Category Archives: Iran

Questions about the crisis in Iran, pt. 4

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

Is this a military coup against the clerics?
Ever since the ‘election results’ were announced, observers and protesters have talked about a military coup in Tehran: that the elections itself and the subsequent clampdown were part of a pre-arranged coup masterminded and executed by the Revolutionary Guards (Sepâh-e pâsdârân or IRGC).

Other speculation includes reports about support for Musavi among the powerful Revolutionary Guards (see Ebrahim Nabavi here); and about defections among Revolutionary Guards generals. However, there are no reliable sources or verifiable documentation for these claims. No doubt, some Revolutionary Guards commanders are thinking about the future of Iran these days, and whether or not they are on the winning team. However, in the words of New York Times’ MacFarquhar:

“Anyone attempting to identify divisions within the Iranian security forces that may dilute the government’s ability to stop the protests has thus far searched in vain, according to Iranian analysts and American government officials … Although outsiders may be cheering on the idea of people power, there is no sign yet that any part of the military will switch sides …”

The quite uniform response of Revolutionary Guards commanders leaves us with the impression that the Guards stand united and firm behind the government and the Leader. And it has made some serious and respected scholars talk openly about ‘the coup’. In his recent blog post, Gary Sick writes about the topic that has ‘been ignored’:

“Why did the regime resort to such a frantic manipulation of the vote when it was entirely possible that Ahmadinejad would have made a respectable showing—or possibly even have narrowly won—a fair election, and when the opposition in any event was devoted to the concept of the Islamic republic as it existed? The answer may be that the corporate entity saw this election as one of the final steps in cementing its absolute control. Accepting the Islamic republic as it is and not as they wanted it to be was simply unacceptable. The emergence of a relatively mild reformer—or even a substantial reformist vote—would undercut the kind of absolute authority that they were getting ready to assert. It would, in a word, complicate the coup that they were in the process of carrying out.”

On CNN, Fareed Zakaria and a former CIA-agent assess that there has been a military coup:

“BAER: Fareed, I’m quite sure there’s been a military coup d’etat by the Islamic revolutionary corp in Tehran. They’re taken over. And the fact that the Basij came out so quickly. They could have only done that on orders from the IRGC. The fact that Ahmadinejad’s a former IRGC officer, he has the backing of senior officers. I think what we’ve seen is a military coup against the old clerical establishment.”

He might be right. I just want to add that, that the ‘Basij came out so quickly’ doesn’t prove anything. They have been mobilized in such speedy and massive fashion several times (and of course, such mobilization is ordered by the IRGC; nothing new there) – and authorities had already before the elections announced that there would be a massive security presence.

To Ali Nader of the RAND Corporation, there is no doubt: The Revolutionary Guards are the real winners of the elections:

“The Guards indicated even before the election that they would not allow Ahmadinejad’s challenger, Mir Hussein Mousavi, to succeed. And they are willing to use any means possible, including mass arrests of opposition leaders and the use of military force against protesters, to maintain their grip on power. Iran’s ruling political elite have earned much popular hostility in the last few days, but they appear to have enough military support to withstand the protests for now. Regardless, the Islamic Republic may no longer be able to count on the people’s will to maintain its legitimacy”

Nader sees the recent re-election (which ‘depended on systematic fraud’) as a battle between the younger military elite and the older clerical elite (see also the RAND report ‘The Rise of the Pasdaran’ here). To some extent, I think he’s right: when Ahmadinejad blasted Rafsanjani and Nateq Nuri on live TV for being corrupt, he was in fact sending a stern warning to all senior clerics in Iran, and their families – not just the two mentioned.

However, I still have a hard time buying the idea, floated among some observers, that Ahmadinejad is actually in total control now, and that Khamene‘i is merely his puppet. Surely, many clerics may now be threatened by an emboldened Ahmadinejad; however, it seems to me that:
a) Ahmadinejad could not do without the clergy; he will need their religious credentials to legitimize his government;
b) that so many clerics would not stay silent if they really felt threatened; we will have to see much more criticism from Qom before I can believe that the tables have turned in such a dramatic fashion. This is not to say that there isn’t criticism from Qom – more on that later.

An interrelated question is that of ‘Ahmadinejad’s crusade’ against ‘corruption’. If Ahmadinejad were to succeed in his self-declared mission to purge out the ‘mafia’, he will of course not do so only out of pure, idealistic conviction. The wealth will go to other people in power, and whomever they may be – including the Revolutionary Guards – they will need the aura of legitimacy that only a clergy can endow the religious-political system with.

And the stakes for the Revolutionary Guards are high, as this updated backgrounder from the Council on Foreign Relations point out:

“Political clout and military might are not only attributes of today’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is also a major financial player. The Los Angeles Times estimated in 2007 that the group, which was tasked with rebuilding the country after the war with Iraq, now has ties to over one hundred companies that control roughly $12 billion in construction and engineering capital. Former CFR Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh has linked the guards to university laboratories, weapons manufacturers–including Defense Industries Organization–and companies connected to nuclear technology. Khalaji, of the Washington Institute, lists the Bahman Group, which manufactures cars for Mazda, among guard-owned companies. And Wehrey writes that “the IRGC has extended its influence into virtually every sector of the Iranian market.” The engineering firm Khatam al-Anbia, for instance, has been awarded over 750 government contracts for infrastructure, oil, and gas projects, he says.”

