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Iran streets getting ready for another big protest

July 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Life in the capital of Iran seems eerily normal on the eve of what will likely be one of the larger demonstrations in recent weeks. Indeed, many fear it may be the bloodiest of all. But, as the city waits, punk skateboarders show off their moves to the thump-thump of French electro at Enqelab Sports Complex. Groups of women in chadors amble by the fragrant booths of spice dealers at the city’s famed Grand Bazaar. Young couples lounge in a coffee shop at Haft e-Tir, the epicenter of a quashed protest just last week.

Indeed, although tens of thousands are expected to march in silence July 30, on the religiously important 40-day anniversary of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young protestor whose last moments were captured on video, many more will be staying home. “It’s going to get brutal,” says one opposition adviser who claims to have spoken to top commanders of the Revolutionary Guard. The Guard, together with the paramilitary basij force, has arrested thousands and killed possibly more than a hundred protesters since the disputed June 12 presidential election. “[Security forces] will be waiting for them,” he says. (See the top 10 symbols of protests, including Neda Agha-Soltan.)

Because the opposition was denied a permit to gather at the sprawling Grand Mossala complex to commemorate those killed in the post-election crisis, the crowds will likely spread to nearby alleyways and narrow streets, the type of urbanscape where basij often corner protesters (there are no sweeping boulevards nearby like Enqelab or Revolution Street). “It’s too dangerous [to join the demonstration],” says one office manager who works in a tony neighborhood in north Tehran. “Just not worth it for me to go.” (Read a story about how Iran’s leaders are battling over Khomeini’s legacy.)

The increasingly harsh security crackdown – several protesters, including the son of an adviser to the conservative politician Mohsen Rezai, died in detention from injuries sustained during a July 9 protest – has sharply divided the population here between the dwindling numbers who defiantly still head to the streets and the vast majority who watch from the sidelines. Among the demonstrators, by now whittled to mostly students or recent graduates and those living on modest incomes, there are frequent mentions of democracy, human rights, the release of political prisoners, even the overthrow of the entire regime. But taken as a whole, it is hard to tell what their objectives are, particularly since the opposition transcends thwarted presidential contender Mir-Hossein Mousavi‘s Green Movement platform. The question remains: what exactly will they be marching – and perhaps fighting – for this Thursday?

Among a dozen likely protesters interviewed in Tehran, most of whom were recent university students, the picture that emerged was one of intense dissatisfaction with the theocratic regime, a system forcing its strict religious codes on a progressively more secular youth population. But many of them do not desire regime change, or welcome the violence that would surround such a revolution. Many recall that their parents suffered through such chaos in the run-up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution (coincidentally fueled by gatherings commemorating the 40-day anniversaries of those killed in street clashes). Nor do today’s young protesters all want greater political freedoms, such as a free press or subjecting the nomination of the Supreme Leader to election. (See pictures of the long shadow of Ayatullah Khomeini.)

The defining theme was their wish to unyoke the regime’s long reach into their private lives. They want change in the form of social freedom rather than political freedom; many have become so disillusioned by what they see as a stolen election that they refuse to participate within the current political system at all.

The last four years of repressive rule under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been jarring, following, as it did, eight years of social reforms under Mohammad Khatami. The basij militia turned into the country’s religious police, patrolling the streets at night to catch those returning from private house parties, where drugs, alcohol, dancing, and Western music – forbidden under Islamic law – could be found. Such harassment, including jail time and hefty fines, has become a part of daily life. The basij also stepped up enforcement of the ban against dating, the restrictions on public dress (berating women for letting their hijab reveal too much hair, for instance), and the crackdown on men who they suspect of being homosexuals or of soliciting prostitutes.

In response, young Iranians have been leaving the country by the jetload. “I love this country,” says one recent university student who is moving to the U.S. this fall for graduate studies. “But there is no future here for me,” he says, explaining that he is on a government blacklist for desirable jobs, due to his involvement in protests throughout the last decade. Yet at the same time, Ahmadinejad’s caustic criticism of the West made the task of securing visas next to impossible. Many of those interviewed said they hoped for better ties to the rest of world.

For now, there are more pressing matters. The protesters are preparing for Thursday’s expected battle in the streets, readying surgical masks, dousing handkerchiefs with vinegar to lessen the effects of tear gas, and circulating routes for candle vigils and silent marches. One thing is for sure, they won’t get much rest: demonstrations are already being planned for the middle of next week during an important religious festival and the inauguration of Ahmadinejad.

