Tag Archives: #IranElections

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.