Saturday, October 31, 2009

Regime fears patriotism: Cyrus tomb blocked as hundreds try to celebrate 'father of human rights'

Police blocked cars on their way to Pasargadae, the site of Cyrus the Great's tomb, and chased away hundreds who had convened at the complex in central Iran to celebrate Cyrus the Great Day on Thursday, according to opposition news sources.

October 29, designated as International Cyrus the Great Day, is the date the founder of the Persian Empire entered Babylon in 340 BC. His proclamation that day was inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder, considered by some to be the world's first human rights charter.

Iranians from across the country were driving towards Persepolis and Pasargadae when their automobiles were blocked and turned around by the police on Thursday, according to Mardomak. The hundreds who had managed to make it to the mausoleum complex were chased away by security forces or blocked on the road going up to the tomb.

The following is footage (courtesy of and NedaSoltan Youtube channel)of some of the events that day. Security guards can be heard telling the people, 'The complex is closed.' One of the individuals tells the official, 'Someone was reading a poem about Cyrus and they took him away.'

Another person says, 'We are here for our patriotism, for Cyrus, for the human rights that find their source here.'

'I've come all the way from the Caspian Sea. Is this right?' complains one man, before another says, 'We've come from Ramsar, Abadan, from all over. We've come from all over.'

After conversing with the officials, the participants began chanting, 'We exist! We exist!' and 'Rest in peace Cyrus, we are awake!'

The crowd then shouted, 'Cyrus is our father, Iran is our homeland' and 'Long live Iran!'

They then chanted, 'Free thought is our inalienable right,' a noteworthy transformation of the regime slogan of 'Nuclear energy is our inalienable right' that had been prevalent in past years.

'Be free, oh Iran,' they shouted before embarking on a forceful rendition of the pre-revolutionary patriotic song 'Ey Iran.'

Friday, October 30, 2009

Student criticizes Khamenei at official gathering

(photos of Wednesday's event courtesy

A lone student at a gathering of the country's academic elite took the unprecedented step of criticizing Leader Ali Khamenei in his presence on Wednesday morning, according to the Office for the Preservation and Publication of the Works of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and opposition news sites.

The young man, initially called 'a mathematics student at Sharif University and a winner at the International Mathematics Olympiad' by Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi, made his remarks after the official speakers had completed their speeches and before Khamenei was to make his address. The student has since been identified as Mahmoud Vahidnia. The gathering at Khamenei's complex in north Tehran preceded the 3rd National Conference of Young Elites.

Sharif University students news site reported that Vahidnia has been in the custody of the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards since Thursday evening. The conservative Alef web site, run by Principlist lawmaker and head of the Majlis Research Center Ahmad Tavakoli, claimed yesterday that Vahidnia was not arrested and published an interview with the Sharif University student. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is interesting to note that Alef described Vahidnia as 'a young academic elite who courageously voiced some criticisms.'

Vahidnia spoke for close to 20 minutes despite the protests of some of the spectators. As Khamenei looked on, he critiqued the state radio and television networks; the stifling security climate surrounding the press; the inability to voice criticism against the Supreme Leader; and the power structure in the country embodied by the Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts, according to Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi.

The ambience at the gathering suggests that Khamenei did not expect the unscheduled speaker to voice such concerns, but that once the student had begun his criticism it would have been hard to silence him without loss of face in front of hundreds of the nation's academic elites. Khamenei has also played the part of a self-sacrificing innocent on past occasions, most famously at Tehran Friday Prayers, but his magnanimous calls of 'Well, if a few people want to attack me, let them' were always met with the wailing tears of the attendants.

Once he was at the lectern, the Sharif Univrsity student said that the previous speakers who had read from sheets of paper did not represent all the country's elites and that no one had elected them, said an individual who was present at the gathering. The eyewitness said that this first comment was greeted with applause.

Vahidnia denounced state radio-television's skewed coverage of the post-election events and the character assassination of popular figures. He reminded the participants that the head of the state media is named by the Supreme Leader. 'The radio and television networks operate under you and you name the head of the broadcaster. Either the broadcaster is acting this way according to your orders or you are not overseeing it,' said the student, according to the Voice of America. The Sharif University student also regretted the closure of opposition newspapers.

Vahidnia bluntly declared that the Leader should be open to criticism and that Khamenei's entourage had turned him into an idol, according to Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi. An eyewitness at the event reported that the young man said, 'When you, who are a father figure, treat your opponents in a certain manner, lower-level officials display the kind of behavior that everyone knows about and everyone knows about what occurred in the prisons.'

The student added that the current power structure, including the Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts, is detrimental to religious democracy.

Though regime and opposition sources diverge on some of the details, the account of the events published by the Office for the Preservation and Publication of the Works of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader's personal archives, is extraordinary nonetheless.

student returns to seat
'After the last person who was programmed to express his views, the participants awaited the words of the Leader of the Revolution, but he asked the master of ceremonies, "Is there anyone left among the friends who were supposed to speak?"' wrote Khamenei's office. The master of ceremonies responded, 'With your permission, every one of the thousand people here would like to talk,' to great laughter.

At this point, several students stood up and were asked to sit back down by the organizers of the ceremony. 'But the Leader pointed to one of those young people and said, "That gentleman who was standing and was forced to sit down... You go ahead,"' according to Khamenei's office.

'The young student stood up and began speaking. Since the Leader could not hear him, he came to the lectern and, after introducing himself, began his comments. His words had a different tone compared to the previous speeches.'

'Do our radio and television networks present a true picture of the world and our country, or a false and caricature-like picture?' Vahidnia asked. 'Does state radio-television allow different opinions to defend themselves? Opinions which are criticized and even attacked in this same media outlet? Does state radio-television quote individuals and describe events in an honest and fair manner?'

The student then turned to the topic of critiquing the Supreme Leader. 'I have been reading newspapers and magazines in a serious manner for four or five years. In all this time, I cannot remember reading one article which has criticized the Leadership. Critiques of the Leader can be voiced generally or expressed in particular in the Assembly of Experts,' the student said, according to Khamenei's office. 'I feel that if this does not happen, it will lead to discord and spite. For example, a simple critical observation, because it does not find the proper place to express itself, can become malicious and unfair.'

As he had been speaking for a long time, the student asked Khamenei if he could continue, according to the Leader's personal office.

But the eyewitness who was invited to the event said that the Sharif University student had been heckled by a few Basijis throughout his comments and that someone finally handed a piece of paper to Vahidnia. After reading the note, the young man turned to Khamenei and said that he had been told his time had run out and he asked to continue. The Basijis called out a prayer and told the student to 'finish it up.'

Khamenei responded however, 'I would like you to continue. Time had already run out earlier, but you go ahead.'

Vahidnia began speaking about the way security forces had confronted demonstrators after the election. 'If we had more convincing methods and did not employ violence except when necessary, would our regime not endure better? Would our people not be more united? Because I believe that true unity, more than something which is obtained through advice, is the result of the behavior of the people towards the government and the behavior of the government towards the people.'

Once the Sharif University student had finished, several individuals stood up in protest and asked to respond, according to Khamenei's web site. The eyewitness at the event said that the student was applauded enthusiastically.

'His very words show that criticism is possible,' said one participant, according to the ayatollah's office. The Leader said, 'Put this down to the lack of time and show tolerance. God willing, God will give us the capacity to understand properly, see properly, and speak properly.'

'It was now the host's turn, and everyone impatiently awaited the Agha's words or, to better describe it, his reaction,' said Khamenei's office, using the term which means sir or gentleman, and refers to the Leader. According to the eyewitness at the gathering, Khamenei appeared somewhat disconcerted and said that he had not wanted to talk about such issues and that he would have preferred to discuss scientific and academic topics.

