Iran Burning, Pt. 8 (UPDATED REPEATEDLY)


There is more news trickling in this morning of the Iranian government brutally suppressing opposition demonstrators:

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.”

[Emphasis mine]

And Time tells the story of Neda, a young Iranian woman who was allegedly shot to death by the Basij.

Her death was caught on video and has spread throughout the internet; some people are now portraying her as a martyr for the opposition’s cause:

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.


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.


“Neda” is already being hailed as a martyr, a second important concept in Shiism. With the reported deaths of 19 people Saturday, martyrdom also provides a potent force that could further deepen public anger at Iran’s regime.

Meanwhile, a number of European countries are opening up their embassies to wounded demonstrators who need medical attention but risk arrest and/or execution if they go to an Iranian hospital.

A number of videos chronicle the escalating violence in Iran. Here, police attack a group of unarmed students in Shiraz:

And here a group of opposition demonstrators successfully fight off a group of Basij:

This video allegedly shows opposition forces setting fire to the gas lines that lead to the Basij headquarters:

And pictures, from Andrew Sullivan:






UPDATE: BBC Persia (translated by HuffPo) has more on Neda Agha-Setan.  Apparently she was not a supporter of Mousavi–she simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was killed because of it.

Which, in my opinion, is even worse–Agha-Setan was gunned down even though she wasn’t a member of the opposition. So, whoever shot her is targeting people indiscriminately, whether or not they show any sign of being a Mousavi supporter.

UPDATE II: Here are two videos from today’s demonstrations:


Iran Burning, Pt. 7


Violence in Iran has escalated to unprecedented levels.  Reports from people on the ground there claim that people are being “crudely killed” and that the “Basij forces and police were killing young people like animals.”  In southern Tehran, supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi set on fire a building used by backers of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The AP is reporting that dozens of protesters were seriously beaten during one protest at Tehran University:

The witnesses told The Associated Press that between 50 and 60 protesters were seriously beaten by police and pro-government militia and taken to Imam Khomeini hospital in central Tehran. People could be seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes. Helicopters hovered over central Tehran. Ambulance sirens echoed through the streets and black smoke rose over the city. Tehran University was cordoned off by police and militia while students inside the university chanted ‘death to the dictator,’ witnesses said.

And there was another clash near Revolutionary Square:

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.

As well as a supposed bombing at a shrine dedicated to Ayatollah Khomeini:

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.

This video shows protesters clashing with police:

And The Guardian reports:

An eyewitness in Enghelab square reports around 20,000 riot police, made up of Basiji militiamen and soldiers, and armed with rifles, tear gas and water cannons.

The eyewitness saw dozens of people beaten by riot police in an attempt to frighten them into evacuating the square, with one young man being beaten to the ground by four policemen.

The protesters were not wearing the green insignia that signifies support for Mousavi, and were not making victory signs or chanting.

The eyewitness reports riot police attacking people on passing motorbikes and, on occasion, innocent passersby who have no way of escaping the heavy police presence. Nonetheless, there are thousands of Mousavi supporters, marching peacefully near the square, where rthey have been subjected to these brutal reprisals from the police.

Iran Burning, Pt. 6


Here’s a shocking video this morning of a man with an automatic weapon firing on a crowd of demonstrators and then throwing some kind of gasoline bomb down on them.

Since this YouTube is part of a news segment I’m not sure how long they’ll let it stay up before they pull it.  The first minute is the most important part:

And this next video shows a man on a rooftop opening fire on another group of demonstrators–you can see one man getting shot before being carried off:

The killing of demonstrators is part of a disturbing trend, as the New York Times reports:

The daytime protests across the Islamic republic have been largely peaceful. But Iranians shudder at the violence unleashed in their cities at night, with the shadowy vigilantes known as Basijis beating, looting and sometimes gunning down protesters they tracked during the day.


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.


It is the special brigades of the Revolutionary Guards who right now, especially at night, trap young demonstrators and kill them,” said Mohsen Sazegara, an Iranian exile who helped write the charter for the newly formed Revolutionary Guards in 1979 when he was a young aide to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. “That is one way the regime avoids the responsibility for these murders. It can say, ‘We don’t know who they are.’

[Emphasis mine]

And Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is also taking a hard line:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sided with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and offered no concessions to the opposition. He effectively closed any chance for a new vote by calling the June 12 election an “absolute victory.”

The speech created a stark choice for candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters: Drop their demands for a new vote or take to the streets again in blatant defiance of the man endowed with virtually limitless powers under Iran’s constitution.

Khamenei accused foreign media and Western countries of trying to create a political rift and stir up chaos in Iran.

[Emphasis mine]

Supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi are going to great lengths to keep their demonstrations peaceful; many are scheduling rallies to commemorate those who have been killed in the recent violence.

Below, courtesy of HuffPo, these pics show opposition supporters lighting candles in memory of the dead:



Iran Burning, Pt. 5 (UPDATED REPEATEDLY)


Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi gave a speech to his supporters earlier today; here’s the translation:

I have come due to concerns of current political and social conditions – to defend the rights of the nation. I have come to improve Iran’s international relations. I have come to tell the world and get back Iran’s pride, our dignity and our future. I have come to bring to Iran a future of freedom, of hope and of fulfillment.

