Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (30 June): Assessing "Crisis"

2025 GMT: Revelations from Evin Prison. Norooz publishes an account from Hossein Nouraninejad, a senior member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, of a debate between political prisoners: "Many of us came to Evin with a strange illusion and a misguided sense of self confidence thinking our arrest was a misunderstanding that could be cleared thru debate with interrogators, only to realise later how wrong we were. [Journalist Emaduddin] Baghi used to tell us: 'Perhaps you did not expect to be treated this way because you did not know them, but I did."

NEW Iran Eyewitness: “Life Continues for People…With the Hope of Change” (Fatemeh)
NEW Iran Special: The Significance of the “Universities Crisis” (Verde)
Latest Iran Video: Harassment of Karroubi in Mosque (29 June)
Iran: Can the Green Movement Ally with Workers? (Maljoo)
Iran Snap Analysis: Waiting for the Crumbling?
The Latest from Iran (29 June): Grading the Supreme Leader

1745 GMT: Economy Watch. Iranian Labor News Agency, complementing witness accounts on EA, reports on concerns over rising food prices --- especially for chicken, other meat, and fruit --- as Iran approaches the holy month of Ramadan.

1545 GMT: Nuclear Discussions (cont.). EA contacts follow up on the item below, pointing us to a Wall Street Journal article, "Turkey Asks Iran to Return to Negotiating Table":

"If they do not sit down and talk, we will be in a worse situation this time next year," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told a press conference in Ankara, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu Ajansi. "President Ahmadinejad mentioned August. We wish [the talks] would take place sooner."

Our contact gets to the point, "Seems someone's been talking to the Turks, getting them to put some pressure back on Iran."

1500 GMT: Resuming Nuclear Discussions? Two pieces of information pointing to a possible resumption of talks --- despite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that he would "punish" the West with an embargo until late August --- on Iran's uranium enrichment.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russia, France, and the US have proposed a UN-brokered meeting with experts from all three countries and Iran, provided Tehran stops enriching uranium to 20 percent.

Lavrov's declaration, made during a trip in Israel, follows indications that the Brazil, Turkish, and Iranian Foreign Ministers are meeting this week to consider their joint declaration on uranium enrichment.

1410 GMT: The Kahrizak Verdicts. Of 12 defendants in the closed-door trial over the post-election abuses and killings in Kahrizak Prison, two have been sentenced to death and nine have been given prison sentences.

1350 GMT: Message to Foreigners --- You May Be Bad, but Give Us Your Money (unless You're Israeli). A bit of posturing from the President, who has ordered the implementation of a bill mandating the identification of Israeli companies and institutions to impose a ban on Israeli products. The Iranian Foreign Ministry is required to put forward a proposal for the boycott of Israeli commodities at international meetings, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement.

More substantive is today's announcement, in Fars News, that the Government has eased restrictions on foreign banks seeking to do business in Iran.

1340 GMT: Satire of Day. Ebrahim Nabavi considers "Ten Paradoxes of a Revolution". An example?  "Our people, who wished no foreign intervention during the Shah's time; now, after 30 years without foreigners, they urge all foreign institutions, the European Union, US, and UN to help them to get rid of this regime."

1250 GMT: Today's All-is-Well Alerts (cont.). Hamid Hosseini of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries, and Mines has insisted that the Iranian bank accounts frozen by the United Arab Emirates do not belong to key traders.

The UAE's central bank has ordered that transactions of 41 bank accounts and the holdings of those individuals targeted by the new UN sanctions against Iran be suspended.

1245 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Revolving Door Edition). One leading teachers' union activist, Ali Akbar Baghani, has been released from jail; another two, Mokhtar Asadi and Mahmoud Bagheri, have been detained.

1142 GMT: The War Within. Rooz Online claims that the move to exclude Motalefeh, a key party in the Islamic Republic since 1979, has started because of its lack of support for the Government. The website also asserts that internal Revolutionary Guard bulletins are warning of the "menace of war".

1139 GMT: Make of This What You Will. According to Peyke Iran, 30% of those living in Tehran are depressed.

1135 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Interrogations of Mohsen Armin, former Deputy Speaker of Parliament and leading member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution, continue after 41 days in detention.

1120 GMT: Today's All is Well Alerts. Press TV recycles the assurance, which we reported yesterday, by the head of the National Iranian Oil Distribution Company (NIODC), Farid Ameri, that "Iran is capable of meeting its gasoline needs under any circumstances without facing any difficulty".

The insistence comes amid news of more cut-offs of supplies by foreign oil companies.
And the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, says the country's first nuclear power plant will be inaugurated in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr by late September: "Issuing resolutions against Iran will not have any effect as we are determined to continue with our plans," Salehi said.

Salehi said that a total of 3,000 Russian nuclear experts were working on the power plant and that the final tests for the inauguration of the facility were being conducted with only a two-week delay.

1115 GMT: The Hijab Pretext? RAHANA runs an analysis claiming that the increased enforcement of "proper" clothing is merely a pretext to put more security forces on the streets.

0855 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Yesterday we noted that the trial of Mahboubeh Karimi of the One Million Signatures Campaign had been scheduled for 29 June. It has now been put back to 9 July because of the absence of the judge.

Karimi's request for bail  continues to be denied.

RAHANA reports increasing concern over the health of detained student leader Majid Tavakoli, who is "suffering from abdominal bleeding".
0850 GMT: Transmitting. The new "Green TV" has posted its provisional schedule.

0840 GMT: The Universities Crisis. Complementing the analysis of EA's Mr Verde, Deutsche Welle posts an article claiming that President Ahmadinejad is seeking to organise a "board meeting" of Islamic Azad University with his own representatives.

Iran's Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei is continuing to press the case for Presidential control, declaring that a judge's rulling supporting Parliament authority is invalid.

0835 GMT: Karroubi Follow-Up. Yesterday we posted the video of the Basiji harassment of Mehdi Karroubi in the mosque of Sharif University in Tehran.

Karroubi has issued a statement on his website, Saham News, concluding with the regret: "If we had one Shaaban Bimokh [a reference to Shaban Jafari, a particularly despised "enforcer" for the regime] during the Shah's times, this regime has brought up hundreds."

0825 GMT: Cyber-Warfare. Roshannews, a site for Iranian intellectuals, has been hacked shortly after its relaunch.

0820 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ali Bikas, a member of the Student Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, has been released from prison.

Bikas, detained since 14 June 2009, had been given a seven-year prison sentence by the Revolutionary Court.

0803 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Revolutionary Court of Mashhad has sentenced student Yasser Ghanei to five years' suspended imprisonment for "propaganda against the regime". One of the charges against Ghanei, who spent more than two weeks in solitary confinement, is that he recorded the results of the 2009 Presidential election and made them available online.

Ghanei still faces charges of insulting President Ahmadinejad.

Human rights activist Saied Kalanaki has also been sentenced to one year of imprisonment for propaganda against the regime and two years in prison for insulting the Supreme Leader.

0800 GMT: Rumour of Day. Aftab claims that Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai said in a private meeting that he would accept the presidency of the Islamic Azad Universities.

0750 GMT: Corruption Watch. Member of Parliament Elyas Naderan, pressing his charges of corruption amongst President Ahmadinejad's advisors, has said that 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi --- accused of involvement in an insurance fraud -- should be "sentenced like a common citizen".

0715 GMT: We begin this morning with two features. Mr Verde analyses the wider significance --- for the President, Parliament, and the Supreme Leader --- of the current battle over control of Islamic Azad University. A new correspondent, Ms Fatemeh, writes for EA about her recent, extended visit to Iran.


Execution Watch

Writing in The New York Times, Nazila Fathi features the growing campaign against the possible execution of a female Kurdish activist, Zeinab Jalalian, who is accused of membership in the separatist PKK>. Fathi includes the recent statement of Zahra Rahnavard and the activity of Jalalian's lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, who has never been allowed to meet with his client.

Political Prisoner Watch

Azeri student activist Yunis Sulaimani has been seized and taken to Tabriz, where a two-month detention order has been issued.

Parliament v. President

The fight over the Ahmadinejad budget is not over, it appears. Yesterday, we noted the expected approval by a Parliament commssion of the President's 5th Plan. However, Rah-e-Sabz, quoting reformist MP Nasrullah Torabi, reports that Government officials suddenly left the meeting of the commission.

Reformist Backing of Mousavi

The Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution has issued a statement supporting the "Green Charter" of Mir Hossein Mousavi and declaring that the message of the Green Movement is an answer to the unfulfilled goals of the Islamic Revolution.