'In these student and university events that take place here, when I see some people not express comments that they think I don't like out of regard or respect... I am upset when they are not uttered. I am absolutely not upset when they are uttered,' said Khamenei, according to his office. 'How I wish that the opportunity existed for these things to be said, so that one could bind those pages together and open the book of utterances, so that many truths could come to light.'

The Leader said that he was also dissatisfied with some of the actions of the state radio-television, but that, as ususal, he considered fairness to be the necessary condition for healthy criticism.

But in response to the student's question about the accuracy of the state media's portrayal of the country, Khamenei while agreeing with the criticism, turned it on its head and made the strange observation that, 'The picture is incomplete. There are many noteworthy and great advances that Iranian radio and television do not show. [...] If radio-television could properly reflect the truth in the country, in the same way that the television in this or that western country can portray lies as truth by employing great experience and through artistic exploitation, the young generation would have much greater devotion to its country, its religion, and the regime of the Islamic Republic.'

And Khamenei's response to the coverage of the election was equally equivocal. 'I'm dissatisfied with many of the programs of the [state radio-television.] I was not pleased that, from March and even before, there was television coverage of some of the election campaign trips, comments that were made, demonstrations that took place, and disputes that existed.' Many observers were amazed at the extraordinary openness of the media coverage of the presidential election campaign, which reached a climax with a series of unprecedented and heated debates between the candidates. Khamenei apparently regrets the lack of censorship during those few months.

As for criticism of the Supreme Leader, Khamenei said, 'I didn't say that no one should criticize me. I welcome criticism. And, of course, people do criticize. It is not the place to explain this point. There is criticism, much criticism, not a little criticism. I receive these and understand them.'

A Basiji stood up at this point and cried out that he would like to come up and kiss Khamenei's hand, said the eyewitness at the gathering. Khamenei pulled out his kerchief and left it for him, before disappearing behind the curtain at the rear of the stage. The elite had been told that Khamenei would lead a prayer at the end of the ceremony, but his hasty departure precluded that.

According to Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi, Vahidnia was confronted by intelligence agents after the ceremony.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

'Either my corpse will come out of Evin prison, or I'll be freed': Hengameh Shahidi goes on hunger strike

A jailed adviser of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi has gone on a hunger strike to obtain her release and protest the abusive conditions of her detention, according to Iranian media reports.

Hengameh Shahidi, a prominent journalist and women's rights activist, went on a hunger strike on Sunday evening, a day before being transferred from wing 209, the security and intelligence section of Evin prison, to the general ward. The authorities had informed her family that she would be freed on 100 million toumans bail (about $100,000) a month ago, but have gone back on their word, according to Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi.

Shahidi was arrested on June 30. As a senior member of the Etemad Melli Party, she advised Karroubi on women's affairs during the presidential campaign.

Prison authorities have threatened to take Shahidi before Evin's disciplinary committee if she continues her hunger strike, but the Norouz news site reports that the outraged political activist told her family, 'Were the individuals who beat me in the basements of Evin prison brought before the disciplinary committee?'

Displaying the kind of psychological torture they have employed since her arrest, intelligence agents told Shahidi that she would be released on Monday. 'Two nights ago, resorting to ruses and giving promises of my release, they took me to the gates of Evin, but after I had endured severe mental pressure, the Intelligence Ministry handed me over to the normal prison authorities instead of releasing me,' Shahidi said.

Shahidi has also refused any medication since Sunday. She must take 28 pills a day to treat her heart condition and chronic depression, and her family and lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, are extremely concerned by this development. But according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Shahidi said to relatives, 'This is the only way I can protest the situation I am in. Either my corpse will come out of Evin prison, or I'll be freed.'

Shahidi went on her first hunger strike in late August after having spent 50 days in solitary confinement. She was moved to a cell which she shared with another political prisoner, journalist Fariba Pajouh, in wing 209 on September 6. She was only allowed to walk in an outdoor yard three times a week for 20 minutes, wrote Iran Human Rights Voice.

Fellow prisoners who have since been released have said that Shahidi was subjected to intense mental and physical abuse to get her to confess to illegitimate relations. Wing 209's interrogators appear to have an abnormal prurient interest in sexual matters. Pajouh, Shahidi's cellmate, has reportedly also suffered at the hands of guards eager to get her to confess to sexual misdeeds.

Shahidi was repeatedly threatened with execution and, at least on one occasion, a noose was placed around her neck and she was told to prepare for death.

After visiting her daughter in late August, Shahidi’s mother stated, 'When I saw her, she was not fully conscious. When I pulled her into my arms and stroked her head and her back, she cried out in pain. I told her to resist and to not confess against herself. She said: "They give us pills that drain your consciousness and incapacitate your thought processes. Every day, they come into my cell repeatedly and say, We want to take you to be executed."'

Shahidi's lawyer Mohammad Mostafaie was prevented from meeting her to get her signature on an attorney-client agreement. He complained to the prosecutor in early October and was finally granted a visit. Mostafaie said on Saturday, 'Criminal charges are being brought against Ms. Shahidi and her case has been transfered to the courts.'

Azadeh Shahidi, her sister, told Norouz today that her family had been unable to have any physical contact with Hengameh for two weeks. 'Yesterday, we finally managed to talk to her through a glass screen,' she said.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

'We'll crush you, we won't let you leave the prison as a hero': prisoner Ahmad Zeidabadi denied basic rights, says wife

Ahmad Zeidabadi, journalist and secretary general of the national alumni association, Advareh Tahkimeh Vahdat, has been in prison for over four months and his family has been unable to see him for over 40 days. Radio Farda's Mania Mansour spoke to Mahdiyeh Mohammadi, Zeidabadi's wife, in an interview broadcast on the morning show of Wednesday, October 28, 2009. A translation of the interview follows.

Listen to the interview. Begins at 19:25 mark. 

Mahdiyeh Mohammadi:
We haven't seen Mr. Zeidabadi or even heard his voice in 43 days. Last week, I met with the prosecutor and he said, We've told the prison not to prevent any visits and that even murderers should be able to see their families. I asked him to write out a visit permit and he acceded to my request. Yesterday, when we went there, we filled out a visitor card and the official did not respond to us from 9 AM to noon. Then we waited for another three hours, from noon until 3 PM, and even got as far as the visiting room and sat behind the glass screen. We sat with the hope that they would bring Mr. Zeidabadi. Then at 3 PM, they told us that his interrogator had not given his permission for the visit. In practice, there is no law. The interrogator had deny the prosecutor's order. The interrogator can trample the law. The interrogator can bring any pressure he wants on the accused to make him illegaly accept the charges against him.

Mania Mansour:
Did they give any reason for denying the visit?

Mahdiyeh Mohammadi:
Not at all. He didn't give any reason. In our last visit, Mr. Zeidabadi told us that they had brought back his initial interrogator who used to beat him. I don't know who this man is. Whoever he is, he is a very violent person and is allowed to do as he pleases. A person who disregards the prosecutor's orders does not submit to any law. In our last visit, Mr. Zeidabadi told us that the interrogator had said, We'll crush you, we won't let you leave the prison as a hero. Mr. Zeidabadi has not committed any illegal act. None of the charges apply to him and that's what he's saying. 'These charges do not apply to me. I've done nothing illegal.'

Mania Mansour:
Have they scheduled another visit?

Mahdiyeh Mohammadi:
Absolutely not. I sat there with three sick children for six hours to obtain this! I told them, I don't want a visit. I waited for six hours there, with all that strees and pressure... All the innocent families endure this. I don't want another visit. I just want to know whether Mr. Zeidabadi is alive or dead. That's all.

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Two companies linked to Iranian armed forces 'win' national data center contract in rigged bidding

Two companies closely linked to the Islamic regime's armed forces have won a massive contract to run the national data center after a call for bids was canceled by the government, according to Sarmayeh daily

Information Systems Iran, known as ISIRAN, and Zaeim Electronic Industries were awarded the contract after the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a directive which rendered the project confidential and annulled the call for tenders. The national data center will house the digital information and documents of the state's various bodies.

This development comes after the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bought a controlling stake in the Telecommunication Company of Iran through a proxy, the Tosse'eh Etemad Mobin consortium, in what was hailed as the biggest deal in the history of the Tehran Stock Exchange in late September. A private company, Pishgaman Kavir Group, had been disqualified from bidding on security grounds the day before the winner was to have been announced. The other group left in the competition, Moaseseyeh Mehr Eghtesadi Iranian, was also controlled by the IRGC through the Basij militia. (For more on the Iran telecom sale, go here)

The Telecommunication Infrastructure Company, under the control of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, had organized the call for tenders for the national data center. Four entities had responded to the call and purchased the bidding documents: Tacfam, ISIRAN, Zaeim, and a consortium made up of seventeen companies. Last month, TIC announced that a winner had been chosen, but did not name the group. After the government's directive was issued, the call for tenders was cancelled and ISIRAN and Zaeim were declared the joint winners. They will collectively run the national data center.

ISIRAN and Zaeim's connections to the armed forces have provoked concern given increasingly frequent indications that the IRGC is extending its influence not only into the country's political and security structures, but also into the economy.

In May 2003, German police halted the export of 44 high-voltage switches which were being dispatched to Zaeim Electronic Industries, according to the Wall Street Journal. The switches propagate powerful sound waves that can be used to dissolve kidney stones or sterilize food. They can also be employed as triggers for nuclear weapons. The switches had been ordered by German businesswoman Eva-Marie Hack on behalf of naturalized Swedish citizen Eddie Johansson, an Iranian native whose name at birth was Hojjat Naghash Souratgar. In a factually and semantically challenged statement, Zaeim Electronic Industries said, 'We strongly deny that we have been in the way of acquiring military equipment nuclear.'

ISIRAN's military links are more clearly established. It is a subsidiary of Iran Electronics Industries - company motto 'Western performance, eastern price' - which builds, among a diverse range of products, missile launchers and tactical communication systems. The public relations office of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics describes ISIRAN's principle mission as 'technical, training, and refurbishment support of the Armed Forces computer services.'

In an article published last year, Gooya News reported that the main staff of the Ministry of Defense had been moved to the ISIRAN building in Tehran's Nobonyad Square, which happens to be the postal address of Parchin Chemical Industries, which is under UN sanctions for proliferation transgressions.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: Iran regime issues confidential gag order to press on eve of November 4 mass protests

The Iranian regime has sent a warning to the country's press to censor their coverage of mass protests planned by the Green Movement on November 4, according to a confidential letter published by opposition web site Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi. (A translation of the complete letter is available at the end of this article.)

November 4 is the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, and for thirty years the Islamic regime has celebrated the date with demonstrations against what it calls 'world arrogance,' a catchphrase which usually denotes America.

But this year's events are attracting unwanted guests as the opposition movement has announced plans to exploit the official ceremonies to organize its own protests around the country. The tactic has proven successful on two prior occasions, Tehran Friday Prayers in July and Ghods Day in September.

In a letter stamped 'urgent' and 'top secret,' Deputy Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Alireza Malekian warned against steps taken by 'groups opposed to the regime' which may 'deviate public opinion from the ceremonies on the national day of struggle against world arrogance.' The missive was dated October 22 and addressed to the directors of national newspapers, news services, and web sites.

Malekian, who is in charge of press and information affairs, called on the media outlets to not publish 'any news, photos, or topics' which may provoke tension or breach public order.

Malekian spent much of the 1980s as a student leader at the University of Medical Sciences. He did not advance beyond an undergraduate degree since his energies appear to have been focused on his role as a political commissar and mobilizer of the student jihad for the Iran-Iraq War. He came late to the world of journalism, having first been rewarded with the position of deputy head of the University of Medical Sciences, before transferring to the conservative Keyhan daily as deputy editor. Keyhan is directly controlled by the office of Leader Ali Khamenei.

Malekian stressed that his letter was classified and should be safeguarded as such. At least one of his correspondents failed to heed his orders.

The following is a translation of the letter:

Islamic Republic of Iran
Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance
Deputy Minister for Press and Dissemination of Information Affairs

[stamped] Urgent
[stamped] Top Secret

To all honorable directors of newspapers
honorable general managers of domestic news services
Internet web sites.

With greetings,

Given the possibility that groups opposed to the regime may engage in actions on the eve of November 4, the anniversary of the seizure of America's den of spies, and may deviate public opinion from the ceremonies on the national day of struggle against world arrogance, and given that some domestic political factions, in continuation of the post-presidential election issues, possibly intend to politically exploit the situation and disrupt the peace, following up on past correspondence and stressing that the outcome of the tenth presidential election has been confirmed by official and legal authorities, I request that you refrain from disseminating any news, photo, or topic which can lead to tension in the society or breach public order.

With the assurance that this letter belongs in the category of classified documents and correspondence, please apply the proper attention to safeguarding it.

Alireza Malekian
Deputy Minister

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Mehdi Karroubi's video message following attack at the press fair

Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi visited the Tehran Press Fair on Friday afternoon. After being loudly acclaimed by a large group of supporters, he was attacked as he left the exhibition hall. For footage and a report on the attack, please go here. Karroubi released this video message concerning those events yesterday. He appears unfazed and, despite reports that he was injured by a projectile on Friday, his forehead bears no marks. A translation of the message follows the footage.

Mehdi Karroubi:

In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful.

Three points must be stressed concerning the events that took place at the press fair last Friday: One has to do with the circumstances, another with the motives, and the last with myself.

As for the circumstances... I have always gone to exhibitions and continue to do so. This time when I visited, on the one hand the people generously expressed their kindness and I would even turn around and ask them not to chant slogans, and on the other, a few individuals began - and they're the ones who started it - saying 'Death to the hypocrite,' trying to provoke the people. The great mass of the people was standing and chanting, and the other individuals chanted too, and then we left the exhibition after a while. But on the way out, and this is the scheme that certain individuals had planned, they guided us in a direction through which the people behind us could not freely follow us, and in this manner they became a bit more radical.

The second point is about the motives. This is not the first time. During my visit to Masoumeh's shrine on the occasion of Imam Sadegh's martyrdom... Wherever I go, such actions are becoming commonplace. Fortunately, the people are responding spontaneously. Their intention is to prevent me from attending gatherings and to isolate me, in the same way that They closed the offices of the party and [inaudible]. (NB The offices of Karroubi's political party, the Etemad Melli Party, and his newspaper, Etemad Melli, were shut down in early September. For a report, please go here.) They want me to sit at home and not venture outside. So they're taking these steps to prevent me from going outside.

The third point that I want to mention is that I'm amazed that they're carrying out these measures with respect to me. I'm not new to these actions and I haven't started making these types of comments recently. In 1989, after the death of Imam Khomeini, I clashed with the 3rd Majlis, I denounced the deviation of the Assembly of Experts... In all those cases, I maintained a clear position, I constantly spoke out, and I went through difficult situations. Even back then, many of my friends were summoned daily to the Special Clergy Court or normal courts. I stood strong and endured those hardships. (NB Karroubi is cutting to the heart of the Islamic regime's identity and the notion of velayateh faghih - guardianship of the jurisprudent - from which the Supreme Leader derives power. As Karroubi mentions, this philosophical point has bedeviled the regime since the death of Khomeini: What is the exact role of the Assembly of Experts and, consequently, how much unquestioned power does the supreme leader wield? Hardliners believe that the Assembly of Experts should not exercise any oversight over the supreme leader and that it does not so much elect as reveal the person who becomes the supreme leader.)

On top of which, in those days, I was isolated and the people were not aware of the issue of oversight and the Assembly of Experts... But today, the people are standing as one, or at least a majority of the people are and they have a position and are standing firm.

In such circumstances, I shall be present on any stage... Be it a demonstration, the commemoration of the 22nd of Bahman (NB Date of the victory of the revolution, February 11, 1979), or Ashura (NB Religious holiday marking the martyrdom of Hossein). Whatever the day, whatever the place, we shall be present. But we're going to take an additional step. Previously, we wouldn't tell our friends where we'd be going and other details. Now we announce it, though we may be the object of our friends' criticisms. We will not retreat. Keeping in mind our pact with the Imam and the people, we remain loyal to the Islamic Republic and the constitution. We are standing firm on this path, with God's blessing, and we fear nothing.

God willing, we shall see who has remained true and who has not. In appropriate conditions, when either both factions are in power or neither one is, we shall see who has to repent and who does not need to. When you have one faction in power and the other faction has nothing at all, they can talk about repentance as much as they want. Those who need to repent are the traitors to the Islamic Republic who have deviated it, who have emptied it of its Islamic nature and destroyed its republican identity, and left nothing but its name.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Opposition leader is attacked at Tehran press fair

Mehdi Karroubi, the leader of the Etemad Melli Party and the most vocal critic of the Iranian regime, was attacked at the Tehran Press Fair this afternoon after being loudly cheered by supporters, according to Iranian media reports.

The following footage shows the crowd shouting 'Long live Karroubi! May Mousavi stand long!'

Parleman News, the news site of the minority Imam Line Faction of the Majlis, said that the assailants intended to inflict bodily harm on Karroubi. Karroubi had announced his intention earlier in the week to attend the fair.

The opposition leader was acclaimed upon his arrival at the trade gathering. He was charged by unknown assailants minutes later and his turban was knocked off. The following footage shows participants cheering Karroubi, then chanting 'Basijis have become savage! Basijis have become savage!'

In further footage, the crowd shouts 'Hemmat and Bakeri were true Basijis!' (Two famous revolutionary martyrs)

(For more footage, click twice on the videos on this page and consult the channels of the YouTube posters)

The semi-official Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, headlined its article on the attack with 'The people chased Karroubi from the exhibition as they chanted "Death to the hypocrite!"' Fars News posted a photo that looked suspiciously Photoshopped and showed a shoe striking Karroubi in the head. Earlier this week, a shoe was thrown at former Culture Minister Saffar Harandi as students protested his presence in Tehran University.

Fars News also claimed that one of Karroubi's bodyguards had opened fire into the air as Karroubi was rushed into a car. 'One of the bodyguards of this failed presidential candidate fired into the air to disperse the crowd, an act that is rarely carried out by bodyguards of personalities in this country,' said Fars.

The 16th Tehran Press Fair was closed to the public by authorities fearing that the green movement would take advantage of the gathering to launch protests.

The fair's organizers took the unprecedented step of setting up a stand devoted to complaints against presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, according to Kalemeh, Mousavi's official news site.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Who is holding my son? What are the charges?': Blogger Hossein Derakhshan's father sends open letter to judiciary chief

The father of a prominent Iranian blogger has written an open letter to Iran's judiciary chief Sadegh Amoli Larijani almost a year after his son's arrest.

Hassan Derakhshan, father of Hossein Derakhshan, expressed concern that he and his family had yet to be informed of which authorities are holding his son or the charges against him. A translation of his letter can be found at the end of this article.

Hossein Derakhshan was arrested at his family's home in Tehran on November 1, 2008, but news of the detention did not reach foreign media until later that month. He had returned to Iran in October.

The Internet activist's prior trip to his homeland had been in the summer of 2005 to cover the presidential election which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. He was detained for a week during that visit and made to sign a letter of apology for writing about 'taboo subjects.'

Hossein Derakhshan is known as the 'Blogfather' for his key contributions to popularizing blogs in Iran, initially as a digital culture journalist for two reformist newspapers which were shut down and subsequently as a popular blogger also known as Hoder. He published a seminal guide on how to create Farsi weblogs on Blogger after moving to Canada in 2000. Iran has become one of the top ten blogging nations in the world since then.

Derakhshan has advocated the use of blogs as instruments of political and social activism. In 2003, he began a campaign against Internet censorship in Iran. (To view a video of a seminar on the topic of reform, youth, and technology in Iran, presented by Derakhshan at Umea University, Sweden, click here.)

He made a highly publicized trip to Israel in 2006, which may be one of the reasons for his arrest. Of that visit and its goals he wrote:
This might mean that I won’t be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want. I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist. As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians.I'm going to challenge that image. As a peace activist, I'm going to show the Israelis that the vast majority of Iranians do not identify with Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, despite what it looks like from the outside. I'm going to tell them how any kind of violent action against Iran would only harm the young people who are gradually reforming the system and how the radicals would benefit from such situation.

An Israeli television report made during that trip includes interviews with Derakhshan in English:

Later that year, Derakhshan posted a number of articles in defense of Iran's nuclear program. He also strongly denounced the U.S.'s bellicose stance towards the Islamic Republic of Iran:
The more the clash between the west and Iran escalates, the more convinced I become that the west's real problem with the Islamic Republic of Iran is not its nuclear activities, its level of democracy, its human rights record, or its support for "terrorist" groups. [...] Increasingly, a lot of secular Iranians, like myself, are figuring that even if Iran is turned into the most democratic, secular, fair and peaceful state on earth, there is no guarantee the US won't find another excuse to try to overthrow its government. It will start bullying Iran for its "devastating role" in climate change, or animal rights, or - who knows? - for obesity. I'm not saying this as a fervent religious man with sexy Ahmadinejad's posters on my wall. In fact, I am an atheist and this can easily get me into serious trouble in any Islamic country. I did not vote for Ahmadinejad and I would do anything to democratically bring him down. [...] I am even a victim of the paranoid state of Iran that censors criticism and punishes dissent for fear of foreign-backed revolt. [...] Of course I do have the dream of an open, free, fair and secular Iran, run by competent and representative officials, and in peace with the whole world, obviously including Israel. However, I believe the Islamic Republic is a valuable cause, worth defending and, at its worst, is way better than anything that the United States or anyone else can bring to Iran. If the US waged a war against Iran, I would absolutely go back and defend Iran.

Derakhshan further lost support among Iranian reformists because of his grudging respect for Ahmadinejad. He ridiculed the New York Sun's call for Ahmadinejad to be kidnapped while attending the UN General Assembly in September of 2008. As reported in The Times, Derakhshan wrote, 'They don't know how big this man's balls are.'

But despite his turbulent and complex worldview, Derakhshan's democratic credentials and dedication to his country are difficult to dismiss.

While he has wasted away in an Iranian prison cell, his orphaned blogs have disappeared from the cyberspace he had championed so passionately. A visitor to HoderInIran is informed that the domain name expired on October 9, 2009, and is pending renewal or deletion. has also expired.

Another free Iranian voice has been silenced, at least for now.


The following is a translation of Hassan Derakhshan's open letter to judiciary chief Sadegh Amoli Larijani:

In the name of God.

Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, Honorable President of the Judiciary,

With greetings and respect,

One year has gone by since the arrest of my son, Hossein Derakhshan.

In the months, days, and hours that have passed, my hope and that of my wife and family has been to see my son's case treated accordingly by religious rulings and in the shadow of Islamic justice's benevolence.

This letter is our first publicized reaction in twelve months, which shows the extent of our hope that the legal framework would be respected within the borders of our dear country. It goes without saying that on numerous occasions we rejected the requests of foreign media for news about Hossein's situation, even when the worst rumors about his mistreatment were reported in semi-official media outlets. No authorities would deny these extremely distressing news reports -- not to comfort the turmoil in our hearts, but to protect the independence of justice in this case.

In all this time, we have visited our child on only two short, minutes-long occasions. Imagine, a few minutes every six months! I declare that we have no knowledge of his legal situation. No trial has been set and it is unclear which security authority or body has custody of him. We have tried many times to obtain detailed information about his situation, but have not succeeded.

Is this the result that must be expected from the composed and respectful behavior of a prisoner's family? In his remarks and writings, my son has expressed his desire to serve his country and he returned to Iran of his own free will to respond to the accusations against him. Is this a suitable way to greet a person who has returned to the bosom of his beliefs and homeland?

Our complaint is not against the enforcement of the law, but rather is directed at the state of uncertainty and ignorance we have been kept in and the lack of attention to the law. The accused have rights. The families of the accused have rights. In the same manner that the sovereignty of society is to be respected, and order and rules are precious.

I request that you order that my son Hossein Derakhshan's family be informed of the state of his case. Which authority is holding him? Which judge is overseeing his case and what are the charges against him?

I am sure that Your Excellency would agree that one year of detention is not an appropriate greeting to a person who has voluntarily returned to the bosom of Iran and dear Islam. My wife, my family, and I await your just deportment.

With respect, (handwritten)
Hassan Derakhshan

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The banality of evil: Shocking video of a man being lashed in Iran

It is hard to put a face to the torturers and murderers that have filled our common psyche in the past months. What exactly does a human being who beats another to death look like? In what dingy outpost of civilization do these deeds occur? Are filthy, dark cellars the only province of deliberately inflicted pain?

But harder still is the jarring realization of what philosopher Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil, that great oppression is carried out by legions of functionaries who may pull a prisoner's nails out with pliers, then go home and kiss their children goodnight. Normality in the name of a premise, an ideology, a religion.

Much as our sanity demands it, we cannot relegate evil to groups of fanatics operating in the stifling heat of a detention center, overcrowded and reeking of urine and feces and fear.

It can be seen in the jovial face of Hamid Rasai, Majlis representative from Tehran, as he compares Mir Hossein Mousavi with MKO leader Massoud Rajavi and says that anyone who stands in the way of the goals of the Islamic Revolution must be eliminated. And it can be heard in the words of former health minister, Kamran Lankarani, a poster boy for youthful idealism, as he claims that Mohsen Rouholamini died of meningitis, not because he was bludgeoned so severely in jail that his jaw had been shattered. Or in the fatherly figure of Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the supposedly moderate former head of the judiciary, as he pleads that he could have done no more than sign a watered-down moratorium on stonings after Jafar Kiani had been buried in a pit and stoned to death in Takistan.

And as the footage posted on the bottom of this page shows, evil can occur under the leafy green canopy of a tree on a sunny day, the tinny sound of a radio playing soothingly in the background, an old man watching dispassionately from a row of chairs along the garden wall. The banality of evil.

The exact details of the footage are unknown now, but they are immaterial. The place is Iran, the time is recent enough for the video to have been filmed with a mobile telephone. 'Please don't film me, I'll be dishonored,' the prisoner wails, clutching at his tattered dignity. 'I'm not filming,' the other man responds. 'This is my handset.' Primeval barbarity meets modern technology.

The man is tied to a tree, his back bare, and he is methodically lashed 76 times. The sentence lasts six minutes, during which time the man screams and pleads to no avail. Justice must be done.

As a child in the Shah's time, I knew a man, a family friend, whose eyesight had been damaged at a torturer's hands. A clamp had been placed on his head and the screws tightened until he had shrieked and his eyeballs had almost been expelled from their sockets. He had rebuilt his life, but was forced to use a magnifying glass to read. It was a cruel daily reminder of prison days for such a voracious reader. I asked my father about him once, only once because even a child knows that some personal horrors cannot be delved too easily. But the truth still pierced my cloistered existence and has stayed with me since.

But what of the present Iran? What have the pious overlords created? What hope for the future generations? Over 230 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of the year. Iran is the only country in the world to kill juvenile offenders. Torture and brutality had become common practices, even before the recent unrest.

When the highest authorities in the land set the tone, the rest of society follows. The murder rate rose an astonishing 11% last year, according to official statistics, which can be suspected of being below the true figures. The number of people killed by relatives increased by 10% and the murder of parents by their offspring was up by 3%. Bank robberies ballooned by 36%. Violence and death beget more of the same. As prominent thinker Abdolkarim Soroush said in a blistering open letter to Leader Ali Khamenei recently, 'All your celebrations have become mourning ceremonies.'

This culture of violence must come to an end. The regime and its functionaries have committed many crimes, but the day that they are removed, the cycle of vengeance must be broken. They must be tried in open courts and capital punishment must forever be banished from Iran. Only then can the country become a champion, rather than a violator, of human rights. The land which spawned the Cyrus the Great cylinder, considered by some to be the first human rights charter in the world, can aspire to nothing less.

Many years ago, Elie Wiesel, a concentration camp survivor and author, recounted a parable at a gathering. A man lives in unjust times. He comes to the town square every day and speaks of justice and tolerance, but no one takes notice. In fact, brutality and corruption become the norm. Yet, every day, he returns to the square and, as the years go by, speaks louder and longer. Finally, an exasperated passerby asks, 'Why do you come every day and speak louder and longer? You are not changing anyone.' The man responds, 'I speak louder and longer so that I may not change.'

We must speak out. We who hold no power must speak out lest we become like them if ever we do wield power.

We must speak out to retain our own humanity.

(Viewer discretion is strongly advised)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Iran 172nd out of 175 countries in Press Freedom Index

Iran approached the bottom of the heap in a press freedom index issued Tuesday by international watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The annual report, also available in Farsi on the group's web site, measures freedom of the press around the globe from September 1, 2008 to September 1, 2009.

Iran was ranked 172nd this year, falling even further than its 166th place in 2008. Its position was only better than that of Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea, respectively 173rd to 175th in the ranking. 'Iran has now reached the gates of the infernal trio at the very bottom, where the media are so suppressed they are non-existent,' said Reporters Without Borders in its report.

The Paris-based organization compiles its report with the help of questionnaires completed by media experts, partner organizations, journalists, jurists, and human rights experts. The index does not cover all the countries in the world and does not take into consideration purely human rights issues.

The questionnaire contains 40 criteria which assess violations against journalists - murder, prison, or torture - as well as against news outlets. The index is also affected by the level of impunity which the violators enjoy. Occupational issues such as self-censorship and financial pressure, particularly present in Iran where journalists are routinely laid off or prevented from working, are also parameters used in calculating the index. 

Reporters Without Borders stressed that the index should 'in no way be taken as an indication of the quality of the press in the countries concerned.'

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Afghan president's web site removes embarrassing Ahmadinejad congratulations

Afghan President Hamed Karzai's official web site has removed an article reporting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hasty congratulations following the first round of the presidential election in Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai conceded in a press conference hours ago that he did not win the election outright and must now participate in a runoff against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, on November 7.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been the only world leader to congratulate Karzai on his supposed victory in the first round of the election on September 18.

Though a search of the Afghan presidential web site still returns a result entitled 'President Ahmadinejad congratulates President Karzai on Re-election' (see above), the post itself appears to have been removed.

According to Fars News, Ahmadinejad had told Karzai, 'The Afghan people have picked you as an ingenious and devout leader.'

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Monday, October 19, 2009

'Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income': Neda's mother rejects regime's efforts to pay her off

The mother of Neda Agha Soltan, whose death turned her into an icon of the Iranian opposition movement, has publicly spurned the Islamic Republic's offer to buy her off.

Hajar Rostami Motlagh told the Voice of America on Sunday that 'Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income,' amid reports that the Martyr Foundation was offering compensation for the slain young woman if it was proven that she had been the victim of a 'plot by opponents and enemies' of the regime. Any acceptance of said funds by Neda's family would constitute a confirmation of the government's official scenario.

'If it is proven that Neda Agha Soltan was killed as the result of a plot hatched by enemies, and the proper security bodies confirm this, she will be covered by the Martyr Foundation,' said Massoud Zaribafan, head of the Martyr and Veterans' Affairs Foundation, in an exclusive interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency on Saturday.

'The footage shows that Neda Agha Soltan was murdered as a result of a plot by opponents and enemies,' said Zaribafan at a veterans' affairs conference, before conceding that the Martyr Foundation does not have an investigative arm. 'The Intelligence Ministry and other bodies which can discover the truth must tell us what happened.' Neda's family would have to be covered by the Martyr Foundation to compensate for its damages if the existence of a plot was proven, Zaribafan added.

'If these officials are saying that Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word "martyr" that the people write in red on her gravestone?' countered Neda's mother in a telephone interview broadcast on VOA. 'Neda died like Sohrab and Ashkan and the other kids,' she said, naming Sohrab Aarabi and Ashkan Sohrabi, two other young protesters who were killed by security forces during the post-election unrest.  'However the other kids were killed, my Neda was killed the same way. There was no plot.'

Neda's mother forcefully rejected any compensation from the government, saying, 'I just want the killer to be found and brought to justice.' (NB The translation of the interview with Neda's mother is available at the end of this article)

This is only the latest episode in a string of bumbling efforts by the Iranian regime to divert attention from the most famous victim of its crackdown following the disputed election of June 12. Neda was shot on the street on June 20, one of the bloodiest days for protesters in Tehran.

The government's reaction was telling. A manhunt was launched for one of the key eyewitnesses of the killing, Dr. Arash Hejazi, who managed to escape to London where he divulged that the alleged murderer had been caught by protesters and released after they took away his identity cards. ID cards belonging to a Basij militiaman have been posted on the Internet and Hejazi has said that the photo corresponds to the man he saw the protesters capture, although he did not see the actual shooting. Out of respect for the presumption of innocence, this blog will not publish the photos or the name of the individual.

The regime initially blamed the BBC's correspondent Jonathan Leyne for orchestrating the murder of Neda for a documentary he was making. Neda's fiance, Caspian Makan, was arrested on June 26 and reportedly released on bail in September.

More recently, when confronted by NBC's Katie Couric with a photo of Neda, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whipped out his own photo... of Marwa Ali Sherbini, a head-scarved Egyptian woman who had been stabbed to death by a racist lunatic in a German courthouse. Ahmadinejad has claimed that Neda was shot by agents of the Mujahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO), an armed resistance movement which is broadly discredited in Iran because of its cooperation with the Saddam government during the Iran-Iraq War.


Translation of the VOA interview with Neda's mother

Hajar Rostami Motlagh, Neda's mother:
I heard about this yesterday, when one of the domestic dailies called me. Then I read about it in another newspaper today. But under no condition... in any case, it's not true that my daughter was the victim of a plot. I will never accept to be covered by the Martyr Foundation. Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income. If these officials are saying that Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word 'martyr' that the people write in red on her gravestone?

Payam Yazdian:
Massoud Zaribafan, the head of the Martyr Foundation, said yesterday that the footage of Neda's death shows that she was the victim of a plot hatched by opponents and enemies. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told foreign media that Neda's death was suspicious. What do you think?

Hajar Rostami Motlagh:
No, Neda died like Sohrab and Ashkan and the other kids. However the other kids were killed, my Neda was killed the same way. There was no plot. Neda escaped and ran into the street to get into the car and she was felled by a bullet 26 meters, 26 steps, from the car.

Payam Yazdian:
In any case, they've said that you will be covered by the Martyr Foundation to compensate for the damages. They refer to Neda's death as 'damages.'

Hajar Rostami Motlagh:
Mr. Yazdian, if they give me the world, I will never accept. The world can't even equal a hair on Neda's head. I can't accept such a thing. Neda's gone and nothing, not money or monthly income, nothing can compensate for it. I just want the killer to be found and brought to justice. The important thing is that my Neda has found honor before God, and the people of Iran and the world. That's the important thing for me. To have her registered as a martyr somewhere means nothing to me. I will never do such a thing. I will never be convinced to have Neda's name registered somewhere as a martyr. She was martyred before God and the people, and that's enough for me.

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Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's first Internet interview - 18 October 2009

The green movement has released opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's first Internet interview. The video was first posted on Sunday, 18 October 2009, although it has only been widely published in opposition news sites on Monday. No additional information has been offered.

Sitting before a stark background, in line with his own austere and at at times stilted manner of speaking, Mousavi's interview was measured and hardly rousing. The encounter underlined the opposition figure's  strengths -- his analytical prowess, his unflinching courage in the face of threats, and his deep understanding of popular movements -- and his weaknesses -- a lack of charisma, his reluctance to engage in frontal attacks, and a sense that he is almost an 'accidental leader.'

He alluded to this last point halfway through the interview, when he began a sentence with 'We have started a great movement' before correcting himself and continuing, 'Our nation has started a great movement and we are accompanying it. God willing, we will remain on the same course as the people.' Mousavi has exhibited none of the 'mano a mano' grit of Etemad Melli party leader Mehdi Karroubi, nor the sheer popularity of former President Mohammad Khatami, bringing into focus the roles played by each of the members of the opposition triumvirate.

Mousavi made the astonishing claim that he has not engaged in any talks with political figures aimed at resolving the crisis through 'national unity.' If true, this could indicate a strategic rebuttal of Hashemi Rafsanjani's 'eminence grise' brand of politics. Mousavi clearly states that nothing short of respecting the people's sovereignty and their constitutional rights can lead to a resolution of the crisis. And despite threats of prosecution for treason, he still maintains that a majority of the people voted for him, albeit in subtle terms: '[...] As long as the majority of the people are called rioters [...] there will be no solution for the current problem.'

The following is a translation of the full interview:

In the name of God, most gracious and most compassionate.

It has been some time since people have seen your face. That is why, when we were granted an opportunity to interview you, many friends encouraged us to conduct it in this manner to overcome that shortcoming.We thank you for this opportunity. This interview will be distributed by Internet and because of the technical limitations of this media, we will restrict ourselves to two issues. We hope that we will be able to meet again at a future date to discuss questions put to us by those interested in the Green Movement.

In the past weeks, there has been talk of national unity. What is this about? Have there been any particular talks? Please inform the people about these. (NB In recent weeks there have been rumors of backroom politicking with the aim of resolving the crisis through some sort of general agreement between various political factions.)

Mir Hossein Mousavi:
In the name of God, most gracious and most compassionate.

This is my first Internet interview. I send my greetings to all the dear people who are seeing my face. Of course, many photos of me have been published, something which irks me. But I'll try to get used to this. This is another such circumstance and I'll try to take advantage of it to say a few words.

Concerning your question, this expression [of national unity] has been used in different ways by the media and it is worth separating the various interpretations.

In my discussions with Majlis representatives -- members of the minority faction whom I met -- I spoke of national unity. I was referring to a common will and sentiment, highlighted during the elections and based on our strong civilizational heritage, our common national interests, and a vision of future progress. The issue of national unity had particular significance within that framework. We witnessed a certain passion developing in the country.

This capital must be preserved and nurtured, despite everything that occurred after the election. National unity is extremely important to us and it must be a foundation for all of us. Unity between all walks of life exists here... between the general public, intellectuals, students, various ethnic groups, cultural groups...

That green human chain which linked Tajrish to Rah Ahan Square just before the election was one of the best symbols of this. (NB On June 8, 2009, Mousavi's supporters formed a human chain that stretched almost 20 km across Tehran, from Tajrish in the north to Rah Ahan or Railway Square in the south.) People from all walks of life participated and it sent tremors throughout our country. It was also the basis for the idea of the Green Path of Hope (NB The opposition's coalition movement).

But the notion of national unity has been employed in other contexts. After the problems and events which wracked the country, some people with various intentions, some good, explored the possibility of abating the tension and crisis through discussions between political figures. Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani (NB Head of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts) presented one plan, then there was talk of ideas put forth by Ayatollah [Mohammad Reza] Mahdavi Kani (NB Head of the conservative Combatant Clergy Association, not to be mistaken for the reformist Association of Combatant Clerics)... Various people have spoken about this topic.

I have not made any comments in relation to this interpretation [of national unity]. But given the debate and rumors that have been sparked, I'm going to recount one of my memories concerning the Imam (NB Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini). My actions are based upon a point in this story.

When the McFarlane crisis came about, the people did not know that McFarlane had come to Iran and they were unaware of what had occurred... his secret visit to Iran and so forth. (NB Robert McFarlane was President Ronald Reagan's National Security Adviser from 1983 to 1985, and played a central role in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1986, as a secret envoy, he delivered one planeload of weapons to Iran, but canceled a second shipment after hostages in Lebanon were not released. Lebanese weekly Al Shiraa published an account of the secret Iran-Contra dealings shortly thereafter. Mousavi was prime Minister at the time.) This issue was first revealed in a Syrian newspaper. In a meeting between the heads of the three branches of government, it was said that this news would spread to Iran and, given the people's sensitivity about the United States and any talks with the United States, this would provoke a crisis.

The heads of the three branches -- me among them -- went to see the Imam. When we explained the situation and what had transpired, who this individual was and his comings and goings, and we said that a Lebanese or Syrian newspaper had published details which would eventually reach Iran, the Imam said, Go and tell the people, the people must be informed. When we got up to leave, he said something which has remained in mind as a golden and important phrase ever since. He said, Never do something which you will not be able to explain to the people.

This has remained in my mind. That is why, if there are talks or meetings or some issue, as a companion in this massive movement, I will inform the people and there will not be anything that I will not be able to defend.

Given the deficiency of the country's media outlets which lunge at our Green Path and act against it, and the fact that we have no official outlets and all of our outlets and our ability to communicate have been restricted, it is worthwhile for the people to exercise caution when obtaining news related to this or other topics. They should pay attention to the source and its affiliations and its intentions. This will help us progress in an environment based on wisdom and our values.

Do you want to inform the people of any contacts, meetings, or talks?

Mir Hossein Mousavi:
No, there haven't been any such talks. I am of course aware of the proposals that Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani made at Friday Prayers (NB On July 17) and also the proposals that some members of the Expediency Council made to him. And I'm also aware, through the media, of other remarks made by individuals like Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, or others with good intentions. But no direct contacts have been made with me in this respect. No correspondence or official meetings.

In your 13th statement, you said that our political and social achievements must be a part of our lives, not just our struggles, because struggles come to an end, and when they do, these values are sidelined. Your phrase was, 'The Green Path of Hope must be lived.' The comment is thought-provoking but it may befuddle some people. What did you mean by it?

Mir Hossein Mousavi:
We have started a great movement... our nation has started a great movement and we are accompanying it. God willing, we will remain on the same course as the people. At the beginning of these events which took place in the country, there was a debate on how we should respond and move forward in order to utilize and advance the great achievements of the election and the Islamic revolution. There was talk of a party, a front, various groups... a political struggle. We thought that this would not help us realize our goals, that it did not correspond to our experience of the election, those experiences that we went through together.

In this election, we saw various political, religious, artistic, cultural families... people, wherever they were, contributed and became a part of this movement in their own manner. That was an illustration of what we called, 'Every individual, a campaign staff.' This movement derives its strength from this, not from some political party. This doesn't mean that political parties were not and cannot be effective. No, they have their own critical importance. It is crucial for political parties to continue their work.

But in order to advance on this path and reach our goals, which are a developed Iran in which the people's rights are respected, we determined that our actions must be pursued on a much broader level, given the experiences of the election. And that is what happened and what was announced.

Within this context, it is not important how much and in what manner each person helps the movement. The important thing is to establish a general purpose and will throughout the country -- from within a family or on an individual level, all the way up to political parties. Everyone must be able to contribute to this great movement through their actions and way of life.

I've always believed that any virtuous individual, an old woman, an old man, a person with no possibility of engaging in such activities... we should consider even a prayer that such a person says in their home as a form of activism, which can extend all the way to the structured groups which exist.

Today, we are witnessing an extraordinary blossoming of artistic activity which has no relation to political parties, but is a part of an extended social network. The books, songs, paintings, caricatures that have been created in this recent period are unprecedented. In reality, they define the voice of this great wave and guide it. This has not been done within a political party. Small groups of artists or individual artists within or outside the country have helped the movement in this manner. In the same way, religious groups, charitable organizations, and others have contributed.

Struggle has become an inexorable way of life. It cannot be stopped. And for this reason, it is an invulnerable movement -- a movement whose direction is tweaked in a climate of dialogue. In that respect, media outlets are incredibly important and the people who toil within digital media must be commended here. In circumstances in which we have no means, I recommend that greater attention be paid to such tools. This is a miracle that we have witnessed during and after the election. Given our current situation, we must use these tools. Such outlets allow us to connect individuals in order to create a massive, broad, and enduring movement.

One of the reasons for the durability of this movement is that it does not belong to any one group. It is a movement which is enmeshed with the goals, aspirations, and lives of the people. We don't want to say that this is the definitive interpretation of the Koranic verse, 'Place your homes as the qibla' (NB Direction of prayer, the Kaaba in Mecca), but it has inspired us. The people have allowed this movement to endure by turning to their vast social networks of individuals and small groups, in many of which we have a stake.

I think that clarifies the issue for you.

I hope that we will have further opportunities to be with you and ask more questions--

Mir Hossein Mousavi:
I want to add one last point. I don't know whether we have enough time or not.

It is a sensitive point concerning your first question. As long as it is not accepted that there is a crisis and a problem in the country, as long as the majority of the people are called rioters, as long as the people are not taken into consideration, as long as the people's right to determine their own future is not respected, there will be no solution for the current problem. In the context of the second definition of national unity that we discussed and the actions of some individuals and groups on a political level to resolve the crisis, I believe that it must be ensured that the steps which are taken do not insult the people. The people are together, even those who have other opinions. We are the ones who create rifts among the people. Anyone who enters the scene must respect all the people and all of their views. We must return to the constitution and the principle of the sovereignty of the people. Then the solution to the crisis can be found quite easily.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Sources of hacker attacks on opposition web site identified

An opposition news site reported today that it had identified the four sources of the most recent attack on its servers.

Norooz, the news site of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the only information outlet of this opposition party, has been the target of three major Internet attacks since the disputed election of June 12. Low-level and constant assaults on the site's servers have been a daily nuisance. The regime has also employed more traditional methods, from the arrest of its technical staff to threats against its directors, to halt the news service.

According to Norooz, following foiled attempts which used fake IPs, the latest digital onslaught allowed the opposition site to identify the sources of the attacks.

Norooz has identified them as the Islamic Republic Sports Organization, which oversees all the country's federations; Iran Aseman Airlines, based at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport; Iran Khodro Industrial Group, the country's largest automaker; and the Communications and Information Technology Ministry.

'It is impossible to say, given the current information, whether these attacks are occurring with the knowledge and cooperation of these organizations' directors,' Norooz admitted. 'But according to international Internet regulations, these organizations are responsible for the way their Internet addresses are used.'

Norooz published the names of those within the organizations who are responsible for respecting international Internet regulations, stressing that this information is in the public domain. The news service warned the individuals and their organizations to quickly bring an end to the attacks on its site and 'other sites of the Green Movement.' Norooz said that it reserved the right to file complaints with international bodies.

The opposition site was the object of such attacks even before the disputed presidential election. In early Novermber, 2007, Norooz was inaccessible for a week and its technical director told Emrouz that it had been hacked.

(All articles on this blog may be reproduced for non-commercial use. Proper credit would be appreciated.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hated figure leaves Revolutionary Court as regime continues cosmetic facelift

A notorious judge has been dismissed and his department has been merged into the Revolutionary Court.

The departure of Judge Hassan Haddad, deputy prosecutor for security affairs, was announced by Hossein Lotfi, the new presiding judge of the Revolutionary Court, last week as he took over the reigns from Hojjatoleslam Assadollah Mobasheri.

Hassan Haddad had long been one of the key repressive tools of the regime within the judiciary. Shunning the limelight (the photo to the right is one of the rare ones of him and was released by the group Human Rights Activists of Iran), Haddad has tried to remain an enigmatic and behind-the-scenes figure. Even the name he has used for years is an alias. His real name is Hassan Zareh Dehnavi.

An interrogator/torturer in Evin prison in the 1980s, he was relieved of his functions in 1989 for 'financial misconduct' and 'questionable relations with several prisoners.' This did not prevent officials from transferring him to the Enforcement Staff of the Imam's Decree, a financial behemoth fronting as a foundation, as an inspector of confiscated property.

In the late 1990s, he became head of the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court, in charge of trying drug and antiquities traffickers. He was given more sensitive cases, for example that of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, towards the end of that decade. He was named deputy prosecutor for security affairs in 2006.

Most recently, he has been involved in the prosecution of seven Baha'is who face the death penalty on charges of spying for Israel. He is held responsible for the death in custody of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi. He was involved in the prosecution of journalist Roxana Saberi, researcher Haleh Esfandiari, and Kian Tajbakhsh. Other cases that he directed include those against student leaders Ali Nikounesbati and Ali Azizi, striking workers of the Tehran transit company including the union's leader Mansour Osanlou, and newspaper editor Heshmatollah Tabarzadi.

As deputy prosecutor for security affairs, Haddad handled 'national security' cases, a catchall phrase used to prosecute anyone considered a threat to the regime. 'National security' cases, known as political cases in most of the world, fall under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Court.

Revolutionary Court Presiding Judge Hossein Lotfi had not announced Haddad's successor last week, an omission which had puzzled observers. However, newly-appointed Tehran Prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi said at a ceremony yesterday that the deputy prosecutor for security affairs' office would be merged into the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office.

Hadded had been the deputy of another hated judicial figure, former Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, who was also recently dismissed. Mortazavi however was reassigned as Deputy Prosecutor General, a relative promotion which many analysts viewed as a way to sideline him at a desk job with no influence over the prosecution of defendants. Judge Haddad's new functions have not been declared.

The regime has replaced many figures linked to the recent crackdown and the repression of the past decade. But the steps appear to be cosmetic and have not affected the repressive tilt of the Islamic Republic. If anything, the moves seem to be geared towards streamlining the regime. For example, Basij commander Hassan Taeb was recently moved from the command of the Basij forces to that of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) intelligence unit, which many analysts believe is fast replacing the civilian- and Majlis-controlled Intelligence Ministry as the country's most powerful security body. Taeb was subsequently replaced at the Basij by IRGC General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, no less of a zealot than Taeb, but with the advantage of being relatively unknown to the general public. The Basij has now been merged into the ground forces of the IRGC.

The changes at the Revolutionary Court notwithstanding, protesters continue to be sentenced to death, the execution of juvenile offenders are railroaded through the judiciary, and dozens of political prisoners still languish in prison without access to their lawyers. And this week, Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei even went so far as to say in an interview that opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi would soon be brought to justice.

Steps away from execution and still uninformed

Rooz online published an interview with prominent human rights lawyer and jurist Nasrin Sotoudeh on Thursday. Sotoudeh has represented numerous women's rights activists for the Campaign for One Million Signatures, which seeks to abrogate gender-discriminatory laws in Iran. She has also been a tireless defender of children's rights and juvenile offenders sentenced to death. Arash Rahmanipour, one of the defendants in the regime's show trials, is her client and it is believed that he has been sentenced to hang. Fereshteh Ghazi conducted this interview. The following is a translation of the full article:

While a fifth death sentence has reportedly been delivered to a defendant in the second session of the show trials of post-election protesters, these verdicts have yet to be conveyed to some defendants and their families.

We spoke to Nasrin Sotoudeh, Arash Rahmanipour's lawyer, about this situation. While confirming that no order for capital punishment has been communicated to her client, she said, 'The court-appointed lawyer told Arash's father that such a ruling has been issued.'

Dr. Mohammad Seifzadeh, Hamed Rouhinejad's lawyer, had previously announced that no official death sentence had been conveyed to his client.

The interview with Nasrin Sotoudeh follows.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Arash Rahmanipour's lawyer, told Rouz that Mr. Rahmanipour's court-appointed lawyer has given news of his death sentence, but that the ruling which has apparently been issued to the court-appointed lawyer has yet to be shown to Mr. Rahmanipour or his family.

She added: 'My client's name was not among those released by the head of public relations for Tehran's judiciary, but we believe that the person identified as 'A.P.' is my client. (NB Over the weekend, the Iranian Students News Agency released an article quoting judiciary sources who spoke of three death sentences handed out to 'M.Z., A.P., and N.A.') The court-appointed lawyer told Arash's father that Arash's death sentence has been issued. My client has yet to receive such a ruling.'

'Despite numerous applications by me and Arash's family, the court has refused to recognize my power of attorney,' said Sotoudeh. 'There are shocking facts in Mr. Rahmanipour's case file. He was arrested in the first month of the Iranian year (NB March 21 - April 20), and he has nothing to do with the election or the post-election events. They tried to create fear when he was arrested and even arrested his pregnant sister. She was released after several days, but she unfortunately lost her child.'

She added, 'On the day of the show trial, his father met with Arash and told him that I had accepted to represent him. He asked his son to request an adjournment from the court so I could study his case. But as soon as he said this, six security officers approached him and said, Either you get your son to confess right now, or we'll arrest you too.'

According to this jurist, her client admitted to acts he had not committed after he was promised leniency if he confessed and cooperated with the agents.

'The harrassment and arrest of various members of my client's family, confessions to acts which were not committed, and the way his sister was treated, are an indication of the kind of pressure exerted on Arash Rahmanipour who is only 19,' Sotoudeh said.

Sotoudeh said that her client is accused of having links to the Royalist Organization (NB The Anjomaneh Padeshahi, based in the United States). She added, 'Mr. Rahmanipour has had no operational activity within this organization.'

Sotoudeh said that the judge has refused to release two of her other clients, Issa Saharkhiz and Atefeh Nabavi, on bail. (NB Journalist Issa Saharkhiz was arrested on July 4, 2009. Atefeh Nabavi is an activist in the field of education. She was arrested on June 15, 2009.)