Sunday, June 14, 2009

More on Iran

. Sunday, June 14, 2009

Catchall thread. I plan to update throughout the day as information trickles in.

[UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.] Fresh post above. Future updates will be posted there.

[UPDATE: 2:50 p.m.] Not everyone thinks Ahmadinejad lost (see 2:20 update).

[UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.] I haven't commented on this yet, because I don't know exactly what's going on. But Sullivan and Ackerman have passed along this DailyKos report that purports to be a leak of the "real" election results. I've seen it discussed on a few message boards and Twitter pages as well, so I thought I should comment. First, the "real" results:

Unofficial news - reports leaked results from Interior Ministry:
Eligible voters: 49,322,412
Votes cast: 42,026,078
Spoilt votes: 38,716
Mir Hossein Mousavi: 19,075,623
Mehdi Karoubi: 13,387,104
Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad (incumbent): 5,698,417
Mohsen Rezaei (conservative candidate): 3,754,218

At first glance, these numbers seem just as absurd as the official count. Mousavi beating Ahmadinejad 3.5 to 1 is... implausible (according to everything I've heard and read over the past few days). And Karoubi having more than twice as many votes as Ahmadinejad may be even more unlikely. Since I first saw this, yesterday at 9 p.m. on the BigSoccer forum, I have been trying to find another source to verify. When I saw that DailyKos had picked it up sometime late last night I thought they may have found one.

But it turns out that the source is very likely to be the same. Here's the DailyKos poster's description of his source:

From the streets I have updates, a friend in Iran is a sports journalist for the immensely popular national football team. Due to the nature of his reporting, he has been practically ignored, and free to switch his reporting over to covering these events.

I believe this is the same person who posted the exact same figures, with the exact same wording and formatting, to the BigSoccer forum at 9 p.m. yesterday. Sullivan, Ackerman, and many others are linking to the DailyKos story, but none of it has been verified by any other source. In fact, it contradicts the report from Roger Cohen saying that employees of the Interior Ministry had not been allowed into the building, and that they believe that the votes were never even counted. The closest thing to corroboration is Rezaei's claim that he received 3.5 million votes, which basically jives with the rumored "real" numbers. But it is not at all clear that Rezaei's claim is credible.

I plan to keep looking into it, but I would caution against further use of those statistics without some sort of independent verification of their validity.

[UPDATE: 1:55 p.m.] Many ayatollahs are protesting:

The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid.

Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity.

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He has also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means are also haraam. Several credible reports indicate that he has traveled to Tehran in order to participate in nationwide protests scheduled for Monday (June 18). It is said that he has planned a sit-in in some public place, in order to further protest election fraud. His website has been blocked.

Credible reports also indicate that security forces have surrounded the offices and homes of several other important ayatollahs who are believed to want to protest election fraud. Their websites cannot be accessed, and all communications with them have been cut off.

The nation is waiting to hear the views of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most important ayatollah living in Iran and the strongest clerical critic of the conservatives. He has been asked to issue a clear statement, explaining his views about the election fraud.

Mr. Khatami, who campaigned strongly for Mr. Mousavi, is also under house arrest.

[UPDATE: 1:45 p.m.] Tehran Bureau reports that Ahmadinejad's supporters are having "Thank You Ceremonies," complete with ice cream and cakes. Also, Mousavi's wife has appeared publicly and reiterated Mousavi's calls for peaceful protests in all cities tomorrow and general strikes on Tuesday.

[UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.] NIAC reports that reformist candidate Karroubi has taken off his cleric's robes in protest of the election.

And Pitney got a report that many of the Basiji (plainclothes police) are imported Hezbollah militiamen. This dovetails with a lot of Twitter chatter. Other tweets have claimed there are street battles in front of the School of Physics.

[UPDATE: 12:55 p.m.] Another candidate has officially challenged the results of the election. Rezai argues that he received millions more votes than the official statistics show. Note that that link is in Farsi; partial translation here. If I get ahold of a full translation, I'll link to it.

[UPDATE: 12:40 p.m.] Tens of thousands rally in support of Ahmadinejad.

[UPDATE: 11:50 a.m.] Someone stands up for the official figures:

An interval here for lunch with a true and faithful friend of the Islamic Republic, a man I have known for many years who has risked his life and been imprisoned for Iran and who has never lied to me. We dined in an all-Iranian-food restaurant, along with his wife. He has often criticised the regime. A man unafraid. But I must repeat what he said. "The election figures are correct, Robert. Whatever you saw in Tehran, in the cities and in thousands of towns outside, they voted overwhelmingly for Ahmadinejad. Tabriz voted 80 per cent for Ahmadinejad. It was he who opened university courses there for the Azeri people to learn and win degrees in Azeri. In Mashad, the second city of Iran, there was a huge majority for Ahmadinejad after the imam of the great mosque attacked Rafsanjani of the Expediency Council who had started to ally himself with Mousavi. They knew what that meant: they had to vote for Ahmadinejad."

