We had intended for our last update for the day to be the previous one, but felt that this interview of a protester, Sara, by Anderson Cooper is a must-see. She typifies the ordinary Iranians that have decided that they have to stand up for their rights.
The interview is significant not only because it illustrates the experience of a protester on the ground in Iran, but because Sara indicated that one of the slain protesters, Saneh Jaleh, was a friend of hers.
The interview ends abruptly and ominuously, as the connection is suddenly dropped in the middle of the interview. We hope she is safe.
We started today’s live-blog asking the question, what comes next? After the people of Iran again showed the world that they have not submitted to the barbarous regime following 20 months of relentless propaganda by the regime trying to paint the picture that their movement is dead, where to from here?
Based on how they have acted in the past, and what we have already seen since Monday, the immediate result will be that the regime will continue to lash out. There will be a big backlash.
More will be arrested, tortured and killed or forced into silence. The regime will continue to look for any excuse to get rid of its opponents.
More blusterous pomp will follow as the regime, quick to jump on the “we are with you” bandwagon for democratic uprisings in other countries, hypocritically attempts to put the genie back in the bottle back home.
What is clear is that regardless of their reaction the movement will live on.
Iran is on a trajectory that cannot be turned back from. The people want freedom. They will continue to push for it. We live in world that is interconnected, where instantly one person on the ground can film something or take a picture of something or express a thought, and broadcast that to the world, where it is picked up by an army of observers, people like you, the reader of this live-blog post, and people like myself, who with what limited resources we have can echo and re-broadcast their message–their story.
It is not yet clear what the next step is for the movement–whether the people will follow-up on the 25 Bahman protests with another protest in short order, or whether they will wait for the next perfect, opportune moment to strike another blow.
But what is clear is that if there is a lull between this protest and the next one–there most certainly will be a next one!
That was in question before. There just is no question now.
Iran may not be Tunisia or Egypt, but Iranians have clearly declared to the world that they will not be cowed.
It certainly doesn’t hurt now that the U.S. has come to the realization that it is possible that populations can overthrow their oppressors if they are empowered to do so. And they have learned that Twitter, Facebook and Youtube are instrumental in helping people communicate, coordinate, and collaborate to make it happen.
The administration has observed how the regime in Iran had them duped with the nuclear program, holding it over their heads as a specter an using it as a form of blackmail, keeping both the Iranian people and the world hostage to their whims.
After successive negotiations and discussions with the regime, they have seen that the regime is not a reliable partner, and that it cannot be trusted. And with the Stuxnet virus having set back the Iranian nuclear program, they are realizing that the democracy clock is moving faster than the nuclear clock.
So the formula has changed. The U.S. has now clearly and unambiguously called the regime out on its hypocrisy, and lent its support to the people of Iran. See Hillary Clinton’s statement:
This direct support from the U.S. administration is very helpful because it aligns the values of the United States with their foreign policy and rhetoric. That is ultimately very powerful, as it is an acknowledgement that the gig is up for all autocratic regimes, and that the U.S. gets this.
The mainstream media is doing a better job of reporting on what’s going on in Iran than they did in 2009, especially after the passing of Michael Jackson, when at the height of the protests in Iran the media decided that the death of M.J. was more important and completely took their eye of the struggle there. We have learned from the cases of Egypt and Tunisia that coverage from the media is monumentally important to a people struggling for their freedom. This is because fighting in a vacuum allows a regime to kill and torture with impunity. We know that the regime does not want the world to see it as it is — a horrible, blood-thirsty entity that has no qualms with killing and imprisoning the populace of an entire nation. When the media watches, they change their tune.
Case in point – while they killed people and arrested many hundreds of people since 25 Bahman, with Turkish Prime Minister, Abdollah Gol, present in Iran, the regime was more subdued than say, during the Ashura uprising in 2009.
