Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Crackdown: Ahmadinejad's Government Arrests Leading Reformists & Shuts Down Opposition Media Outlets

UPDATES (10:13 p.m., June 14 to 1:49 a.m., June 15): Evidence that activists, seemingly from outside of Iran, are launching cyber attacks on official Iranian government web sites, including the official web sites of the rahbar, al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, and the official web site of the president of the republic, who is of course currently Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pro-Ahmadinejad actors are also apparently targeting opposition web sites.

Mousavi's letter calling for new elections addressed to Khamenei, in English translation, can be found at BBC News. See Mousavi's official web site HERE.

Video allegedly showing wounds sustained by students at Tehran University when police and security forces came into their dorms. Cameras and other electronics were reportedly taken as well. Independent verification is sketchy at this point.

See also this list of English language Twitter users in Iran.

Andrew Sullivan is posting updates from around the Web HERE. Many are from Twitter and videos that have not been independently verified. Rumors and facts may have already become entangled. Sullivan seems to be taking all his finds at face value. He is calling the demonstrations in Iran the "Green Revolution," after the other so-called "colored" revolutions in recent years. Most of those ultimately failed to bring about real reform in countries such as Ukraine. Hopefully, this will not be repeated in the case of Iran.

See also live blogging from Nico Pitney at The Huffington Post HERE.

See also Iran Negah for video updates HERE.

There are independently unconfirmed reports that demonstrators have been severely beaten and even killed, and that the injured are being denied entry to hospitals by security forces and police.

There seems to be some conflation of "police" and unofficial and quasi-official pro-regime security forces such as the Basij and Hizbullahi groups. The photo below seems to show the "unofficial" pro-government forces:

The blog of the National Iranian American Council is continuously posting updated reports from inside Iran HERE.

Word has yet to come as to what positions the country's senior dissident religious scholars, Grand Ayatullah Husayn Montazeri and Grand Ayatullah Yusuf Saanei, are taking.

Another outspoken dissident mid-level religious scholar, Hujjat al-Islam Mohsen Kadivar, who is currently in the U.S., released a statement about the demonstrations on his web site.

A good friend of mine, a native Persian speaker who only wishes to be identified as "M.", when I showed him Kadivar's statement, pointed out this line to me:

شهادت اکثر اقتصاددانان، عالمان سیاست، جامعه شناسان، حقوق دانان، روشنفکران، نویسندگان، هنرمندان و فعالان سیاسی آقای احمدی نژاد فردی دروغگو، مزور وغیرقابل اعتماد است

His translation: "By the testimony of the majority of economists, political scientists, sociologists, civil rights scholars, intellectuals, writers, artists, and political activists, Mr. Ahmadinejad is a lying, untrustworthy individual."

Bumbling and opportunistic rightwingers in the U.S. have expressed mixed reactions to the ongoing demonstrations in Iran. Many wrote off Mousavi as a "regime insider," and now are in the awkward position of backtracking, or looking foolish. Conservative blogger Michael Totten erroneously wrote in a June 14 post that Grand Ayatullah Saanei is "part" of the regime. In reality, Saanei is an outspoken dissident religious scholar and
has been a longtime critic of the regime. Andrew Sullivan notes that some Neoconservatives are pleased with Ahmadinejad's "win," since it means that they go possibly launch more ill-conceived policies. Radical rightwingers in Israel, like the bigoted foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, are also not displeased with the results, as they see an opportunity to perhaps launch a "pre-emptive" military attack on Iran. Lieberman has contradicted himself by also saying that it did not matter who won the Iranian presidential election. Since he is currently under investigation for corruption, one can forgive his bumbling about.

The shameless former White House press secretary for George W. Bush and Republican propagandist Ari Fleischer claims that it the resurgence of the Reformist movement in Iran, and the results of parliamentary elections recently in Lebanon, are because of the "tough policies" of Bush. He conveniently fails to mention, or perhaps is ignorant of, the fact that the Reformist movement in Iran predates Bush's first term, and that it was Bush who decided not to engage with the first Reformist president of Iran, Muhammad Khatami. Fleischer also forgets, or does not know, that the March 8 National Opposition coalition in Lebanon actually won significantly more of the popular vote than the March 14 coalition. He also ignores or is ignorant of the fact that the supposedly "pro-Western," whatever that means, March 14 coalition includes radical Salafi MPs, like Khalid Daher.


