Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Mohsen Kadivar (3)


The Latest from Iran (13 July): Challenge Renewed

NEW Iran Video: Sohrab Arabi Funeral (13 July)
Iran Opposition Alert: Friday is the Day?

The Habitat Effect: Twitter, Spammers, and #iranelection
The Latest on Iran (12 July): When Is Normal Not Normal?

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2000 GMT: If Ayatollah Montazeri is suffering from dementia, with his words written by someone else (see 1400 GMT), he's hiding it well. As expected, he has issued a statement criticising the Chinese Government's treatment of Uighur Muslims and adding, "Silence from other governments, particularly Muslim governments has caused great surprise and regret."

1910 GMT: Media Twist of the Day. Kayhan newspaper,  a staunch supporter of the Ahmadinejad Government, has been summoned to court to answer charges of "disseminating lies intended to poison public opinion".

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami have also lodged defamation charges against Iran newspaper.

1900 GMT: Catching up with news reported earlier today: about 200 faculty of the medical school of the University of Tehran have protested the arrest of political activists. Dr. Jila Marsoosi, a faculty member and the wife of detained politician Saeed Hajjarian, also a member of this faculty ddressed the crowd.

1800 GMT: Now, This is Intriguing. Part of the intrigue is in the report on Press TV's website. Habibollah Asgaroladi, a senior member of the Islamic Coalition Party, has described the formation of a new political party by Mir Hossein Mousavi as "favorable", saying, "Establishing a party to voice one's ideas and political perceptions is a wise move."

Asgaroadi and his party are "principlists", loosely defined as advancing the principles of the Isamlic Revolution and falling in between the "conservative" and "reformist" camps.

That makes his endorsement of Mousavi eyebrow-raising. But the other part of the intrigue is that the report comes via Press TV. That's right, the same State media outlet that has been anxious to downfall the political legimitacy of a Mousavi-led campaign.


1405 GMT: More jitters. Deutsche Welle reports that Hossein Fadaei Ashtiani, the head of "Society Dedicated to the Islamic Revolution", has said, "One of the results of the elections was a distinction between those who are real fundamentalists and those who claim to be fundamentalists...[it has] been made clear thar some people claiming to be fundamentalists are exhibiting non-fundamentalist behavior". The article links Ashtiani's statement to other "conservative" disquiet, notably Mohsen Rezaei's declaration (which is now being publicised widely) of a six-point programme for electoral resolution.

1400 GMT: The regime is looking very jittery today. A reader sends in this information:
It seems that [Ayatollah] Montazeri [who issued a fatwa on Saturday denouncing the Government] is considered to be a real threat by Ahmadinejad et. al. The pro-Ahmadinejad news site 'Rajanews' has claimed that Montazeri is suffering from some sort of dementia. Rajanews also claims that all fatwas said to be from Montazeri are in fact written by Mohsen Kadivar. The reformist daily Parleman-news has published a statement by Montazeri's son in which categorically denies these charges by asserting that Montazeri is in great health and all Fatwas and statements are issued under his direct supervision. In fact his son concluded that Montazeri is in the process of issueing a statement regarding the plight of the Chinese muslims.

1350 GMT: It is being reported that Mohsen Hajjarian, son of detained politician Saeed Hajjarian, has been released after his arrest yesterday.

1345 GMT: We've now posted video from the funeral of Sohrab Arabi, showing hundreds of demonstrators holding up his photograph and chanting.

1130 GMT: A side story, but an important one. The Iranian Government's effusive support of China's handling of the Uighur crisis in the northwest of the country has been criticised not only by opposition groups but by high-ranking clerics such as Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani and Ayatollah Nasser Makerem-Shirazi, who have objected to the repression of Muslims.

1000 GMT: Unsurprisingly, there is a heated media battle within Iran, one example of which is the rumor (noted in the blog on "Friday is the Day?") that this week's leadership of Tehran prayers will be the last for former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Pro-Government publications are trying to portray the opposition as weak and divided.

The strategy is not working smoothly, however. At least one important cleric, Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, has criticised State-run media for issuing statements in his name of support for the Government. He denounced the Islamic Republic News Agency as a purveyor of falsehoods.

0815 GMT: Ferehsteh Ghazi ("iranbaan"), writing for Rooz Online, claims that families of detainees are being threatened by the judiciary. They are told that, if they speak about the plight of their relatives, news will be withheld from them and the detainees "will be held longer".

0810 GMT: We're awaiting news on whether the funeral of Sohrab Arabi, the 19-year-old killed on 15 June by Basiji gunfire but whose body was only released to the family this weekend, was the occasion for public demonstrations.