When the media focused on the case of Sakineh Ashtiani, sentenced to execution by stoning, the regime went out of its way to try to frame the story to their advantage, but ultimately they still have not done the dastardly deed. In essence, they are waiting for the limelight to get off of them before they do it.
The regime has yet to actually arrest (barring house arrest) Mousavi and Karroubi out of fear of the reaction and attention this would cause.
For all their bluster today with the calls by Parliament for their execution, we are predicting that at least in the near term, they will not move to arrest them. They know that doing so will give people the excuse they need to pour out into the streets again, and possibly in a way that they will not be able to contain.
So what comes next? The political landscape of Iran is about to change again. There will be adjustments as the realization continues to set in for the regime that the challenge to their rule is far from over, and for the people of Iran that they can make impact that gets noticed both inside Iran, and outside.
The people and the movement will be discussing their victory and planning their next steps.
The movement in Iran that started in 2009 is actually the manifestation of a meme that came into existence when Barack Obama ran for, and became President of the United States. That was the first instance in which we saw a mobilization where a potent combination of youth, a desire for change, and a campaign that used the Internet and social network technology to obliterate the status quo. The U.S. was a fertile ground for this and I’m not surprised that it happened there first.
In March of 2009, when President Obama have a speech in Cairo, one that addressed Iran and opened the door to a better relationship between Iran and the U.S. that was an inflection point, because the timing coincided with the lead-up to the presidential election–the one in which the people of Iran showed up in droves and voted for a change of their own, only to have their vote stolen, and the hopes dashed (momentarily) by the autocratic and brutal regime in Iran. That was when we saw the uprising called the Green Wave. The rest is history in the making. Two popular revolutions have taken place, with autocrats being deposed in Tunisia and Egypt. Many other countries are now seeking their own change.
And now Iran has shown loudly and unequivocally that it will not turn its back on its own desire for change–for a brighter future.
We can’t say exactly what will happen next, but the game has changed, and we know something will happen, and Iran will not be the same.
The following is a picture on slain 25 Bahman protester, Mohammad Mokhti’s, wall:
Political Prisoner Watch
We have the names of several people arrested out of the reported 1500 arrests on 25 Bahman (February 14).
As reported by Persianbanoo:
Azad University student, Mahmoud Bagheri, was arrested while taking pictures of the protest yesterday.
Poet and author, Hamed Shamloo, was arrested at Enghelab Square during a street protest.
Tehran University School of Fine Arts student, Abozar Rostami, was arrested, also during a street protest.
Former Parliament member, Shahrbano Amani, has been arrested. She represented Uroumiyeh for two terms.
Several Mashhad Ferdowsi University students were arrested today, two of them in a raid of their home (we don’t have their names).
Reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh was blindfolded and moved from Evin prison to an unknown location.
Two men convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in Sanandaj prison (we don’t have the names yet).
Video showing a crowd in Tehran during the protests chanting:
“Mubarak! Ben Ali! Now it’s the turn of Seyed Ali”
“Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!”
“Death to Khamenei!”
Tehran Bureau has published an article on Saneh Jaleh (3rd variation of the name of a protester that was slain during the Monday, 25 Bahman protests in Iran) and the the regime’s propaganda campaign being waged in an attempt to paint a picture that he was killed not by regime elements, but by external provocateurs. From the piece:
A day after a university student was shot to death during anti-regime protests in Tehran, a battle is being waged for his soul.
Saneh Jaleh, 26, was killed on Jamalzadeh Street, north of Azadi Street, the main fulcrum of demonstrations on February 14.
News outlets close to the government now claim that he was a supporter of the regime and that he was shot by agents provocateurs controlled by various opposition groups. The regime announced it would organize a funeral procession for Jaleh, from the Arts University of Tehran, where he studied theater, to Tehran University at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday morning.
Opposition forces, with Jaleh’s friends and classmates at the forefront, are leading a counteroffensive to prevent what they see as the cynical exploitation of the slain protester. They have called on all those who oppose the appropriation of Jaleh by the government to convene at the Arts University near Vali Asr crossroads half an hour earlier.
