Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bronson Complains about "Planted" Question at Obama's Press Conference and Ignores the 2005 "Jeff Gannon" Fiasco

Yesterday I wrote about the outrage of Dana Milbank at the Washington Post exposed after Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post asked a question from an Iranian during the last Presidential news conference.

Today, I noticed that Peter Bronson of the Cincinnati Enquirer also jumped on this topic a few days ago in this post to his blog. Bronson says:

The media would still be in seizures if President Bush had planted questions by friendly media at his White House press conferences.

A conservative blogger was once invited to a Bush press conference and the media pitched a fit. But that was nothing like what happened last week, when President Obama set up a scripted question from his friends at the far-left Huffington Post. He even offered a sort of chicken-dinner speaker introduction, setting up the question by announcing who would ask it and what they would ask.

I was going to write about this embarrasing and amatuerish charade, but my friend at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kevin O'Brien beat me to it and did a fine job.

This is the type of one-sided posting for which Bronson can always be relied upon. Bronson seems to think that the White House contacting Pitney the night before the press conference (to let him know that he may be called on) and planting a specific question, are the same thing. Nevermind that Pitney and the White House both have denied that the question was scripted or agreed on in advance.

But it is the first part of Bronson's post is perhaps the most amazing. It looks like the late folk singer Utah Phillips was right when he said that the "most radical thing in America is a long-term memory." Bronson claims that the media would still be "in seizures" if President Bush had planted questions at press conferences and that the media "pitched a fit" when Bush once invited a conservative blogger to a press conference.

This "conservative blogger" that Bronson refers to is most likely Jeff Gannon, who in 2005 lobbed softball questions to Bush Administration officials as a member of "Talon News". From Salon back in 2005:

When President Bush bypassed dozens of eager reporters from nationally and internationally recognized news outlets and selected Jeff Gannon to pose a question at his Jan. 26 news conference, Bush's recognition bestowed instant credibility on the apparently novice reporter, as well as the little-known conservative organization he worked for at the time, called Talon News. That attention only intensified when Gannon used his nationally televised press conference time to ask Bush a loaded, partisan question -- featuring a manufactured quote that mocked Democrats for being "divorced from reality."

and then came the revelations that "Jeff Gannon" was actually James Guckert, who months before being granted access to the White House briefing room, was working as a $200/hour male escort. That and the revelation that "Talon News" wasn't even a legitimate news organization. From another Salon piece in 2005:

James Guckert's mysterious career as a White House correspondent for Talon News just took another strange twist. And once again, the newest revelation raises the central question: Who broke the rules on Guckert's behalf to give him access to the White House? Despite administration claims that Guckert simply followed established protocol in order to routinely slip inside the White House briefing room, it now appears clear that Guckert, who just months before his 2003 debut as a cub reporter was offering himself up online as a $200 an hour male escort, benefited from extraordinarily preferential treatment, likely granted by someone inside the White House press office.


Thanks to the continued digging by online sleuths, there's now documented evidence that Guckert attended White House briefings as early as February 2003. Guckert, using his alias "Jeff Gannon," once boasted online about asking then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer a question at the Feb. 28, 2003, briefing. The date is significant because in order to receive a White House press pass, Guckert would have needed to prove that he worked for a news organization that, in the words of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, "published regularly," in itself an extraordinarily low threshold. Critics have charged that while Talon News may publish regularly, it boasts a nearly all-volunteer news team that includes not a single person with actual journalism experience. (The team does, though, have quite a bit of experience working on Republican campaigns.) In other words, the outfit is not legitimate or independent, two criteria often used in Washington to receive press credentials.

But what's significant about the February 2003 date is that Talon did not even exist then. The organization was created in late March 2003, and began publishing online in early April 2003.

and why would the White House have wanted Gannon, I'm sorry, Guckert in the briefings? From the Guardian in 2005:

The fact that someone using a fake name and working for a fake news organisation can gain regular access to White House briefings has astonished many media pundits. Yet 'Gannon' has been a regular in the White House since 2003. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that - as Media Matters for America chronicled in excruciating detail - Gannon was used as a source for favourable questions by White House officials. Whenever White House spokesman Scott McLellan was under fire from aggressive journalists, he could call on Gannon and invariably be lobbed a 'softball' question.

So in one scenario we have the Bush Administration giving access to the White House to someone with no journalism credentials, a background that includes being a male escort, and who doesn't even work for a legitimate news organization, for close to two years. He is called on by the Press Secretary (and even once by the President himself) and continually asks softball questions during times when Administration officials are getting grilled.

In the other scenario we have an actual reporter for the Huffington Post who has been covering the unrest in Iran in real-time for the past few weeks and who is responsible for conveying many of the videos and images from out of Iran. Because of this the White House contacts him the night before a press conference and tells him that he may get an opportunity to ask a question the following night. Pitney transparently posts about this on his blog and solicits questions from Iranians. He is called on the following night and asks a tough and relevant question of the President that he selected from those that he received from Iranians.

The Jeff Gannon fiasco was a little more than simply the media "pitching a fit" over President Bush inviting a "conservative blogger" to the White House. In fact, Bronson seems to forget that this happened at all as evidenced by his comment that: "The media would still be in seizures if President Bush had planted questions by friendly media at his White House press conferences."

Bronson is right about one thing, these two scenarios are nothing like each other. It seems as though his selective memory of these events only works toward achieving his continued goal of defending the actions of the previous Administration while mischaracterizing events in order to criticize the current administration.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Traditional Media Meet New Media

Nico Pitney is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has been live-blogging for the past several weeks on the crisis in Iran. He has developed sources within Iran, monitored social networking sites, posted images, posted videos, etc. and helped to provide a better understanding of this complex and ever-changing situation.

Before President Obama's latest press conference, which Pitney was slated to attend, he posted a note on the live-blog that he was soliciting questions from Iranians and that he would choose a question to ask should he be called upon during the press conference. President Obama did call on Pitney during the press conference and Pitney asked under what conditions would Obama accept the election of Ahmadinejad.

Pitney fully acknowledges that the White House contacted him prior to the news conference to say that the President may be interested in fielding a question from an Iranian, but both the White House and Pitney say that there was no pre-set question discussed. After all, Pitney has become known over the last few weeks for his extensive and up-to-the minute coverage. This threw the usual group of White House correspondents into a rage, especially Dana Milbank of the Washington Post who wrote the following:

Pitney asked his question, as arranged. Reporters in the room looked at each other in amazement at the stagecraft they had just witnessed. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel looked at the first row of TV correspondents and grinned.

The Huffington Post writer's question -- "under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad?" -- was a perfectly legitimate one, and, according to people involved in the arrangement, Pitney didn't share his specific question in advance with the White House.

Still, the private agreement -- to call on a questioner under condition that he ask his question on a particular topic in a particular way -- is very close to what the left justifiably deplored when there were accusations (denied by the media) that the White House was pre-screening reporters and their questions before news conferences.

