Sunday, June 14, 2009

Post-election unrest & repression in Iran

It's clear that there have been widespread protests in Iranian cities, although their size and extent are hard to judge from the available information, as well as an ongoing government crackdown against actual and potential opposition.

=> According to Laura Rozen (Foreign Policy on-line):
Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi is planning a march of his supporters at 4 p.m. Monday in Tehran, Iranian sources said. He apparently went to see the supreme leader Sunday to seek a permit for it, but one hasn't yet been obtained. If he is prevented from getting permission, he has said he plans to march to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomenei, an act that Iranians say the authorities of the Islamic Republic would be disinclined to prevent.

Iranian sources said former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is in Qom, seeking to persuade clerics not to certify the Iranian elections.

Another presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, issued a statement today saying he wants to have the ballots examined, Iranian sources said.

Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a press conference and victory rally Sunday, attended by tens of thousands, as sporadic protests and demonstrations and clashes with the police continued, much of it recorded on Twitter. [....]
=> Andrew Sullivan (at his "Daily "Dish" blog) and Nico Pitney (at the Huffington Post) have been posting a steady stream of photos, video clips, and other reports reports from (and about) Iran. It's worth checking their blogs for updates.

=> Talking Points Memo has a slide-show of protests in Iran HERE.

=> Some highlights from a post by Juan Cole with a roundup on "Post-Election Demonstrations, Violence, Arrests":
Reports from students in Tehran say that the universities and polytechnic institutes have been closed for the next few days. This step was obviously taken to prevent students from gathering and demonstrating on campus. Many shopkeepers have closed up shop.

Mir-Hosain Mousavi's protest letter is here.

On Saturday, thousands of pro-Mousavi protesters staged sit-down strikes, started fires in metal trash bins, and confronted police and Islamic Republic of Iran paramilitary forces, pelting them with stones. Riot control police were sent in on motorcycles, in heavy gear. Toward midnight Saturday, tear gas canisters were being lobbed at the thinning ranks of protesters, with at least one hit in the head and wounded by a canister. Observers in Iran said that Facebook was taken off line and that even cell phone service was interrupted.

The demonstrations did not only take place in Tehran, as some observers have charged, but were also staged in parts of other cities (I've seen Tabriz and Rasht cited).

Iranian authorities have taken into custody at least four of the leaders of the Islamic Iran Participation Front Party, which supported Mir-Hosain Mousavi in Friday's presidential election. The IIPFP was a leading party within the reformist Second of Khordad Movement of former president Mohammad Khatami. [....]

Iran's repressive forces are powerful and they may get away with staging a stolen election for now. But the regime's credibility has definitely taken a hit.
=> Some highlights from a Sunday New York Times story, "Unrest Deepens as Critics Are Detained":
Violence and acrimony over Iran’s disputed election intensified on Sunday, with word spreading that more than 100 prominent opposition members had been detained, riots erupting in Tehran and other cities, and the triumphant incumbent hinting that his top challenger risks punishment for questioning the result.

Two of the three opposition candidates and a clerical group issued fresh statements requesting an annulment of the election on Friday, which gave a lopsided victory to the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative who has become a polarizing figure at home and abroad. They did so despite a decree from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that the outcome was fair. [....]

Those resisting the election results gained a potentially important new ally on Sunday when a moderate clerical body, the Association of Combatant Clergy, issued a statement posted on reformist Web sites saying that the vote was rigged and calling for it to be annulled. The statement warned that “if this process becomes the norm, the republican aspect of the regime will be damaged and people will lose confidence in the system.” [....]

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s electoral rivals appeared to be holding firm in their protest against the vote despite the arrests and a mass crackdown on street protesters by the police and Basij militia members, many of them wielding batons, whips and chains. Nationwide protest movements in 1999 and 2003 trailed off after a week or so.

In a statement, Mr. Moussavi said he had asked the Guardian Council of Iran, which must certify the election for it to be legal, to cancel the vote. He also said he was being monitored by the authorities and was unable to join his followers. His campaign headquarters has been shuttered, he said.

Another candidate, the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, echoed Mr. Moussavi’s demand for the election to be canceled. “I am announcing again that the elections should not be allowed and the results have no legitimacy or social standing,” Mr. Karroubi said in a statement posted on opposition Web sites. “Therefore, I do not consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the republic.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke Sunday at Valiasr Square in central Tehran, surrounded by thousands of chanting, flag-waving voters in what was clearly intended to be a show of popular support for his victory. But the smell of tear gas and smoke drifted over the cheering crowds. Only a few blocks away, groups of protesters chanted their own slogans against the government, and some of them, bloodied and screaming, could be seen running from police officers armed with clubs. [....]
Whether this unrest proves to be transitory or escalates further remains to be seen.

--Jeff Weintraub