The incumbent government of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has cracked down hard on domestic and international media following the outbreak of protests and clashes in several of Iran's largest cities over disputed presidential election results. Web sites affiliated with Ahmadinejad's main challenger in the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have been shut down, SMS and cell phone service has been hindered or jammed, Facebook and Twitter have been largely blocked, and opposition newspapers and publications have been shut down. Leading Reformist politicians have also been arrested or placed under house arrest by Ahmadinejad's government, almost certainly with the backing of Iran's real executive authority, the supreme leader of the republic (rahbar-e Jumhur), al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei. The rahbar has backed the disputed election results, which purportedly show Ahmadinejad winning nearly 63% of eligible ballots cast to only 33-34% for Mousavi. [For more on the crackdown on the media, see the Associated Press story at the end of this post.]

Al-Sayyid Muhammad Khatami (left) and Mir Hossein Mousavi (right)

Reuters reports that over 100 Reformist politicians and leaders have been arrested, including Muhammad Reza Khatami, a former parliamentarian and brother of the former Reformist president, Hujjat al-Islam al-Sayyid Muhammad Khatami. Both Khatamis backed Mousavi.

In a press conference held today, Ahmadinejad blatantly sidestepped a question from veteran CNN international reporter Christiane Amanpour about whether the security of the arrested Mousavi was ensured by the government. Ahmadinejad gave a rambling reply in which he alleged that his rival had violated traffic laws. When Amanpour pressed him, he rudely interrupted her and accused her mockingly of asking a second question, to which she replied that she was merely restating her question since he had yet to answer it. He never did answer the question about Mousavi. Ahmadinejad also claimed that Iran was the "most stable" country in the world.

See the exchange
[it begins at the 1:58-minute mark].

Tens of thousands of Ahmadinejad's supporters gathered in central Tehran today to celebrate his purported electoral victory and to listen to their champion speak. The incumbent continued to deny allegations that his government, aided by the rahbar and his conservative clerical allies, carried out electoral fraud. "Some people want democracy only for their own sake," said Ahmadinejad. "Some want elections, freedom, a sound election. They recognise it only as long as the result favours them." He dismissed the protests as "unimportant."

The incumbent president clearly has a large support base, one that, according to some analysts, is larger than many foreign journalists and domestic activists would like to admit. His pre and post election rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people. Ahmadinejad and his conservative supporters are able to draw upon the social networks of the Basij paramilitary, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and conservative pro-regime students (hizbullahis, "hezbollahee-s").

The yellow and green flag of the Lebanese Shi'i political party and paramilitary resistance movement Hizbullah can seen. Iran supports Hizbullah politically and financially, and the Lebanese party is often incorrectly described as an "Iranian proxy" or "puppet." The truth is that Hizbullah is no more a "proxy" or "puppet" than the Lebanese Maronite Phalange party, which collaborated with Israel in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, was to Israel, which provided it with over $100 million in financial and military support during the 1980s. Support for Hizbullah is also not unique to Ahmadinejad's government. All Iranian presidential administrations have openly supported the party and its right to "resist Israeli occupation and aggression."

There are reports that Basij militia, men and women, have joined members of the regular police and security forces in breaking up pro-Mousavi demonstrations.

Ahmadinejad reviews Basij paramilitaries

Ahmadinejad and Basij commanders

Teenage Basij trainees

U.S. vice president Joseph Biden cast doubt on the election results. Biden, and other U.S. politicians from both major political parties, lack credibility on the issue of elections abroad, as there is no major push to pressure U.S. allies in the Middle East and elsewhere to hold real democratic elections. President Barack Obama, he of "change," even went to Cairo, one of the Arab world's worst autocracies, to deliver a speech "to the Muslim world," which ended up being more a speech to the Arab world. In Egypt, he smiled with the country's autocrat, "pharaoh" Hosni Mubarak, and before his arrival, he visited the absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia, King 'Abdullah bin 'Abd al-'Aziz bin al-Sa'ud. Obama follows in the footsteps of former president George W. Bush, and all of their predecessors.

