Tuesday June 23 – the daily story

Cracks in the opposition? — The regime’s crackdown appears to be very effective, with less information coming out of Iran by the minute, except that which the authorities want us to hear. But what reports there have been suggest the call for a general strike Tuesday was not a resounding success. People had been urged to besiege the bazaar in an attempt to close it down but AP, in a despatch from Cairo, said shopkeepers were reporting an upturn in business as shoppers frightened away by the violence returned. It quoted one vendor, identified only as Ali, as saying: “Thank God, in the past two or three days the situation has gotten much better and business is good.” In the Twittersphere and elsewhere the picture of Tehran is very much of a city swamped with security forces and this is the first day since the election when there have been no reports of demonstrations, although one tweeter said relatives of arrested demonstrators had gathered outside Evin prison in the north of the city.   But another report by AP suggests the opposition is also beginning to fragment as disillusion with Moussavi grows. The key to this shift, it says,  is a perceived lack of clarity about his strategy amid signs that he is qualifying the extent to which he is seeking change, declaring on his website for instance full respect for the Islamic system. Especially perplexing, the report said , was that on the website Moussavi described the Revolutionary Guards and basij as “our brothers” and “protectors of our revolution and regime”. It quoted an unnamed protester in Tehran as saying: “People have risked their lives for him and some have died. Is he our leader? I want to say yes. But I really don’t know how to answer that now.”  But Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the film director who is acting as Moussavi’s spokesman abroad, told the Independent from Rome that Moussavi is under 24-hour guard by secret police and no longer able to speak freely to supporters. He denied the protest was losing steam, saying:  “The regime, arguably, is losing ground, not the protests. Ordinary Iranians are openly rejecting the legitimacy and power of Ayatollah Khamanei. That is entirely new, unheard of.”

Ahmadinejad video is old turban A number of tweeters have been promoting a film of Ahmadinejad addressing mullahs in Qom and suggesting it confirms how he plotted to fix the election. Even the posters, however, cannot agree on its date – some say it was just before the election, others  like the provider of this version on YouTube, that it is from today. In fact it is much older, dating back to at least 2007 when this  version was uploaded on June 18.  It seems to be more a general appraisal byAhmadinejad of the progress of the  Islamic state and dwells much on the coming of the 12th imam. When I get a fuller translation I may return to this, not because it is evidence of an election plot, but a fascinating look at the president’s thinking.

The price of a bullet — Media outlets, especially in America, are stirring up much righteous indignation over a story that the family of a boy killed in the weekend clashes have been told they must pay $3,000 to recover his body, to cover the cost of the bullet that killed him. While one might decry the practice, and even wonder that $3,000 is a bit steep for a bullet, it should be noted that this is no different from the Shah’s days. when a price was also exacted from families of dead protesters before they could have the body. What it was in those days I do not recall.

Moussavi on TV, or arrested?The website Inside of Iran (sic) says Majlis speaker Ali Larijani is trying to arrange  for Moussavi to talk about the disputed election on state TV. It provides an English translation of the story it has picked up from Tehran’s Tahlil-e Rooz newspaper:

Ali Larijani, the head of the eighth Iranian Parliament is attempting to schedule an interview with Mir Hossein Mousavi on the state run Iranian TV enabling Mousavi to state his protests regarding the results of the election.

A member of the “committee in charge of post-election events” said: “The biased behaviour of the state-run media has fanned the flames of protest of the populace and this situation is unacceptable for many officials including the head of parliament.”

This official also said: “Larijani believes that censorship and the biased coverage of state media is not helping in solving the crisis and is eroding the confidence of the public in the state media. In this regard, the head of parliament is attempting to schedule aprogramme including Mousavi on state TV. This programme will provide a forum for Mousavi to state his objections regarding the election results and allow officials responsible for elections and a representative of Ahmadinejad to respond to these objections”.

However, the newspaper Kayhan, a key mouthpiece of the hardliners, is reported this eveninmg to have called for Moussavi’s arrest.

Riot courts –– Special courts have been set up to try the rioters. according to Reuters. Ebrahim Raisi, a senior judicial official, said: “Those arrested in recent events will be dealt with in a way that will teach them a lesson.”

Election report delayed — Although the Guardian Council’s spokesman yesterday said  no evidence of election fraud had been uncovered, Khamenei has given the council five more days to consider the matte, according to PressTV. The council had been due to report its findings Wednesday, but asked the supreme leader for the extension “to make sure that all ambiguities about the election are cleared up”.

Neda’s ‘fiance’ speaks — Al Jazeera features this video of an interview with Caspian Makan, identified as the fiance of Neda Agha-Soltan, the girl shot in Tehran during the weekend disturbances who has become an icon of the resistance movement. In  it Makan says Neda was not near any demonstrations when she was shot, but was travelling through Tehran with her music teacher when they became stuck in an hour-long traffic jam. “It was hot and Neda was tired; she got out of the car to get some fresh air and some rest.” It was then, he said that she was shot. Elaborating in an interview with BBC Persian, Makan saidNeda’s family struggled to persuade the authorities to release her body. “She was taken to a morgue outside Tehran. The officials from the morgue asked if they could use parts of her corpse for body transplants for medical patients,” he said. “They didn’t specify what exactly they intended to do. Her family agreed because they wanted to bury her as soon as possible. She was buried at  the Behesht Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran in a section set aside for the graves of those killed in the clashes. But the authorities prohibited the family from holding any kind of memorial service for fear it would incite further trouble.

Iranian state television is quoted as suggesting that Neda’s killing was in some way staged. It qouted an un-named source as saying Neda was not shot by a bullet used by Iranian security forces.  Filming of the scene, and its swift broadcast to the foreign media, suggested the incident was planned, the report said.

But President Obama was in no doubt of the video’s authenticity.  At today’s press conference in Washington he said of the video: “It’s heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there’s something fundamentally unjust about that. … We have seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.”

Change of date Ayatollah Montazeri appears to have brought forward his call to mourn the victims of the violence to start today instead of tomorrow. In addition the opposition leaders are now calling for a big “mourning ceremony” on Thursday. In order not to tip their hand to the authorities too early, details will be announced as close to the time as they dare. Moussavi’s website says the ceremony is to “honour the martyrs” and urges acts of solidarity around the world on Thursday.

Britain  faces more action — Iran is threatening further action against Britain following today’s tit-for-tat expulsion of two diplomats on either side. PressTV says a meeting of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, attended by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, examined ties with Britain. Afterwards MP Kazem Jalali said  it had made certain decisions that would be announced “in due time”. Another MP, Mahmoud Ahmadi, said Iran would temporarily withdraw its ambassador to Britain. Britain expelled two Iranian diplomats in straight retaliation for Iran’s earlier expulsion of two British envoys. The BBC quoted Iran as saying it took the action bercause the two British diplomats engaged in “activities incompatible with their status”. Gordon Brown told the UK parliament the allegations were totally baseless, leaving him no option but to take similar action. The  expulsions follow Iranian allegations this week that Britain was a prime mover beind the vi9lence that has hit the country. A sign of what was to come was a report earlier today that  Majlis speaker Larijani had called for “a revision in Tehran-London ties”. However the Iranian authorities said they had refused permission for a demonstration outside the embassy by “concerned students”, PressTV reported.

Obama condemns crackdownPresident Obama stepped up his criticism of Iran a notch or two by “stringly” condemning the Iranian crackdown.  While respecting Iran’s sovereignty, he said “the United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.” Paying tribute to the”courage and dignity” of the Iranian people, the president said Iran’s allegations  of western meddling were a “tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries” that would not work any more. “This is not about the United States and the West. This is about the people of Iran, and the future that they – and only they – will choose.” You can read Obama’s full opening statement on Iran here. Earlier the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has told the Iranian regime to respect human rights and demanded an immediate end to arrests and the use of violence by the authorities, the BBC reports. Iran responded by saying his comments represented interference in their affairs.

Statement by combatant clergy — The Organisation of Combatant Clergy has issued this statement:

Millions of informed and decent people who believe their votes have been tampered with and their inteligence  insulted, in order to defend their rights and dignity, have spontaneously taken to the the streets to express their pain and sense of oppression. You (the regime) insult them and have kidnapped thousands of them from the streets and from their homes and taken them to unknown places.  You have attacked the students and these people who call out God is Great or Ya Hossein – you attack them like Moghuls.

You dare to blame these attacks on the people themselves.

We strongly support Mr  Mousavi,  especially against the accusations that all the unrest and damage is caused by his actions.  This damage is the responsibility of those who turned our city into a barracks. They should be identified, arrested and charged.

Senior clergy across the country have told us they have been put under severe pressure (by the state) to stand up against the millions of people. Until now, they have resisted. We thank them.

To restore the people’s trust and confidence we ask for the formation of a committee of neutral people, experts, and those familiar with the law who can investigate and address the complaints made by the candidates in the elections.  May they issue a fair judgment… and help return our country to harmony.

Footballers dropped –The Guardian quotes the pro-government newspaper Iran as saying the four footballers who wore green wristbands during the world cup qualifier in Seoul have been “retired”. Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka’abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32 have also been t forbidden from talking to the media.

Recommended reading A powerful argument for why Ahmadinejad has seemingly won the day.


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