0800 GMT: One exception to the item below about the absence of the "mainstream" media from the Iran story. The excellent Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, now reporting from Beirut, recognises the potential significance of this Friday's Rafsanjani appearance at Tehran prayers. Daragahi has also picked up on the statement of the head of Ayatollah Khamenei's office of university affairs, Mohammad Mohammadian (see 0615 GMT), "We cannot order public opinion to get convinced. Certain individuals are suspicious about the election result, and we have to shed light on the realities and respond to their questions."

0703 GMT: Perhaps needless to say, the Iran story is now one for the "new" media. State-run Press TV prefers the image of legitimacy for the Government, covering the arrival of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Egypt for the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. (President Ahmadinejad has still not been received by a foreign leader since his summit in Moscow days after the election.)

CNN catches up with the story that the family of Shorab Arabi, killed by Basiji gunfire during the mass demonstration on 15 June, only learned of his death in recent days. Al Jazeera English and BBC English, focused on Britain's political and military difficulties in Afghanistan, have disappeared.

0700 GMT: Regime Feel-Good Story of the Day. Javan newspaper, linked to the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, has been explaining that it is very good for detained politician Saeed Hajjarian to be in Evin Prison, as he can get the best medical care there rather than at home.

0615 GMT: After a quiet period since last Thursday's 18 Tir protests, there is a sense this morning --- based on movements from both sides --- that the political challenge is about to resume, with private and public protests converging.

The shift is reflected in two stories. The first, which we put together last evening, is of the linking of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's re-appearance at Friday prayers in Tehran with a mass march to the site.

The second concerns signs from the regime that it may be looking for some limited compromises to meet the political and legal demands of the opposition. Signals come not only from Friday's call at Tehran prayers by Ayatollah Kashani for a Parliamentary review of the election process but also from a statement by the Supreme Leader's representative for universities that "the recent protests in society are not of a malicious nature", criticism at Friday prayers in Qom by Ayatollah Reza Ostadi of the system's handling of public concerns, and a declaration by the judicial commission that all protesters will be freed within 10 days. It is also worthwhile watching the reaction to Presidential Mohsen Rezaei's six-point proposal for a political settlement, which may (or may not) have emerged after discussions with members of the Iranian leadership.

Beyond these emerging manoeuvres is a fatwa from Ayatollah Montazeri, the one-time successor to Ayatollah Montazeri, calling the Supreme Leader "illegitimate", as he is working against religion, and asking the public to challenge and, if necessary, pay a heavy price to remedy the situation. We briefly reported on the fatwa on Saturday but discussion of it only took off yesterday. We are cautious about the significance, as Montazeri has been ostracised and put under house arrest for many years, but others see vital reinforcement for the opposition movement. Tehran Bureau has a useful summary in English.

With the "mainstream" media now almost silent, the political battle is being played out in the "new" media. One of the weekend flutters was over an alleged "cyber-attack" on Twitter, with the important "hashtag" #iranelection overwhelmed at times by spam messages for products and get-rich-quick schemes. EA's Mike Dunn has untangled the story, which appears to be one more of crass attempts by marketers and schemers to make money rather than deliberate political sabotage.

The Iran Crisis (Day 23): What to Watch For Today

The Latest from Iran (4 July): Breaking the Reformists? Not So Fast….
NEW Video: U2’s Concert Song for Iran

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IRAN FLAG The headline in The New York Times is blunt: "Top Reformers Admitted Plot, Iran Declares". Michael Slackman summarises, "Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution."

Slackman's account, filed from Cairo, is accurate as far as it goes: detainees from former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi to journalist Maziar Bahari as well as the "common people" caught up in a foreign-inspired plot are declaring their guilt in print accounts or televised appearances. However, that account, based entirely on Government websites and a couple of interviews with former detainees, has a wider implication. The "reformist" movement is crippled, if not broken: "“If [the Iranian regime] talks about the velvet revolution 24 hours a day people don’t care. But if reformers and journalists say they are involved in it, it makes the point for them."

You don't look hard very far to find the other side of the story.

Far from conceding defeat in a series of confessions, opposition campaigners are continuing to press their challenge. Indeed, they are doing so by making the issues of detentions and confessions part of their cause. Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami visited the families of detainees. Karroubi declared, "I'm ready for everything & will stand strong to the end." Speaking to Abtahi's relatives, he reassured, "He's physically well but held in a solitary cell."

The wider message? Protest not only remains; it is vital. "If we remain silent/stop protesting," Karroubi warned, "The situation become worse and much more difficult for the ones in prison."

And Mir Hossein Mousavi, on his Facebook page, hasn't given up. In the last 24 hours, his team has posted video of the non-violent, civil disobedience of students at Kashan University (also featured on "Revolutionary Road") and posted excellent guidelines to the use of "micro-media": "FIRE [your post]! You are the only competitor to all the exclusive media who may want to manipulate!" Mousavi has also highlighted the latest statements of Mohsen Kadivar and Ayatollah Yusef Sane'i.

