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.

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