Clashes as mourning ceremonies are blocked — Clashes erupted throughout Tehran today as protesters attempted to gather to mark the 40th day of mourning for Neda Agha-Soltan and other victims of the post-election crackdown. As usual, though, forewarned was forearmed for the security forces who were out in force at all the key potential trouble-spots.
At the giant Behesht Zahra cemetery south of Tehran, where a crowd estimated in the thousands had gathered, the security officials used tear gas and delivered hard beatings with their batons to break up attempts to gather around Neda’s grave. Many in the crowd wore black and carried red flowers with green ribbons tied to them. Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karoubi arrived separately at the cemetery, but both were very firmly directed back to their cars without being permitted to utter prayers at the grave. “I don’t understand the meaning of dispatching police forces and security agents to surround those who want to mourn,” Karoubi said. Two film directors apparently covering Moussavi’s visit, Jafar Panahi and Mahnaz Mohammadi, were arrested.
Large crowds also attempted to gather outside the Mosalla garden in north Tehran where it had originally been planned to hold religious observance of the day, but crowds that started gathering from early morning were dispersed by a big security presence. “There are thousands of people chanting slogans in favour of Mousavi. Hundreds of riot police around Mosala and nearby streets are trying to disperse them,” one witness was quoted as saying. However, the demonstrators spilled away to other parts of Tehran and brutal confrontations with security reported from several locations. There was some confusion over which security services were involved: some witnesses spoke of revolutionary guards and basij, but others were careful to identify them as riot police and “special forces”. Witnesses said people flashed victory signs with their fingers and passing cars honked their horns, sometimes earning themselves a smashed windscreen. Several garbage cans and at least one motorcycle were set on fire. An unknown number of people were arrested. In the evening, as the protests continued, there were reports of security officials on motorbikes riding through areas firing guns in the air.
As usual much of the trouble was captured on video, including one showing demonstrators chanting on a metro train probably returning from Behesht Zahra. A contributor to Tehran Bureau said they noted some new slogans: Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic! (a spin-off of the 1979 Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic) and Khamenei is a murderer, his leadership is null and void.
There were reliable reports of protests and clashes in some other Iranian towns and cities as well, including Shiraz, Isfahan and Rasht.
One interesting take on the day was provided to Tehran Bureau by a correspondent identified as Saya Oveisi.
“Although their attempt to disperse protesters was ineffective compared to previous times, the guards and basij forces were unusually savage today – I saw many women beaten without reservation and glass smashed on cars with small children inside.
Yet people were more bold than I’d ever seen them. As I write this at 9pm from a location in Abbasabad district, the shouts of “Death to Khamenei!” and chaotic honks are drifting in loud and clear from the window. It is dark, night has fallen and protests are still continuing strong. Never have they lasted this late except on the first few days following the election.
It’s NUTS! I’ve never seen it like this before! It’s still going on, 9pm now – raging! As I said, its more like a riot, totally out of control.
Earlier: This appeared to be the most successful protest since the crackdown began. It was more akin to a riot… The forces were decidedly not in control of the situation. The protests were too widespread and numerous, up and down Valiasr, and east and west, around the Mosala area entire main roads chock full – even stretching into side streets such as Yousefabad.
Guards would storm the crowd, but even then the chants would continue amidst the beatings. People held their ground much more boldly than before; they would not be subdued. The guards did not remain in any one spot long, since chaotic protests swarmed in all directions. No sooner would they turn back when the crescendo of “Death to the Dictator!” would peak again and furious honking would resume and Vs would go up triumphantly.
This time, the cars were very actively involved in the protests. Honks blared incessantly in the Thursday rush hour gridlock. Drivers joined in the shouting. The traffic also helped obstruct the flow of pickups carrying basij troops – stuck, they gazed out at the sea of cars in dismay. Some would weave in between cars and smash windshields; shattered glass lay on the asphalt at regular intervals.” Tehran Bureau, AP, Reuters, Anonymous Iran (plenty of videos!)
Khamenei v IRGC? — A bitter power struggle is taking place between Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to Muhammad Salimi, the informed Los Angeles-based columnist of the Tehran Bureau website. Quoting reliable sources in Tehran, he says the struggle is epitomised by the row over President’s Ahmadinejad’s failed appointment of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as his First Vice President and the subsequent sacking of Gholam-Hossein Mohseni –Ejei as information minister. The article suggests that as a result of the struggle the corps is essentially split three ways between supporters of the reformists, those who stand behind Ahmadinejad and his desire to sweep the clergy including Khamenei from effective power, and those that believe Khamenei to be the true leader. It says: “The thinking of the high command of the [guards corps] is that, among conservative voters, Ahmadinejad is far more popular than Ayatollah Khamenei, and that therefore, the Ayatollah has trapped himself and has no clear way out of the difficult situation that he himself has created. This allows the [corps] high command to marginalise him.” Tehran Bureau
Habeus corpus, Iran style –- Despite promising to free Said Hajarian, the prominent reformer who is reportedly in very poor health, the authorities have instead transferred him from prison to a “state-owned” house “with proper medical facilities” where he can be visited by relatives. Reuters
An $18.5bn mystery — Question: how can $18.5 billion (yup that’s a ‘b’ not an ‘m’) disappear into thin air? Answer: simple. Just send it to Turkey in a security truck. Then it simply vanishes, the authorities who bragged about it suddenly deny all knowledge of it, and the mysterious Iranian businessman who is said to be the owner is apparently left whistling for his money.
Confused? We haven’t even started. Our story begins, by the few accounts we have, with a recent speech by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, boasting that this enormous sum had been transferred to Turkey, which demonstrated his government’s success in attracting foreign investment despite the global economic downturn. Apparently, however, he did not reveal anything about where the money had actually come from. Enter Turkey’s independent Kanal D television channel, with a pacy report about how the money was shipped into Iran by an Iranian businessman called Ismael Safarian-Nasab. The lengthy report, complete with (mocked?) shots of police cars escorting a security wagon, included a lengthy interview with Senol Ozel, the businessman’s Turkish lawyer, who said his client was a respected Iranian businessman and that the money was transferred to Turkey perfectly legally.
According to Kanal D the container-load of $7.5 billion and 20 metric tonnes of gold (you do the maths, I’m tired!) was delivered to Ankara Customs Office “by courier services” on October 7, 2008. Ozel said his client had decided to ship his wealth to Turkey because of a new ‘ask no questions’ foreign investment policy by an Ankara government desperate to shore up its depleted coffers. Kanal D explained that the Turkish government had adopted a new regulation dubbed the “Suitcase Law” to alleviate the harsh effects of the economic crisis, which basically allows anybody to take any amount of foreign currency into the country from anywhere without being scrutinised. But please don’t ask me where even an amazingly successful Iranian businessman gets that kind of money from. Nor whether you could actually fit that amount into one truck. I don’t know.
I don’t even know if the money – or the gold – actually exists. Because the Turkish government says it doesn’t. Ozel said his client now wanted to take his money back (maybe because Erdogan effectively blew the whistle on it), and reports pointed out how that would leave a sizeable hole in Turkish accounts. Then today Hayati Yazici, Turkish State Minister, said the claim was “false and baseless”. Aanadolu, Turkey’s official news agency, added that Turkish customs officials said such a container had never entered Turkey. Someone, somewhere is telling porkies. But the question is, who? Neo-resistance, PressTV, PressTV, YouTube
In other news:
Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami, the former president, called on parliament to carry out its own investigation of the election and the violence that followed. Speaking to reformist MPs, he said that under the constitution and the pronouncements of the late Imam Khomeini, the Majlis has the power to investigate every issue, but its efforts to do so recently had been curtailed. Parliament, he said, “can put the investigation of the election process on its agenda and, if a truly independent committee takes over this task, the results can greatly clarify events.” PressTV
Brigadier Yadollah Javan, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ political bureau, has denied that the guards favoured President Ahmadinejad at the last election and accused the reformists of lacking “strong faith” in the Islamic establishment and leaning instead towards the West. He drew parallels between aspects of the opposition movement in Iran and past velvet revolutions in former Soviet states. PressTV
The US Senate has voted to ban companies that sell petrol and other refined oil products to Iran from also receiving Energy Department contracts to deliver crude to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Reuters
Iran has approved a $280 million low-interest loan for President Evo Morales’ government to use as it sees fit. AP