Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran Update

Mousavi called for his followers not to march yesterday out of conern for their safety - they marched anyway. Thus with today's march a fait accompli, Mousavi has gotten out in front of it and called for public demonstrations today. Plus there has been some fascinating reporting from at least one foreign correspondent still inside of Iran. What is particularly interesting about it is how he has observed the riot police now protecting the Mousavi protestors.

This from Fox News:

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a direct challenge Wednesday to the country's supreme leader and cleric-led system, calling for a mass rally to protest disputed election results and violence against his followers.

A crackdown on dissent continued, with more arrests of opposition figures reported, and the country's most powerful military force — the Revolutionary Guard — saying that Iranian Web sites and bloggers must remove any materials that "create tension" or face legal action.

In one high-profile display of apparent opposition support, several Iranian soccer players wore green wrist bands — the color of Mousavi's campaign — during a World Cup qualifying match in South Korea that was televised in Iran.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Mousavi to pursue his demands through the electoral system and called for Iranians to unite behind their Islamic government, an extraordinary appeal in response to tensions over the presidential vote. But Mousavi appears unwilling to back down, issuing on his Web site a call for a mass demonstration Thursday.

"We want a peaceful rally to protest the unhealthy trend of the election and realize our goal of annulling the results," Mousavi said.

He called for his followers to wear or carry black in mourning for the alleged election fraud and the deaths of protesters, and said there should be "a new presidential election that will not repeat the shameful fraud from the previous election." . . .

Election tensions appeared to be spreading further into the Iranian political and religious classes — and into the sports world.

Mousavi's Web site said seven Iranian players wore the green bands on their wrists in the first half of the World Cup qualifier, although most were forced to take them off in the second half. Mehdi Mehdavi-Kia kept his green band on throughout the game, which Iran and South Korea drew 1-1.

Fans from Iran unfurled a banner in the stands that read "Go To Hell Dictator," and waved Iran's national flags emblazoned with the plea "Free Iran."

Blogs and Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been vital conduits for Iranians to inform the world about protests and violence.

The Web became more essential after the government barred foreign media Tuesday from leaving their offices to report on demonstrations on the streets of Tehran.

Mousavi condemned the government for blocking Web sites, saying the government did not tolerate the voice of the opposition.

The violence has left at least seven people dead, according to Iran's state media, although videos and photos posted by people inside Iran show scenes of violence that have not been reported through official channels. The newly imposed media restrictions make it virtually impossible to independently verify much of the information, which includes dramatic images of street clashes and wounded demonstrators. . . .

The Revolutionary Guard, an elite military force answering to Khamenei, said through the state news service that its investigators have taken action against "deviant news sites" that encouraged public disturbances. The Guard is a separate military with enormous domestic influence and control of Iran's most important defense programs. It is one of the key sources of power for the ruling establishment. . . .

State media said Khamenei would deliver the sermon at Friday prayers, the most important religious address of the week. The supreme leader generally leads Friday prayers only two or three times a year. . . .

The U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said that several dozen noted figures associated with the reform movement have been arrested, among them politicians, intellectuals, activists and journalists.

Tehran-based analyst Saeed Leilaz, who is often quoted by Western media, was arrested Wednesday by plainclothes security officers who came to his home, said his wife, Sepehrnaz Panahi.

At least 10 Iranian journalists have been arrested since the election, Reporters Without Borders said, and a Web site run by former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said the reformist had been arrested.

Prominent reformer Saeed Hajjarian has also been detained, Hajjarian's wife, Vajiheh Masousi, told The Associated Press. Hajjarian is a close aide to former President Mohammad Khatami. . . .

Read the entire article.

There is still at least one Western reporter, Robert Fisk of the Independent, still moving about Iran, despite the ban by Iran's mad mullahs. Here are some snippets from his latest report:

I've just been witnessing a confrontation, in dusk and into the night, between about 15,000 supporters of Ahmadinejad - supposedly the president of Iran - who are desperate to down the supporters of Mr Mousavi, who thinks he should be the president of Iran.

There were about 10,000 Mousavi men and women on the streets, with approximately 500 Iranian special forces, trying to keep them apart.

It was interesting that the special forces - who normally take the side of Ahmadinejad's Basij militia - were there with clubs and sticks in their camouflage trousers and their purity white shirts and on this occasion the Iranian military kept them away from Mousavi's men and women.

In fact at one point, Mousavi's supporters were shouting 'thank you, thank you' to the soldiers.

One woman went up to the special forces men, who normally are very brutal with Mr Mousavi's supporters, and said 'can you protect us from the Basij?' He said 'with God's help'.

It was quite extraordinary because it looked as if the military authorities in Tehran have either taken a decision not to go on supporting the very brutal militia - which is always associated with the presidency here - or individual soldiers have made up their own mind that they're tired of being associated with the kind of brutality that left seven dead yesterday - buried, by the way secretly by the police - and indeed the seven or eight students who were killed on the university campus 24 hours earlier.

Quite a lot of policeman are beginning to smile towards the demonstrators of Mr Mousavi, who are insisting there must be a new election because Mr Ahmadinejad wasn't really elected. Quite an extraordinary scene. . . .

I haven't ever seen the Iranian security authorities behaving fairly before and it's quite impressive.

Certainly the authorities were very struck by the enormous number of people who turned out for Sunday's march ... from the Square of Revolution to the Square of Freedom.

I walked alongside that march the whole way and was stunned to find one million people at the end, it must have been one million at least.

There were seven killed after that instant alone so we're having a lot of deaths, much more than we realise, in fact some people say there are more deaths than have been recorded.

There was 100 metres of no man's land between these thousands of people and I actually walked up and listened to a Basij guy urging his people on to attack the forces of the opposition, saying 'we fought and defended our country in the Iran-Iraq war and now we have to defend it again and we have to move forward'. You could actually just walk a few metres and talk to Mousavi's people.

Some of them came down and tried to embrace the Basij and indeed the leaders who support the man who indeed thinks he is the president. One man, in the Muslim tradition, tried to kiss him on both cheeks and the Basij man moved back irritably and angry, he didn't want to be touched by this man.

There was a great deal of anger on the part of Ahmadinejad's supporters.

. . . I went to the earlier demonstration in the centre of the city, which was solely by Ahmadinejad's people, immensely boring, although I did notice one or two points where they were shouting 'death to the traitor'. They meant Mousavi.

You've got to realise that what's happening at the moment is that the actual authorities are losing control of what's happening on the streets and that's very dangerous and damaging to them.

It's interesting that the actual government newspapers reported at one point that Sunday's march was not provocative by the marchers. They carried a very powerful statement by the Chancellor of the Tehran University, condemning the police and Basij, who broke into university dormitories on Sunday night and killed seven students.

They've even carried reports of the seven dead after the march on Sunday ... almost as if, not to compromise but they're trying to get a little bit closer to the other side.
. . . Someone, presumably the supreme leader, who is constitutionally the leader of all Iran and the clerical leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, he's going to have to work out a way of stopping these constant street confrontations. . . .

Read the entire story. I can't reiterate often enough to watch what happens with Iran's military. They really hold the key to the success or failure of this revolt in the long run. The next major event will be from Khameini in his Friday Prayers.

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