I have come to represent the poor, the helpless, and the hungry. I have come to be accountable to you, my people, and to this world. Iran must participate in fair elections. It is a matter of national importance. I have come to you because of the corruption in Iran. 25% inflation means ignorance, thieving and corruption.

Where is the wealth of my nation? What have you done with the $300 billion in the last four years? The next Government of Iran will be chosen by the people. Why do all our young want to leave this country? I know of nobody else who places himself ahead of 20 million other of a nation.

This image–as well as the image of a smashed computer I posted a few days ago–is from when plainclothes government security forces raided dorms at Tehran University:


Well, apparently an inquiry into those raids led to a fistfight in the Iranian legislature:

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 comittee 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 anti 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.

[Emphasis mine]

UPDATE: More pics, from Andrew Sullivan and HuffPo:






UPDATE II: And here’s a video of one of today’s rallies:

Iran Burning, Pt. 4 (UPDATED REPEATEDLY)


Craig Labovitz brings us evidence of Iran’s crackdown on the internet:

The state owned Data communication Company of Iran (or DCI) acts as the gateway for all Internet traffic entering or leaving the country. Historically, Iranian Internet access has enjoyed some level of freedom despite government filtering and monitoring of web sites.

In normal times, DCI carries roughly 5 Gbps of traffic (with a reported capacity of 12 Gbps) through 6 upstream regional and global Internet providers. For the region, this represents an average level of Internet infrastructure (for purposes of perspective, a mid size ISP in Michigan carries roughly the same level of traffic).

Then the Iranian Internet stopped.

One the day after the elections on June 13th at 1:30pm GMT (9:30am EDT and 6:00pm Tehran / IRDT), Iran dropped off the Internet. All six regional and global providers connecting Iran to the rest of the world saw a near complete loss of traffic.

[Emphasis mine]

And here’s a visual representation of the drop-off:


UPDATE: More pics from HuffPo:




UPDATE II: This is, by far, the best piece I have read so far on what the American response to the Iranian protests should be:

This lingering belief among Iranians that America has some unique control over their fate is a legacy of the two nations’ tangled past. Beginning with the American coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq, in 1953, through to Jimmy Carter’s tepid response to the revolutionary crowds that helped bring down the shah’s regime in 1979, both U.S. action and inaction are considered equally powerful among most Iranians.

Given this history, Iranians have looked curiously to Washington in recent days, eager to see what America’s new president has to say about Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent re-election and the furious protests it has unleashed. The years I’ve spent living in Iran, both under President Ahmadinejad and his more moderate predecessor, led me to expect that most people would be desperate for a nod from America. Until last week, Iranian student leaders often insisted that they didn’t have the power to meaningfully oppose their government from the inside. They said they needed the West to pressure the mullahs as well, in hopes that the regime would eventually feel squeezed on all sides.

But in conversations with friends and relatives in Tehran this week, I’ve heard the opposite of what I had expected: a resounding belief that this time the United States should keep out. One of my cousins, a woman in her mid-30s who has been attending the daily protests along with the rest of her family, viewed the situation pragmatically. “The U.S. shouldn’t interfere, because a loud condemnation isn’t going to affect Iranian domestic politics one way or the other. If the supreme leader decides to crackdown on the protests and Ahmadinejad stays in power, then negotiations with the United States might improve our lives.


Other friends I spoke with cited various reasons why the United States should maintain its discrete posture. “If Obama’s position until now has been to respect Iran, then he really has no choice but to watch first how things unfold. Mousavi hasn’t produced any facts yet, no one has produced evidence of fraud,” said my friend Ali, a 40-year-old photographer. “That’s what is needed before Obama takes a major stand.”

My older relatives fretted particularly that any real criticism by the United States would be used as a pretext by Ahmadinejad to blame the protests on “outside enemies,” a reflexive response for the president when dealing with even housing inflation and the rising price of tomatoes. “It’s better for Obama to stay out of this. Given what happened with Bush in Florida, Ahmadinejad can always claim the United States is in no position to lecture anyone about fair elections,” my aunt noted.

[Emphasis mine]

UPDATE III: More along those lines from the National Security Network:

Calling for the United States to directly support the protests – even symbolically – could place the demonstrators in severe danger. The Iranian regime is feverishly attempting to label the demonstrators as western agitators backed by the United States – Iranian state television even used a clip from FOX News in an effort to make this point. Therefore the calls from Pence, Cantor, and McCain are not only just unhelpful, but they are a total gift to Ahmadinejad.

[Emphasis added]

Iran Burning, Pt. 3 (UPDATED REPEATEDLY)


Even though the Iranian government is cracking down on journalists and jamming communication, a reformist inside Iran managed to smuggle this video to a French news agency.


We didn’t want to rebel, but we want freedom, democracy and equality. We can’t use the Internet to get the news, all websites have been filtered and mobiles are jammed. FriendFeed, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and all social networks are also filtered. All the news agencies are also filtered and some newspapers have closed.

[The authorities] have lowered Internet speed to such a low rate that we cannot follow the news with it. Our state media is also cooperating with the government — they don’t show any news at all. All these things signify what we’re going through right now.

The Christian Science Monitor presents the case that the Iranian election was stolen. Some excerpts:

Defeated challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi claims that the official result of 62.6 percent for Mr. Ahmadinejad and just 33.7 percent for him was a “dangerous charade,” and has called for a new election. His newspaper, Kalameh Sabz, reported that more than 10 million votes were missing personal identification numbers that made the votes untraceable. He also says some polling stations closed prematurely, preventing some voters from casting ballots.


Results from 39.2 million handwritten ballots came much more swiftly than in previous votes, emerging within hours. Detailed election data typically released has not been made public.

Iran’s Supreme Leader sanctioned Ahmadinejad’s victory after a day, instead of the customary three.

Ahmadinejad made a surprisingly strong showing in wealthier cities, where he is known to have less support, and in the ethnic strongholds of his rivals. Results from cities and rural areas normally vary, but this time were remarkably consistent.


Analysts expected a closer race, if not a reverse of that result, after a final surge in cities across Iran galvanized a large anti-Ahmadinejad vote.

Secret Iranian government polls reported by Newsweek earlier this month estimated that Mousavi would win 16 to 18 million votes, and Ahmadinejad just 6 to 8 million. Those polls found that even the Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s “vast intelligence apparatus seem to have come around to this position: a large majority of them also plan to vote for Mousavi,” Newsweek reported.


Farhi says of the 11 million new Iranian voters, she “simply, simply cannot believe” that Ahmadinejad could have won 8 million of them.

[Emphasis mine]

Iran Burning, Pt. 2 (UPDATED REPEATEDLY)


While it’s looking increasingly likely that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may lose the presidency, it doesn’t look as if he will do so quietly:

In Tehran and many other cities, Ahmadinejad does not boast the same levels of support as Mousavi, but twice since the crisis began he has succeeded in gathering tens of thousands of supporters into impressive victory rallies, and his tone is far from penitent. The president provoked the ire of Mousavi’s supporters when he referred to them as “chaff” and “unimportant”, and when he compared their emotions to the pique of a football supporter whose team has lost. On June 15 he was in Moscow, where he pronounced learnedly on the economic and political woes of the United States, without deigning to mention his own.

The possibility of a major confrontation – with or without the participation of the police, who have so far behaved with relative restraint – cannot be discounted. Although Ahmadinejad’s support base is smaller than Mousavi’s, his followers are more fanatical and better armed. On June 14, seven Mousavi supporters were killed during a confrontation with basijis who were firing from their barracks in south Tehran, and the speaker of parliament, no supporter of Mousavi, has demanded an inquiry into brutal raids that were staged on a dormitory at Tehran University and a residential block of flats. It is hard to say whether levels of violence are rising or not, since most of it goes unreported, particularly when it happens in provincial towns, but the confidence of Mousavi’s supporters seems not to have been dented by the arrest of several leading reformists. Rather, it has been bolstered by the success of their monster rallies and the obvious reluctance of the authorities to use overwhelming and lethal force against them.

For those watching around the world, with fascination and horror, the drama is in the streets, but the resolution, if there is one, lies in the corridors of power. In the past, Khamenei has trodden a fine line between the demands of a young population and the need, as he sees it, to defend the core values of the Islamic Republic. Now, as never before, the two are in direct confrontation.

[Emphasis mine]

But it’s also looking increasingly likely that Ahmadinejad may end up bearing the brunt of the Iranian people’s fury:

[B]oth sides’ legitimacy depends upon not being the aggressor in the event of violence. That’s why, notwithstanding the opposition’s dramatic demonstrations and the regime’s brutal but relatively limited repressive measures, both sides have essentially been playing for time. It’s as if two armies were maneuvering in close proximity, knowing that the first one to open fire loses.

It seems obvious that Khamenei and Moussavi realize this, and I’ve read reports (Le Monde here) that suggest some of the Revolutionary Guard commanders realize it also. Judging by his rhetoric, though, I’m not convinced that Ahmadinejad realizes it.

My sense is that the only non-violent way out of this impasse that restores the regime’s legitimacy (i.e., its stable grip on power) while allowing the opposition to save face is to find a scapegoat. Ahmadinejad would make a useful one, with a plausible scenario then being an interim president followed by a new election. Alternatively, some subordinate to Ahmadinejad could take the fall, with the opposition placated by the kind of institutional accommodation I mentioned yesterday.

[Emphasis mine]

UPDATE: Here’s a really good video from today’s massive, 500,000-person march:

UPDATE II: And now the demonstrators are being threatened with death:

Reuters reported that Mohammadreza Habibi, the senior prosecutor in the central province of Isfahan, had warned demonstrators that they could be executed under Islamic law.

“We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution,” Mr. Habibi said, according to the Fars news agency. It was not clear if his warning applied only to Isfahan, where there have been violent clashes, or the country as a whole, Reuters said.

UPDATE III: More pics, from HuffPo:





UPDATE IV: Even more pics, from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish: