Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


« Chronology of Violence in Indonesia: 73 Killed in 9 Years | Main | Buy Us a Coffee (and Keep EA Growing) »

The Latest from Iran (17 July): Compromise or Challenge?

2200 GMT: More new video from today:


1915 GMT: Infighting amongst the hardliners? From a contact: Ahmadinejad's Vice Presidential pick Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai has been criticized by the hardliner MP Mohammad Taghi Rahbar. Rahbar, who has personal ties with Khamenei, has stated that "many ayatollahs" and "AN supportors" are "extremely concerned with this choice".

1700 GMT: onlymehdi features a picture which appears to show Karroubi after he was 'roughed up' by plainclothes officers:

1615 GMT: Saham News, the official news site of Mehdi Karroubi, confirms confrontations between riot police and protesters around Tehran University today. It reports that the crowd jeered and booed an IRIB crew who tried to shoot footage, and that at around 4pm local police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

1610 GMT: From an EA source: "In an attempt to placate the student population, Hojattoleslam Abu-Rorabi the deputy head of parliament during the closing ceremonies of the fourteenth university student olympiad in Mathematics and Chemistry alluded to the events that had occurred in Tehran University Dormitories and vowed "to resolve these problems soon". Abu-Torabi stated that Parliament with the help of university officials " is in the process of finding solutions for this huge problem" and "is trying to effect the release of some of those students  that are in trouble" and "those who have confessed to their crimes will still be treated with Islamic kindness"." [Link: Persian / English]

1605 GMT: Reports say that Mehdi Karroubi was attacked by plainclothes secret service members today. [English translation] This is also reported in the Guardian's blog.

1600 GMT: A reader sends us this article on Parleman News, containing a series of photos from inside today's prayers.

1425 GMT: The Twitter account of journalism site Demotix says a strike is planned for Tuesday.

1400 GMT: The Lede carries an account from an Iranian-American reader who witnessed bleeding protesters and the use of tear gas outside prayers today. It also links to a YouTube account with a number of videos of what it says are protesters today.

1340 GMT: onlymehdi carries this picture of an extremely low-key appearance by Mir-Hossein Mousavi at Friday prayers, originally published here:

1330 GMT: Update on the video below. There are two chants: "We are not the people of Kufeh, that abandoned Hossein!" Kufeh is an historical Shia city in Iraq, whose population betrayed the third imam of the Shia Hossein (while also being a play on Mousavi's first name, Mir-Hossein). The second chant is, as reported, "Russia! Shame on you! Leave my country alone!". [Thanks Mazdak and M.R.]

1155 GMT: Video of Mousavi supporters outside Tehran University. We believe they are chanting, "Russia! Shame on you! Leave my country alone!" Can anyone translate?


Another lower quality video can be viewed here.

1130 GMT: Press TV's unsurprising headline on Friday prayers: "Iran's Rafsanjani urges national unity".

1105 GMT: Some confusion over Mousavi's attendance at Rafsanjani's address. An EA source does not think he was there, however both AP and Reuters report that he was. It is possible that Mousavi was in attendance, but not in the front row- this would be significant in itself.

1030 GMT: A video which is said to show Mousavi supporters at today's sermon has been posted to Facebook. (You may need to be logged in to Facebook to see it- we'll keep an eye out for alternatives.)

1025 GMT: An interesting reading: "Rafsanjani said he 'consulted' some members of the Assembly of Experts. May be an indirect warning to Khamenei."

And another Rafsanjani middle-ground statement, albeit one that will be read (I think) as a slap at the regime: "All of us, people and the government, should act within the law."

1020 GMT: A contact reports that  IRIB may have brought down the volume of Rafsanjani's speech to cloak pro-Mousavi chants coming from the crowd. Mousavi was not present in the VIP area before or during Rafsanjani's speech, and neither Mousavi or Khatami appear to have been in the front rows. VIPs present included: Emami Kashani, Mahmoud Doai, Hassan Rowhani Mehdi Karroubi, Mohsen Rezai, Majid Ansari, Mohammad Reza Aref, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, Said Mortazavi, Mohammad Reza Bahonar.

1015 GMT: We have located an English translation of Rafsanjani's address, via the excellent NiteOwl.

1005 GMT: More evidence of Rafsanjani's sympathetic stand with protests while not breaking with regime: "Those suffered or mourning should be sympathized with."

1000 GMT: BBC Persian is reporting that police are dispersing protesters in areas surrounding the prayer site.

0955 GMT: A clear point of substance from Rafsanjani (and one fulfilling our morning projection): release the detainees.

0945 GMT: "Basij chanting in support of Khamenei, yet Rafsanjani keeps thanking them as though they are chanting for him"

Initial reading is that Rafsanjani is making a very careful but clear push for "legitimacy", implicitly criticising Government but trying to contain the scope of the challenge: "If there's no Islam we'll be lost. If there's no republic there is no action and no Islam.

0935 GMT: The speech so far: Rafsanjani has made a pointed reference to the pious life of the 7th Imam, Jafar Sadigh, explaining how he defied censorship to promote Islam. Anyone who wishes to make an analogy to present times may do so.

More directly, Rafsanjani (unlilke the Iranian Government and the Supreme Leader) has criticised China for its suppression of Uighur Muslims. For the first time in Iran, cries of "Death to China" are being heard, though Rafsanjani is urging the crowd to be moderate in its criticisms.

0930 GMT: Even at a distance (in this case, a field in eastern Britain), the excitement over Rafsanjani's address can be felt. Basiji are reported to be shouting, but it is also claimed that --- in a prayer service --- people are whistling and chanting for Rafsanjani and the "Green Wave".

Despite the interest, however, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is apparently not carrying the service live. If true, this might be a first for state media.

0920 GMT: Fars reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has unveiled his new cabinet. [link to English translation]

0915 GMT: Some overnight news from an EA contact. According to the pro-Mousavi website Mowj-e-sabz, there were protests in other parts of Mashad while Ahmadinejad was giving his speech. Eyewitnesses spoke of a sizeable security presence, including riot poice and Ansar Hezbollah members, who suppressed booing from protesters and arrested ten.

Mowj-e-sabz also reports that Ahmadinejad was snubbed by Ayatollah Vaez Tabasi, who did not officially welcome him or accompanying him during his visit to the shrine of Imam Reza. This is believed to be the first time in 30 years that the Ayatollah has withheld such courtesies from a sitting president.

0645 GMT: A side story of interest and possible significance. Yesterday it was announced that the head of Iran's nuclear programme had resigned three weeks ago. Later in the day Wikileaks reported that it had received a document outlining an accident at the Iranian nuclear plant being developed at Natanz.

Late last night access to Wikileaks was blocked in Iran.

0530 GMT: So It Begins. As Iran waits for Friday prayers, to be led by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, reports are coming in that crowds have been gathering at Enqelab and Vali-e Asr Streets near Tehran University. Heavy security, including basiji militia, is also reported.

This is an important occasion where expectation is not matched by knowledge. As we have been analysing all week, Rafsanjani is a master politician, at least behind the scenes. Before he speaks today, he will have calculated the position and strength of every major player (including himself) and the effect that each of his courses of speech and action might have.

My tendency, given Rafsanjani's priority not only for survival but to extend his power within the system, is that he will use religious rhetoric to call for reconciliation. That can be read by Government supporters as an acceptance of the Supreme Leader's authority and President Ahmadinejad's election, but it can also be read as a re-assertion that the concerns of protesters are legitimate and must be met, not only by a reversal of detentions but also changes in electoral law and a separation of Presidential politics (the Cabinet) and oversight (the Guardian Council).

Rafsanjani will hope that the Supreme Leader will move back from direct involvement in politics (and signs are that this is occurring) and the Revolutionary Guard's influence will be checked. This will give him more space for his own assertions of power within the system.

I could be far wrong, however. Rafsanjani has the capacity to surprise, as he did with his backing of Ayatollah Khamenei to become Supreme Leader in 1989, and if he thinks the moment is right for either 1) an assertion of faith in the status quo or 2) endorsement of the opposition, he will do so.

At this moment, I would be looking for Rafsanjani's possible endorsement, given subtly but clearly, of the political front envisaged by Mir Hossein Mousavi. That would not overturn the election but would open the prospect of a broad base for a "reform" within acceptable (for Rafsanjani) limits.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: doriforika kanalia
    I appreciate you sharing this post. Great.

Reader Comments (13)

[...] Lucas at Enduring America is speculating on Rafsanjani’s planned appearance today at Friday Prayers. What will he say? [...]

It looks like none of the Iranian TV networks are covering Rafsandjani's sermon. That's really annoying, because I can't do a story if I don't have sound :((((
It's tough to believe that they can have a black out on something like that. All the Iranian TV seems to be broadcasting are images of Ahmedinejad in Mashhad, yesterday, and they appear to be using old video footage of the crowds, too.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEdward Yeranian

Coverage in Iran was limited to FM radio. Bit late now but it could be watched on HotBird satellite. Channel called FEED in IRIB bouquet. 12.437 Horizontal 27500 Symbol Rate, FEC 3/4.

Interesting that no live broadcasting on Iranian networks.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChrisE

This is in front of Tehran University Gates where Friday's Prayer takes place. People are saying (0:15 sec) ' We are not Kufean ( refering to the Shia'a historical event where the people of Kufa in Iraq left Imam Ali and Imam Hussain (as) in their battles ) So Hussain ( Mir Hussain Musavi) stays with no companion''.
On the 0:45 sec they are chanting 'Russia Shame on you, Leave my country alone'

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterM.R

Rafsanjani... not altogether satisfying but much as you predicted. On the plus side, while he called for reconciliation, he clearly indicated the govt needs to do the reconciling, as opposed to saying that both sides have reparations to make. Also notable: apparently the govt claims of foreign intervention weren't even worth acknowledging as part of the discussion.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Rafsanjani, comment 2... After watching some of the videos I get the feeling that it doesn't much matter what was in the speech. It provided cover for people to come together in numbers the regime can't supress without an all-out attack.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy, you've hit the nail on the head. The speech was not the point. The point is that he gave Mousavi, Khatami, Karroubi, and all of the demonstrators a forum and opportunity to unite and demonstrate.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

"We are not the people of Kufeh that abandoned Hossein" is a clever play on a chant associated with Basij and other various backers of Khamenei (they usually chant it in Friday prayers): "we are not the people of Kufeh that abandoned Ali." Ali is both the name of the first Shia imam and Khamenei's first name. (According to Shia tradition Ali too was betrayed by the people of Kufeh.)

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAzar

"Despite the interest, however, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is apparently not carrying the service live. If true, this might be a first for state media." Concerning this argument I should say that Friday prayer ceremonies are not always broadcasted live, so it is not the first.
I don't know why but I decided not to listen to his speach today but I regret it now :( I'm reading through the transcripts of the speech.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterm.

If anyone would like a Persian transcript of Rafsanjani's speech it is at the following website

and this is a relatively decent translation

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMani

"[... ]Reformist websites estimated that more than 1 million people participated, and even indignant supporters of the hard-line camp at the prayer session to show support for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged the crowds were unprecedented. [...]",0,6890660.story

This would mean that today's crowds are the largest since the first days after the election.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterA.

Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai pick is a clear attempt by the Ahmadinejad administration to move to show a soft side to the USA and pro Israel lobby. The holocost denying president is looking for allies as his traditional allies at home are abandoning him. He is hoping for support from USA and Israel at his hour of need. In addition it is a play to show that his second administration will be more inclusive.

The response to this pick by Israel and US should be watched carefully. Let us not forget Obama's words that this crisis is Iran's and its peoples to solve.

Lets see if the US will abandon the Iranian people yet again, or stay the course and out of Iranian politics. In the past it has repeatedly abandoned and hurt the people throughout history.

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwhereismyvote

[...] July 17th, 2009 [...]

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIran « Don’t Try S

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>