Turkey Video Special: Prime Minister Erdogan's 50 Minutes on US Television (29 June)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a lengthy interview with Charlie Rose on the US Public Broadcasting Service. The video is in five parts, starting at the 6:30 mark of Part 1. The transcript is available on the Charlie Rose website:


Turkey Inside Line: Israel’s Unmanned Planes, Iran’s Uranium, Trouble with the EU, and More





RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: We had in Turkey some problems in the beginning of the millennium and also in the 1990s, too. When we came to government, we were very much aware of the difficulty and challenges, and we took certain steps. And in the seven and a half years in government, we have been standing firmly on our feet in this financial sector and the economy in general.

Turkey is not a country where everyone and anyone can establish a bank as they please, for example. They have to have a good basis to establish a bank, for example, because otherwise if we were to allow things as they were in the past, we would be having more problems, crises as we had in the past.

So we worked very hard and we never reverted to populism. We were a very determined in the way that we worked in the economic front. And despite all of the difficulties around the world, Turkey has been working to repay the loan from the IMF. We were very determined in reducing our debt to the IMF, and we reduced it from $23.5 billion to $7 billion.
And we had $26.5 billion in reserves and our central banks whereas now
we have $72.5 billion in reserve in the central bank. So those are -- this
is the kind of development that has taken place.

And throughout the process we have not had any banks taken over by the
government. In the past, 21 banks had to be taken over the government in
previous crises. So we did not have that problem. And our private sector,
our business people have also learn to stand on their own feet.

We had some problems in 2008-2009, but in the first quarter of this
year, we started maintaining a level of growth which we had achieved in the
last quarter of last year. And according to IMF estimates, Turkey is
expected to grow about six percent this year, which goes to show that
Turkey has been quite successful, indeed.

CHARLIE ROSE: It also suggests to many people that the changing
economic picture and the changing political picture have given you an
opportunity to play a larger role. So the question is, what does Turkey
want to do?

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: Well, I have to say that we do not see the
economy as our only area of concentration. Democracy has been very
important for us, too. We tried to carry on with developments in both

In any case, you can’t really fully succeed if you don’t take both
hand in hand. Democracy, democratic development and economic development
have to go hand in hand, because if you do one, then the other one will be
successful. If not, then there will be problems.

And during our tenure in government, we have seen a lot of development
in fundamental rights and freedoms. We really achieved a lot in that

And there are two basic concept which is we always paid attention to.
One was stability and the other one was security, because if you don’t have
security in a country, if you don’t have stability in a country, then no
investments will come to that country. And when you have no investments,
you cannot create employment. When you have no employment, you cannot
produce. And when you have no production then you cannot be successful

So we focus on peace, stability, prosperity and we have been working
to achieve these three, and this is what we have been doing. And we carry
the same determination looking into the future.

And the state, the government has moved out of the economic field of
activity and this has been transferred to the private sector. We’ve been
very successful in that.

There are still some sectors where the state is still involved, but we
are slowly taking the state out of these sectors. So the state will play a
monitoring, guiding role only. It will not be an actor in the various

This has been important in trying to achieve peace, prosperity,
welfare in Turkey, and that was our goal. And we’re about to achieve this
goal. There’s some problems, but we’re trying to overcome them.

CHARLIE ROSE: You have a higher growth rate than some of the other
countries who are already in the European Union, as you well know. Some
have suggested you no longer have the same passion to become part of the
European Union, that your eyes are looking in another direction.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: Well, let me be very clear and specific here.
We have not been able to overcome the prejudice that the European Union has
vis-a-vis Turkey. Some EU member states -- I say some, because there are
also countries where members of EU who are friends of Turkey. But then
there are also other members who really cannot fit in Turkey in their own

We on the other hand have been doing our homework and we have been
successful in doing our homework. But some countries are blocking some
chapters in the accession talks from being open. They’re not being very
honest. These countries are not being very honest and open.

But we are very determined and we continue along this path. Turkey
applied to the European Union in 1959. We are in year 2010, 51 years have
passed. And this has not been the case for any country. And if you look
at the body of legislation that the EU has, there have been things that
have been asked of Turkey which does not exist in that body of legislation,
and they are trying to invent rules as the game is being played.

And this is what we have to overcome. And there are certain issues,
problems here. But in the steps that we take with regard to the opinion,
we have not had a change of heart or mind. We are as determined as we

CHARLIE ROSE: You want to be part of Europe and you will meet with
President Sarkozy, you’ll meet with Chancellor Merkel and you’ll say "We
want to be part of Europe, don’t believe anything that suggests otherwise."

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: Well, when we speak of being part of Europe,
what do Mr. Sarkozy and Mrs. Merkel mean? Is it geographically,
economically, or any other way?

If we look at this from a geographic point of view, Turkey is part of
Europe and Turkey is part of Asia as well, geographically speaking. Now
culturally, if that is the interpretation, then I think there’s no question
that Turkey is a part of Europe. Turkey’s taken many steps, and, for
example, at the moment there are five million Turks living in EU member
states. Turkey is a member of NATO.

And Turkey is taking upon itself a great burden, too, in many ways, in
the various institutions that it’s a part of. So it’s very strange,
comical, in fact, to speak of it like this.

CHARLIE ROSE: Secretary Gates said if, in fact, Turkey is looking in
a new place, it’s because they were not given an opportunity to participate
in the European Union and they were -- changed their minds because of that.
You just say "Secretary Gates, it’s not true. Nothing has changed because
of my effort to join the European Union."

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: I’ll give you a very interesting answer. When
this statement was made by Mr. Gates, Mr. Barroso was also making
statement. And Mr. Barroso was saying -- while Mr. Gates was saying what
you just said -- that it was the United States, it was the policy approach
of the United States which has made Turkey shift its position.

Look, let me tell you this Turkey cannot be described by what the EU
has said or by what Mr. Gates has said. Nobody should worry. Turkey is
very much aware of its historical responsibility, its geographical
location, and looks to the future in that way.

How does the U.S. look and see the world? The U.S. or the Americans
come to central Asia, they make investments there, they go to the gulf or
to the Islamic countries and talk to all these countries. Is this normal?
It’s normal. It’s usual.

Western countries, they go to all these countries, they make
investments there, they have export/imports with all these countries all
over the world. So why would anyone think it unusual when Turkey does

You can see some western products, German, French products in Iran or
U.S. products or Russian products. This is considered normal. So why is
it not so not normal or unusual when it’s Turkey? In the same in the
Islamic world, in the Arab world, the same thing is true there.

So when other countries do it or has investments with those countries
it’s very usual. When Turkey does it, why is it considered unusual? We
have relationships with Europe. We have western countries which have made
investments in Turkey. So why would one consider them as being out of the

I think we have to be very frank there is no question of any shift in
our axis. Turkey continues to proceed along the path it has been on, and
this is a very normal process. We say that the river flows and follows its
bed. And this determination and aim of Turkey has always been to achieve
modern contemporary standards.

And there’s no shift whatsoever as far as that object is concerned.
We talk to the north, east, west, south, we talk to everyone around the
world because we’re a country of the world.

CHARLIE ROSE: The other argument is that there’s a new northern tier
-- you’ve heard this before -- and Turkey is the leader of it, or plays an
important role, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: This is a very wrong approach. There are many
international organizations, arrangements that we are a part of. As I said
earlier, we’re a member of NATO. We’re a member of the OECD we are an
accession country to the European Union. We are part of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation. We are a member of the OIC, the Organization of
Islamic conversation.

So we have many relations, and we are not engaged in any sort of
effort to try to create another set of a different kind of relations. But
I don’t understand why people would be so envious of Turkey developing such
relations because, after all, these countries which you list are
neighboring countries to Turkey, and nothing could be more natural than
Turkey to establish relations with neighboring countries.

In the past we had what was called an RCD. This was the case of
countries in that area working together. The RCD is not as active as it
was in the past, but what is being done as far as that should not be
disturbing anyone.

For example, we reached an agreement in the Caucasus which included
Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, so five countries. In
the same way we have relations with countries in the Mediterranean and the
Middle East, and quite naturally so because of Turkey’s location. We are
engaged in cooperation with these countries.

So there is nothing beyond that. And no one should be worrying about

CHARLIE ROSE: I don’t think they’re worrying about it. I think
they’re just recognizing the changing power reality of the world, which is
happening across the world. China and India is much stronger. Turkey is
much stronger.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: Well, I think we have to say that we should
consider which angle we take -- political, economic, cultural.

If you look at the situation from all these angles, we see change in
all of them. Politically speaking, if we are looking for from a political
angle, we can say that, of course, there are many international
organizations where Turkey is a member.

Economically speaking, Turkey has an important place in the
competitive global economy. And we aim to continue to develop our economic

And I should say that we need to work with many countries around the
world in order to increase our competitiveness and to do -- and so we have
to do business in different countries. We look at Latin American
countries, tens of thousands of miles away and we’re trying to do business
with other parts of the world.

For example, Turkey has been a neighbor with Russia for many years but
we didn’t have much economic relations to speak of with Russia. But we
reached a trade volume of $35 billion in 2008, and we had last year $23.5
billion of trade with the Russians despite the economic crisis.

And our trade with the U.S. is quite low now but even when it was at
its highest, it stood around $10 billion, but $10. But then $20 billion or
$30 billion, this is a very small amount. We have to go much beyond that.
We’re trying to do the same with China, and we will do it, we will work
with all the far eastern countries as well.

And I don’t understand how or why people interpret this effort in a
different way, because no matter what culture, where people come from, we
visit these places with our business people. The African continent, South
America, Latin America, we travel to all of these locations, to the Far

We will be going to all these countries. We have to do that because
otherwise we cannot increase our exports. At its best, Turkey’s exports
stands at $132 billion. Of course, when we came the government it was $36
billion. It has grown but we have to keep going. If we cannot grow it,
then we will have problems.

When we have business, our exports, our employment will not be a
problem. We had at one point our unemployment reach 16 percent. It’s
going down now. It’s now down to 13 percent. Our goal is to reduce the
unemployment rate to 10 percent.

If you look at European countries we see the unemployment rate going
up while in Turkey it’s going down, and that’s the result of the work which
I just explained to you.

On the other hand, we’re moving from a more agricultural society to a
more industrialized society, so there’s a lot of challenge there. We are
moving from a labor-intensive economy to a technology-intensive economy.
And of course in a technology intensive economy you won’t find as many
employment opportunities as you would find in the labor intensive society.
So we have to work very hard.

CHARLIE ROSE: Granted, you have this economic power. There are those
who will say that Turkey has taken over the mantle of being the best friend
of Palestinians in the region.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: I think that this interpretation alone is not
exactly right. We are friends with all the countries in the region. We
have no problems with any of the countries in the region. We are a friend
to Israel as well in this region.

Just two days ago there was a meeting, a summit in Turkey of the
southeast European countries. So Turkey is in contact with many countries.
In the Middle East we’re friends with Israel as well.

But more recently because of the position Israel has taken and also
because they attacked in international waters three ships where there were
Turkish citizens from the air and from the sea, this has creates a
difficulty because there’s no explanation to this situation, to this
incident. It cannot be explained by international law.

This is state terror. It would be impossible to define it in any
international legal terms. In one of the ships, there were volunteers, and
the other two ships had toys, food, medicine, construction material, et
cetera, humanitarian aid.

And the attack came from the sea and from the air, and there were
plastic bullets used, guns used. Nine people died, eight of them Turkish,
one a U.S. citizen. The American citizen, the U.S. administration should
take ownership of this situation because there was an American citizen

We as the Turkish government do the same because the families have a
right to ask their government what has happened. That’s what they do.
They ask us, why? Why what has happened, happened? What about my husband
or my son? And the same thing is true for all countries. And we will act
within international law, taking into consideration the medical reports.

Now, in Palestine is America working to achieve peace? Yes. The
other countries, the quartet, they’re all working. Why was the quartet
established? To achieve peace. And we are a country of that region. And
what could be more natural than Turkey, a regional country, working to
achieve peace?

CHARLIE ROSE: Turkey has been a friend of Israel, has had a very good
relationship with Israel. It helped try to bridge a relationship with
Syria, between Israel and Syria. What’s the status of that relationship

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: At the moment the problem in Israel is the
coalition government. The coalition government is the biggest barrier to

Secondly, with regard to the problems between Syria and Israel, Syria
is also waiting to see what Israel will want to do, because Syria is ready
to start with those talks again. It’s what Israel is going to say --

CHARLIE ROSE: And you’re prepared to be involved in those talks

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: If the parties ask us to be involved we would
be, yes, prepared to work for peace. And we’ve said this before. But, of
course, the parties must be interested.

CHARLIE ROSE: So if Syria is prepared to talk to Israel through you
and if Israel is prepared to talk to Syria through you, you’re prepared to
do it, unlike when you broke it off because of the Gaza invasion?

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: As long as the parties involved ask and request

Israel-Russia: Handshakes over Iran, Tensions over Hamas

Israeli-Russian relations continue to run along a knife edge. President Shimon Peres used a reception with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on Monday to praise Russia for adopting a more aggressive policy on Iran. He praised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at the G-20 meeting in Toronto, for noting the “worrying” US assessments that Iran could build a nuclear weapon within two years.

“There is no doubt that this declaration cannot be taken lightly, because until now, Russia had doubts about Iran’s seriousness and ability to build a nuclear bomb,” Peres said. “Therefore, Medvedev’s declaration is a serious change, and Israel appreciates this development.”

Israel Analysis: Dark Clouds Over Netanyahu Before Washington Visit (Yenidunya)

However, in a meeting in Israel on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that West Jerusalem opposed Moscow's recent advances toward Hamas.

Lavrov countered that it was impossible to ignore the Islamist organisation's popularity amongst Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. He continued: "Russia is doing the right thing by contacting Hamas."

Faced with the Hamas-Palestine issue overtaking the goodwill from its stance on Iran, the Kremlin is using another tactic now by bringing in the members of the Arab League. Before moving to the West Bank, Lavrov said at a press conference that the Quartet mechanism --- the US, UN, European Union, and Russia --- needed to be expanded to be more effective.

Which is another way of saying to West Jerusalem: the ball's back in your court.

Iran Eyewitness: "Life Continues for People...With the Hope of Change" (Fatemeh)

Ms Fatemeh, who has just returned from a long stay in Iran, reports for EA:

Before I went back to Iran, I’d followed the news coming out from Iran very closely. I was surprised when I went to visit my family, who live outside one of the big cities, that they basically knew the same as I did of what was happening in Tehran and the other cities. But this is only true for those who have satellite TV.

Personally I felt a sense of disappointment at how strong the grip of the regime continues to be, but perhaps that is due more to my own hope and expectation rather than the reality of life in Iran? By and large, life continues for people --- with the hope of change always just ahead of them.

However in balance to that, I was thrilled at what unfolded on Chaharshanbeh Souri (Fire Festival, in March). I could hardly believe my eyes at the sheer numbers of people out celebrating it. I’d never seen anything like that in my life. I have no doubt this was people’s way of safely protesting against the regime and showing their true identity and culture, which predates not just the regime but Islam itself.

It’s absolutely true that the economy is in a dire situation, and deteriorating by the day --- I’ve no idea how poor people can afford to live at all. Meat is double the price it is in Europe, but wages are much much less. (A teacher gets between $350 - $450 a month.) Everything is so much more expensive than when I last visited, and the pressure people are under is immense. I do wonder who can afford to buy some of the luxury goods that are available in the large cities, such as Leica binoculars and other top-of-the-range items?

I was in Tehran when the Friday Prayers Leader [Hojatoleslam Kazem] Seddiqi said that it was bad hijab that was causing earthquakes. People laughed at his stupidity and soon there were poems and songs made up about it.

It makes me so sad to see that the thugs now have their own people in place in every area of society. Educated judges have been replaced with uneducated regime sympathizers.

More than thirty years of the Islamic Republic has poisoned Iranian society, with corruption endemic in every part and sadly becoming the norm. They have eroded trust between people, and I would say that family breakdown and divorce is worse in Iran than in any country in the West.

It is my opinion that tragically, even when this regime is finally gone, it will take years and perhaps several generations to rebuild and restore Iran to the great nation that it should be, to rid society of the blight of corruption which is now an established part of life. I’ve always been aware of the corruption and encountered it on previous visits to the country, but this time I was just so aware of it everywhere. It’s definitely worse now than ever.

The Mullahs are terrified of the sanctions. It’s all they talked about, including in every Friday prayers, so everyone knew they are really worried.

The regime's grip is strong, but they are hated by the majority of the society and they can’t last. They have to go.

Iran Special: The Significance of the "Universities Crisis" (Verde)

UPDATE 0600 GMT: Nooshabeh Amiri, writing in Rooz English, offers a powerful opinion piece on last week's demonstrations, "Shut the Majlis, oh Brother!"


Mr Verde writes for EA:

"Crisis" in a country is not usually associated with a debate over higher education. The military, the police, radio and TV, the courts, elections: these are the battlegrounds that come to mind.

Make no mistake, however. The current dispute in Iran over Islamic Azad University is important. It is significant not just because Ahmadinejad and Co. want to oust former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and his allies from the university's management. It is an indicator of other possible trouble within the regime.

First, the beginner's guide to the current dispute:

- The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, headed by Ahmadinejad in his capacity as President, decides to overturn last summer's decision of the Azad University Board to make itself into a trust. The SCCR also said it would appoint new trustees.

- Azad University takes legal measures, and a court issues an injunction against the SCCR decision.

- The following day, the Parliament votes for legislation that will in effect block attempts by the SCCR to hand over the management of Azad University to the Government.

- There is a demonstration by a small number of regime-organized "students" outside the Majlis. The demonstrators shout slogans against the Parliament, the MPs, and the Speaker Ali Larijani. Some of the signs they are carrying are regarded as so rude that the Iranian Students News Agency blurs out the slogans. It is reported that one of the speakers at the gathering threatened that they would bombard the Majlis (as the Russian Colonel Liakhov had done on behalf of Mohammad Ali Shah in 1908).

- The following day the Parliament votes to annul its previous decision, even though the original bill is still in the process of being vetted by the Guardian Council. During the debate MPs insult each other and Ali Motahari claims that the pro-Ahmadinejad Koochakzadeh (who is close to Ahmadinejad) is of Russian descent and has changed his name from Koochakov. Motahari later claims that, during the debate, Koochatzadeh/Koochakov physically attacked him.

- After a request from Iran's Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, orders another court to review the injunction against the Council.

A bit of background:

The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution was created by the Islamic Republic in the early 1980s, as part of the Cultural Revolution that shut universities for a few years. Since then, both Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei have said that the the decisions of the SCCR should be considered as the law of the land and that the other state organs, including the Majlis, should not contradict these decisions.

The Supreme Leaders' declarations stand against the Constitution, under which the Majlis has the authority to pass laws on all matters. The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution is not even mentioned in the Constitution.

Conclusion? The judge who ordered the injunction, in his interpretation of the Constitution, defied Ayatollah Khamenei’s standing orders regarding the decisions of the SCCR.

On the day the Parlaiment was debating the original law, one MP, citing the Supreme Leader’s views about the SCCR’s powers, tabled a motion to stop debate. MPs voted against the proposal.

Some more background:

When legislation is passed by the Majles, it has to be vetted by the Guardian Council. The Council will return legislation that it deems to be against the Constitution and/or Sharia law. At this stage the legislation is returned to Parliament.

If the Majlis tries to accommodate the views of the Council, the legislation is vetted again. If Parliament refuses to accommodate the Council, the legislation goes to the Expediency Council. In such a case, the Expediency Council’s decision will become law.

One issue that stands out:

At the present time, two laws have been pass by the Majles within two days, with the second negating the first. This does not look like confidence. It looks like chaos and crisis.

The demonstration in front of the Majlis:

Was Ayatollah Khamenei behind the demonstration, its slogans, and speeches, or at least supportive of it? He certainly did not condemn it, as he has the post-election demonstrations including millions of Iranians.

Why resort to the embarrassing, costly, chaotic, and illegal tactic of organizing the demonstration outside the Majlis? Why not ensure that the Council of Guardians rejects the legislation, returns it to Parliament, and then ensure that the Majlis votes in the way the Government wants?

Surely the regime should be able to rely on the trusted Council of Guardians. And the current Parliament has been filtered through two elections, with the Guardian Council weeding out the candidacy of almost all reformist “troublemakers”. (Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani said that this is Khamenei’s Majlis. Note that he forgot to mention that the Majlis is supposed to belong to the people.)

Yet it appears that, despite this supposed control of the legislative process, even a heavily-sanitized Majlis is no longer reliable, so rent-a-thugs have to be paraded in front of the Majlis and insult their own MPs.


We are witnessing the use of regime demonstrators against an increasing number of people and institutions. That indicates, that for some reason, the regime’s internal structures are failing. Amidst what appears to be a serious crisis within the Islamic Republic,its institutions are unable to resolve it; at times they seem to be making it worse.

We are seeing increasingly angry speeches by Khamenei, directed at regime insiders, and comical announcements such as:

- It was announced aid ships were being sent to Gaza and escorted by the Revolutionary Guards. Then it was announced that no escort would be provided. Then it was announced that no aid ship would be sent, ostensibly to avoid war with Israel. Then it was announced that the ships did not go because Egypt had refused them permission to pass through the Suez Canal, only for Cairo to deny Tehran's claim.

- We have wildly varying timescales about self sufficiency in production of petrol: from 24 hours to more than two years. (The list is long and tiresome)

If all of this does not indicate a crisis, what would?