Barack Obama and Saudi king 'Abdullah bin 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Sa'ud

Obama and the Pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak

Read the more at:

BBC News
The Independent (an Associated Press article)


The Internet has been one of the primary ways to monitor the changing situation in Iran. BBC News highlights this trend, and includes lots of links. Videos of protests inside the country have been uploaded to YouTube, and short updates have been posted to Twitter.

Among the more interesting links are a Mousavi-connected Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. Letters from Mousavi and Reformist presidential candidate Hujjat al-Islam Mehdi Karroubi have been uploaded to the Flickr account. Karroubi has said that he does not recognize Ahmadinejad as the winner and has called for new elections.

Hujjat al-Islam Mehdi Karroubi

A Facebook account seemingly affiliated with Khatami and the Mousavi-connected Twitter account are both reporting that, "Mousavi asks his supporters to protest throughout Iran from 4pm on Monday 15 June (in Tehran: Enghelab Sq. to Azadi Sq.)" Similar uses of Facebook by democracy activisits have been used by young Egyptians to circumvent their government's ban on public demonstrations. However, the effects of such mobilization have not been as successful as was originally hoped.

Two other notable web sites on which photographs of portests are being published, can be viewed HERE and HERE. Persian language sources are being monitored and posted about by the National Iranian American Council.

View remarkable footage of pro-Mousavi demonstrators aiding an injured policeman and protecting him from less-merciful demonstrators.

Another such incident was photographed as well:


Professor Juan Cole, a noted expert in modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan and an influential progressive blogger at Informed Comment, disputes allegations by some analysts that Western (i.e. American and European) journalists and analysts, including Cole himself, have disproportionately relied on interviews with upper and middle class Iranians, who tend to support Mousavi and Reformist politicians like Hujjat al-Islam al-Sayyid Muhammad Khatami, the former two-term president (1997-2005). Cole writes, "Some comentators have suggested that the reason Western reporters were shocked when Ahmadinejad won was that they are based in opulent North Tehran, whereas the farmers and workers of Iran, the majority, are enthusiastic for Ahmadinejad. That is, we fell victim once again to upper middle class reporting and expectations in a working class country of the global south. While such dynamics may have existed, this analysis is flawed in the case of Iran because it pays too much attention to class and material factors and not enough to Iranian culture wars." Cole's analysis is disputed by some analysts who possess varying degrees of expertise in Iranian history and politics (including little to none).

Incumbent Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Cole also quotes at length a report from the United States government's Open Source Center that translates an article from the conservative Iranian newspaper Javan. The article quotes Effat Mar'ashi, the wife of powerful politician Hujjat al-Islam 'Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanani, the chair of the Assembly of Experts, as calling for protests after alleging that Ahmadinejad's government committed election fraud. She also reportedly refers to them as "Khavarij," the Persian variation of the Arabic broken plural Khawarij, literally "those who go out", which refers to a group that supported the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and cousin, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (the first Imam of Shi'is), until he agreed to mediation at the Battle of Siffin over his dispute with his chief rival, Mu'awiya bin Sufyan. The Khawarij accused 'Ali of circumventing God's will, and left his army. One of them, 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam, mortally wounded 'Ali in the Great Mosque in Kufa, Iraq in 661 C.E., in retaliation for the Battle of Nahrawan in 657 C.E., in which 'Ali and his army decimated the ranks of the Khawarij.

'Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani


By Sally Buzzbee

The Associated Press [June 14, 2009]

CAIRO (AP) — Iranian authorities criticized international media reports and took steps to control the flow of information from independent news sources as anti-government protests raged in the country for a second day Sunday.

The British Broadcasting Co. said that electronic jamming of its news report, which it said began on election day Friday, had worsened by Sunday, causing service disruptions for BBC viewers and listeners in Iran, the Middle East and Europe. It said it had traced the jamming of the satellite signal broadcasting its Farsi-language service to a spot inside Iran.