“He was definitely not a Basij member,” said Hatef Soltani, one of Jaleh’s friends and former fellow students who agreed to speak on the record by phone, referring to the pro-regime militia that has employed violence to subdue previous rallies. “He participated in past demonstrations, particularly on Ashura,” added Soltani. “He managed to escape harm that day, but this time…”
Before yesterday, the last major protest in Iran took place on the Day of Ashura — the commemoration of Imam Hossein’s martyrdom — December 27, 2009.
Asked why he was ready to divulge his own name and possibly endanger himself, Soltani simply said, “Well he was also a human being who is no longer with us, come what may.”
Read the full Tehran Bureau piece: Saneh Jaleh and the Battle for a Slain Protesters Memory
Video, people setting up barricades, as the crowd chants, “Mubarak! Ben Ali! Now it’s the turn of Seyed Ali!” Mubarak is the ousted Egyptian former-president, Ben Ali is the Tunisian version. Seyed Ali is referring to Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the head of the Iranian regime (Supreme Leader):
A couple videos:
From Monday’s protest, a crowd chanting “Marg bar dictator” or “Death to dictator”:
Barack Obama talking about 25 Bahman:
Corrections made to updates at 10:11 GMT and 11:00AM GMT below
We incorrectly stated that the Facebook status update by Mohammad Mokhti was his last. While we have confirmed that the status update definitely was posted to Mohammad Mokhti’s wall it was not his last. It was one of his final updates though and certainly the most foreboding and foretelling. We saw several reports about this on Twitter before we reported it, one of which incorrectly said it was his last. We apologize for the confusion.
However, the status update is still very significant as the spirit of it is in direct contradiction to what the Iranian authorities would have us believe (namely, that he supported rather than opposed the government).
Another telling point: A lot of his wall posts are videos of Parazit, a popular Iranian comedy news show on Voice of America that constantly ridicules the Iranian government and authorities.
Here is a clip from a screenshot we just took, showing a few more of his last Facebook updates:
From the bottom up:
The first update is a video titled “CNN: Tunisia, Egypt, what is next? Iran?”. Does that look like something a regime supporter would post?
How about the second update, which is an image showing how the regime manipulated a photo of a crowd from the 2009 Green Movement protests where people carry a huge green banner to look like they were carrrying a flag of the Islamic Republic, and tried to say that this photo was from the regime’s self-flagellating celebration of its 32nd year?
Or how about the third update, which says “happy valentine’s day” with a couple pictures of hearts? Is that a regime supporter? Please not that the regime banned Valentine’s day in Iran.
Aljazeera reports that the regime is confirming that two people were killed during Monday’s protests, Mohammad Mokhtari, whom we first reported upon in the update at 10:11PM GMT (below), and Sana Jaleh (also spelt in other reports Sanee Zhaleh).
The regime is claiming that the Mojahedin-Khargh Organization (MKO) was behind the killings. This claim should be treated as highly suspect and with the utmost reservation because the MKO is a scapegoat that the regime uses regularly. After the regime was seen in plain-view, killing people, like Neda Agha Soltan, during the 2009 post-election protests, the regime will do anything to deflect blame for its own actions. In essence, the regime is claiming that the slain protesters were regime supporters.
Hmmmm…. Let’s see, if Mohammad Mokhti was a regime supporter, why would one of his final Facebook status update declare, “Lord, let me die standing, as I am tired of living in indignity and on my knees.”?
And with respect to Sanee Zhaleh, EA WorldView reports:
A Facebook photo undermines the official Iranian line that Sanee Zhaleh, killed on Monday, was a regime supporter slain by Mujahedin-e-Khalq demonstrators.
Zhaleh is first on the left. The cleric in the centre is the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, an opponent of the regime who was under lengthy house arrest before his death in 2009.