The Sane'i criticism of the regime, posted in English on his website, is particularly important. "Confessions" cannot hide the extent of the debate amongst Iran's clerics. While this does not portend the toppling of the President, let alone the removal of the Supreme Leader or the end of the Islamic system, it does indicate that the public protest continues to interact with the concerns of influential religious figures about the current conduct of the Islamic Republic.

The Latest from Iran (1 July): The Opposition Regroups

The Latest from Iran (2 July): The “Gradual” Opposition

NEW Iran: Text of Mousavi’s Statement to Supporters (1 July)
Iran: The Post-Election Challenge from the Clerics of Qom
NEW Iran Audio and Text: The “Ghaffari Tape” Criticising the Supreme Leader
The Latest from Iran (30 June): Opposition, It’s Your Move

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2130 GMT: Orwell Would Be So Proud. From an Iranian source on Twitter:
For the 2nd consecutive night reps of prosecutor general & Cultural Ministry were present in publication house demanding alteration of some pages of the Etememad Melli paper. Those reps asked for omitting the interview of the paper's manager as well as [an] analysis of Iran election. The interview was about the reasons for which the paper's publication was prohibited yesterday.

2050 GMT: According to reports, the pro-Karroubi Etemad Melli was only one of six newspapers banned today.

2045 GMT: We've added English-language extracts to the audio of Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari's denunciation of the Supreme Leader.

2000 GMT: After a three-week blackout, SMS is again working in Tehran. No interruption of the "Allahu Akhbars": "God is Great" is being shouted from the rooftops of Tehran tonight.

1945 GMT: Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) is also watching Qom, "Keep hearing 2 watch what the clerics say in this phase of #iranelection ex Ayat. Taheri just called this gov illegitimate." (Ayatollah Jaleleddin Taheri is not "ex" but resigned his position as prayer leader in Isfahan in 2002, protesting against the leadership of Iran.)

1925 GMT: More on the Clerical Divide. Mohammad Sahimi of Tehran Bureau is also considering the "differences between hard-liners and leftists [that] go back to 1988", but he adds, "What has been surprising is the reaction of moderate clerics and the silence of clerical hard-liners."

While the Supreme Leader may now have the upper hand over the opposition, Sahimi notes, I think perceptively:
By coming down most definitively on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s side, Ayatollah Khamenei may no longer be considered to be above the fray, or even feign impartiality. He has now become just another politician subject to criticism. This is damaging, not only to the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih, but also to the whole concept of Mahdi, the hidden 12th Imam, who is supposed to come back some day to save the world from injustice, corruption and chaos. How can the “deputy” of the hidden Imam be as fallible as the next politician?

1520 GMT: That was fast. Fintan Dunne has already posted our 45-minute conversation (see 1510 GMT) about the current political situation in Iran.

1510 GMT: I just finished two interviews, an hour-long discussion to be broadcast later on the Islam Channel's Politics and Beyond programme on "Western Media and Iran" and a conversation with freelance Fintan Dunne on the political conflict and possible accommodation between the different Iranian parties.

On his website, Mr Dunne raises the possibility that a compromise was possible on Monday morning between the Guardian Council and Mir Hossein Mousavi, only hours before the Council closed off the election as fair and final.

1448 GMT: Etemad Mellinewspaper was shut down today by Iranian authorities when it tried to publish a statement from Mehdi Karroubi. It will be allowed to publish tomorrow.

1445 GMT: Press TV is reporting that three of the four Iranian employees of the British Embassy who were detained have been released.

1430 GMT: Another question from Mir Hossein Mousavi, "How can we ask people to spend their religious faith trusting us when they're being blatantly lied to?" He concludes, "It's our historic mission to continue our protest and not abandon retrieving people's rights."

1345 GMT: Just like yesterday, the morning quiet has been replaced by late-afternoon manoeuvres. The Islamic Iran Participation Front has declared, "The election was the result of a year long coup d'etat...that harmed the establishment's legitimacy inside and outside Iran....We openly announce that the result is unacceptable."

And on his website, Ghalam News, Mir Hossein Mousavi has issued his 9th statement to supporters, asserting that the Government is "illegimate". He has called for the release of detainees. And, cleverly, he has turned the regime's pretext of "foreign interference" back upon the Government: "We're worried that this government due to its multitude of intrinsic and extrinsic weaknesses [may be on the] verge of granting advantage to foreigners."

Mousavi asks, "How can people trust a regime which imprisons its friends, colleagues and children?"

1300 GMT: In the category Funny If It Wasn't So Horrible: "Javan newspaper [linked to the Revolutionary Guard] wrote that Mohammad Ghoochani [the chief editor of Etemad Melli] confessed....[that he] traveled to an Arab country to train for ''soft subversion'. Ghoochani does NOT have a passport and has not traveled abroad in the past two years."

