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Entries in Agence France Presse (3)


The Latest from Iran (25 May): Panahi Freed; Will There Be a 12 June Protest?

1645 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Claimed photographs of Jafar Panahi after his release from Evin Prison today:

1435 GMT: A Government of Fake Doctors? According to Tabnak, Kamran Daneshjoo, the Minister of Science and Higher Education, has said that 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi's claim of a Ph.D. is false.

Ironically, Daneshjoo has also been accused of presenting incorrect information that he has a doctorate from a British university.

NEW Iran Analysis: Towards the Final Battle? (Zahra)
Iran Document: The Mousavi-Karroubi Meeting (23 May)
Latest Iran Video: Ahmadinejad Heckled During Speech (24 Ma
The Latest from Iran (24 May): Rahnavard’s Statement, Ahmadinejad Heckled

1420 GMT: Panahi is Free. Tahareh Saeedi has told Agence France Presse that her husband, film director Jafar Panahi, is out of Evin Prison (see 1145 GMT): "Yes, he has been freed. He is fine. We are taking him to the doctor...[who will] prescribe a diet [for him]."

1335 GMT: Rahnavard on Resistance. Zahra Rahnavard, activist and wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has posted another statement on her Facebook site: "Women Will Resist Until Their Demands Are Fulfilled".

1145 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. After 24 hours of uncertainty (see 0735 GMT), film director Jafar Panahi has been released from Evin Prison on $200,000 bail.

0945 GMT: Government Not Worried at All. Really. Which is why Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedi has declared that  security forces will put down any protests on 12 June, the anniversary of the 2009 election: "Police will confront any illegal gatherings ... police are vigilant and in charge of public order and security."

0815 GMT: A Promise to March? Peyke Iran claims that youths leaving a football match in Tehran's Azadi Stadium shouted a message for President Ahmadinejad: "Football is a pretence/Khordaad will be an uproar".

0810 GMT: Assault. Rah-e-Sabz claims that reformist politician Ali Shakouri-Rad was attacked and insulted by Basiji students after his lecture at Elm-o-Sanat University in Tehran.

0800 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Daneshjoo News has posted a list of more than 80 imprisoned students.

Journalist and human rights activist Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi, released on Sunday on bail after more than 100 days in detention, has spoken to Rooz Online about prison conditions and his hunger strike.

RAHANA reports that Kurdish artist Mokhtar Houshmand was arrested at his home on Sunday.

0745 GMT: The Revolutionary Guard and Oil. Peyke Iran claims that the sell-off of Iranian resources to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps continues. The IRGC has allegedly acquired several large projects in the South Pars oil and gas fields, pipelines, and the Ilam refinery.

Meanwhile Rahmani Fazli, chief of Iran's audit office, says that daily oil production must rise to 7 million barrels per day for the Government's 5th Plan to be feasible. Current production is 3,9 million barrel per day.

0735 GMT: Waiting For/Protesting About Panahi. Still no confirmation that film director Jafar Panahi has been freed from Evin Prison, despite the assurance of the Tehran Prosecutor General that the Iranian bureaucracy is processing the release on bail.

Meanwhile Juliette Binoche, winning Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Abbas Kiarostami's A Certified Copy, makes a simple statement:

0655 GMT: Culture Wars. In her analysis this morning, Ms Zahra notes sharply, "Even a “cultural” step such as using hijab as a new cause for oppression attests to the weakness of this regime."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a complementary article, "Iran has launched a new drive to enforce the obligatory Islamic hijab. Hijab and women who are considered as being badly or improperly veiled and their alleged threat to society is again among the main themes of speeches and comments by Friday Prayer leaders and other state officials."

Most striking, however, is not the summary of the state's intimidation but the snapshot of reaction from Iranian women. While most in a recent report on Iranian television supported the hijab, the video also had this vignette:
At the beginning the reporter interviews two women considered "badly veiled" who seem to be opposed to the enforcement of the dress code. Such women are usually never given a platform on state television.

The first woman says she dresses the way she wants. "I think that's more important than what others might think about how I dress," she says.

The second woman, whose face is blurred like the first (apparently because they didn't want to be identified), makes similar comments. "I wear what I want and I don't listen to what others say," she says.

0645 GMT: Power and Resistance. Looking at but going beyond 22 Khordaad (12 June), we have a special analysis from Ms Zahra, assessing the political situation and asking if a "final battle" is looming for the Government.

Meanwhile, a single incident has sparked attention from the global media to internal developments in Iran: the video of workers heckling President Ahmadinejad, during his speech in Khorramshahr yesterday, has been picked up by most international broadcasters and websites.

0630 GMT: We open this morning with continued discussion of the significance and even the exact wording of the statement from the meeting between Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi on Sunday. My initial reading of their declaration, as translated and posted by the Facebook page supporting Mousavi, was that the two men had set down a limit: they were calling on the Green Movement to march if a permit was granted but, if it was denied they would not take to the streets but would seek to extend awareness and present demands in other ways.

An EA correspondent put the emphasis on those "other ways": "[Mousavi and Karroubi] will not stand idle if, as expected, the permission is not granted." Then a reader brought out this information:
A friend in Tehran...tells me that what the original article in Farsi, on, says is that if the permit is not given, then instructions for the march will be disseminated via Twitter, Facebooks, SMS, etc., not that the rally/march/demo will not be held. On the contrary...both Mousavi and Karroubi state that the demonstration will be held regardless.

So more watching and listening for signals today. What may be significant, while we're looking for resolution, is that there is even a discussion of how far the opposition will go on 12 June.

That is not a discussion that you have if the Green Movement is dead or dying....

The Latest from Iran (13 May): Justice, Legitimacy, and a Strike in Kurdistan

2015 GMT: Kurdistan. ADN Kronos summarises, "Many shops, markets and public offices were closed in Kurdistan's main cities of Sanandaj, Saqqez, Kamiaran and Marivan. Most school and university students stayed away from school, according to the CyrusNews opposition website.

In Kamiaran, protesters gathered outside the home of Farzad Kamangar, one of five political prisoners executed on Sunday in Tehran's Evin prison."

2000 GMT: Iran and Iraq Troops Clash. From Agence France Presse:
Iraqi border guards exchanged fire with Iranian troops along the two countries' border on Thursday....

An Iraqi officer was captured by the Islamic Republic's forces in the 90-minute gunfight on the border with Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, which was apparently sparked when Iranian troops mistook Iraqi soldiers for a Kurdish rebel group.

"Iranian forces thought that the border guards belonged to PJAK (the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan -- an Iranian Kurdish rebel group) and started to open fire," Brigadier General Ahmed Gharib Diskara, the head of Iraq's border guards in Sulaimaniyah province, told reporters.

"The border guards shot back and one officer of the Iraqi army has been captured. Negotiations are ongoing to free him."

NEW Latest Iran Video: Strike in Kurdistan (13 May)
NEW Iran Special: Executions, Politics, and the Attack on Nazila Fathi and The New York Times
NEW Iran Transcript: Mousavi “Do Iranian Mothers Have Rights?” (12 May)
NEW Iran Document: A Letter from Majid Tavakoli About the Executed (11 May)
Iran Update: The Aftermath of the Executions
Iran Document: Maziar Bahari’s Response to His 13-Year (and 74-Lash) Sentence
Iran Special: A Renewal of Protest for 12 June?
The Latest from Iran (12 May): Defending the Indefencible

1945 GMT: Kurdistan. Report --- Ajlal Aghvami, the spokesman of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization, has been arrested in Sanandaj.

1540 GMT: Last Words from the Executed? Peyke Iran has posted what it claims is the last statement of Mehdi Eslamian, executed on Sunday, and footage from inside Gohardahst Prison in Karaj.


1535 GMT: Investigation Complete? Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi-Fard, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has claimed that a report has been completed on last June's attack on Tehran University dormitories. Reformist members of Parliament had claimed that the supposed enquiry into the events had been set aside.

1525 GMT: Meanwhile...Where's Mahmoud? Khabar Online has pictures of President Ahmadinejad's visit to Yasuj in southwestern Iran, including a poster, "Sir, where is the gas you promised to the village of Kalous?"

And the President's message? "Be sure, Iran's next government will be 10 times more revolutionary....People all over the world, even USA and Europe, are disappointed by their leaders:their only hope is Iran! We should prepare the world for the arrival of the Mahdi."
1515 GMT: Kurdistan (Containing the Students). In addition to the 15 Kurdish student activists reportedly arrested in Marivan (five names have been published), Peyke Iran claims seven Kurdish students have been summoned to Evin court.

1500 GMT: The Kurdistan Strike. We are now featuring videos apparently showing widespread closure of shops and empty streets in cities in Iranian Kurdistan.

The strike was called for by the Kurdish Communist Party, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, and Komeleh, including its Socialist branch.

BBC Persian have now posted a brief item on the events.

1455 GMT: A Rights-First Approach. Writing in The Washington Post, Roxana Saberi, who was detained in Iran from late January until early April 2009, begins with this story:
I received an e-mail from a human rights campaigner in Tehran who knew one of them, asking me to spread the word about the hangings. "We are truly helpless," she wrote, "and we feel lost."

Saberi argues:
As the international community focuses on Iran's nuclear program, it should also make human rights a first-tier issue. When the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva next month, Washington and the European Union should lead calls for a resolution setting up a mechanism to investigate human rights atrocities in Iran during the past year. A bigger push should be made to send a U.N. special envoy on human rights to Iran and to aid Iranians, including the many journalists forced to flee their country out of fear of persecution.

But perhaps even more important than government efforts is the outcry of ordinary people worldwide. When everyday citizens speak out against Iran's human rights violations, Tehran has a tougher time asserting that their calls have been masterminded by foreign governments.

1045 GMT: Kurdistan. An EA correspondent writes:
The point worth noting is the discipline and strong support evidently commanded by the Democratic Party within the population. The appeal for the strike was made over Kurdish satellite TV, and in contrast to the response of Iranian counterparts to calls for national strikes, the people of Sanandaj were immediately receptive. The photos have prompted congratulatory messages from people in Tehran, who commented on the efficacy of strike action in Iranian Kurdistan, as opposed to getting anything done elsewhere in the country.

1040 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. Financial Times Deutschland reports that Iran is having problems finding buyers for its oil, with supplies sitting on tankers.

1035 GMT: Kurdistan. Peyke Iran is claiming a heavy security presence and authorities' pressure on shopkeepers to reopen their shops in Sanandaj. The website claims that
two protesters were shot and injured in Sanandaj and that there have been clashes. Most Kurdish pupils and students reportedly did not show up at classes today.

1020 GMT: Streets are reportedly deserted in Sanandaj, Iranian Kurdistan's largest city.

1000 GMT: The Strike in Kurdistan. For three days, I have been following Internet chatter that there would be a general strike in Iranian Kurdistan, protesting the executions. However, as I could not hard evidence, apart from a statement from a Kurdish Communist Party (apologies to readers if I missed information), I held back on reporting.

Now, however, photos have emerged indicating that some shops are closed today. There are also claimed photos of clashes; we are trying to confirm.

0945 GMT: Apologies for limited updates. I have been occupied with writing an analysis, "Executions, Politics, and the Attack on Nazila Fathi and The New York Times".

0700 GMT: The Executions --- The Official Account. Yesterday we posted, without comment or criticism, Fars News' "further update" on Sunday's execution of five Iranians. This was based on the official statement of the public relations office of Tehran’s General and Revolutionary Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Having allowed time for readers to consider that account, we now have the queries of an EA correspondent over the failure to establish a justification for the executions, offer a credible defense that due process was indeed followed, or explain the timing:

1. Only four of the five are identified as members of the Kurdish separatist movement PJAK. One defendant was executed for a bombing in Shiraz although no claim is made that he was involved in the bombing and no evidence is offered that he knew about the intent to bomb before the operation. It is stated, based on the accused's confession, that he learned about the bombing after he became suspicious of a friend and persuaded that friend to admit that he was involved in the bombing. He then helped the friend flee.