Update from Iranian Twitter

July 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I’m NiteOwl AKA Josh Shahryar – twitter.com/iran_translator on twitter. I’m a journalist and a human rights activist and NOT Iranian. This is a compilation of news from Iran that I’ve gathered through twitter and Iranian sites that were advertised on twitter. Remember, this is all from tweets. (My work is released under Creative Commons (CC).)

These are the important happenings that I can positively confirm from Tuesday, July 28. (Some reports maybe from the 29th as well)

Protests / Unrests

1. The Ministry of Interior refused to issue a permit for gatherings on Thursday for mourning the 40th day of Neda’s death. However, Mousavi and other reformists have indicated that they would proceed with plans for gatherings, even if a permit is not issued. Mousavi and other reformist leaders will also visit the graves of protesters who have been killed during the unrests. Mousavi has reportedly suggested that his supporters make use of religious holy days for gatherings and rallies – full confirmation of this could not be obtained.

2. Two minutes of silence will be publicly observed in many parts of the world on Thursday. For more details on this and how to participate, please follow this link: The Silent Wave. The Silent Wave – Be still for Iran on Thursday July 30, 2009.

3. Saifullah Daad’s funeral will be held on Monday (Iran Time) and many reformists and Green Movement supporters are expected to attend. Partially confirmed reports suggest that Mir Hossein Mousavi will also be present.

4. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi and the Secretary General of Amnesty International Irene Khan have published a joint statement, declaring that the situation in Iran was getting worse. They expressed concern that violent repression was possible in retaliation to protests that might be held on the day of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inauguration.

5. Mehr News has reported today that a bomb had been defused near Saderat Bank in Karaj. This remains unconfirmed for now.

6. Mousavi stencils in green are appearing all over Tehran. Picture: http://tinyurl.com/mnowfy

Opposition

7. Full Text of Mousavi’s Speech on Monday (English): Mir Hossein Mousavi میر حسین موسوی: Mousavi: “Religious celebrations are opportunities for the display of the “Green” movement’s creativity.” | Facebook (I went through as much of it as I could and the translation seems to be impeccable. Hopefully, those who were looking for it will find it useful).

8. Ninety two professors and faculty members of universities in Tabriz have sent a letter of support to Mousavi. The letter also asks the government to release political prisoners, ensure freedom of speech and stop violently oppressing peaceful protests.

9. Ayatollah Sayed Jalalludin Taheri Isfahani has written a letter supporting Rafsanjani’s stance in regard to the elections. He asked the political elite to join hands in finding a solution for the current turmoil. He stated that the regime and spirituality were in danger because of the present situation.

10. Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani also wrote a letter today to the reformist leadership. The letter states that the blood spilled, during the post election violence, was on the hands of those who have always thought little of people and have ignored their votes. He urged the reformists to continue to stand against the oppression that was taking place and said those who ignore such atrocities also share the blame.

11. In an interview, published in Etemaade Melli newspaper, Fakhrusadaat Mohtashamipour blamed the Guardian Council of overly supporting Ahmadinejad and hurting the oppositions’ campaigns using censor tactics and media as a tool.

12. Reformist leaders continue to meet with the families of protesters who’ve been killed or detained. On Monday, Mohammad Khatami met with the family of detained reporter Mohammad Ghochani and Mahdi Karroubi met with the family of Neda Aga-Soltan. Karroubi told the family of Neda that she had merged into the people’s movement and had become a symbol for freedom.

Government / International

13. Reports suggest that Ahmadinejad has assumed the responsibilities of the Minister of Intelligence after he sacked Ejaie from the post. This can only be partially confirmed at this point. There are other reports suggesting that he has appointed another high-ranking official at the Ministry as the “caretaker”.

14. Congressman Ted Poe, R-Texas, on Monday praised the women of Iran for their bravery in pursuit of their rights and freedoms. He mentioned Shadi Sadr and the fact she had been arrested. Video: YouTube – Congressman Poe Impressed By The Women Of Iran

15. Iranian MP Ali Motaheri today criticized the government’s decision to close just one detention center. He said the closing of only one detention center didn’t mean that there were not other places where people were deprived of their liberty and tortured.

