Wednesday, June 17, 2009

w/ 38 Special
@ Merriweather Post Pavilion • Columbia, MD
This Tuesday!
June 23
5:30pm Gates

Nightime again in Tehran, so here's today's update.

What's going on:

* more protests: there was another huge protest today in Tehran. The Guardian (UK) reported it was 500,000 strong, but that's probably a bit high. I've seen pictures and some video from it, and it's certainly very sizeable, but maybe not as big as monday's. Today's protest was a silent protest, and if some of you have seen the videos, it's quite chilling seeing tens of thousands of people walking in silence and holding their fingers in a "V." People also planned on bringing flowers and giving them to members of the basij. Like the other days, the police and army are just standing by and doing nothing, and even in a few cases, protected them from attacks by the basij. Musavi and Khatami weren't present at these protests either, but Musavi's wife was and went to Tehran University to denounce the attacks against the students. Again the night before people went to their rooftops to scream "Allah-u Akbar" (a throwback to the 78-9 protests), and a few people said security officials were walking around the streets taking down addresses where people were doing this.
* violence: the violence has increased, with people again being beaten indiscriminately in the streets by plainclothes officers. Many of the hospitals are reported to be filled, and official orders are to take anyone injured in the protests to one of the military hospitals, which clearly no one wants to end up in. A report from the largest student group in Iran reported 32 deaths, but that has not yet been confirmed. People are again reporting seeing Arab (specifically Lebanese) security officials among the basij, which wouldn't be unprecedented in Iranian protest-quelling history. It's interesting, though, that the regime needs to outsource this job, and perhaps evidence that they don't have the numbers willing to subdue these protests. There's a very scary email from a female medical student that I'm quoting here in full to give you a sense of what's going on:


It's painful to watch what's happening.

I don't want anything to do with what has been said this far, as I neither have the strength nor the resilience to face all these unfathomable events.

I only want to speak about what I have witnessed. I am a medical student. There was chaos last night at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don't even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they've asked everyone to stay and help--I'm sure it will even be worst tonight.

What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?

This issue is not about cheating(election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflected on the people. They've put a baton in the hand of every 13-14 year old to smash the faces of "the bunches who are less than dirt" (government is calling the people who are uprising dried-up torn and weeds) .

This is what sickens me from dealing with these issues. And from those who shut their eyes and close their ears and claim the riots are in opposition of the government and presidency!! No! The people's complaint is against the egregious injustices committed against the people.

* more arrests: arrests of opposition leaders and activists continue, including a few more people from Khatami's administration, and a prominent leader of the Iran Freedom Party, Ibrahim Yazdi, who some of you may have seen speak or interviewed in the US at times. The same student publication I mentioned above says the arrests are now more than 500.
* legal update: there's been a few interesting updates in terms of the legal process. One, the Guardian Council began its 'partial recount' of votes in Kermanshah (a Kurdish province), and surprisingly, found 'little irregularities.' Khamenei reportedly continues to meet with all 4 candidates to figure out a solution, but clearly nothing has been agreed upon. One story I've seen is that Karrubi wants the entire election to be declared void, while Musavi is lobbying for an independent "truth finding commission" to pour through everything that happened leading up to and including the voting. I find Musavi's strategy to be a bit odd, since one would assume he would want to capitalize on the momentum he has going, not to mention the fact that the people in the street would find anything short of a re-vote appalling. Still, it might be a clever ploy to expose all the fraud and irregularities that went on in this entire election and de-legitimize not just Ahmadinejad, but other ranking regime members that were active or complicit in this.
* Whither Khamenei: this is very much unconfirmed, but there are some reports that Rafsanjani has called an emergency meeting of the Assembly of Experts (the body charged with overseeing and choosing the Supreme Leader) in Qom. Long before this people thought Rafsanjani was interesting in holding the position of Supreme Leader when it became vacant--there's been rumors of Khamenei's illness and impending death for almost a decade--but now there is speculation he's been in Qom lobbying for the removal of Khamenei. Hopefully there will be more news about this later, but this would clearly be a ground-breaking development.
* media wars: the media and cyber-warfare going on between the regime and opposition continues. Most English-language websites are blocked sporadically, communication has been spotty at best, and as of a few days ago regime loyalists have caught on to the twitter phenomenon and have begun setting up accounts and posting mis-information. People on twitter are urging people not to trust new users, and also, are urging people with pre-existing accounts to change their location and time zone to Tehran to overwhelm Iranian authorities. So if you want to help, set up a twitter account from "Tehran" and help keep Iranian intelligence busy!
* just for fun: there's a very famous Iranian folk singer named Shajarian, and the other day he said he did not want any of his music played on state-run Iranian TV or radio anymore. Earlier Ahmadinejad called the protestors "brushwood and thorns," and Shajarian said "Don't broadcast my voice on Seda va Sima [IRIB Music channel] ever again: my voice is like brushwood and thorns, and it will forever remain brushwood and thorns!"
* coup right back at you!: Ahmadinejad and his supporters like to call protestors American, Israeli puppets and their actions an attempt at a CIA-backed crew. Musavi's European spokeman, the famous film Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, accused Ahmadinejad and his supporters of carrying out a Russian-backed coup! He said Ahmadinejad travelled there to get advice on quelling the protests from Medvedev, and said in the past 4 years Iran has sold off its economic interests in the Caspian Sea to Russia. I don't know about the veracity of his claims, but you gotta love to jujitsu.
* day of mourning

So, again, what does all this mean?

* There's not much more to add in terms of interpreting what's been going on, but I will say that the protests have no signs of dissipating, and the regime is increasingly facing a difficult decision of whether to more violently crack down or not. So far it has used measured but still cruel pressure, but it doesn't seem to be acting to definitely crush the protests....perhaps because at this stage they simply can't. There's further protests planned, and importantly, Montazeri has called for a day of mourning for those killed in the protests so far. Many of the large protests in the early days of the revolution came from mourning and funeral processions for those killed by the Shah's police, so this is again an explicit throwback to the events of 30 years ago.
* lastly, the fact that the election was rigged is beyond debate now, despite what some of the neo-cons might be saying (I'm looking at you Robert Kagan), but if you want to read a bit more about it:

Thanks for putting up with my emails and if you want to show your support wear green! Again, if you forward just delete the line with my name and email.

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