We could maybe describe this as the culmination of several years of militarization in Iranian politics, and a victory for the Revolutionary Guards establishment. Maybe we could also call the elections and the post-elections clampdown aspects of a military coup d’état. However, I still don’t think that the Guards and Ahmadinejad can survive without the sincere and voluntary support of the clergy. I might be wrong. Comments please!

Where are the ‘moderate conservatives’?
Ali Larijani – speaker of parliament, former presidential candidate and a pragmatic politician considered close to the Leader – has made several statements critical of the regime’s brutal response to the protests. He has condemned the violent attacks on Tehran University, called for investigations, stated that he would wish the Guardian Council was impartial and that Musavi should be given a chance to appear again on state-run TV.

To EurasiaNet’s reporter Yasin, Larijani – along with his brothers Sadeq and Mohammad-Javad, their cousin Ahmad Tavakolli and Ali Motahari – represents a ‘third force’ between ‘hardliners’ such as Khamene‘i and ‘progressives’ such as Musavi.

Larijani has recently made yet another interesting statement:

“A majority of people are of the opinion that the actual election results are different than what was officially announced,” Larijani said in comments posted by the Khabaronline website. “The opinion of this majority should be respected and a line should be drawn between them and rioters and miscreants.”

If Larijani is quoted correctly, it is indeed a significant statement. However, it can also be interpreted as pure opportunism – and part of the internal rivalries, as Yasin notes:

“There would appear to be an element of personal animosity at work in Ali Larijani’s relations with Ahmadinejad. Prior to becoming parliament speaker, Larijani was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, but was pushed aside by political maneuvering carried out by the president and his neo-conservative allies, and undertaken with the backing of the supreme leader.”

Marsha B. Cohen, writing for Tehran Bureau, has a lengthy and detailed account of Larijani, which is highly recommended reading.

Another ‘moderate conservative’ is Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, former Revolutionary Guards commander and now mayor of Tehran. Qalibaf seeks to appeal to the young voters and is considered a likely future candidate for the presidency.  Qalibaf has stated that the ‘election law is flawed’, that the protest rallies should be ‘legalized’ and he has condemned the violence. However, he has of course refrained from siding with Musavi. There are now calls for Qalibaf to join the new Special Committee which the Guardians Council has created to investigate the opposition’s allegations of fraud. It remains to be seen if Qalibaf would make a difference to the work of this committee.

Ahmad Tavakolli – who is the chief of the Parliament’s Research Center, a former presidential candidate and a prominent ‘moderate conservative’ – might also have made a surprising statement; however, he allegedly did so under a pseudonym.

Ayande News, a reformist website, indicated that Tavakolli used the name ‘Javad Kargozari’ to write a piece on his website Alef News recently (however, Ayande then changed the text of their article making it unclear who is behind the article). Of course, it is impossible for me to confirm this claim.

Nonetheless, if the statement is indeed Tavakolli’s – or if it represents Tavakolli’s opinion – it is remarkable: ‘Kargozari’ severely criticizes the state-run TV & radio for ‘illegal activities’, including the showing of fake declarations of guilt by pro-Musavi protesters, introduced on TV as ‘rioters’. These ‘rioters’ have been arrested during recent protests and allegedly forced to confess to working for Iran’s foreign enemies. ‘Kargozari’ demands to know who has given the state media permission to show such illegal ‘confessions’ before the persons have even been tried in a court.

A major figure among the ‘moderate conservatives’ is of course Mohsen Reza‘i – former Revolutionary Guard commander and himself a presidential candidate who has also rejected the election results. Despite the fact that there are still reports of ‘ambiguities’ surrounding Reza‘i’s votes coming out, and despite his recent letter to the Guardian Council calling for a change in the members of the Special Committee, he has apparently withdrawn his own complaints – citing concern for the security situation.

This does not bode well for Musavi and Karubi, who are now more or less alone with their complaints.

I think that the ‘moderate conservatives’ are following a calculated effort to appear 100% loyal to the system and the Leader while using the opportunity to air their criticism of Ahmadinejad. However, this should not be interpreted as support for Musavi/Karubi or for the protest movement. The ‘moderate conservatives’ are cunning opportunists – and certainly not interested in fundamentally reforming the Islamic Republic or in putting the human rights of the Iranian people at the top of their agenda.

This ‘third force’ is concerned with its own economic interests and political power under the government of an emboldened Ahmadinejad. Nothing more, nothing less.

Questions about the crisis in Iran, pt. 3

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

How does the region react to the unrest?
According to Rami Khoury, the Arab world has reacted in a mixed way – but mostly with ‘forlorn envy’:

”[O]rdinary Arabs would feel jealous were the demonstrators in Iran able to topple their regime for the second time in 30 years –because this would highlight the chronic passivity and powerlessness of Arab citizens who must suffer permanent subjugation in their own long-running autocratic systems without being able to do anything about it.”