So you knew that sparks were going to fly when Pitney and Milbank were both slated to be guests on CNN's "Reliable Sources":

It sounds like traditional media isn't too happy with the advances of the new media. So what happened is this:

- Pitney has become widely known for doing a very good job at live-blogging about the crisis in Iran over the last few weeks.
- Pitney was slated to attend President Obama's press conference.
- The White House contacted Pitney to say that he may be called on during the press conference and that the President may be interested in hearing a question from an Iranian.
- Pitney solicits questions from Iranians via Twitter, Facebook, and the blog in case he does get called on during the press conference.
- Pitney gets called on and asks a solid and legitimate question.
- Milbank complains that Pitney was a "plant" and that the White House had "pre-selected" Pitney and "pre-screened" his question.

I think it is clear that the criticism leveled by Milbank is rooted in his dissatisfaction that a blogger from the Huffington Post was called on to relay a question to the President from an actual Iranian. To be outraged that the White House would pre-select questions from reporters is ridiculous unless one either hasn't been paying attention to the press conferences of the last few Presidents or has been complaining about pre-selected reporters during those Presidencies as well. Milbank has done neither. Milbank's other claim, that the question was pre-arranged, appears to be flat-out inaccurate according to both Pitney and the White House. Ari Melber has some additional insight:

So the complaints of several Washington reporters are not only odd, but hard to take at face value. It is particularly rich for reporters to protest that the White House told Pitney he might be tapped for a question. Every day, a few top White House correspondents have special access in press briefings, while many reporters are never called on (seating charts are powerful). And many Washington reporters routinely, secretly grant the White House blind quotes and restrictive ground rules in exchange for access. By contrast, Pitney transparently told readers about his dealings with the White House, in real time, on his blog. The public would be better served if all media outlets took that tack, publishing any arrangements, restrictions or ground rules along with every article or interview. (Readers would be interested -- media criticism and scrutiny tends to draw traffic across the spectrum.)

Dana Milbank's outrage over what he hints at as a lack of journalistic integrity is interesting considering Milbank's appearance in things like this:

and the Washington Post fired columnist Dan Froomkin because of budgetary constraints. Call me crazy, but I would take Froomkin over videos like the one above any day.

This piece is crossposted here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cincinnatians Rally in Support of Iranian Protesters

Yesterday about 100 Iranian-Americans, Cincinnati community members, and residents of the Greater Tri-State area gathered on Fountain Square for a rally in support of and in solidarity with the citizens of Iran who have been voicing their opposition to the recent election results.

Demonstrators began arriving on the Square a few minutes before 4 P.M., mainly wearing black to mourn those who have been killed during the Iranian Government's crackdown on peaceful dissent. The rally was largely organized by Iranian-Americans Ghoncheh Boroujerdi, Ahoo Tabatabai, Golnaz Shafeei, and Nazanin Tork on Facebook and the stated mission was listed as follows:

Join us, all Iranians and Non-Iranians, in expressing solidarity with the freedom-seeking protesters in Iran. Many of our own friends and relatives are bravely marching on the streets, and we feel a duty to support them by keeping up the momentum and continuing to raise awareness of these important events in Iran.

Here is some audio and some images from the beginning of the rally:

As the rally progressed, people marched on the square carrying signs, chanting slogans, and mourning the loss of all of those who have been killed in Iran since the crackdown. There were many images of Neda, whose violent death was captured on video and broadcast to the entire world as well as images of others who have lost their lives in the clashes with Iranian authorities. At one point flowers were collected on a make-shift shrine made out of a folding chair in front of a poster of images of those who have died.

As the people continued to step forward to the bullhorn to speak and offer words of solidarity in both English and Farsi, attention was drawn to a sign carried by one of those attending the rally. The sign read, "U.S. Out of the Middle East". A handful of demonstrators began to shout at the organizers and at the man holding the sign saying that this was not the message that they wanted to express. "I am not hear for the Middle East," one man shouted, "I am here only for the people of Iran!" "Who installed the Shah?" shot back another demonstrator, "If you want to hold a rally for him, go across the street!" This smaller group became more and more vocal and even tried to use other signs to block the sign in question. Organizers quickly took to the bullhorn to try and keep the peace and announce that everyone was expressing the same solidarity in different ways, but those who objected to the sign continued to shout over the organizers and start chants of their own.

The confrontation reached its climax when one demonstrator walked over to the man holding the sign and forcefully ripped it from his hands. The ripped sign was thrown to the ground as police approached and organizers took to the bullhorn to regain control by asserting that this rally was organized as a peaceful event. Audio of the confrontation can be heard below, the main female voice is that of organizer Nazanin Tork. The climax of the argument happens at around 2:23 in the video:

After control was regained by the organizers of the event, the rally continued and ended peacefully without incident with chants of "Don't be afraid, we are all in this together" and "Fake Republic, sham election, this became our call to action".

After the event was over I was able to ask one of the organizers, Nazanin Tork, a few questions about the goals of the rally as well as the confrontation (Note: images in this video are not from the Cincinnati rally):

This piece is crossposted here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Death of Michael Jackson

Yesterday's sudden death of Michael Jackson brings a tragic close to a tumultuous life that was imprisoned by fame. The impact that Jackson had on music is undeniable and his songs will leave a legacy and provide a soundtrack that will provide an alternative narrative to the legal troubles that plagued Jackson in the later years of his life.

There is much that will be said over the next few days as news outlets and the entertainment media examine the different stages and developments of Jackson's life, but I just wanted to voice a couple of points are important to keep in mind. Jackson's childhood, (or lack thereof)where he was forced by his father to perform with his brothers, had a permanent and devastating effect on his mind and psyche. Jackson was trapped in a world where all he knew was fame and was never able to develop a true identity during his younger years. His identity became his persona and he spent the rest of his short life trying to find himself.

Jackson struggled to recapture some essence of a childhood by building the Neverland theme park, connecting with stories like Peter Pan, and finding friendships with children in a way that led him into court on charges of child molestation. Jackson changed his appearance through the majority of his career relying on cosmetic surgery to create an ambiguity surrounding his race, gender, and age and oddly enough, I agree that it is this behavior that widened his appeal to so many people. People could relate to Jackson and connect to some part of his persona through the epic music that he created and the image that he portrayed.

Juan Cole has a very interesting entry on Jackson and Islam today and makes this point:

Just as a stem cell can grow into any organ, Michael's eternal boyishness made him a chameleon. Increasingly androgynous, he expressed both male and female. A boy and yet a father, he was both child and adult. In part because of his vitiligo, he interrogated his blackness and became, like some other powerful and wealthy African-Americans of his generation, racially ambiguous. Toward the end of his life he bridged his family's Jehovah's Witness brand of Christianity with a profound interest in Islam. He was all things to all people in part precisely because of his Peter Pan syndrome. A child can grow up to become anything, after all.

