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Here We Go...

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: