the page he was trying to reach:

Translation: “According to computer crime regulations, access to this Web site is denied.

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