In a way, the culture that loved Jackson also had a hand in destroying him. The fame and fortune that he received also imprisoned him. Michael Jackson altered himself to be everything to everyone while having no sense of self due to the his father's pursuit of fortune and fame. At the end of Juan Cole's post, he makes the point that the song that ties all of this together, is "Black or White" and I fully agree that this song fully relates to everything that was Michael Jackson.

Music Videos by VideoCure

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brutal Crackdown Continues in Iran

Iran's Security Forces and the Basij are showing no signs of retreat as the brutal crackdown on demonstrators continued today in Iran. Here is video of an interview that an Iranian student gave to CNN earlier today describing the violence:

More video from today's protests:

and the courage of the protesters continues to stay resolve as demonstrated in this video. The woman in the video has been translated as saying to the police "Beat me!":

Opposition Mir Hosein Mousavi's wife has likened the situation in Iran to "martial law":

Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday that the government would not yield to demonstrators demanding the annulment of a disputed presidential election. The wife of the opposition leader said protesters would not buckle under a situation she compared to martial law.

Reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's official Web site said a protest was planned outside Iran's parliament Wednesday afternoon. A helicopter could be seen hovering over central Tehran, but there were no immediate, confirmed reports of a demonstration.

Mousavi's Web site had distanced him from the protest, calling it independent and saying it had not been organized by the reformist candidate.

It is now being reported on the Huffington Post via a twitter message that Mousavi's legal adviser, Ardeshir Amir Arjman, has been arrested. There are also reports saying that Mousavi himself is "virtually under house arrest" and is being watched at all times by the secret police.

It also appears that pressure has been put on the family of Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman whose death was famously captured on camera over the weekend. A friend of the doctor (who is seen in the video) who tried to save her posted an email from the doctor who said he was fleeing Iran for Britain. The Guardian is also reporting that Neda's family has been kicked out of their apartment in Tehran by the Iranian authorities. Iranian authorities are also claiming that she was killed by protesters and not by security forces:

Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.

"We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat," a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave.

The government is also accusing protesters of killing Soltan, describing her as a martyr of the Basij militia. Javan, a pro-government newspaper, has gone so far as to blame the recently expelled BBC correspondent, Jon Leyne, of hiring "thugs" to shoot her so he could make a documentary film.

The Role of Psychologists in Overseeing Torture

I recently interviewed Roy Eidelson, a psychologist who studies the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. In the interview, I asked him to speak to the significance of the role that psychologists (and the American Psychological Association) have played in overseeing interrogations (and the torture) of prisoners in U.S. custody. Here was the exchange:

CJ: The group Physicians for Human Rights has recently called for an investigation into the role that the American Psychological Association played in the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. Physicians for Human Rights claims that newly released documents indicate that the APA's ethics task force altered their policy to adhere to governmental interrogation policies. Can you speak to the significance of psychologists playing a role in overseeing these interrogations?

RE: The role of psychologists in detainee settings is an issue of great importance to me. I support the call for investigations by Physicians for Human Rights. Indeed, as president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, I have contributed to PsySR’s issuing a similar call. The details surrounding the American Psychological Association’s involvement in the Bush administration’s detainee practices are complex and much of this story is yet to be told (six key questions that PsySR has posed to the APA are available at http://www.psysr.org/questions). But at a very basic level, the ethical code of psychologists is built upon the principle of “do no harm”--and there is troubling evidence that this principle was ignored by individual psychologists working at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. As one instance, psychologists played a lead role in reverse-engineering the military’s SERE training program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) so that it could be used instead for the harsh interrogation (and torture) of detainees. In the eyes of many psychologists, the APA has been too slow to take forceful action to curtail or prevent such abuses of psychology. Fortunately, a membership referendum last fall has recently led to a new APA policy prohibiting psychologists from working “in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law…or the US Constitution…unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.” I believe this is an important step in the right direction.

Just last week, the APA published an open letter in which they advocate the Association's opposition to policies that are cruel and inhumane and expressed regret that psychologists participated in the oversight of torture:

Information has emerged in the public record confirming that, as committed as some psychologists were to ensuring that interrogations were conducted in a safe and ethical manner, other psychologists were not. Although there are countless psychologists in the military and intelligence community who acted ethically and responsibly during the post-9/11 era, it is now clear that some psychologists did not abide by their ethical obligations to never engage in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The involvement of psychologists, no matter how small the number, in the torture of detainees is reprehensible and casts a shadow over our entire profession. APA expresses its profound regret that any psychologist has been involved in the abuse of detainees.

This has been a painful time for the association and one that offers an opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences over the last five years. APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to our members, the Obama administration, Congress, and the general public. In so doing, we will continue to highlight our 2008 petition resolution policy, Psychologists and Unlawful Detention Settings with a Focus on National Security. APA will ensure that association communications convey clearly that the petition resolution is official association policy and must be central to psychologists’ assessment of the appropriateness of their roles in specific work settings related to national security. Our association’s governing body, the Council of Representatives, will soon be receiving guidance from various governance groups regarding further steps to implement this resolution.

While the condemnation of such practices seems like a no-brainer for an organization of the APA's stature, it has not always been so clear-cut. Democracy Now! was one of the few news outlets that has been covering the APA's role in supervising torture throughout the years and one only needs to look back to an interview that host Amy Goodman conducted with Dr. Stephen Miles, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, on September 28, 2007 to remember how slow the APA has been to condemn the role of psychologists in supervising torture:

AMY GOODMAN: We have been doing extensive coverage of the debate in the American Psychological Association. They, this year, ultimately did not pass a moratorium on psychologist involvement in coercive interrogations. Can you talk more about what is going on there and the contrast with the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association?

DR. STEVEN MILES: Essentially, what the American Psychological Association has said is that psychologists may work with interrogators to break persons down. And it turns out that that was the specific agenda all the way from the beginning, including when military people were stacked on their interrogation policy committee.

The directive from then-President Koocher, as expressed in his emails, said as follows: the goal of such psychologists’ works will ultimately be the protection of others, innocents, by contributing to the incarceration, debilitation or even death of the potential perpetrator, who will often remain unaware of the psychologists’ involvement.

And then, a month later he said to that same American Psychological Association policy committee, “I have zero interest in entangling the American Psychological Association with nebulous, toothless, contradictory and obfuscatory treaties that comprise ‘international law.’ Rather, I prefer to see the American Psychological Association take principled stand on policy issues where psychology has some scientific basis for doing so.” Well, the irony of this is that the scientific evidence weighs against course of interrogation, and the psychologists should have put the brake on the CIA, but in fact they worked with the CIA to develop these techniques, which then spread through the Army, and it resulted in enormous damage.

Dr. Stephen Soldz also reacts to this delayed response by the APA on his blog last week:

Unfortnately, the styatement, while an improvement on recent communications from APA, is still deeply flawed. Notice that they fail to mention that among the “some psychologists[that] did not abide by their ethical obligations to never engage in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” were likely several members of their PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] task force that formed ethics policy for the association. Any claim that the APA leadership acted in good faith as they confronted this isssue is belied by that leadership’s actions in creating and long standing behind this deeply flawed unethical task force with multiple conflicts of interest at its core.