2. The cases of two of the executed were never sent to the Supreme Court for final decision. The executions were performed with mere confirmation of the Appeals Court.

3. The Supreme Court decision to confirm the execution order of the other three was apparently rendered on 1 March 2009 after an Appeals Court decision that was rendered in February 2008. The delay in executions until May 2010 is not explained.

4. The evidence given in the statement regarding the PJAK membership of four accused is at best circumstantial.

The evidence given for Farzad Kamangar's membership in PJAK is that his brother was active in "party activities" in Sulaymanieh and has a "conviction record" for involvement with the PKK, the Kurdish movement active across Iran, Iran, and Iraq. The statement does not say if the record is in Iran, Iraq, or Turkey and does not explain why this blood relationship is significant in relation to alleged crimes.

The other evidence given for Kamangar's membership are the words of the other two executed men --- one of whom himself is alleged to be PJAK because of a coded note and PJAK booklet found in his house --- that they knew Kamangar, lived in the same neighborhood, and forged documents for him. They do not accuse Kamangar of being a member of PJAK and the statement does not say that they themselves admitted being members of PJAK.

If the Prosecutor's statement is accepted at face value, Kamangar was never involved in the actual bombing. Allegedly an explosive timer was found in his house and he was also accused of fabricating documents for two people, who intended to put together material for explosives found by police in a car.

0620 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. Kalemeh reports on the significant number of foreign companies who have suspended development of the South Pars and Assalouyieh oil and gas fields.

In recent weeks Iranian officials have issued "ultimata" to Royal Dutch Shell and Spain's Repsol to resume development or face eviction from Iran.

0615 GMT: The Executions. The Iranian Writers' Association has condemned the hanging of five Iranians on Sunday: "There are no words which could describe this bloodshed and bloodthirst"

0520 GMT: We begin this morning with two features. We have posted a letter from student activist Majid Tavakoli, detained in Evin Prison since 7 December, about three of the Iranians executed on Sunday. And we have put up the English translation of Mir Hossein Mousavi's wide-ranging comments on Tuesday about the Green Movement and the legitimacy of an unjust Government, "Do Iranian Mothers Have Rights?"

The Latest from Iran (6 May): Rattling the Cage

1500 GMT: Posturing. Michael Theodoulou of The National posts a concise article summarising the possible Brazilian mediation effort on Iran's nuclear programme and Tehran's naval exercises in the Persian Gulf.

1400 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Another statement from Hashemi Rafsanjani to decode. Meeting with a group of journalists and young political activists, he said:
Promoting awareness in people is the main and fundamental element of any progressive movement....Today all the people in any corner of the country have become more aware, cautious and knowledgable. Don’t doubt it, the growth of awareness among the different classes of the people will reform the society....

Wrong management of the resources and wealth of the country will cause under-development for future generations....Giving space for criticism and review at all levels should not be abandoned in the country....Be sure that honest efforts for the high principles of the revolution won’t be in vain and will have effective outcomes.

NEW Mahmoud’s Iran Wonderland: Ahmadinejad Says “I’m in Favour of Protestors”
NEW Iran Snap Analysis: Ahmadinejad’s Nuclear Roadtrip
Iran Follow-Up: Ahmadinejad “Bin Laden Lives in Washington DC!”
A Female Detainee in Iran: “Stripped by the Basiji”
The Latest from Iran (5 May): “Protest is Not Provocation”

0915 GMT: The Reformist Front. Speaking with the family of student activist Milan Asadi, detained since 1 December, Mehdi Karroubi claimed that the pressure on Iranian people had arisen because of the lack of independence of Iran's judiciary.

