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Here We Go…

September 17th, 2009 - 7:37 pm

Here we go.  The best way to get a feel of the tempo of activity comes from Twitter, and here are some Tweets Thursday evening Washington time, about 5 hours before the scheduled start of demonstrations:

Bus loads of Basij & Ansar-Al-Hezb Allah just arrived in Tehran from Shoshtar. Others R expected.

IRGC has been assigned the special mission of protecting portraits of the SL of being defaced by people throwing paint at them

They arrested more than 20 family members of political figures now. They’re taking hostages w/o legal grounds

Mousavi met with Sharestani (rep of Grand Ayat Sistani) was informed Marjas will soon speak
[ML: This is enormously important, if true it prefigures open criticism of the regime by leading Shi’ite clerics throughout the region, not just in Iran.  That Sistani would send his top aide to see Mousavi is quite something]

Mousavi went to Qum Wed, had dinner w the Society of Theologian Teachers & Researchers also the Reform Ayts

Mehdi Hashemi (Rafs son) asking to be given air time on IRTV to answer the fabricated charges against him

Last Sat 200 employees of Khoramshar (S. IR) mass transit went on 1 day strike for non payment of their wages

IRGC (guards) issued statement warning any disturbance & riots during Qods day will be confronted by Sepah

Karoubi announcing Qods day 11AM Haft Tir. Anti filtering software can be downloaded from his site http://bit.ly/pXmOC

In addition to the assassination of the Assembly of Experts member (1750 GMT), it is reported that the Chief Prosecutor in Kurdestan has been shot.

Tomorrow’s march routes for Mashhad and for Rasht have been posted.

In the latest of a series of assassinations in the province, the Kurdistan representative on the Assembly of Experts was killed today.

From an Iranian blogger in Tehran:  “People will come out but many are also leaving Tehran as it is a long weekend. Saturday is half closed and Sunday is a holiday. Many who participated in previous demonstrations are leaving Tehran or have left already and many are much scared of what happened to their colleagues, friends and other citizens.”

And a final tweet:

Police preventing ppl from leaving Tabriz (NW Iran) fearing they will join marches in Tehran.

It seems that Rafsanjani has joined the call for a massive turnout.  He had traditionally led Friday prayers on Quds Day (celebrated tomorrow)–for twenty-five years!–but not this year.  Rafsanjani is always playing both ends against the middle, but his current play is significant, because he called for a protest against tyranny everywhere. The same words were used by Hasan Khomeini, the grandson of the Imam who came to Washington a few years ago.  On that occasion I asked him before a large audience, “what about freedom of religion?”  He gave an answer I had never heard before from a Muslim cleric:  “Absolutely, religion must be a free act,” he said, and then continued, “and so we must also have freedom of NO religion.”

Nobody I know really has anything approaching confidence in the size of the demonstrations, but we will know very soon.  Estimates range as high as 3 million in Tehran.  The Mousavi/Karroubi people are of course hoping for a very big turnout, and they have taken measures (within their limited capacity) to protect their supporters against armed attack.  Everyone expects considerable violence from the regime.

It’s significant that top regime leaders, such as the Kurdish representative on the Assembly of Experts, are being gunned down.  This is obviously in response to the wave of arrests of family members of the opposition leaders.  Mrs. Mousavi’s brother, for example, has been in Evin Prison in Tehran for three months, and subjected to harsh torture.

I am full of admiration for the dissidents, and furious and ashamed that my government is still unwilling to embrace their cause.  The dissidents face torture and death, but are unafraid.  My modern Chamberlains face nothing but the loss of the chance to sit down at a negotiating table with a group of monsters, but the Chamberlains are afraid to support freedom.  The Iranian dissidents submit their bodies to torture and death, while the Chamberlains withhold their voices.

And so they have become accomplices to evil.

UPDATE:  In case you thought the Iranians had lost their wit, as the sun rose in Tehran, this tweet appeared: ” OMG they have sun in Iran? They forgot to filter the sun ?”

UPDATE FRIDAY MORNING (WASHINGTON TIME):  Have a look at the New York Times’ blog .  It contains other links, as to the Guardian’s always very good coverage of Iranian events.  When Ahmadinejad was being interviewed, he got flustered by the chants of the protesters.

It’s fascinating to see the intersection of historical and contemporary events, don’t you think?  Ahmadinejad drools on about the “myth of the Holocaust,” while hundreds of thousands of people march, chanting that they will only risk their lives for their own country, not in a crusade against the Jews.  And, elsewhere, Obama seems not to have known that his rushed announcement on yanking the missile shield, came on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

UPDATE:  If you’d rather follow it in French, this seems like a good live blog.  Among other things, you’ll learn that the French Government has condemned the violence used against the demonstrators.

I haven’t heard one word about all this on the morning radio talk shows.