Also relevant to this discussion, and turning back to Roy Eidelson, is a video that he recently produced that does a good job at summarizing the role of psychologists in supervising the torture of detainees. I think the video does a good job in giving an overview of the evolution of this story and will allow for a clearer picture to be painted surrounding this issue. You can view the video below or on Roy Eidelson's blog:

This piece is crossposted here

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Protests Continue as the Guardian Council Announces that They Will Not Nullify the Election Results

Monday Night in Iran:

and the unrest isn't just in Tehran. This video is reportedly from Kerman:

Despite the break-up of yesterday's rally to mourn the dead in Tehran, people still looked for other peaceful ways to demonstrate. Here is a video of people turning on the brights in their car and honking their horn:

and despite the presence of police and Basij, demonstrators are still making their presence known:

In a move that has been expected, Iran's Guardian Council has announced that they will not nullify the results of the election as is being called for by the opposition leader Mir Hosein Mousavi. From Iran's state-run Press TV:

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the council's Spokesman said late on Monday that most of the complaints reported irregularities before the election, and not during or after the vote.


"If a major breach occurs in an election, the Guardian Council may annul the votes that come out of a particular affected ballot box, polling station, district, or city like how it was done in the parliamentary elections," Kadkhodaei said.

"Fortunately, in the recent presidential election we found no witness of major fraud or breach in the election. Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place," he added.

In the continuation of various forms of protest, there are reports that a movement to begin a national strike is taking shape. The AFL-CIO released this statement:

The AFL-CIO, representing over 11 million working women and men in the United States, expresses its deep concern over the immediate situation in Iran, following the contested election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Several people have been killed and many more wounded and injured by Iranian government forces attempting to repress massive demonstrations demanding either an annulment of the elections or a vote recount.

Our Federation, joining the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the global labor movement, calls on the Iranian authorities to cease and desist their violent repression of these peaceful demonstrations, as well as fully prosecute under due process of law all of those responsible for the tragic and reprehensible deaths and injuries.

The AFL-CIO also condemns and demands an immediate end to the continued violations of fundamental worker rights in Iran, including the recent arrest of four trade unionists and a journalist for participating in May Day rallies in Tehran - Jafar Azimzadeh, Said Youzi, Kaveh Mozaffari, Gholamreza Khani and Mehdi Farahani Shandiz. We also condemn the ongoing detention and harassment of Mansour Ossanlou and Ibrahim Medadi of the Tehran Bus Workers' Union, Farzad Kamangar of the Teachers' Union, Ali Nejati of the Sugar Workers, and Mahmoud Salehi of the Bakers' Union.

and Perry Rod from Market Rap:

Reports are coming in from social networking websites that Iranians are attempting to organize a national strike in reaction to the country's disputed election. A similar event happened in 1979, when Iranian citizens organized against the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi.

Many writers are suggesting that the next move by defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi will naturally be to encourage an oil industry strike. Oil revenues account for 80% of the government's incoming budget. A national strike could prove to be a powerful tool in crippling the establishment forces inside Iran.

In a disturbing report, 19 year old Kaveh Alipour was shot in the head and killed by security forces on Saturday while returning from an acting class in Tehran. When his family heard of his death they went to claim his body and were asked to pay a "bullet fee" for the reimbursement of the cost of the bullet that took his life:

Upon learning of his son's death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a "bullet fee"—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

Mr. Alipour told officials that his entire possessions wouldn't amount to $3,000, arguing they should waive the fee because he is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war. According to relatives, morgue officials finally agreed, but demanded that the family do no funeral or burial in Tehran. Kaveh Alipour's body was quietly transported to the city of Rasht, where there is family.

and finally, a picture of Neda, whose graphic death was captured on video this weekend, has been circulating and is below:

and here is some more information on her life:

The second of three children, she studied Islamic philosophy at a branch of Tehran's Azad University until deciding to pursue a career in tourism. She took private classes to become a tour guide, including Turkish-language courses, friends said, hoping to someday lead groups of Iranians on trips abroad.

Travel was her passion, and with her friends she saved up enough money for package tours to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand. Two months ago, on a trip to Turkey, she relaxed along the beaches of Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast.

She also loved music, especially Persian pop, and was taking piano lessons, according to Panahi and other friends. She was also an accomplished singer, they said.

But she was never an activist, they added, and she began attending the mass protests only because she was outraged by the election results.


Her friends say she, Panahi and two others were stuck in traffic on Karegar Street, east of Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square, on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m.

After they stepped out of the car to get some fresh air and crane their necks over the jumble of cars, Panahi heard a crack from the distance. In the blink of an eye, he realized Agha-Soltan had collapsed to the ground.

"We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her," he said. "It was just one bullet."

Blood poured from the right side of her chest and began bubbling out of her mouth and nose as her lungs filled up.

"I'm burning, I'm burning!" Panahi recalled her saying, her final words.

Those nearby gathered around. A doctor tried to help, Panahi said, telling him to put his palm over the wound and apply pressure. A driver coming from the other direction urged the crowd to put her into his car.

A frantic search for a hospital followed. They took a wrong turn down a dead end and switched her limp body to another car.

Along the way, protesters and others screamed at drivers to clear a path in the snarled traffic.
The medical staff of Shariati Hospital made a heroic effort to rush her into surgery, but it was too late. She was dead by the time she arrived at the emergency room, Panahi said.

"This is a crime that's not in support of the government," he said. "This is a crime against humanity."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Juan Cole: "The Election was Stolen"...plus Neda's Fiance Speaks and More Videos from Iran

A couple of new developments from Iran.

I mentioned in my last post that the young woman (Neda) whose death was captured on film this weekend, had a fiance and that he was interviewed by BBC Persia. A reader of the Huffington Post has now translated this interview:

Kasamin Makan, Neda Agha-Setan's fiancee, was interviewed by BBC Persia, noting that Neda would have turned 27 this year. "Neda's goal was not Mousavi or Ahmadinejad, it was her country and was important for her to fight for this goal. She had said many times that if she had lost her life or been shot in the heart, which indeed what happened, it was important for her to continue in this path," he said.

Considering her young age she has taught a lesson to us all.

About the day of the incident, Mr. Makan said: "When the clashes were occurring, Neda was far away from the demonstrations, she was in one of the side alleys near Amir Abad. Thirsty and tired or being cooped up for about an hour in the car in heavy traffic with her music instructor, she finally gets out of the car and, based on the pictures sent in by the people, armed forces in civilian clothes and the Basiji targeted and shot her in the heart."

"It was over in a matter of minutes, the Shariati Hospital was nearby, the people around her tried to bring her to the emergency room by car, but before that could even happen she died in her instructor's arms."

Mr. Makan added: "We got her body back finally yesterday with some diffculties. Of course, her body was not at the Tehran Coroner but at a one outside of Tehran. The medical examiners
wanted parts of her body, including a portion of her femoral bone but the chief medical examiner would not say why and no explanations were ever given."

"Finally the family consented just so they could get her body back as soon as possible, since just this issue could have resulted in delaying the reception of the body. We buried the body in a small area in the Zahra Cemetery in the late afternoon of 31 Khordad. Also, they had brought in other people who had been killed in the protests so it seemed that the whole event was scheduled to be such."

About payment for releasing the remains, Mr. Makan had this to say: "No specific amount has been paid at this time, although hospitals, clinics, surgeons and medical examiners have been ordered by the Iranian security services, based on various orders, not to list 'bullet wound' as the cause of death on the death certificate in order to prevent the families from filing international complaints in the future. I haven't seen the release notice of Neda's remains yet, but I will obtain it from her father in the coming days."

Mr. Makan regarding government ban of memorial service for Neda Agha Setan said: "We were going to hold her memorial Monday 1st of Tir at 2:30 PM at a mosque at Sharyati street north of Seyed Khandan. But Basijis and mosque officials refused our request for her memorial service so to avoid further public confrontation and instability. They knew that Neda was an died innocently, and people in Iran and the international community are informed of that fact. So they decided to avoid a situation where a mass rally would take place. In any way, we do not have permission for a memorial service for now."

However, many eye witnesses told BBC Persia that a large gathering took place with the intention of performing a memorial service at Al Reza Mosque at Nilofar square in Tehran. But the security forces intervened by throwing people out of the mosque and intervening with the service.

Mr. Makan also commented on fake pictures of videos claiming to be Neda at various sites:"I was looking at some sites including 'iReport'. There was a picture of a young woman with green signs from previous calm demonstrations and had claimed it was Neda before being shot. These pictures have no relation to the event. It seems that Mr. Mousavi's supporters are trying to portray Neda as one of his supporters. This is not so. Neda was incredibly close to me and she was never supportive of either two groups. Neda wanted freedom and freedom for all."

BBC Farsi tried to contact Neda Agha-Sultan's other family members but was told by a close relative of hers that, for reasons of their own, the Agha Sultan family could grant an interview.

Demonstrators were scheduled to hold a rally today to mourn Neda and all the dead from these protests, but Iran's Security forces and the Basij broke up gatherings. Here are a couple of videos that are apparently from today:

Check out the front page of Iran's Kayhan Times. The translation is "$400 Million CIA Budget For Creating Riots After The Election." Obama continues to have a tough line to walk in dealing with this situation.

Iran's state media is reporting that Iran is going to release a "box by box" vote count:

Amid claims of a 'rigged-election' by certain defeated Iranian presidential candidates, a top election official says the box-by-box details of the vote will be released.

"During previous elections in the Islamic Republic, statistics concerning individual ballot boxes were considered confidential information … this kind of information was only available to certain officials," deputy head of the Interior Ministry's election headquarters Ali-Asghar Sharifi-Rad said Sunday.

According to Sharifi-Rad, the Ministry had, however, decided to publish the results "box by box," to resolve ambiguities about the disputed election in which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide victory, ILNA reported.

UK's Chatham House has released a study that examines the irregularities in the Iran vote and Juan Cole examines it and comes to this conclusion:

The numbers do not add up. You can't have more voters than there are people. You can't have a complete liberal and pragmatic-conservative swing behind hard liners who make their lives miserable.

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

Mourning Neda

It has been just a few short days since graphic video was captured of an Iranian woman named Neda, being gunned down in the streets of Tehran and dying on camera. Neda's last moments have become a symbol of the brutal crackdown on all protesters that has been imposed by the Iranian Security forces and the Basij.

A blogger, who is reportedly in touch with Neda's family, gave a little more background on her story (translated by a reader at the Huffington Post):

she was born in 1982, apparently her full name was Neda Agha-Soltan, and she was at the protest with one her professors and several other students. She was, they said, shot by a basiji riding by on a motorcycle. Also, she was apparently buried today at a large cemetery in the south of Tehran. ABC News' Lara Setrakian writes, "Hearing reports Neda was buried in Behesht Zahra cemetery earlier today, memorial service cancelled on orders from authorities."

CNN, who stumbled out of the gate on their Iran coverage but have since recovered, ran this report on Neda yesterday (Graphic Content is contained in the video below):

TIME magazine has also written a piece entitled: In Iran, One Woman's Death May Have Many Consequences. From that piece:

Iran's revolution has now run through a full cycle. A gruesomely captivating video of a young woman — laid out on a Tehran street after apparently being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across her face — swept Twitter, Facebook and other websites this weekend. The woman rapidly became a symbol of Iran's escalating crisis, from a political confrontation to far more ominous physical clashes. Some sites refer to her as "Neda," Farsi for the voice or the call. Tributes that incorporate startlingly upclose footage of her dying have started to spring up on YouTube.

Although it is not yet clear who shot "Neda" (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran's rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the shah's security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.

Melody Moezzi, a Huffington Post contributor, appeared on CNN last night to discuss the significance of Neda and the impact that civilian deaths will have on the opposition movement:

It is also being reported that Karroubi, a reformist candidate who has backed Mousavi, is calling on people to gather in Tehran at 4PM today to mourn Neda. This comes as the Revolutionary Guard has vowed to crush any further protests today.

There are already reports that police are using force to break up any demonstration or protest that attempts to form:

Riot police attacked hundreds of demonstrators with tear gas and fired live bullets in the air to disperse a rally in central Tehran Monday, carrying out a threat by the country's most powerful security force to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election.


Witnesses said helicopters hovered overhead as about 200 protesters gathered at Haft-e-Tir Square. But hundreds of anti-riot police quickly put an end to the demonstration and prevented any gathering, even small groups, at the scene.

At the subway station at Haft-e-Tir, the witnesses said police did not allow anyone to stand still, asking them to keep on walking and separating people who were walked together. The witnesses asked not to be identified for fear of government reprisals.

Just before the clashes, an Iranian woman who lives in Tehran said there was a heavy police and security presence in another square in central Tehran. She asked not to be identified because she was worried about government reprisals.

"There is a massive, massive, massive police presence," she told the Associated Press in Cairo by telephone. "Their presence was really intimidating."

There is also reporting now coming in, that the rally to mourn Neda is being broken up by the Basij. ABC's Lara Setrakian tweets:

e-source: "People are trying to gather in 7 Tir square, but being dispersed before they can gather momentum. Many many Basijis"#iranelection

TehranBureau tweets:

there is no other option: everyone has to get involved to help us.

UPDATE: Neda was apparently employed at a travel agency in Iran and was engaged to be married. BBC Persia has an interview with a man claiming to be Neda's fiance. This has yet to be translated. Iran's government banned Neda's family from holding a public funeral on Monday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Developments in Iran

There are reports that there were demonstrations today in Iran, but that they were largely peaceful after yesterday's demonstrations that resulted in Iranian Security forces brutally cracking down on protesters. Here is some of the latest:

Iran's Guardian Council has announced on Iran's state-controlled Press TV, that the tallied votes in 50 Iranian cities exceeds the number of registered voters in those cities. Even though this effects around 3 million votes:

"it has yet to be determined whether the amount is decisive in the election results,"

There is also a report that a photojournalist who runs TehranLive.org, has gone missing:

A NOTE TO OUR READERS: We are saddened to report that the Iranian photojournalist, whose pictures appear in this gallery, is missing. He has not been in contact with us; this morning we received the following email from one of his relatives. We will update this space when we have more details.