And Chavez congratulates Ahmadinejad.

[UPDATE: 11:20 a.m.] Video of CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour asking Ahmadinejad if Mousavi had been placed under arrest, and whether his safety was guaranteed. Ahmadinejad demurs.

[UPDATE: 11:05 a.m.] A Twitter post alleges that Grand Ayatollah Sanei has been placed under house arrest following his issuance of a fatwa declaring the election invalid. This sounds a dubious to me, and I'll keep looking for independent verification, but this tweeter has been passing along pretty reliable information for the past few days.

Elsewhere, this video shows riot police on motorcycles attacking protesters (probably yesterday, rather than today) before one is knocked off his bike and roughed up before some protesters help him to his feet, protect him from other protesters, and send him on his way.

And 120 faculty members at Sharif University have resigned in protest, and are demonstrating in front of the university.

[UPDATE: 10:40 a.m.] A powerful, emotional report from Tehran by the NY Times' Roger Cohen:

She was in tears like many women on the streets of Iran’s battered capital. “Throw away your pen and paper and come to our aid,” she said, pointing to my notebook. “There is no freedom here.” ...

He was from the Interior Ministry. He showed his ID card. He said he’d worked there 30 years. He said he hadn’t been allowed in; nor had most other employees. He said the votes never got counted. He said numbers just got affixed to each candidate. ...

Majir Mirpour grabbed me. A purple bruise disfigured his arm. He raised his shirt to show a red wound across his back. “They beat me like a pig,” he said, breathless. “They beat me as I tried to help a woman in tears. I don’t care about the physical pain. It’s the pain in my heart that hurts.”

He looked at me and the rage in his eyes made me want to toss away my notebook.

Meanwhile, Mousavi has released a letter to his supporters. Among other things, the letter describes his petition to the Guardian Council to nullify the election and his request for legal clearance to stage formal protests tomorrow.

[UPDATE: 10:20 a.m.] Nico Pitney at HuffPost has the transcript of Amanpour's question to Ahmadinejad regarding the alleged detainment of Mousavi [UPDATE: video above]:

CNN's Christian Amanpour got into a bit of a verbal scuffle with Ahmadinejad during his press conference just now. Her questions were: "What is the situation with your challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi and will you guarantee his safety? And why have opposition reform individuals, officials, been arrested?"

Ahmadinejad responded (CNN's translation):

The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world, and there's the rule of law in this country, and all the people are equal before the law. And the presidential election has witnessed people's massive turnout. As I said, even in a soccer match, people may become excited and that may lead to a confrontation between them and the police force. This is something natural. A person coming out of a stadium may violate the traffic regulations. He wil be fined by the police no matter who he is, an ordinary person or even a minister.

So these are not problems for the people of Iran. 40 million people have participated in the election and these 40 million people will safeguard the elections, based on the Iranian culture. There is no partisanship based on the Western concept. In fact, the people are friends with one another, and they're going to cast their votes in favor of any candidate they like, and of course, such a voting process will not lead to any hostility among the people. And you go to the streets you see that people are friends with one another, and in Iran, no one asks the other whom you're going to vote for.

The situation is very good, and Iran is on the threshold of making considerable progress. And definitely in the next four years, the status of Iran in the world will be further promoted.

At this point, Amanpour tried to re-ask her question, using what seemed to be the tried and true reporters' technique of claiming she had "missed the translation." Ahmadinejad shouted something at her, apparently (though it wasn't translated on CNN) something like, 'no follow-up questions." She responded, "No, just the first question," and tried to repeat herself, but he cut her off. "Yes, I did respond to your question," he said, before repeating his traffic law example and declaring himself the "president of all Iranians."

Pitney also passes on reports that foreign reporters are being detained at their hotel.

[UPDATE: 10:00 a.m.] There are a lot of Twitter feeds (purportedly) from folks inside Iran. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be supporters of Mousavi. A list of the Twitterers is here. And a former foreign minister -- and current dissident -- gave an interview yesterday calling the situation a coup d'etat.