In an interview with Jaras, the daughters of opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have expressed concern for the well-being of their parents, who are currently under a defacto house arrest and who are being threated by regime hooligans and thugs (see the 9:16PM GMT update below). Considering the urgency of the matter, we are posting the entire English translation:
Tuesday February 15th, 2011 – In an interview with a Jaras reporter (Masih Alinejad) that took place moments ago, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard’s daughters expressed concern regarding the well being of their parents given the recent reports in government owned media outlets and the lack of news regarding their condition.
While emphasizing that there has been no news on the condition and well being of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Dr. Rahnavard in the past 48 hours, their daughters confirmed that in addition to being incommunicado as a result of their telephones being disconnected, the street leading to their residence has been blocked by security vans. Mousavi’s children and security personnel have been denied access to his residence and all communication has been cut off in a sudden and very suspicious manner.
Mir Hossein Mousavi’s daughters stated: “Given the current condition there is much ambiguity regarding their well being. The body guards have been pressured to ensure that there is no contact with family members.”
According to Mousavi’s family members the individuals inside the van outside Mousavi’s residence claim that their orders come from Tehran’s prosecutor. It has been reported that no one has been allowed inside the van parked outside of Mousavi’s residence. The identity of those inside the van is unknown and it is unclear whether or not they are armed.
Mousavi’s family members have stated that the individuals preventing Mousavi’s daughters from entering his residence have refused to provide any form of identification nor have they served him with a judgment. To date no government official has taken responsibility for these recent events.
Mousavi’s daughters stated: “We are concerned because we have been left completely in the dark. We are unaware of what is going on behind these closed doors and the unimaginable acts being committed against them. We don’t know what has happened to Mousavi and Rahnavard. Who is responsible for their protection? We don’t even know if our parents are in the house or if they have been moved to another location.”
It is worth mentioning that after yesterday’s 25th of Bahman demonstrations in Tehran, Ali Larijani head of Iran’s Parliament ordered the formation of a committee to “investigate anti revolutionary individuals”. During today’s parliament session, many MPs were chanting slogans against the reformist leaders demanding that they be executed.
Source: Jaras http://www.rahesabz.net/story/32607/
Interview in Farsi by Masih Alinejad (Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/eYs8uQ)
We have learned that one of the people killed during the Monday protests in Iran was Mohammad Mokhtari.
Lord, let me die standing, as I am tired of living in indignity and on my knees
Here is an image of the purported tweet:
Mohammad Mokhtari, killed by the Islamic regime:
Farokhnia reports that it appears that about 350,000 people showed up for the protests. Tehran is a city with a population of 13 million people. Based on what we saw in the videos and the incoming reports as the events were occurring in real-time, this number is not unreasonable. And regardless of whether it was 50,000 or 350,000, the effect is the same. The Green Movement has shown that it is alive and active and able to mobilize.
Some excerpts from the report:
Traversing the city both by foot and on the rapid transit buses, crowds could be seen everywhere. Several thousand people walked from Imam Hossein Square toward Enghelab Square. This is the first time ever such a large crowd came from that direction — Imam Hossein Square is in the middle of a working-class area. After being dispersed, the crowd walked peacefully on the sidewalks of Enghelab Avenue and some of the parallel roads.
Following a lull for the Green Movement that lasted over a year, Monday’s march has reinvigorated things tremendously. People were smiling in joy for the first time in a long while. Likewise, many Basijis and NAJA (state police) officers looked positively confused and crestfallen.
As for the regime, Monday’s events have complicated its position on both the domestic front and the international scene. After a year of deafening propaganda about the alleged demise of the democratic movement, the Green Movement has shown that despite great adversity, it is alive and well. This has huge implications for the country’s politics, the factional alignments and calculations of the various players. It is particularly discouraging for the country’s hardliners who would have stood to gain from the defeat of the Green Movement.