However, the unrest may also inspire Arab populations. In the words of Jamal Dajani:

“Those leaders and others may have a lot to worry about as Iran’s demonstrations have caused many in the Arab world ask to themselves why they cannot do the same. This might not be evident in the media, but all you have to do is talk privately to some of the youth and read the blogs. Although Iran failed to penetrate the Arab world with its 1979 revolution, it may have succeeded with the recent popular uprising.”

By the way, Dajani also asks a very important rhetorical question (which may be unrelated to the Iran crisis itself but important for the discussion of how Western media have portrayed the events – a topic to which I will return):

“Now here is a question to all those “brave, fair and balanced” journalists, pundits, bloggers and analysts in the U.S. who have been using strong terms to condemn the Basij and the Iranian government’s crackdown on demonstrations, such terms as brutality, murder and horror: why can’t you use the same language when you watch and film Israeli soldiers beating Palestinian children in the town of Bil’in, or when they evict a helpless widow from her ancestral home and throw her out to the cold? Why?”

As one could expect, pro-Iranian organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and various Iraqi groups, have congratulated Ahmadinejad on the victory. Furthermore, the Lebanese Hezbollah has accused ‘the West’ of ‘fomenting Iran turmoil’.

According to this article from NY Times, US-aligned Arab states, on the other hand, ‘savor turmoil in Iran’:

“The good-news thinking goes like this: With Mr. Ahmadinejad remaining in office, there is less chance of substantially improved relations between Tehran and Washington, something America’s Arab allies feared would undermine their interests. At the same time, the electoral conflict may have weakened Iran’s leadership at home and abroad, forcing it to focus more on domestic stability, political analysts and former officials said.”

More on the Arab world:
On Bitter Lemons, four experts reflect on how Arabs are reacting; and Josie Delop and Lane Green’s observations are to be found here.

In Turkey, reports Yigal Schleifer, the unrest has presented Ankara with a ‘diplomatic challenge’:

“The Turkish public has greeted the crisis in Iran with a mix of indifference and confusion, while on the official side, Ankara is treading with extreme caution. Not wanting to possibly strain bilateral ties, Turkish officials are refraining from criticizing Iranian hardliners, or questioning the results of the country’s recent contested elections.”

In Afghanistan, Afghans are also ‘tracking Tehran power struggle’.

Questions about the crisis in Iran, pt. 2

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

Will the establishment seek to appease the reformists?
While the state apparatus has admitted that there were ‘irregularities’ – which could in itself be seen as a gesture to the protest movement – I still don’t believe that there will any major concessions: Khamene‘i has stated several times that Ahmadinejad is the clear winner, that his victory was divinely inspired and that there can be no discussion about the results. In its attempt to control the chaos and justify its actions, it will be very hard for the regime to admit to any major wrongdoing.

However, there are still rumors that Khamene‘i together with oppositional forces and high-ranking clerics will try to work out some kind of compromise: that there might be a new run-off between Ahmadinejad and Musavi; that the issue will be referred to the (Rafsanjani-controlled) Expediency Council rather than the (pro-Ahmadinejad) Guardian Council; and that, since the deadline for investigating fraud in the Guardian Council has been extended for five days, there can still be some kind of face-saving gesture on its way. However, I personally do not believe that the state (that is, Khamene‘i) will allow any of these measures – which leads me to the next question:

Will Rafsanjani try to oust Khamene‘i through the Experts Assembly?
There has been a steady stream of rumors alleging that Rafsanjani is seeking to gather clerical support for ousting Khamene‘i, and in particular, that a majority of the Experts Assembly have agreed to Rafsanjani’s call for convening an extraordinary session. There have even been rumors that Rafsanjani wants to replace the position of the Leader with a ‘college’ of clerics.

However, none of the reports have been verified. If they are true, it seems that Rafsanjani has failed (at least in his early attempts); and if they are untrue, the rumors must be dismissed as nothing more than the anti-Ahmadinejad coalition’s information warfare against the government.

Khamene‘i praised Rafsanjani as a comrade in last week’s sermon. He would probably not have done so if a Rafsanjani-led coup attempt were under way in Qom (something the Leader would clearly be aware of). Furthermore, even though the Experts Assembly is mandated to oversee the performance of the Leader, it is not easy for it to dismiss the Leader. I think it would demand a near-consensus – and, some observers claim, a re-write of the constitution. On top of this, the latest news is that Rafsanjani is apparently composing a communiqué in which he will praise the Leader.

Thus, even though rumors of Rafsanjani’s maneuvers persist, I do not see them as credible. Rafsanjani is certainly struggling to maintain his power and his allies in the clerical world – something the shrewd cleric is known to be good at. However, this does not mean that he is preparing to remove Khamene‘i. The Economist mentions speculations of Rafsanjani’s impending capitulation:

“So complete is Mr Rafsanjani’s eclipse, at any rate for the time being, that information on his movements and intentions now consists of hearsay. According to one account, he has been busy in the seminary town of Qom, canvassing senior clerics to back a move to sack Mr Khamenei. Another suggests he may signal his surrender to the inevitable by attending Friday’s prayers, whereas he was conspicuously absent when Mr Khamenei gave his sermon on June 19th. “

Nonetheless, intra-clergy politics is probably the least transparent and predictable of all sectors of Iranian politics. This is surely not the last we hear from Rafsanjani. It is, however, important to remember that Rafsanjani is notorious for defending his own interests, even if it demands an about-face. As I have written earlier, the protest movement should not have any hopes or expectations from Rafsanjani.