16. Reports suggest that Ahmadinejad is losing support in parliament. At least two parliament members have reportedly suggested in recent days that Ahmadinejad’s government could face a vote of no confidence. However, this remains only partially confirmed. Ahmadinejad is also still under pressure by some conservatives for keeping Esfandiar Mashaie as his Chief of Staff.

17. MP Hamid Reza Katouzian of Tehran today criticized Ahmadinejad harshly over his continued support for Mashaie. He also accused Ahmadinejad of not being loyal to the Supreme Leader. Also on Tuesday, conservative MP Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghaddam expressed support for Rafsanjani and said that most of the detainees should be released since they were simply young and excited youngsters.

Arrested / Released / Killed

18. After the order by Shahrodi which stipulated a speedy release for detained protesters with minor offences, Ali Larijani – the head of the Iranian parliament – announced today that a special committee would be reviewing the situation from the beginning of the tension. The three member committee will meet with prisoners and write a detailed report about their status, rights and the interrogations they’ve gone through. The committee would also gather complaints from people who’ve been beaten or have suffered financial loss during the unrest.

19. Saeed Hajjarian is reportedly being released today. He is in failing health and human rights organizations have repeatedly warned that if not released, he could die in detention.

20. More deaths during the protests have been confirmed.

– Hossein Akhtar-Zand, 32, was killed by Basijis in Isfahan on June 15th.
It has been alleged that he was thrown from a building. I have seen pictures of his body. I am not going to post the link as they are too graphic.

– Saeed Abbasi was killed on June 20 after being shot in the head on Rodaki Ave.-

– Sajjad Qayed Rahmati, was killed on June 21 by IRG members near Navab Metro Station.

– Davood Sadri, 25, was killed on June 15 after being shot by Basijis from the rooftop of their headquarters at Moghdad near Jinnah Avenue in Tehran.

– Amir Javadi Langroodi has also died after suffering days of torture at Evin.

– A 16 year old detainee was brutally beaten in front of more than 200 other detainees at Kahrizak and died on the spot.

– Hossein Akbari was killed by security forces in the first week of unrests. He had gone missing, but his family didn’t know of his death for almost a month. His body was given to his family on July 22 and he was buried four days later.

– Mansour Ghoujazadeh, a resident of Khoy, was beaten so badly during a protest that he couldn’t survive his injuries. He was quietly buried after his family was threatened by security forces.
(But they aren’t just names, they have faces too: Faces of the Iranians killed and Arrested)

Default

21. Reports today confirmed the detention center, ordered to be shut down by Khamenei, is Kahrizak Detention Center located south of Tehran. Horrendous reports of torture and abuse are surfacing about the facility.

– One detainee reportedly suffered so much trauma to the head at Kahrizak that he went blind and died in detention.

– Detainees are forced to strip, then, electric cables are used to lash them for hours ripping into their bodies and inflicting terrible damage.

– Other detainees are crammed into small cells where many have contracted infectious diseases.

– Tehran’s Police Chief, Ibrahim Reza Radan has personally beaten and tortured detainees on his visits to the facility. His weapon of choice was reportedly a plastic hose.

22. Reports from other detention facilities describe incidents like these:

– A female detainee was supposedly forced to sign a confession to admit she had not been mistreated while in detention. She was repeatedly beaten, harassed by male interrogators, her hair was pulled and male interrogators repeatedly touched her body inappropriately to force her to confess.

– One detainee was forced to lick the commode of the detention facility’s toilet and guards forced his head down to the ground with their boots. He was also repeatedly beaten with batons.

– Guards who would refuse to subjugate prisoners to such torture were reprimanded. One guard was detained and tortured after he refused to torture a detainee.

– One Iranian expatriate, who had been detained after returning from London, was beaten so badly and harassed that he has become mentally unstable. After his release, his family has been forced to restrain him so he does not attempt to commit suicide.

(The committee formed by the parliament to investigate the cases of detainees most probably will not be visiting Kahrizak as it has already been closed. For accounts of what happened at Kahrizak, visit this link: كودن با استعداد: The Holocaust denier is casting his own version)

23. The number of protesters who have been killed in detention or on the streets has climbed to 78. According to multiple sources this number is much higher. Here is an updated list of the dead and detained Leaving Facebook… | Facebook.