In particular, the trio of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami can breath a sigh of relief. In the last three weeks since Khatami spelled out their conditions for participating in elections, there has been an alarming crescendo of calls for their arrest and even execution. The events of Monday have reduced that risk — unless they keep pushing the regime into a corner, that is. Thanks to the developments in North Africa, the Green Movement leaders now have a window of opportunity, which they are expected to use in the next few days, building on Monday’s unexpected success. Clearly, the Islamic regime is quite concerned that it may be seen as another despotic Middle Eastern government if it persecutes and represses its domestic opposition.
The parallel between Iran and the Northern African states, highlighted by the Supreme Leader in his Friday Prayer sermon, has now come to haunt the regime. Overall, this wasn’t a good day for those who rule the Islamic Republic of Iran.
There are now reports circulating of another person killed during the 25 Bahman protests (February 14). We are following up and will post the details shortly.
Also, Banooyeh Sabz has a report on Facebook: thugs attack Mehdi Karroubi’s residence after 25 Bahman.
The backlash campaign of intimidation is on. In the report:
According to reports by Tahavole Sabz, a group of pro government thugs gathered in front of Mehdi Karroubi’s residence this afternoon, chanting slogans against him.
This gathering took place in response to a calling by a website linked to the government for a rally at Ark Square in Tehran against the Green leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. After a few hours, those present at Ark Square moved towards the residence of Mehdi Karroubi, Secretary General of the National Trust Party.
According to the latest reports [and at the time this news was published], these individuals are currently in front of Mehdi Karroubi’s residence and continue to chant slogans against him.
The report originated from Tavasolesabz
Kalame, the website close to Mir Hossein Mousavi, has reported that activist Ali Nabavi has been arrested. His wife is also already in prison.
Peyke Iran reports that 50 Abadan oil refinery workers have gone on strike to protest living conditions lack of work.
It is inevitable that there will be a backlash from the regime following the humiliation they faced on 25 Bahman when the world witnessed the resurgence of protests on 25 Bahman (February 14). One of the forms this backlash takes is by way of the regime rounding up dissidents and activists, in a campaign of intimidation and repression. This has been on-going, but has been stepped up following the recent protests.
Persianbanoo reports that the son and daughter of Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani have been arrested following the 25 Bahman protests. Susan and Mohamad Mostafa Bayat Zanjani were arrested yesterday at the Sadeghiyeh Metro Station. Ayatollah Zanjani has been critical of the government’s crackdown following the 2009 presidential election and subsequent uprisings.
The website RAHANA reports that Ghazvin International University student and activist, Saeed Sakakian has been arrested:
Saeed Sakakian, Student activist and a student of Ghazvin International University whom was previously arrested under charges of “propaganda against the regime” and was sentenced to four months suspended imprisonment and was expelled from university was arrested today in Tehran.
According to reporters of Human Rights House of Iran reporters, Sakakian was arrested today at one of the streets of Tehran and was transferred to an unknown location. His whereabouts remain undisclosed.
There are reports that 1500 people were arrested on 25 Bahman (February 14).
“Mousavi, Karroubi, must be executed!”
“Death to Karroubi, Mousavi and Khatami!”
Such is what was called for by Iranian parliamentarians today.
The Iranian Parliament (Majles) today, illustrated to the world, the blood-lust of this regime. It should be noted that the parliamentarians are “elected” in Iran. But how are they vetted for running for Parliament to begin with? They need a rubber stamp from the regime. So let’s take a look at who represents the Iranian people in their parliament. These people do. These “law makers” are calling for the executions of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (two opposition figures that ran in the 2009 presidential elections) and Mohammad Khatami (the former reformist president of Iran). They are calling for their executions because the three have asked for non-violent protests in support the freedom movements in the region, and for saying the Iranian people deserve to have their rights protected. Basically, they are calling for their executions not because they have done anything deserving such a punishment, but because they have used the rights enshrined in the regimes own constitution, under Article 27, to stage peaceful, non-violent public protests. Bear witness to one of the faces of the barbaric regime:
A thought: Perhaps the regime is sick of spending hundreds of millions to pay their cronies and security forces to show up and hold demonstrations in “support” of the regime. That can be pretty costly. So why not just use the monopoly on state television and have the politicians chant slogans against the opposition–calling for their murder. That ought to be effective right…………….?