Just before I was going to post this piece, I saw that the Expediency Council – the Rafsanjani-led assembly set up to resolve conflicts between Parliament and the Guardian Council and to advise the Leader – has met today and released a statement. It praises the Leader – as always in this kind of communiqués – and hails the Iranian system of ‘religious popular rule’ (mardom-sâlâri-ye dini) as having prevailed in a glorious election that has chocked the ‘world that claims to be democratic’. The Assembly then sums up three points:
1) That both sides of the struggle adhere to the law to solve their differences
2) That the Guardian Council review all claims of fraud, which includes using ‘experts’ and creating confidence in the public
3) That all candidates cooperate closely with the Guardian Council

I think that this communiqué further supports my points above.

Questions about the crisis in Iran, pt. 1

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

Here are my reflections on some of the discussions, news and commentaries on the Iran post-election unrest in the last week or so. What was supposed to be one blog post has turned into several posts. I will publish them over the next couple of days.

Talking about a revolution?
No. As Arshin Adib-Moghaddam so eloquently argues in his important commentary:

“When some commentators say that what we are witnessing is a revolution they are at best naive and at worst following their own destructive agenda. The dispute is about the future path of the Islamic Republic and the meaning of the revolution not about overthrowing the whole system.”

I would add that to many of the demonstrators (as testified by eye witness accounts, Twitter, YouTube videos etc. etc.), the last two weeks have certainly resembled a revolution-like eruption. This is particularly so due to the conscious use of slogans, images and tactics similar to those of the revolution that brought down the Shah 30 years ago. We could maybe even speak of a ‘revolutionary’ atmosphere and feeling.

However, that does not make it a revolution. There are simply too many components so far missing for the street-level protests to bring about a revolution. Furthermore, a revolution is far from what the leaders of the movement aim for. As long as the leaders – symbolic or actual – of the protest movement are from the ‘reformist’ camp associated with Musavi and Karubi, the goal cannot be ‘revolution’.

Thus, even when we hear slogans change from ‘Bye, bye Ahmadinejad’ to ‘Bye, bye Khamene‘i’, we should still not interpret the movement as one united in the aim of completely dismantling the Islamic Republic. Unfortunately, the image produced by Western media is often that of a young, pro-Western, secular, anti-Islamic, Twitter-savvy generation’s revolt against old conservative mullahs and violent Basiji maniacs. Reality is, of course, more complex.

The protest movement is very diverse and may not be united by much more than their rejection of the official election results. Sure, there are certainly elements within the movement who are calling for, or at least hoping for, an end to the Islamic Republic. However, it is my impression that such voices are still in the minority. Most people want justice, they want their voices to be heard and their votes to be counted. Sure, many not only reject the results but also the political culture that has produced them. However, even though many have lost faith in the system, only few are prepared for yet another revolution.

That does not mean that ‘the Islamic Republic has prevailed’ or anything similar to that. Both the personal image of the Leader and his president of choice and the ideological image/legitimacy myth of the political system have been severely tarnished. No matter how much it clamps down on protesters – and even though it might launch a series of ‘pragmatic’ concessions to appease the opposition at some stage – the ruling regime can never fully recover from this ordeal.

So, in the classical sense of a wholesale toppling of a political order, this is certainly not a revolution yet.

What will happen next?
Yet, it is important to remember that the nature and discourse of resistance – both on street level, in the more or less tolerated opposition and in the illegal opposition – has changed significantly. The protest movement has been radicalized in a short time, and even though it might not reach its immediate goal in this first phase, it will remain an active volcano under the ruling regime. In the words of Hamid Dabashi:

“I see this moment we are witnessing as a civil rights movement rather than a push to topple the regime”

See Dabashi’s interview with Democracy Now! here, where he also dismisses the myth of the current crisis being a battle between ‘rich/urban and poor/rural’ (for more on that, refer to Eric Hooglund’s piece here).

However we label it, the movement will define Iran’s future. As always, I highly recommend Gary Sick’s writings, now on his blog. In his latest post, Sick wrote:

“Don’t expect that this will be resolved cleanly with a win or loss in short period of time. The Iranian revolution, which is usually regarded as one of the most accelerated overthrows of a well-entrenched power structure in history, started in about January 1978 and the shah departed in January 1979. During that period, there were long pauses and periods of quiescence that could lead one to believe that the revolt had subsided. This is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Endurance is at least as important as speed.”

I highly recommend the whole piece. It is impossible to predict the short- and long-term outcome of the crisis, but Sick has some very smart observations and important points.

Were the elections rigged?
The debate is still intense. I have referred to Meedan, where the two camps and their arguments are summed up nicely with loads of links: the case for and the case against.

The ‘rigged’-camp has been boosted by a detailed report from Chatham House, which can be downloaded here; and with another Juan Cole piece here to follow up on the report:

“The election was stolen. It is there in black and white. Those of us who know Iran, could see it plain as the nose on our faces, even if we could not quantify our reasons as elegantly as Chatham House”

As we now know, the Guardian Council has already admitted large-scale ‘irregularities’ involving not a couple of thousand but three million votes. These might not be the last officially confirmed reports of fraud. I’m amazed that there are still intelligent people out there arguing that the elections weren’t rigged. The argument that the majority of Iran observers project their own wishful thinking on the issue is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who have protested in the streets; and an insult to the intelligence of all the Iranians across the globe who are asking where their votes are.

The question we can ask is: how massive was the fraud? Are we talking 3, 5 or 15 million votes? It is, as I have argued earlier, important not to forget that Ahmadinejad surely has many followers – even if they are not 25 million strong. However, to many Iranians, the numbers doesn’t even matter any longer. We will probably never know the truth. Nonetheless, in the words of Dabashi: that the elections were rigged is now ‘a social fact’ in Iran.

Western companies helped Iranian intelligence

by Rasmus Christian Elling

I don’t normally post on a single article, but this one deserves its own spot. This is just one of so many frustrating, disgusting and depressing news coming out of the post-election unrest in Iran.

Wall Street Journal reports that ‘Iran’s Web Spying Aided by Western Technology‘. Just look at this quote:

“Nokia Siemens Networks provided equipment to Iran last year under the internationally recognized concept of “lawful intercept,” said Mr. Roome. That relates to intercepting data for the purposes of combating terrorism, child pornography, drug trafficking and other criminal activities carried out online, a capability that most if not all telecom companies have, he said.”

Remember that all protesters have been labelled ‘terrorists’ by several Iranian authorities.

If this report is true, Nokia Siemens and several other European companies have Iranian blood on their hands.

Victims of clampdown so far

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

I have received several lists of journalists, intellectuals, reformists and protesters detained so far. I cannot personally verify such lists, but I have seen these same persons mentioned in many reports – and the first list is from a trusted source. However: it is possible that some of the persons have already been released (it seems as if the tactic is to arrest some key people, then release them shortly after and picking up others); and it is, anyway, certain that there are many others who are not yet on this list. Thus, many of the ‘normal’ protesters are generally not mentioned on these lists.

First list.

Source: Human Rights activists in Iran.

Sa‘id Hajjariyan (member of the reformist party Islamic Iran’s Participation Front’s central committee, known as the theoretician of the reformist movement under Khatami; in 2000 he was shot in the head by an assailant and is today disabled)

Mohammad Atrianfar (founding member of the Executives of Construction Party, a Rafsanjani-related ‘centrist’/reformist group, former editor-in-chief of Hamshahri newspaper, has held various government positions)

Mohsen Aminzadeh (chief of the reformist coalition that backed Musavi in the presidential elections; was among the activists during the US embassy hostage crisis, founding member of the Participation Front)

Mostafa Tajzadeh (member of the Participation Front’s central committee, member of the Islamic Revolution’s Mojahedin [not to be confused with the terror group MEK], worked in Khatami’s government)

Abdollah Ramezanzadeh (former spokesman of Khatami’s government, former governor of Kurdistan province, member of Participation Front’s central committee)

Mohammad-Ali Abtahi (reformist cleric, reknown blogger, advisor to Khatami, supporter of Karubi in this election)

Behzad Nabavi (member of Islamic Revolution’s Mojahedin, former government advisor, former MP, then rejected by Guardian Council)

Mohsen Mir-Damadi (Chief secretary of the Participation Front, former MP and chief of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in the parliament, rejected by Guardian Council)

Mohsen Safa‘i Farahani (former president of Football Association, key member of Participation Front; Ahmadinejad apparently accused Farahani in one of the TV duels)

Hedayatollah Aqa‘i (member of Executives of Construction party, Musavi-supporter)

Davud Soleymani (member of Participation Front’s central committee, former MP, rejected by Guardians Council)

Ali Tajerniya (member of Musavi’s campaign’s Tehran office, member of Participation Front, former MP)

Jahanbakhsh Khanjani (former spokesman of Khatami’s Interior Ministry, member of Executives of Construction, active in Musavi’s campaign)

Mohammad Tavassoli (first Tehran mayor after the revolution, member of Nehzat-e âzâdi, The Freedom Movement of Iran’s central committee)

Ahmad Zeidabadi (journalist, chief secretary of Advâr-e Tahkim alumni organization, Karubi supporter)

Sa‘id Leylaz (expert of economy during Khatami’s presidency, Musavi supporter)

Abdolfattah Soltani (human rights lawyer, member of the Association for Human Rights Defenders)

Mohammad Quchani (editor-in-chief of E‘temâd-e melli daily, which is Karubi’s National Trust Party’s organ)

Shahab Tabataba‘i (chief of the campaign office for Youth Supporting Musavi)

Bahman Ammu‘i (journalist, reformist author)

Zhila Bani-Ya‘qub (journalist, reformist author, womens rights activist)

Keyvan Samimi (manager of Nâme monthly, one of the religious-nationalist activists (melli-mazhhabi)

Abdolreza Tajik (political activist, journalist, close to religious-nationalist forces and The Freedom Movement of Iran)

Mahsa Amrabadi (journalist at E‘temâd-e melli)

Mohammad-Reza Jala‘ipur (spokesman for Puyesh, a pro-Musavi campaign, son of Hamid-Reza Jala‘ipur, who is a reknown reformist intellectual)

Somayyeh Towhidloo (sociology expert, political activist, pro-Musavi blogger)

Ebrahim Yazdi (secretary-general of the Freedom Movement of Iran, former minister of foreign affairs, was arrested in hospital, taken away, and then – reportedly – again hospitalized)

Abdollah Mo‘meni (secretary of The Office to Consolidate Unity [Daftar-e tahkim-e vahdat], Iran’s largest student organization)

Behzad Bashu & Seyyed Khalil Mir-Ashrafi (journalists)

Haniyeh Yusefian (arrested during protests)

Ruhollah Shahvar (Mashhad), Masha‘allah Heydarzadeh, Hamideh Mahozi, Amanollah Shoja‘i, Hosein Shokuhi (Bushehr), Mojtaba Purhasan (Rasht) (all journalists)

Shiva Nazar-Ahari (human rights activist, arrested two days after elections)

Amir Ariyazand, Ali Purkheyri, Shahin Nurbakhsh, Mohammad Shokuhi, Ashkan Mojalali, Meysam Varahchehr, Sa‘id Nurmohammadi, Ali Taqipur (all members of Participation Front)

Ali Vefqi, Hamze Ghalebi, Sa‘id Nik-Khah, Ehsan Bakeri, Homa‘i, Fattahi, Zakeri (all members of Musavi’s Tehran campaign offices)

Maziyar Bahari (NY-based journalist, arrested in Tehran)

Hosein Zaman (pop singer)

Atefeh Nabavi and Mostafa Nabavi (politically active students)

Naseh Faridi (former secretary of Tarbiyate Modares University’s Islamic Student Association, human rights activist)

Maryam Ameri (member of Karubi’s election campaign office)

Zia‘od-Din Nabavi (secretary of The Council for the Defense of the Right to Study)

Second list (with many overlaps)

Source: Reporters Without Borders (
“Twenty-three journalists have been arrested in the week since the presidential election results :
14 June:
Somayeh Tohidloo, who also keeps a blog (
Ahmad Zeydabadi
Kivan Samimi Behbani
Abdolreza Tajik
Mahssa Amrabad
Behzad Basho, a cartoonist
Khalil Mir Asharafi, a TV producer
Karim Arghandeh, a blogger ( and reporter for pro-reform newspapers Salam, Vaghieh and Afaghieh, who was arrested at his Tehran home.
Shiva Nazar Ahari (see her blog:

15 June:
Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including Hamshary, Shargh and Shahrvand Emrouz, who has reportedly been taken to the security wing of Evin prison.
Saeed Hajjarian, the former editor of the newspaper Sobh-e-Emrouz, who was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June despite being badly handicapped.
Mojtaba Pormohssen, who edits the newspaper Gylan Emroz and contributes to several other pro-reform newspapers and radio Zamaneh. He was arrested in the northern city of Rasht.

16 June:
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the “Blogging Mullah,” who was arrested at his Tehran home. His blog:
Hamideh Mahhozi, arrested in the southern city of Bushehr.
Amanolah Shojai, who is also a blogger. Arrested in Bushehr.
Hossin Shkohi, who works for the weekly Paygam Jonob. Arrested in Bushehr.
Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrested in Bushehr.
17 June:
Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper Sarmayeh, who had been very critical of Ahmadinejad’s policies. He was arrested at his Tehran home.

Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad.

18 June:
Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of Etemad Meli.

20 June:
Jila Baniyaghoob, editor of website Canon Zeman Irani (,
Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee,
Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists.”

[end of quote]

Possible additions to these list:

Majid Dorri / Dari (?) (student activist)

Allegedly released:

Fa‘ezeh Hashemi (Rafsanjani’s daughter)

Where is Rafsanjani in all this?

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

Yesterday, a communiqué from the Assembly of Experts appeared on the state-associated news agency Mehr’s website. In it, the Assembly praised Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene‘i’s Friday sermon. In other words, the Assembly expressed its full support for Khamene‘i’s assertion that Ahmadinejad won the election legally and without fraud, and that Musavi and Karubi should rein in the protesters.

Or did it?

The problem with the communiqué is that it is not signed by the head of the assembly but by its secretary, Ayatollah Yazdi – not to be confused with Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, but like Mesbah, also a staunch supporter of Ahmadinejad. The same Yazdi also expressed his opposition to Musavi in another statement today, this time speaking as a member of the Guardian Council.

Yazdi stated that ‘the political system is not required to satisfy Musavi’ and that Musavi is ‘showing his true self, little by little’. He repeated the Leader’s assertions about ‘foreigners’ abusing the current crisis and utilizing ‘certain people’ to their benefit; and that ‘the people’ would ‘neutralize’ these ‘conspiracies’ against the Islamic Republic. He also stated that several politicians, including Musavi’s representatives had ‘confessed’ that the elections had been ‘healthy’.

The actual leader of the Experts Assembly is of course none other than Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani, former president and among the founders of the Islamic Republic. The current crisis is tied up with the severe intra-elite rivalries and the struggle for power between Rafsanjani and Khamene‘i. Accusations of Rafsanjani being behind the current unrest is no longer limited to pro-Ahmadinejad weblogs, but has also spread to Western media.