24. The government is continuing to charge people money for returning the bodies of their loved ones. They are also being forced to sign papers that absolve the government of the blame for the victim’s death. Unless these two conditions are met, bodies are not returned.

25. Reports suggest that in the past two days, at least 140 prisoners were freed from Evin and other prisons. They include Mohammad Tavsoli who had been in detention for the past 43 days. Aida Mesbahi was also released today. The government has announced that the remaining detainees – which according to it number in less than 200 – have committed major crimes such as damaging property or providing weapons to other protesters that were used in violence.

26. Ali Maghami – a member of Karoubi’s campaign HQ – was arrested yesterday.

27. Unconfirmed reports indicate that two political prisoners were hung in Zahedan, Sistan o Baluchestan province. The prisoners were primarily persecuted because they belong to the Sunni branch of Islam which is a minority in Shia-majority Iran. There is still no news on the fate of seven detained members of the Baha’i faith.

Media

28. Javan Daily has accused the Association of Anonymous Addicts of also having a hand in the current turmoil. (Next, it will be the Pope!)

29. Khanaye Moseeqi (House of Music), an organization of Iranian musicians, has released a letter defending Saeed Shajarian. He has been repeatedly insulted by the government owned media after he asked them to stop broadcasting his patriotic songs.

Miscellaneous

30. Francesco Totti, top Italian footballer, sent a message in Farsi to Iranian youth fighting or their freedom:

Note: I thought about cutting down the number of GBs to less than 7 a week. But honestly, so much happens every day that I find it difficult to keep the GBs as brief as they should be. So until further notice, one a day will be the norm.

*Discuss/Annotate: http://aic.openmsl.net/wiki/index.php/Green_Brief_42 ; Create it if it doesn’t exist.

**If you wanna republish the Green Brief, please visit this page: For Bloggers, News Sites and Forum who want to republish the Green Brief Plesae Read! – Why We Protest – IRAN

***For Radio Broadcasters: Green Brief Pronounciation Guide – Why We Protest – IRAN

****(A list of all the Green Briefs: The Green Briefs

*****A hearty thanks to Sahar joon and S joon for helping me out with proof-reading and very valuable tips. Also, a BIG THANKS to all the translators who’re spending their precious time on getting this to as many people as possible.

Read this if you want to help or get help!

Helpers:

A. You can retweet this link and help others know what is going on in Iran.

B. Iranmapping: iranmap.whyweprotest.net ; If you would like to help out with compiling all the news stories from Iran in a geo-spatial context for Iranmapping, please follow the instruction over at IranMapping – Anonymous Intelligence Collective

C. The government in Iran is still increasing internet filtering and throttling in an attempt to silence their people. Anonymous info shows that many in Iran are looking for proxy and Tor information in Tehran and all around the country. Please donate your bandwidth to help bring down the Iran Curtain. Here are links on how to help and get help on this:


A group of clerics in Iran has called Iran’s presidential vote invalid

July 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A group of clerics in Iran has called Iran’s presidential vote invalid, contradicting official results.

On Saturday, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that post-election events had caused bitterness.

An influential group of religious scholars seen as politically neutral during the presidential election called the country’s highest election arbiter, the Guardian Council, biased, and said the June 12 election was “invalid.” Earlier, it had endorsed the official result that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated Mir Houssein Mousavi and other challengers by a wide margin.

The group, with no government role, has little practical ability to change the election outcome. But its new posture may carry moral weight with Iranians after security forces have quashed street protests and jailed hundreds of opposition supporters.

Iran to put British Embassy staff on Trial

July 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Iran has arrestest British Embassy staff and is going to put them on trial for fomenting postelection turmoil.

The announcement fueled calls in Europe for tougher action against Iran. Britain is pressing for members of the European Union to pull their ambassadors out of Tehran to protest the staffers’ arrests last week.

After quashing the street demonstrations, Iran’s leadership has been trying to erase any lingering doubts about the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by portraying the unrest as sparked by foreign meddling, not by public anger over the June 12 election, which the protesters said was fraudulent. Prosecuting the detained Iranian members of the British Embassy staff could help boost its case before the Iranian public.

Read more details here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090703/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_election

Bon Jovi and Armenian/Iranian singer Andy jointly sing for Iran

June 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Bon Jovi and Armenian/Iranian singer Andy have joind to sing for Iran. The song is a remix of “Stand by Me” with some Persian lyrics. The video of the track can be seen on Andy’s website and Youtube

The Opposition Weights Its Options

June 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The chances of the iranian opposition now bringing down the regime on the streets now are very slim, even if they went on head to head battle with the security forces. Even though 17 people have lost their lives to the cause and with hundreds injured filling up the hospitals, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of force that the authorities could use to quell such an uprising. To add to that, the security forces have shown no sign of wavering in their commitment to stop the protesters, completely and utterly crushing  any resistance they encounter. The warnings have been getting louder than there will be absolutely no tolerance for those violating the band on demonstrations and the signs are that all major opposition leaders including presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi are going to be arrested sooner or later. Probably sooner if the protest grow stronger. In the immediate aftermath of the election, there were a million protestors on the streets, over the last two weeks it has now dwindled to just three thousand now, and although the numbers are less the opposition has not gotten any weaker.

Despite this drop in the numbers of protesters, it appears as if the opposition is gearing for a long term campaign against the president. The opposition has very strong ties in both the civil society and deep within the regime, leading some to believe that the strength of the protests were meant to show the popular support that it has and that their demands cannot be ignored for very long.

Ultimately it looks they will be pushing for some form of compromise, as it is going to be very difficult for the regime to face the coming challenges without the support of the people, who support the opposition by a vast majority. The end game is going to be how much either party is willing to give up in this compromise, this could play out over the next weeks or even the next few months but despite the dropping voracity of the protests, this isn’t over.

The Life And Death Of Neda

June 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In what has become an iconic symbol of the struggle for freedom in iran, the LA Times ran an amazine story by Borzou Daragahi on the death of Neda Agha-Soltan. Her death, recorded on a cellphone camera as she bled to death close to the scene of the protests spread online and across the world in minutes. This is what the article had to say:

The first word came from abroad. An aunt in the United States called her Saturday in a panic. “Don’t go out into the streets, Golshad,” she told her. “They’re killing people.”

The relative proceeded to describe a video, airing on exile television channels that are jammed in Iran, in which a young woman is shown bleeding to death as her companion calls out, “Neda! Neda!”

A dark premonition swept over Golshad, who asked that her real name not be published. She began calling the cellphone and home number of her friend Neda Agha-Soltan who had gone to the chaotic demonstration with a group of friends, but Neda didn’t answer.

At midnight, as the city continued to smolder, Golshad drove to the Agha-Soltan residence in the eastern Tehran Pars section of the capital. As she heard the cries and wails and praising of God reverberating from the house, she crumpled, knowing that her worst fears were true. “Neda! Neda!” the 25-year-old cried out. “What will I do?”

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was shot dead Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators who allege rampant vote-count fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The jittery cellphone video footage of her bleeding on the street has turned “Neda” into an international symbol of the protest movement that ignited in the aftermath of the June 12 voting. To those who knew and loved Neda, she was far more than an icon. She was a daughter, sister and friend, a music and travel lover, a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life.

It is a crying shame that so many young people have to lose their lives in the quest for freedom. They deserve our support, and our prayers.

Obama Steps Up Criticism of Iranian Regime

June 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In what was a departure from the usual diplomatic approach to iran, US president Barack Obama declared that he was “appalled and outraged” by the way in which the iranian regime crushed the protesters. Ever since the election victory and the subsequent protests, obama has been careful to maintain the diplomatic path in dealing with the crisis, but this reversal in his message indicates that there is only so much that can be tolerated.

“I strongly condemn these unjust actions,” he said. “I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering in Iran’s affairs.”

“But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.” he added.

In particular he paid tribute to Neda Agha Soltan, the protester who has become known as the “Angel of Freedom” after images of her death in Tehran were posted on the internet.

He said: “We have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.

“While this loss is raw and painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.”

The president has come under criticism from republican lawmakers and commentators that he did not criticize the regime more strongly and remained quiet on whether the vote was rigged. While this was done to discourage any insinuation that there was american support for an insurrection, it has only resulted in the administrations initial response appearing soft amid the tragic loss of life.

The people have however now changed tactics and have switched from day to night for their protests. Yelling slogans and God is great from the rooftops and honking horns and flashing lights at night. “People
are calmly protesting, more symbolically than with their voices,” said a Tehran resident.