UPDATE:  Reuters now says that Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami were all attacked when they joined the demonstrations, and were forced to leave.  Reuters is not very reliable IMO.  Haven’t seen anything about Rafsanjani.

Obviously there are lots of arrests and physical clashes.  And it’s impossible to get an accurate picture from the available fragments.  We’ll have better info in a few hours.

UPDATE:  Hah!  The “Green Wave TV Channel” is on the air.  Lots of videos.  No, I don’t know if they are really from today.  Probably most of them are.

UPDATE:  8:39 Washington time.  Tear gas around the University.  And just read a tweet in French saying there are 2-3 million demonstrators.

The regime supporters yell “Death to israel!” and the Greens chant back “Death to Russia!”

UPDATE:  Le Monde, L’Ezpress and France 2 are announcing “millions” of demonstrators, says a tweet.  Maybe Sazegara was right, he predicted 3 million in Tehran.

08:55 AM:  a tweet:  IRNA: Mohsen Ezjei is quoted saying that “the enemies of the system is threatening to overthrow it”

I’m gonna take Thurber the Airedale for a walk.

09:21 Tweet:  Anouncer said Karroubi himself said “Death to dictator” through bull horn

If you want to follow the Tweets, go here

Mousavi in the streets.

Khaled Mashaal [Hamas leader] and Ramzan [leader of Islamic Jihad of Palestine] are also in Tehran to attend the Friday prayer led by Ahmadinezhad. They are hearing anti-Palestinian chants.

09:35  From IRanian friends:

At this very moment the police is acting on and near Revolution Square. From all corners demonstrators are trying to move toward Ahmadinezhad and his Palestinian friends at the Tehran University.

Here a few videos:

Isfahan: “Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, dedicated to Iran” and “Confessions and torture have no influence on us.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eFi_sCKfLk&feature=player_embedded

More:

Pictures and videos from Tehran

sabz-3.jpg

sabz-4.jpg

Demonstration: Tehran:

Liar, liar, where are your 64% of the votes?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUT_n6LYIXM

Tehran: probably Hafte Tir Square and the slogan in support of Karoubi at the moment of his arrival:

Karoubi we support you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVQZzNo4GEA

Very good site with a cool name:  http://homylafayette.blogspot.com/

09:56  BBC Persian Service announced that crowd attacked security forces in Shiraz and freed some demonstrators who had been arrested.

And in Tehran, crowds now chanting in support of grand ayatollahs Montazeri and Sane’i.

10:03  Tweeted report of gunshots in Tabriz.  Also reports of demonstrations in Shiraz, Isfahan, Qom, elsewhere.

Finally pictures from Tabriz:

“Support for Mousavi, freedom for political prisoners.”

Also, persistent rumors that Khamenei has ordered the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi tonight after the fast is broken.  That would be a sign of real fear by the supreme leader.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARIUioha8w&feature=player_embedded

Timeout.  I just got an audio I’m going to listen to it.  And then do my exercises (I’m a recovering patient, remember, gotta work the HIP).

11:00  Some parts of Tehran can no longer be reached by telephone. Mobile phone system has been switched off.

From RFE/RL:  an interview with a “reformist journalist”

Journalist: There are two important issues here. First of all, the Revolutionary Guard had announced last night that it will confront anyone who creates discord. But people took to the streets despite the warning. The Revolutionary Guard was discredited by this because they were not able to do much.

The other issue was that they kept saying the Green movement has died out and there are no more protests. They say that the “Allah Akbar” chants at night have decreased. But people came out today. They were determined. And from the beginning, they called on the government to resign. They demonstrated, despite the public revelations about rape in prisons, torture, and forced confessions. None of this has had any impact on the Green movement.

RFE/RL: What does the latest protest tell us about the future of the Green movement?

Journalist: Musavi now has a winning card. Three months after the [June 12 presidential vote], he can say: “I have many serious supporters who can come out in the streets despite the threats.” In fact, we have thrown the ball into Musavi’s court. And we have said: “Now it’s your turn to find a solution.”

This winning card should be used for political purposes. The ironic thing about today’s protest was that when Ahmadinejad was saying in his speech that the Israelis kill Palestinians, we were being beaten and subjected to tear gas. It was very, very interesting.

PARS broadcasting, based in Southern California, has been jammed.  The jamming apparently comes from Venezuela (previously it was Cuba).  There is no excuse for this;  it is another failure by the American Government.  And it is not a failure unique to Chamberlain, because Bushitlercheney also failed to ensure good quality broadcasting to Iran, whether by “official” organizations like VOA (which used to attack Bush and defend the mullahs) or by the independent stations of the diasapora like PARS.

Senator Coburn has been a lonely voice on this subject, and here once again we have American “leaders” who, by their silence, have become accomplices to evil.  I will shortly be praying for forgiveness, I would hate to have to beg forgiveness for their complicity in the great evil of our time.

11:10  I am getting “server error” on twitter

11:14  Whew!  it’s ok again.