[UPDATE: 8:30 a.m.] CNN's Christine Amanpour just asked Ahmadinejad twice if Mousavi had been placed under arrest, and whether his safety was guaranteed. Ahmadinejad refused to answer directly, instead saying that Mousavi had been given a traffic ticket as if he was a disorderly soccer fan. Video when I can find it. Mousavi had said on his Twitter feed that he had been placed under house arrest, but that has been disputed.

For reference, before the election The Washington Institute gave a run-down of the ways in which the Iranian election might be tampered with.

[UPDATE: 7:45 a.m.] Ahmadinejad's speech was mostly predictable (the question time is still ongoing as I type). His only reference to the protesters was to liken them to unhappy soccer fans whose team has lost. But the protests continue even as he speaks:

About a mile away from Ahmadinejad's press conference, young Iranians set trash bins, banks and tires on fire as riot police beat them back with batons.

That article repeats the report that Mousavi has been placed under house arrest, but cannot independently verify it. It does verify many other arrests, including the internment of Khatemi's brother, who was held but has since been released.

[UPDATE: 7:15 a.m.] Al Jazeera confirms large numbers of arrests of high-profile reformists:

"They were taken from their homes last night," Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice-president and close associate of Mohammad Khatami, the former president, said.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, the former president's brother, was among the members of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, which won more than 100 seats in the 290-member parliament in 2000, who were arrested.

Ahmad Reza Radan, Tehran's deputy police chief, told the official IRNA news agency that at least 60 people had been detained and more arrests would be made soon.

[UPDATE: 6:45 a.m.] Tehran Live has many images of the scene in the streets of that city. And Ahmadinajed has his own blog... but he hasn't updated it since 2007.

A report (that I have yet to confirm) contends that Grand Ayatollah Sanei has issued a fatwa declaring that Ahmadinejad's government is illegitimate. If I can find a published source, I'll update here. A Twitter feed promoting that claim is here.

Laura Secor says in the New Yorker that the only possibility is fraud (via DeLong):

What is most shocking is not the fraud itself, but that it was brazen and entirely without pretext. The final figures put Mousavi’s vote below thirty-five per cent, and not because of a split among reformists; they have Karroubi pulling less than one per cent of the vote. To announce a result this improbable, and to do it while locking down the Interior Ministry, sending squads of Revolutionary Guards into the streets, blacking out internet and cell phone communication and shuttering the headquarters of the rival candidates, sends a chilling message to the people of Iran—not only that the Islamic Republic does not care about their votes, but that it does not fear their wrath. Iranians, including many of the original founders and staunch supporters of the revolution, are angry, and they will demonstrate. But they will be met with organized and merciless violence.
Already, Youtube clips are streaming out of Iran, many of them showing riot police savagely beating protestors.

Gary Sick (former NSC) runs down the events of June 12 (via Ackerman):

- Near closing time of the polls, mobile text messaging was turned off nationwide
- Security forces poured out into the streets in large numbers
- The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men
- National television began broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the winner
- The Mousavi campaign was informed officially that they had won the election, which perhaps served to temporarily lull them into complacency
- But then the Ministry of Interior announced a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad
- Unlike previous elections, there was no breakdown of the vote by province, which would have provided a way of judging its credibility
- The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country, an impossibility (also see the comments of Juan Cole at the title link)
- Less than 24 hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene`i publicly announced his congratulations to the winner, apparently confirming that the process was complete and irrevocable, contrary to constitutional requirements
- Shortly thereafter, all mobile phones, Facebook, and other social networks were blocked, as well as major foreign news sources.

Steve Clemens has a "well-connected Iranian" source who anticipates a violent struggle between supporters of Khamenei/Ahmadinejad and supporters of Mousavi/Rafsanjani/Khatami.

One of the best sources for information during the past two days has been... a soccer message board. I regularly visit the pages dedicated to Liverpool FC and the local Carolina Railhawks, but there has been a discussion of the election going for several weeks. And over the past few days, eyewitnesses and those with local connections have been posting updates like this one, from a few hours ago:

1. The Green protesters have taken over at least two police stations in north of Tehran, the Guards are trying to take back the buildings.

2. University dormitories across Iran have been attacked by the Revolutionary Guards.

3. The building of the ministry of Industry, and a major telecommunication center, have been set on fire.

4. Sharif University's professors have resigned on mass.

5. Unrest in Rasht, Tabriz, Isfahan, Shiraz and every other major city.

The full thread is here, but the first ten or so pages are pre-election discussion. Since the 12th, the page has been uploading dozens of pictures, youtube videos, and Twitter feeds of the protests and local reactions.


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