A journalist for Newsweek also has reportedly been detained:

A Canadian journalist working in Iran for Newsweek magazine was detained without charge by Iranian authorities Sunday, the magazine said, adding that Maziar Bahari had not been heard from since.

"Newsweek strongly condemns this unwarranted detention, and calls upon the Iranian government to release him immediately," the New York-based weekly news magazine said in a statement.

It said Bahari, who has been living and covering Iran for the past decade, was "detained without charge by Iranian authorities and has not been heard from since."

"Mr Bahari's coverage of Iran, for Newsweek and other outlets, has always been fair and nuanced, and has given full weight to all sides of the issues. He has worked well with different administrations in Tehran, including the current one," it said.

Earlier today, I posted the horrifying video of the death of a young girl named Neda who was shot and killed yesterday during demonstrations. Another video has now been posted that shows Neda and her father participating in the protests a little while before she is shot and killed. She is in the jeans and standing next to her father who is in the blue and white striped shirt. Her father later tried to help keep her alive after she was shot:

An Iranian-American who makes documentaries and music videos, recently made a music video at the request of her cousin who lives in Iran. He and his friends reportedly were watching it before going out to protest and the Iranian-American who made the video submitted it to the Huffington Post. Here is the music video:

Iran in Chaos

Yesterdays demonstrations and the brutal crackdown on the citizens in Iran have left us with some very disturbing videos and images. The chaos that is depicted in much of what happened yesterday is in sharp contrast to the videos that I posted earlier in the week that depict the demonstrators marching peacefully, at times in silence, through the streets of Iran. After the Supreme Leader's speech the other day, a crackdown was imminent on those who are wishing to express their right to vote freely and fairly, and have their voices of justice heard over the voices of oppression and tyranny. The videos I am going to post are all reportedly from yesterday.

This first video is of crowds that managed to gather to march through the streets:

This video is reportedly a confrontation between demonstrators and the Basij on a freeway in Iran. It looks like this video may have been shot from a rooftop:

I will give these next two videos a disclaimer for their graphic content. It turns out that images taken from these next two videos are some of the more famous images that came out of yesterday to show the extreme brutality and violence used by the security forces. I was surprised to hear that CNN aired these videos.

These two videos are from different angles from the same event and show a woman who has just been shot in the street. She dies on camera. The videos are extremely graphic and hard to watch so viewer beware. Still images of this same event can be seen here if it is easier for you.

It was later reported that the woman's name, is Neda.

A woman submitted a poem to the Huffington Post that talked about the loss of her "sister" and is apparently in reference to the woman in the two videos above.

Yesterday I wrote a note, with the subject line "tomorrow is a great day perhaps tomorrow I'll be killed." I'm here to let you know I'm alive but my sister was killed...

I'm here to tell you my sister died while in her father's hands
I'm here to tell you my sister had big dreams...
I'm here to tell you my sister who died was a decent person... and like me yearned for a day when her hair would be swept by the wind... and like me read "Forough" [Forough Farrokhzad]... and longed to live free and equal... and she longed to hold her head up and announce, "I'm Iranian"... and she longed to one day fall in love to a man with a shaggy hair... and she longed for a daughter to braid her hair and sing lullaby by her crib...

my sister died from not having life... my sister died as injustice has no end... my sister died since she loved life too much... and my sister died since she lovingly cared for people...

my loving sister, I wish you had closed your eyes when your time had come... the very end of your last glance burns my soul....

sister have a short sleep. your last dream be sweet.

Yesterday, Mousavi was apparently taking part in the protests and released a statement that he was ready for death. President Obama released the following statement:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

The world is watching. Below is another video of another man who has been shot and killed. There is some graphic content in this video as well:

According to CNN and some tweets that I am reading, it appears that demonstrators are continuing to gather in Iran on Sunday to continue to voice their opposition.


RT Unrest in Tehran continues. People are gathering in Vali-Asr, Enqelab and Baharaestan. Some others are protesting in front of UN office.


Today was the worst day in my life #Iranelection

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Video from Today's Clashes

The above video is reportedly from today and shows clashes between protesters and security forces. As I am posting this CNN is showing this video on television as well and are claiming that there is not any audio to this video. This is the third time I have heard them claim this about various videos that they are getting into their newsroom and it is simply not true, there is obviously audio. I also find that much of the time their television cameras are filming these videos on a computer screen. Kind of speaks to which medium has provided better coverage of these events.

Juan Cole discusses the bombing of the mausoleum:

Aljazeera is reporting that a suicide bomber blew himself up near the shrine of Imam Khomeini. Hard to interpret, since I don't take the reformist camp for seedy terrorist types. My guess, if its true, is Mojahedin-e Khalq or MEK or something very like it (which, if true, would be bad publicity for the reformers, since MEK is universally hated in Iran.)

Iranians are tweeting regularly that this bombing was done by the state in order to label the protesters as terrorists.

More video with translation:

It's really striking when you actually know what she's saying: At first she's worried about her mom, who has left the house. She's concerned that her mom may be caught up in a scene like the one she's watching. But when she starts crying, it's actually because she sees "them" (she never says who exactly, but you can assume from context that it's the basiji) climbing balconies and breaking into houses with bricks. She keeps screaming: "They're going into people's homes!" and "They're destroying everything!"

Protesters Clash with Security Forces

The AP is reporting on some of the clashes between protesters and security forces:

Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted "Death to the dictator!" and "Death to dictatorship!" Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, the witnesses said. [...]

English-language state TV said a blast at the Tehran shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had killed one persona and wounded two but the report could not be independently confirmed due to government restrictions on independent reporting. [...]

Web sites run by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi said he planned to post a message, but there was no statement by the time of the planned street protests at 4 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT, 1130 GMT).

Reports are also coming in of a bombing at a mausoleum and Iran's state media is attributing this bombing to a suicide bomber. Iranians on Twitter are skeptical and are even floating the idea that the government may be behind the bombing in order to claim that they are fighting against terrorists. Ann Curry of NBC tweeted:

"Iran state tv claims explosion at tomb of revered Ayatollah Khomeini. Would incite anger against protesters. Is it true? ... Remember Iran govt is the only source of this explosion report. NO independent confirmation and misinformation is dangerous."

Here is some video that is reportedly from today that shows Iranians fleeing what looks like a cloud of tear gas:

It is becoming clear from numerous reports that I am seeing from various live-blogs of this situation that the Basij have tight control of the streets. There are many reports that are saying that it is "impossible" for protesters to gather in a large group and that they are being forced into smaller groups in side streets where they are being beaten and tear gassed. It appears that things are deteriorating quickly.