"It seems to be part of a pattern of behavior by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election," said Peter Horrocks, the director of BBC World Service in London.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the election that critics contend was marked by widespread voter fraud. At a news conference Sunday, he accused international media of launching a "psychological war" against the country.

Street protests broke out in Tehran and were fiercely battled by anti-riot police.

A range of communications have been disrupted inside Iran since election day, including those which could be used to organize protests.

Iran restored cell phone service Sunday that had been down in the capital since Saturday. But Iranians still could not send text messages from their mobile phones, and the government increased its Internet filtering in an apparent attempt to undercut opposition voices. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were also not working.

Iran's government has not commented on the restrictions but has accused international media of exaggerating the extent of the street protests in Tehran and of trying to destabilize the government.

Iran regulates and monitors the activities of international and independent media operating within its borders, and it closely watches and guides its own internal state media. Many reformist newspapers, magazines and Web sites have emerged in the past decade, but often come under restrictions or are shut down.

International media normally are allowed to work without censorship in Iran, subject to certain rules, such as seeking advance permission to travel to certain locations outside the capital or to interview government officials.

But Iran is more sensitive about news reports or blogs and Internet communications in Farsi, apparently concerned about the effect on its internal political situation.

On Saturday, Iranian officials contacted television journalists for The Associated Press in Iran and warned that the government would enforce an existing law banning provision of news video to the Farsi-language services of the BBC and the Voice of America. Both agencies broadcast to Iranians via satellite in their own language.

AP employees then contacted the BBC and VOA to discuss the order.

"It is the AP practice to comply with local laws regarding media. We are nonetheless determined to continue to provide accurate coverage of events in Iran," said AP's Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll.

There were a variety of other clamp-down steps affecting both international and domestic news organizations. For instance, officials telephoned several visiting international journalists with visas to cover the elections and told them that their visas would not be extended after the vote, a courtesy often offered in the past.

Two other international news agencies that operate in Iran, Reuters and Agence France-Press, could not be immediately reached for comment. Neither reported any restrictions on their journalists.

A spokesman for the Swedish network SVT, Geronimo Akerlund, said its reporter, Lena Pettersson, had been asked to "leave Iran as soon as possible because the elections are over."

Dubai-based news network Al Arabiya said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order from Iranian authorities that its office would be closed for one week, said Executive News Editor Nabil Khatib. No reason was given, but the station was warned several times Saturday that it needed to be careful in reporting "chaos" accurately, he said.

German television network ZDF said Sunday on air that its reporter in Iran and other reporters were being "prevented from doing their jobs in a massive form." The network said it was unable to show a broadcast feed from the network's correspondent depicting protests.

The rahbar (supreme leader), al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei (left), and Ahmadinejad, under a portrait of Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni, revolutionary founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Italian state TV RAI said one of its crews was caught in a street clash. An Iranian interpreter was beaten with clubs by riot police and officers confiscated the cameraman's videotapes, the station said.

Within Iran, state-run newspapers carried no news Sunday about the widespread street clashes the day before. But on Sunday, state TV showed some video footage from the two days of protests.

A newspaper started by the main reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, did not appear on newsstands Sunday. An editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the paper, called Kalemeh Sabz or the Green Word, never left the printing house because authorities were upset with Mousavi's statements after the elections.

The paper's Web site reported that more than 10 million votes in Friday's election were missing national identification numbers, data which make the votes "untraceable." It did not say how it knew that information.

At his news conference, Ahmadinejad made light of restrictions on the press and media.

"Don't worry about freedom in Iran," he said. "Newspapers come and go and reappear. Don't worry about it."

Read more in this Agence-France Presse article.


Vanessa said...

The election result has been widely criticized as suspicious, especially by supporters of reformer presidential campaigner and main Ahmadinejad rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi. There have been international concerns too. Although the European Union's official statement affirmed Ahmadinejad's victory, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of "voting irregularities" while France summoned the Iranian ambassador to discuss the elections and request improved security for its mission in Tehran where Ahmadinejad supporters had gathered to protest Western interference in Iran. The ambassador was unavailable.

إبن الصقلي said...

A recent breakdown of international responses, with country names, can be found below: