Friday September 18 – the daily story

The main headlines

They came, they demonstrated, and the general consensus is they conquered. Despite the regime’s best efforts to threaten the reform movement  into staying away from the Qods rallies, the Green movement turned out in unexpectedly high numbers – estimates vary from tens of thousands to a million or more – to give a huge shot in the arm to the opposition movement. One problem with estimates is the fragmented nature of the parades. However, there is more than enough video evidence to show the opposition is far from cowed by three months of the most blatant and horrific repression. Some of the main points from the day:

— All three main reformist leaders attended and all three were reportedly attacked and forced to leave early, though Mehdi Karoubi appeared to stick it out by far the longest, earning himself even more opposition brownie points. The worst attack appeared to be on Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami, who had his turban knocked off and his tunic ripped. His attackers were reportedly led by the son of the hardline Kayhan editor-in-chief Hossein  Shariatmadari and at least one was said to be carrying a knife.  Ayatollah Rafsanjani also took part in the march, looking very relaxed, but it was noticeable that he stuck to the official rally rather than join anything vaguely green, which was probably the statesmanlike thing to do. keeping the change

— There was a lot of puzzlement over Mir Hossein Moussavi’s participation. Although some official reports said he had been confronted by angry people and forced back into his car, he was later shown marching along. However, again, he appeared to be with the official marchers rather than   anyone from the Green Wave, and he did not appear to stay out very long. Anonymous Iran

— The regime seemed totally bewildered by the Green turnout and there were several reports on Twitter that the state broadcaster at times was showing footage from last year. Certainly the broadcasts ignored the Green Wave involvement, which must have been a challenge. At  times, presumably to avoid broadcasting the chanting, the sound was switched off.  Official news agencies said only a small number of Moussavi followers had turned up and had been quickly seen off.

— Trucks with sound systems tried but failed to drown out the opposition chants. And special cheerleaders trying to get the crowds to chant “Death to Israel” got “Death to Russia” in return.

— The slogans were of interest, indicating how much the opposition movement has shifted from simple anger over a stolen election to general revulsion at the whole regime: ‘Neither Western, nor Eastern, an Iranian Republic!; Political prisoners must be freed!; Long live Sanei! (the outspoken Grand Ayatollah Yusef Sanei); Death to the dictator!; Karoubi, the idol-breaker, break the great idol!; Rape, torture, no longer have any effect!; Long live Karoubi, Mousavi may you stand long!; If Karoubi is arrested, Iran will be in turmoil!; Death to this deceitful government!; Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life belongs to Iran.

— President  Ahmadinejad arrived under heavy escort to deliver his speech to the Friday prayers ceremony at Tehran university.  He was interviewed by state radio but it was quickly terminated because shouts of “Ahmadi, resign, resign” were clearly audible in the background. The turmoil was also audible at the prayers ceremony itself, despite the university having been cordoned off with busses blocking roads leading to it.

— There were several arrests, but at least early on the security forces appeared more restrained than they had threatened to be, possibly because often they were overwhelmed by the protesters. Hence at one point five basij motor bikes appeared to have been snatched and set on fire. There was also more than  one report of protesters fighting back to stop officers making arrests, while there were also reports that the police intervened to break up clashes between  Basij and protesters. More than one observer commented that the people seemed to have lost their fear of the security apparatus.

— Some of the best coverage has again come from the blogs. homylafayettePedestrian, Huffington Post, videos on Keeping the Change, Neo-Resistance I, II, III , IV,  AP,  LAT, Tehran Bureau, Anonymous Iran 1II, Payvand I, II, III, IV

— The official Iranian media mostly stuck to the party line but PressTV, alongside a slightly shorter rendition of the “official proceedings” included a separate file on the opposition involvement . PressTV, PressTV, Fars, Fars

The Holocaust was again called into question by President Ahmadinejad in his speech to the Qods Day Friday prayers ceremony .  He said: “If the Holocaust, as you claim, is true, why don’t  you allow a probe into the issue?” He added that the world had a duty to “confront” Israel to ensure global peace, saying that its very existence “jeopardized’” the whole region.  PressTV

— Ahmadinejad’s comments on the holocaust drew immediate strong condemnation from Western powers. Germany said the comments were a “disgrace to his country” while the US said they would “isolate Iran further”. France called the remarks “unacceptable and shocking”, while Britain said the denial was “abhorrent as well as ignorant”.  BBC

— Ahmadinejad’s comments  essentially guaranteed his likely treatment as a pariah by US officials and  US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, hinted that President Obama would go out of his way to avoid “direct engagement” with the Iranian  President.

— The sermon  by interim Friday prayers leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami was seen as veering on the conciliatory.  “The Islamic establishment is not opposed to the expression of different opinions and in the Islamic system a difference of opinion is not a crime,” he said. But he added that the  Islamic Republic would not stay silent in the face the acts of “overthrowers”. PressTV, Fars

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani is apparently the latest figure to travel to Qom for secret talks on the crisis. According to Tabnak he met Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi at his home Thursday night.

A new wave of arrests continues. Today it was reported that Mehdi  Mirdamadi, the son of Mohsen Mirdamadi, the secretary general of the Islamic Iran Participation Front who has been detained for three months, was arrested at his home last night. Rooz

— Mohammad Maleki, the former chancellor of Tehran University, has been charged with acting against Iran’s national security, his wife has told Radio Farda. She said Maleki, 76 and suffering from prostate cancer, seemed weak and his hands and legs were shaking. Payvand

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised President Obama for cancelling a plan for an anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, suggesting that the move would lead to improved relations between their countries.  “I very much hope that this correct and brave decision will be followed by others,” Putin said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s general  assembly in Vienna voted to urge Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and place all atomic sites under UN inspection in a surprise victory for Arab states. Arab News The vote was rejected by Israel. Irish Times

— Iran wants an investigation of Israel’s nuclear industry and is prepared to pay for it, Tehran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in a statement delivered at the meeting. “In case the IAEA has limited financial resources for the inspection… the Iranian government is prepared to allocate the budget for the sake of global peace and welfare.” PressTV

— CIA Director Leon Panetta says US intelligence suggests “there is still very much a debate going on within Iran as to whether or not they ought to proceed” with building a nuclear weapon. “To some extent that provides an opening, hopefully, to try to influence the future direction of Iran.” VOA

University academics around the world have signed a statement expressing “deep concern” over the situation in Iranian universities after the elections. “We strongly condemn the political interference in academia and demand that assaults against the sanctity of the country’s universities, faculty and students be stopped immediately and unconditionally.” Payvand

President Ahmadinejad is  clearly not a man to worry too much about ballot-rigging as he has already  congratulated Hamid Karzai on his “re-election” as Afghan President, even though argument still rages over allegations of widespread irregularities in the poll and signs that it might have to go to a runoff. Fars

In more detail

Rooz Online has an interview with Ayatollah Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, secretary of the Association of Qom Theological Centre Teachers and Researchers, whose son was arrested Monday along with the children of other top clergy in Qom. The same website has more details about the arrests.


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