Former President Mohammad Khatami has written an open letter to Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, the "hard-line" leader of Tehran Friday Prayers, suggesting that he should not sacrifice his salvation for the well-being of others.

Reformist member of Parliament Mohammad Reza Tabesh has complained to Speaker of Parlaiment Ali Larijani over attacks on reformists' offices in several cities, alleging that Iranian authorities have not guaranteed security.

0910 GMT: Watch Your Back, Mahmoud. While President Ahmadinejad has been away, conservative member of Parliament Ali Motahari has been making big noises about the need for major reforms in the Iranian system (see yesterday's updates).

Motahari has now restated his case in Khabar Online, calling on First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi --- who, far from coincidentally, has been pressed by MPs over corruption allegations --- to answer the claims of Government mismanagement of the post-election crisis.

0855 GMT: Brazil Denies Role in Uranium Talks. It may be just for public show --- a mediator doesn't necessarily want to be known as a mediator --- but Brazilian officials have popped Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that Brasilia is acting as a broker for a possible deal on Iran's uranium enrichment:
A Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman told AFP [Agence France Presse] that no such plan had been proposed during a visit to Tehran last month by Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

"We were informed that an official Iranian government website mentioned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported a Brazilian 'program'. But there was no presentation of a formal program during the foreign minister's visit," the spokesman said.

Even more interesting, however, is the confusion demonstrated by the denial from Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai that Brazil was acting as a go-between. Since the original report of Brazil's involvement came from the President's office, one has the sense that Ahmadinejad's advisors aren't quite sure what they are supposed to be saying.

0840 GMT: Fantastic Interviews. Proof that, if you put the President and his advisors under pressure, you get answers that verge on fantasy.

In a separate entry, we've posted Ahmadinejad's declaration to The Boston Globe, "I'm in Favour of Protestors". Then there is the commentfrom Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, in conversation with Laura Secor of The New Yorker that "there are actually not too many people in the prisons" before he proceeds to tie himself up in illogical knots.

0630 GMT: We've started the morning by dealing in a separate feature with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's US Nuclear Roadshow: "Will it get him enough political space to bolster Iran’s position abroad and his authority at home?"

Now to the important matters:

Head of Judiciary is Not Happy

If the regime is feeling secure about its suppression of post-election opposition, Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary, sure isn't showing it.

Speaking to clergy in Hamadan, Larijani declared that some of the confidants of Ayatollah Khomeini have acted even worse than the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, the political wing of the "terrorist" Mojahedin-e-Khalq.

Larijani added that the “seditious movement” has not ended, and it has caused confusion amongst the “pious”.

The Resurgence of the Labour Movement

Iran Labor Report has a powerful analysis/polemic of the state of the labour movement --- past, present, and future. The article concludes:
Fortunately, some in the labor movement have belatedly come to change their anti-Green approach somewhat, and this is welcome. Clearly, only with Green-labor unity can we stand up to the tyranny of the regime and free the country of its despotic rule. The popular struggle in Iran isn’t going away. The street demonstrations may have dwindled – for now – but a luta continua. Which side are you on?

Shutting Away Ayatollah Beheshti

Rah-e-Sabz claims that the organisers of the Tehran Book Fair removed the booth devoted to the works of the late Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti.

Beheshti is one of the heroes of the Islamic Revolution. leading the new Iranian judicial system until he was killed in the mass 7 Tir assassination by the Mojahedin-e-Khalq in June 1981. However, his son, Alireza Beheshti, was Mir Hossein Mousavi's chief advisor during and after the Presidential election, possibly putting the Beheshti name beyond the acceptable for the regime.

Another UK Deportation Case

The deportation of Bita Ghaedi from Britain was postponed by British and European courts on Tuesday, but another case reaches a critical point today.

Nadia Arzane and Bashir Foris, a married couple in their early 20s, are scheduled for forced removal on a Thursday afternoon flight from London Gatwick. Arzane is a Christian human rights activist who participated in protests in Iran in July; her father was allegedly detained and tortured for two months by Iranian authorities.