But there is also reason to believe that Rafsanjani – at least for the moment – is losing this battle.

There have been constant rumors, for a week now, of Rafsanjani trying to muster clerical support against Ahmadinejad – and even that Rafsanjani was trying to call for an emergency meeting in the Experts Assembly, which has the power to oversee and even dismiss the Supreme Leader. However, Khamene‘i’s statement on Friday about Rafsanjani – that Rafsanjani was a comrade and that he was not accused of financial corruption (but that his relatives were) – makes such an action seem out of question.

In other words: since Khamene‘i has more or less ‘acquitted’ Rafsanjani, there is no longer good reason to believe that Rafsanjani is in an active process of ousting Khamene‘i. This is not to say that all is good between the two grand old men of the revolution. Indeed, Rafsanjani was not even present at Khamene‘i’s historic speech on Friday, and the war on Rafsanjani continues unabated in clerical and military circles – even with calls for Rafsanjani’s executions in some Basiji circles.

Khamene‘i is well aware of Rafsanjani’s actions. Indeed, there have been constant reports of Rafsanjani being under house arrest. While I doubt that he is or will be placed under a formal house arrest, he is of course being monitored, ‘protected’ and ‘advised’ by Khamene‘i’s men.

Furthermore, Iranian media today confirmed that five members of Rafsanjani’s family – including his daughter Faezeh Hashemi, who has been present during some of the protests – have been arrested. Shahab News claimed that the rather incredible reason for the authorities to arrest them was to protect them from being assassinated by ‘rioters’ and ‘terrorists’!

There can be no doubt that Rafsanjani is under severe pressure. The protest movement should not have high expectations from Rafsanjani in the near future.


Here, I will try every now and then to bring new reports of casualties – deaths, arrests, disappearances – of the recent events in Iran.

Thursday, June 18, 10:28

I will have to stop this thread now. I have a bunch of deadlines and I wont be able to blog for a couple of days now. For a summary of the situation right now, I highly recommend Gary Sick’s piece ‘Is this another Iranian revolution?’.

On top of that, there’s the live-bloggers:


Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish

Nico Pintey at Huffington Post

… and a couple of good English-language news sources on Iran:

Tehran Bureau

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

… and tons of good stuff on the blogs in our blogroll and by many major newspapers. Keep up to date with the historic Iranian protest movement!

Wednesday, June 17, 13:10

From the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: ‘Mass Arrests and Detentions Signal Increasing Repression

Quote: ” The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today that several dozen notable figures including Saeed Hajjarian, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Behzad Nabavi, and Abdolfattah Soltani were arrested on 16 June 2009. Hajjarian was an advisor to former president Mohammad Khatami and Abtahi was director of Khatami’s office during his presidency and is now a senior adviser to Mehdi Karroubi. Nabavi is a former member of parliament and Minister of Industry and Mining. Soltani is a leading human rights lawyer and member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”.

Wednesday, June 17, 12:39

Translation from Persian to English
Source: Majmu‘e-ye fa‘âlân-e hoquq-e bashar dar irân, Human Rights Activists in Iran

“Numbers of dead in recent violence in Iran reach 32
Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 11:29.

The Association of Human Rights Activists in Iran can confirm the deaths of 32 Iranian citizens connected to the events of June 14 and June 15, based on its own fieldwork and despite numerous other reports.

Most of these citizens lost their lives in the attack on Tehran University dormitories on June 14 and the opening of fire by the paramilitary Basij forces on June 15. The violence started after Iranian citizens protested against the results of the tenth presidential elections, and the interference of security and paramilitary forces connected to the government.

In a statement, the public relations office of The Office to Consolidate Unity [Iran’s biggest student organization] yesterday reported the killing of at least seven students during the attack on dormitories of Tehran University and other universities around the country (Amnesty International said on June 15 there had been five deaths).

According to numerous and confirmed reports, the morgue at the Rasul Akram Hospital in Tehran has also stored eight people, who lost their lives during the shooting at defenseless people on Monday June 15.

In addition, Azerbaijani human rights activists have reported the killing of two citizens of Orumiyeh during fights in that city on June 15.

Finally, sources among the doctors at Erfan Hospital (which contains ICU, CCU, NICU and 14 emergency operation rooms) in Western Tehran reported that 15 people were dead in the hospital, all connected to the shooting on June 15.

Reports of civilian deaths across the country received by the Association are very high. However, it is impossible to confirm these because of the highly militarized atmosphere and widespread arrests, so the Association can only vouch for the deaths detailed above but will continue the process of documentation and reporting.”

Iranian Realities

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

There are so many things that should be said and done right now, and I do not know where to start. I have already recommended sites that live-blog and cover the events, as they unfold, much better than I would be able to do (here, here, here and here). I still recommend them and still warn against possibly exaggerated numbers and statement, with rumors and unconfirmed reports ticking in constantly. The following text will most certainly also be outdated in a few hours or days … it is extremely difficult to blog on current events while history is being written and taking constant surprising turns. Yet, I hope there are some general points for consideration that may be of interest to our readers.

A crucial debate right now is of course whether or not Friday’s presidential elections were fair, rigged or actually a coup. There seems to have emerged two (or probably several) points of view among Western observers. I am in no position to evaluate which one is correct, but there are persuasive arguments and ‘circumstantial evidence’ to back up both sides, which I recommend everyone to take a look at. It is a question not only of the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy, but also that of the protest movement; and it is a crucial question for discerning a prudent way for other governments to tackle the situation.

Two counterproductive arguments are circulating: that Western analysts’ chock over the election is a result of their own wishful thinking about a reformist change in Iran; and that ‘we should accept this fact no matter how difficult it is’. The first gleeful argument seems to neglect the fact that most analysts actually refrained from predicting the outcome of the Iranian elections for a reason, which is ever more clear now: that Iranian politics cannot be predicted. Furthermore, both arguments dismiss and insult the belief and reality of millions of Iranians who are so evidently voicing their protests these days and asking the world NOT to accept the government’s ‘facts’.

With the above disclaimers, I personally do not think that all adds up. There are good reasons to be suspicious towards the statistics presented by the Interior Ministry of Iran. While one possibly cannot dispute the statistical probability of an overall Ahmadinejad victory, there are simply too many irregularities to accept it as a fair victory (summed up by Gary Sick and Juan Cole here and here, with additional Cole comments here and some analysis here). Even IF the statistics are correct, those ruling the Islamic Republic today (Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and their allies), have done a terrible job at convincing people of their democratic ethics. Musavi will soon present his list of ‘evidence’ for fraud. However, I think it is highly unlikely that the Guardians Council – under the control of clerics appointed by the Leader and obviously supportive of Ahmadinejad – will ever admit to massive fraud. We may see a recount end in a, say, ‘52% win for Ahmadinejad’ – or even a new round of elections. But they will not change the basic feeling expressed by many Iranians these days. And this leads to my main point:

That – whatever the reality behind the elections – a huge segment of the Iranian population will never accept it as ‘reality’, or as representative of the Iran, they believe to exist. These days, the deep-running cleavages in Iranian society – not between poor and rich, not between young and old, not between North Tehran and the villages, but between conflicting cultures and worldviews – have once and for all become painfully clear. This is not a battle between ‘Islam’ and ‘modernity’: it is a battle over how to define modern Iran and Iranian identity. The protesters are not anti-Islamic, pro-democracy revolutionaries: they are Muslims who believe their democratic rights have been taken from them.

Similarly, we should resist another counterproductive tendency among observers: to forget the many millions of Iranians who not only voted for Ahmadinejad but believe in him as a historic leader and role model for all Muslims. These millions also see their fight for change as something that is shaping history these days: they see themselves as real reformers, re-revolutionizing the revolution to keep it alive, purging it of corruption to keep it healthy. Most importantly, they feel duty-bound to forcibly resist a coup attempt led by Rafsanjani, Musavi, morally corrupt individuals and traitors guided from abroad.

We should not forget that a massive pro-Ahmadinejad segment is part of Iranian realities these days, even though they get less media attention. The peril of overexposure (and implicit cheer) for the protest movement is, alas, to forget certain other realities on the ground. I am quite sure that unless the pro-Musavi protests intensifies over the next 48 hours, we will soon witness a massive show of force from that part of Iranian society. They are not just ‘paid-for mobs’: they are Iranians who are acutely concerned for their families, their nation and humanity.

I believe (and personally hope) that, in the end, Iranian unity will prevail, and that one day – maybe even sooner than we expect – the main slogan on the streets will become âshti-ye melli, National Reconciliation. The common shared ‘reality’ will, at the end of the day, be that of a centuries-old ‘Iranian nation’ – no matter how intense and irreconcilable the domestic polarization seems right now. In their coverage of the campaign, many journalists and observers called Ahmadinejad’s campaign nationalist. Well, Musavi’s was too. Specific notions of nationalism might be contested but basic patriotic pride is a feeling shared by Iranians on both sides of the spectrum – and outside of Iran.

So, right now, the ‘reality’ of the election may simply be that there was no ‘winner’: Khamene‘i announced that the Islamic Order had won, Musavi supporters that the will of the people of the Republic had prevailed. Both claims are now severely undermined; both systems are threatened.

The republic, founded through a dramatic historical process initiated by brave and visionary proto-democrats over a hundred years ago, is split in two. The republic will have to rise from the ashes to reclaim its legitimacy and authority at some stage, whether in its current form or another. The question is when and how Iranians will be able to settle their internal scores and rebuild their nation.

Keeping up-to-date with Iran protests

I do not have the time and resources to follow the many developments in Iran. Fortunately, others do! I recommend the following three live bloggers (even though much of their material is hearsay, rumors and unconfirmed reports, they are doing a great job):


Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish

Nico Pintey at Huffington Post

Twitter has become one of the most important sources for information right now. Search #IranElections.

Many Iranian websites – both oppositional and pro-government (including, on and off, Fars, Press TV, Balatarin, and Tehran Bureau) – are down due to DoS attacks from both sides; pro-reformist journalists are constantly arrested and sites closed, but more often than not, they are freed and sites opened again after short time.

I will bring a list of good analyses later today…