There have been reports of shooting in other cities, but not in Tehran, where on the contrary there are some reports of security forces joining the people.  In Azadi Square there was considerable violence from the security forces, and the assault against Khatami was very serious, led by shariatmadari, a nasty man with a noble name.  But Khatami’s bodyguards were up to the challenge.

When Mousavi’s car was attacked, on the other hand, hundreds of people defended him, and the thugs had to retreat.

It’s getting to the end of the fast now, and you can expect a new round of demonstrations.  If the regime is going to try to demonstrate strength, now is the time.  Otherwise it will have been a very good day for the revolution, and a decidedly negative one for the ancien regime.

11:30  As I feared, reports that internet/SMS are down in many areas of the country, and security forces going house to house.  They will find that some houses are ready for them, I suspect.

Have a look at Tehran Bureau.  Nice photos of damsels in distress.

11:47  Tweet:  “Confirmed list of protests in: Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Rasht, Ahvaz, Qom, Mashhad and Kerman”.

I don’t know what “confirmed” means.  Caveat emptor.  But certainly Isfahan, Tehran, Shiraz, Qom and Tabriz are right.  Mashad would be important, it’s a key city for the regime (supplying Taliban etc., and likely secret nuclear facility).

11:57  Well, at least one tweeter thinks he/she knows about Mashad: “Mashhad: Clashes between Greens n secforces in different parts of the city Tear gas was extensively used.”

12:12  Green wit again:  “Reports coming in Quds Day protests were fault of invasion of Leprechauns imported from Ireland by Zionists.”

12:35  More good humor:  “MadeUpNews: Coup Gov to knock 3 zeros off currency to add to AN vote percentage -> GOOD ONE!”

Machiavelli says that the most dangerous thing for any leader is to become an object of contempt.  That may well be happening now in Iran.  The Basij were truly feared, but today they were blocked and beaten and their motorcycles were burned.  Some of them reportedly went over to the masses.

Can you imagine the volume of the cries of “Death to the Dictator!” tonight?

12:58  “ No or awfully slow and weirdly filtered internet connections reported from everywhere!”

13:13  Another sign of fear from the regime, perhaps the most menacing to their legitimacy, heh:  “Popular soccer match is not broadcasted BECAUSE PPL R CHANTING”

UPDATE:  Some of the game was broadcast in black and white (so you couldn’t see all the GREEN), and with no sound (so you couldn’t hear the CHANTS).

timeout:  i’m in need of chicken soup.  and my green eyepatch is missing…

15:00  Protests continuing into the night (it’s now 23:30 in Iran), as expected.  This will be even more difficult for foreign reporters to cover.

15:30  I thought it was time for an overview. I have some direct reports that make it possible, I think.  First of all, there was one big surprise, namely the remarkably passive behavior of the security forces.  Why was that?  Surely the regime did not decide that it was going to permit a big protest, so in all probability we have seen the first fatal crack in the instruments of repression.  Police, RG and Basij all failed to display their usual viciousness, and an Iranian friend says that if you watch some of the videos carefully you will see the police laughing with the demonstrators, and the demonstrators calling out “thank you, police.”

My friend Peter Ackerman will delight in these pictures;  he has long been an advocate of non-violent revolution.  As I have.

If the instruments of repression aren’t going to do their dirty work, can the regime survive?  Not.  And the rumor of the day is that Khamenei is so upset, he has stopped eating.  I have no idea if it’s true, but I’m going to repeat it, because it’s so delicious, so to speak.  He would certainly be right to be terribly concerned.

How big were the demonstrations?  I stink at estimating crowd size, I could never do it in Italy when there were some huge crowds (usually red rather than green), so here are some estimates from ro-Green Iranians.

Tehran:  millions of people, not a shot was fired and only three tear gas cannisters were launched;

Isfahan:  1.2 million people;

Shiraz:  More than eight hundred thousand people, and considerable violence.  Unlike Tehran, the security forces were typically vicious;

Mashad:  no estimate of turnout, a very violent day, there’s a new governor, a very cruel and fanatic ex-RG general;

Ahwaz (the heart of the oil region):  no estimate of turnout, but “very big demonstrations.”

Ahmadinezhad tuned up for his triumphal arrival in New York by proclaiming that Israel would be wiped off the map;

And finally, a video showing people in the Tehran Metro cheering Mousavi:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TZSVqohkVo

- video: a good summary by, of all places, the BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2009/09/090918_og_ugc_quds.shtml

Maybe I’ll have a few more updates later, but I think that’s basically ‘it’ for the day.  Happy New Year, and we must now all mourn the passing of Irving Kristol, one of the nicest men ever to walk the earth.  He brought good cheer and original thought to every room he graced. Condolences to his good wife and all the remarkable Kristols.
the son of Shariatmadari, an ex-interrogator at Evin
[prison], now chief editor of Kayhan, tried to kill Khatami with a
knife.

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