1230 GMT: Remember what we said yesterday about President Ahmadinejad's "Pyrrhic victory"? (We had called the President a "lame duck", but an Iranian colleague said he doubted that Ahmadinejad knew what a lame duck was.)

Here you go....
Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called off a trip to Libya for an African Union summit on Wednesday. A spokesman at Ahmadinejad's office said the Libya visit had been canceled. He gave no reason....Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi later told state television Ahmadinejad was too busy to go.

This cancellation is in sharp contrast to Ahmadinejad's show of triumph, four days after the election, when he went to Russia for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting.

Now the question: is the setback for Ahmadinejad "external", with other countries seeing Iran as unsuitable for close contact, or is it "internal", with other leaders putting a leash on the President?

1215 GMT: Very little political movement, but Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) brings a disturbing report that the paramilitary Basiji have asked Iran's chief prosecutor for an investigation into Mir Hossein Mousavi's role in protests, laying nine charges, including disturbing security, against him. The "crimes" carry a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years. The initial story came from Iran's Fars News Agency.

0935 GMT: The Washington Post offers details on the public "confession" of detained Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, which we noted yesterday. Bahari told local news media that he had covered "illegal gatherings" and promoted a "color revolution" on the model of those in Central and Eastern Europe in the last decade. "The activities of Western journalists in news gathering and spying and gathering intelligence are undeniable," he said.

Continuing the Iranian authorities priority on Britain rather than the US as the chief enemy, Bahari was described as a "former BBC reporter".

0925 GMT: More on the debate amongst the clerics of Qom, which we're covering in detail today, this time from the pro-Government side: "The influential head of a Shiite seminary decreed that 'opposing the view of the Guardian Council is not legal, religious or socially acceptable.' Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadai called for a continued clampdown on opposition demonstrations, saying that 'the view of the leadership is the last word, and everybody in the country must obey it,' Fars reported."

0820 GMT: Michael Slackman's story in The New York Times, "Iran Seeks to Close Door on Further Protests", notes a troubling incident to add to the hundreds (thousands?) of detentions:
One of the most recent arrests, of Bijan Khajehpour, an independent political economist, sent a chill deeper yet into Iran’s civil society because he had not been involved in the opposition demonstrations, political analysts said. Mr. Khajehpour had been detained at the airport coming into the country from Britain, and like many others, has disappeared into the notorious Evin prison, raising concerns over the scope of the crackdown and the prospect of a political purge, the analysts said.

“Bijan was perhaps the last independent-minded analyst living in Tehran who continued to travel to Europe and the U.S. and give open lectures about Iran,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He always believed that if he was totally transparent, the government would understand he was not doing anything wrong.”

0745 GMT: We just posted our morning features, an analysis of the post-election debate amongst clerics in Qom and the leaked audio of the criticism of the Supreme Leader by Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari. Moments later, we learned of the latest statement by the philospher and cleric Mohsen Kadivar, a long-time critic of the Iranian leadership, on the "inherent contradiction" between a republic and the iranian system of clerical authority, Velayat-e-Faqih. The Supreme Leader, Kadivar writes, has three options: religious despotism, removal from the Constitutional, or a new form of constitutional leadership.

0515 GMT: There is a regime confidence, rolled out in Press TV English this morning, that it is beyond the election crisis. Interview upon interview with pro-Government Members of Parliament declared: 1) "no one in Qom", referring to clerics, "is talking about the election anymore"; instead 2) there should be a focus investigating and "repair[ing] the damage" caused in the last 18 days (a not-so-veiled attempt to pin responsibility on the "reformists" and, more subtly, a justification of the detentions); 3) it's foreign operatives who caused all this trouble. The last point received the most attention, with a student journalist (message: some of them are on our side) giving the history of outside intervention, supported by footage of CNN set next to images of the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian Government.

A senior advisor to President Ahmadinejad, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, was then interviewed, "President Obama had a very good start" with his promises to change US policy on Iran, the Middle East, and Guantanamo Bay"; however, "he has made many claims and we are still waiting for his action....he is under pressure ....from the neo-conservatives and the Israeli Lobby....We think that the President must be more powerful and must comply with [his] principles."

Yet, for all these bold declarations (there is now even a mention of President Ahmadinejad being sworn in "within the next three months"), the rumbles of political challenge continue. Both President candidate Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami issued statements yesterday that protest would not stop, and their words were supported by reformist parties and the Association of Combatant Clerics. In Qom, which supposedly is not talking about the election, several clerics have come out in the last 72 hours with scathing criticism of the Government.

And, while the public show of defiance receded yesterday amidst the heavy security presence, we have indications that the silence is not a capitulation but a sign that the demonstrators are planning the next move. In particular, we're watching to see if this information stands up: Mir Hossein Mousavi was silent on Monday, but there will be a significant show of resistance in the next 48 hours.