Twenty months ago the people of Iran started a movement, called the Green Movement, that shattered the false image that the regime in Iran had created for them, in their name, without their consent.
A combination of despair, rage, and technological savvy led to a singular explosion of protest–the likes of which the world had never seen until then, and the results of which eventually led to a domino effect just under two years later, with the fall of other repressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
Iran’s current regime is the mangled product of a revolution that occurred over thirty years ago, in 1979, with the ouster of the Shah. Iranians thought they would get democracy and freedom then. What they got was something far worse than the regime that preceded the current one. They got a modern day Islamic inquisition that wraps itself in cloak of religion combined with republic, but that possesses none of the positive traits of either.
Unfortunately for Iranians, the current regime, having been born out of a 20th century revolution, understands how revolutions work, and since its birth it has taken steps to protect itself from another one.
The regime distributed power to multiple independent power bases–all beholden to a “Supreme Leader”, essentially, a God-monarch, that is supposed to be a learned cleric from the Shia clergy–but none powerful enough to run the full show.
It infused its organs of violence with an ideological ferver, with a penchant for worship of the Supreme Leader.
This makes the overthrow of the regime extremely difficult, because not only is the regime more likely to slaughter and kill at the whim of the leader with a twisted “religious” legitimacy (because anyone who opposes the regime is considered an enemy of God instead of just a political opponent), but even if the Iranian people were able to force one power-base of the regime to submit, one of the other ones will quickly fill the vacuum.
And the regime also knows that its power is more easily preserved if it can keep its populace unaware of what is happening both inside and outside of Iran, and by keeping the world in the dark on what’s happening inside Iran.
This is how they have held power for the past 32 years. Inside Iran, nobody knew that there was such a VAST opposition to the regime, and even if they knew, they didn’t know how to act in unison. Outside the regime, most governments and peoples assumed that Iranians support the government.
The world is interconnected. Iranians have found ways to get the word out, and to get information into Iran.
In 2009 the gig was up.
The regime cracked down with full force, removing its mask and baring its fangs to the world as it gored the innocent protesters that asked, “Where is my vote?” in the sham elections that took place.
We all saw this.
We all saw Neda Agha Soltan killed in cold blood.
That murder opened all our eyes, even as hers filled with her own life-blood as she died.
The world now knows what it means to be an Iranian. What life is like for an Iranian. How brave a people they are to face this monstrous regime.
The virulent crackdown that we saw pushed to movement for freedom and justice in Iran underground.
Many pundits and naysayers thought that this meant the movement was dead. But how could it be? How could anyone forget what was done to the Iranian people in 2009 (and for all the years in the three preceding decades since this monster came to power in Iran)? It’s impossible to forget.
In December of 2009 I wrote, Why the Green Movement Will Prevail. I still believe that it will.
What we witnessed on 25 Bahman (14 February 2011) was the Iranian people, expressing their solidarity with the freedom movements springing up all over the region, but also re-asserting that Iranians too, still want freedom!
For all intents and purposes, they accomplished what many didn’t think they would be able to. They came out, young and old, and faced the dark regime. The monster. The following poster I think truly captures what they did, and what they face.
In terms of numbers, it is very difficult to say how many people turned out, and it is largely irrelevant because they turned out in droves. When one knows that one might die, it is likely that one won’t partake in a protest. In Iran this is a very real possibility (as is rape, torture and all forms of humiliation and abuse) when one opposes this regime. So one has to assume that for every person that turned out, many may not have. Despite this, based on the videos and images we have seen, we think it is safe to say that at least 100,000 showed up, but quite possibly many more.
So what comes next? I think it’s safe to say much, much more.