Tension Mounts for Saturday's Protests

You could feel the tension in the those rooftop chants in the anticipation for the events that will unfold today in Iran. From the Huffington Post:

A Facebook user named Seth Eslami posts a message on Christiane Amanpour's page: "So far I have received several goodbye emails from my friends in Iran. It's is sad...very sad & braking my hard.What is the price tag on freedom? We can't tell people what to do from here.I want to see them free but I hate to see them in blood..."

There are also reports of a buildup of security forces. From the BBC:

It is a very confused and tense situation. The security forces are out on the streets. They have been issuing dire warnings that they will deal with any unauthorised demonstrations with determination.

This is all about the position of the Supreme Leader. Any rally, particularly if it is attended by the opposition leaders, would be the most direct challenge to his authority. If it goes ahead and there is a large crowd, that would be a massive challenge to him. If it goes ahead and it is broken up with violent force, that could also damage his position enormously. It is a very tense situation. These are huge political issues at stake, if not even the future of the Islamic Republic.

The AP:

Fire trucks took up positions in Revolution Square, the site of the planned gathering, and riot police surrounded Tehran University, the site of recent clashes between protesters and security forces, one witness said.

CNN recently tweeted the following:

Thousands of people attempting to enter Tehran protest site have been blocked by heavily armed police, eyewitness says.

Other tweets coming from people inside Iran:


Houses in alleys opening doors to injured protestors, one source reporting hallway is full of beaten ppl, many crying...#IranElection


Today is maybe the most important day in iran's history, will we see Tiananmen Sq.? It seems ppl don't care and still will go #iranelection


shooting reported in Azadi Sq

Vanak Square reportedly full of civilian-dressed forces (lebas shakhsi)

There are current reports of tear gas being deployed in Azadi Square and police blocking protesters from entering. I fear we will be seeing some of the most disturbing images of these events after today is over.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tension Mounts in Iran after Khamenei's Speech

Video of security forces vandalizing an office building:

The BBC's coverage of Khamenei's speech:

Obama's response to this speech:

"And I'm very concerned based on some of the tenor -- and tone of the statements that have been made -- that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching. And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and -- and is not."

Roger Cohen is on the ground in Iran and offers his take:

The whispering is heard in the throng’s silence. It is the word-of-mouth switching mechanism of Iran’s uprising. I’ve never seen such discipline achieved with so little, millions summoned and coordinated with hardly a sound. “Silence will win against the bullets,” says one banner.

The odds must still be against that. But Ahmadinejad, in his customary bipolar (but tending manic) fashion, is making nice. “We like everyone,” he now says. I suppose he must mean those who are not in prison, hospital or a cemetery.

However, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, adopted a harsh tone in a Friday sermon, warning of chaos and bloodshed if protests continue, blaming “evil media” run by “Zionists” for unacceptable disturbances, dismissing rigging as impossible, and charging the United States with meddling. In effect, Khamenei drew a line in the sand.


Iran has sought independence and some form of democracy for over a century. It now has the former but this election has clarified, for an overwhelmingly young population, the Islamic Republic’s utter denial of the latter.

The feeling in the crowd seems to be: today or never, all together and heave!

A man holds his mobile phone up to me: footage of a man with his head blown off last Monday. A man, 28, whispers: “The government will use more violence, but some of us have to make the sacrifice.”

Tension is indeed mounting prior to tomorrow's first planned rally that the government has not issued a permit for. It is even reflected in the tweets:


Tonight at 10 pm, on the rooftops everyone chanted 'Death to the Dictator.' On previous nights it wasn't so strong.


Khameneyi said he will not tolerate any more protesters & rallies, so tomorrow's rally is completely against his will as the supreme leader


RT@Change_for_Iran:entire Farsi twitter network is talkin about tomorrow 4PM .what'll happen to rallies after khamaneyi speech #iranelection

Indeed, what will happen?

Iran's Supreme Leader Calls Election Fair and Warns Protesters to Stay off the Streets

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given a speech defending the results of the election and gave a warning to protesters to cease protests and stay out of the streets. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reportedly in attendance during this speech. From the Guardian:

The speech now creates a clear dilemma for Mousavi and his supporters: do they return to the streets in open defiance of Khamenei or drop their demands? Prior to today's speech, Mousavi had called on the opposition movement to gather in Tehran tomorrow afternoon for a rally, but many may now feel too fearful of a crackdown by the authorities.

"Arm wrestling in the street must stop," Khamenei said. "I want everyone to put an end to this. If they don't stop this … they will be held accountable for all of this."

The ayatollah insisted that it was "natural" for people to support different candidates but that the foreign media was responsible for portraying supporters of Mousavi as opposed to the Islamic revolution.

"Enemies try through various media, and some of these media belong to the Zionists … they try to make believe that there is a fight between supporters of the opposition and the Islamic establishment," said Khamenei. "They have no right to say that, that is not true."

Khamenei's threats, that there will be accountability should the protests continue, certainly puts an added level of tension in air on this issue. It has been striking to watch the peaceful protesters march en masse through the city streets and call for their voice to be heard, but there is certainly a sense that something is going to happen. Andrew Sullivan weighs in:

I think we find one clue to why he rigged the vote count so crudely. His argument that a majority of eleven million was too big to allow for any irregularities suggests he believed that a big lie was the only one that would work. But if you utter a big lie, you had better hope it could persuade some. It appears to have persuaded no one but a few fools at the Washington Post and the executive editor of the New York Times.

And the endless attempt to blame all this on Britain and the US and the "Zionists." This is a regime that is so hermetically sealed, so rigid in its dogma, so brutal in its ideology it probably believes its own lies. It is, as David Brooks notes today, very, very fragile. When every piece of data requires a reassertion of doctrine in order to banish reality from people's minds, government becomes impossible. All that is possible is brute force and terror.

I fear deeply what is about to happen. But I also sense that the Gandhi-strategy of the majority is a winning one. If they can sustain their numbers and withstand the nightly raids, and if they can overwhelm the capital tomorrow in another peaceful show of strength, then they can win. And the world will change. This is their struggle now, requiring the kind of courage that only God can provide. Their God, my God, the God of the Torah and the Koran and the Gospels.

Something is happening in Iran.

and more frightening reports on the Basij in the New York Times:

The vigilantes plan to take their fight into the daylight on Friday, with the public relations department of Ansar Hezbollah, the most public face of the Basij, announcing that they planned a public demonstration to expose the “seditious conspiracy” being carried out by “agitating hooligans.”

“We invite the vigilant people who are always in the arena to make their loud objections heard in response to the babbling of this tribe,” said the announcement, carried on the Web site Parsine.

The announcement could be the first indication that the government was taking its gloves off, Iranian analysts noted, because up to this point the Basijis, usually deployed as the shock troops to end any public protests, have been working in stealth.

Some new videos have also come out from this past week in Iran. Here is video of the attack on Tehran University earlier in the week:

Here is a video from Monday's protests that show a demonstrator being shot:

It is also being reported that the soccar players who wore green writstbands in their World Cup qualifying match have been suspended.

There was some pressure for Google to turn their page "green" to show support for the protests in Iran, but instead of doing this, they added a Persian/Farsi translator to their services so that people can translate articles and tweets to English.

and finally, some tweets coming out of Iran:


i'm rlly feeling sad & disappointed after Mr. Khamenei's speech 2day. Will Mousavi step back from his requests? What about ppl?


I see pure evil in khamenei, threatening peaceful demonstrations with even greater violence...#iranelection


RT @persiankiwi confirmed - the Gov has refused to issue a permit for Sea of Green march at 4pm on Saturday in Tehran - #Iranelection

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Video and Photos from the Day of Mourning and Exposing the Basij

There are some videos and photos that are beginning to come into various sources of today's rally to mourn the election and also the victims who have been killed.

Protesters were encouraged to wear black for the day of mourning:

Mousavi even made an appearance:

Juan Cole provides some historical context behind the day of mourning:

Mourning the martyr is as central to Iranian Shiite religious culture as it was to strains of medieval Catholicism in Europe, and Mousavi's camp is tapping into a powerful set of images and myths here. The archetypal Shiite martyr is Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who championed oppressed Muslims in Iraq and was cut down by the then Umayyad Muslim Empire. Recognition that a Muslim state might commit the ultimate in sacrilege by beheading a person who had been dangled on the Prophet's knee has imbued modern political Shiism with a distrust of the state. When Husayn's head was brought to the Umayyad caliph Yazid and deposited before his throne, older companions of the Prophet are said to have wept and remarked, "I saw the Prophet's lips on those cheeks." Shiites ritually march, flagellate, and chant in honor of the martyred Imam or divinely-appointed leader.


But now Mousavi's his supporters are also sporting black ribbons to indicate that they are in mourning for the fallen. Typically, the dead will be commemorated again at one month and at 40 days. In 1978 such demonstrations for those killed in previous demonstrations grew in size all through the year, till they reached an alleged million in the streets of Tehran. Since the reformists are already claiming Monday's rally was a million, you wonder where things will go from here.

Is the tide beginning to turn? Apparently the Basij, who have been open about their identities, are now beginning to hide their faces:

The Basij have now begun to cover their faces, whereas previously they hadn't. This indicates they are becoming more scared of retaliation from the general public. Also, we have heard that cell phone service is cut off at night. There have been efforts to identify members of the Basij who have used violence against demonstrators, through facebook and other social networking websites.

Perhaps this would be a reason why they feel the need to hide their face, they are being exposed:

Members of the Iranian Parliament began asking questions yesterday about these plainclothes officials who had been attacking protesters and here is what happened. (Translated from Farsi by a reader at the Huffington Post):

Yesterday a couple of the members of the Iranian parliament started asking question regarding the plainclothes security forces who have been beating the protesters in Iran.

Apparently, Abutorabi (Parliament secretary) questioned the connections of the plainclothes security forces who had earlier storm Tehran University's dorms and killed and injured students. Abutorabi claims that those individuals have been identified and says: "Why do plainclothes individuals without permission from the government get to storm the dorms?"

Then Ansari, a member of the parliament took the floor and talked about the "fact finding" committee and the fact that everyone in that comity is an Ahmadinejad supporter and therefore questioned the legitimacy of the committee.

After Ansari, Abutorabi took the floor again and continued questioning the plainclothes security forces once again. At this point Hosseinian, Koochakzadeh, and resaee, the three biggest supporters of Ahmadinejad in the parliament, started a verbal argument which ended with a number of physical fights. As a result a number of pro and ant Ahmadinejad members of the parliament join the fight and start slapping and pushing each other.

In the end, the anti Ahmadinejad block claims that they will expose the identities of those behind the plainclothes security forces.

Keep in mind that the pro and anti Ahmadinejad blocks belong to the same political party! I think the government is starting to crack up from the inside.

Digby had a good post about putting this whole situation into some context:

It's also worth understanding how this has completely bypassed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, almost ceasing to be about him at all, and instead has to be viewed through the lens of the desires of the Supreme Leader. The election itself has become almost besides the point, as thirty years of frustration with the shift of the Islamic Revolution, or possibly even just frustration with the personality of Khamenei himself, bubbles to the surface.

digby then references this analysis:

However, his support for Ahmadinejad before and after the elections, together with what many believe to be overwhelming election fraud that he has sanctioned, is almost out of character for Khamenei. Such moves are very sudden and extreme, unlike the punctilious way in which he has maneuvered around important issues and decisions in the past. They are also very provocative, not just for supporters of reformists, but because they are clearly efforts to isolate other powerful figures. These leaders include Rafsanjani and Karroubi, both of whom have vast business connections and are politically well-connected.

One possible reason for Khamenei’s recent decision is that he realized that unless he intervened, the reformists would win the elections. What concerned the Supreme Leader even more is the fact that the clergy, both right and left, were turning against the president, and ultimately, against him. Recently, for instance, the Society For Combatant Clergies, a powerful conservative group belonging to the clergy in Qom, decided “not to support any candidate in the presidential elections.” This was a politically correct way of saying that they would not support Ahmadinejad. As someone who has supported Ahmadinejad throughout his career, Khamenei took their decision as a rebuff against his own political ambitions.

A victory by the reformists, in cooperation with the clergy and Rafsanjani, would have created a powerful front against Khamenei. Instead of being loyalist soldiers like Ahmadinejad, they would have challenged his views in important areas, such as dealing with the United States. With Khamenei already viewing Obama’s positive overtures as a threat, any more internal dissent would have boosted Washington’s position against Iran in the negotiations.

and then back to digby:

It's worth noting that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani heads the Assembly of Experts, the religious body which chooses - and can depose - a Supreme Leader. The clerics have said almost nothing throughout this week of protests, but Rafsanjani has been alleged to be masterminding this whole spectacle. The fact that some protestors are targeting Khamenei personally lends credence to that. Rafsanjani and "moderates" like him have backed down before, but the presumed stolen election is a more powerful lever with which to play out the palace intrigue. Viewed this way, we can see these protests as a high-stakes jockeying for power among different sects from the original Islamic revolution, a far cry from some democratic uprising for freedom. I don't think that's the motivation of everyone in the streets, but what they don't know won't hurt them.

Indeed there is much more going on here than the election, but it is through the election that all of these political alliances are being tested and pressured. One can feel the momentum building within Iran and as of now, it is unclear how this situation will play out. Matt Yglesias summed it up nicely earlier today:

But when you have your mass protests, you still have the key question. Do the security services just kill a bunch of people (Tiananmen)? Does the regime blink and surrender (Velvet Revolution)? Does the regime attempt surrender, only to be undercut by a hardline coup (USSR, 1991)? Does the regime attempt to resist, only to be undone by a coup (Romania)? Information technology doesn’t seem to me to have anything to do with this. It all has to do with internal regime politics, and the attitudes of the people leading and serving in the security forces.