10:00AM GMT – February 27
We have started a running live-blog tracking the arrests Iran’s Green opposition leaders here.
Till now, the regime has not dared arrest the main opposition figures and leaders of the Green Movement.
With confirmation by the very reliable Reza Sayah that Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and their spouses have been removed by the regime and are currently being held in a regime “safe house” (how is this different from actual arrest?), and with the calls by opposition groups for protests every Tuesday until the Persian New Year Fire Festival of Chahar Shanbe Suri, the stakes have been raised to a new level since since uprisings in Iran started 21 months ago.
We are closing our live-blog for the day. For coverage until we return tomorrow, follow our colleagues: EA Worldview’s live-blog here, and James Miller’s Dissected News live-blog here.
URGENT – BREAKING NEWS:
CONFIRMATION OF REMOVAL OF MOUSAVI, KARROUBI, AND THEIR WIVES FROM THEIR HOMES
The regime spins in a communication with CNN is that the opposition figures are being kept in a “safe house”. Let’s not mince words. This means they are officially under arrest.
CNN’s Reza Sayah reports:
Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi and their wives were placed in a safe house for their own welfare, but they have not been arrested, Iranian government sources told CNN Saturday.
“The opposition movement is very much looking for martyrs so if this is true it’s for their own safety,” one source told CNN.
The pro-reform opposition movement “is always looking for an excuse to create something, so this may be done to keep someone from doing something to them,” the source added.
But the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expressed concern for the safety of the leaders and their wives.
“Moussavi and Karrubi and their wives have been disappeared; they are being held incommunicado in an unknown location, a severe breach of Iranian and international law,” Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the campaign, said in a statement.
“Given the lynch mob-like calls for their execution by numerous Iranian politicians and clerics, there is reason to be deeply concerned for their safety and well-being,” Rhodes said.
The regime has the gall to arrest Iran’s opposition Green Movement leaders and then blame the opposition for the fact that they arrested them. They are claiming that they are keeping them safe so that they won’t become “martyrs” for the opposition. That’s rich.
Iran News Now contributer, Kambize Rostami, calls out Reza Aslan for failing to mention the situation in Iran in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon today on the topic of the uprisings and turmoil in the Middle East:
While Mr. Aslan’s answers seemed in line with the daily news coming out from the region, he did not provide any particularly insightful or extraordinary information.
His comments about what is often referred to as the Twitter or Facebook Revolution and the influence of these social networking sites in facilitating the changes we have seen in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain was very banal and basic.
Interestingly, Mr. Aslan, who presents himself as an expert in Middle East affairs, who has often directly or indirectly presented himself as a supporter of the people of Iran during the uprisings and the subsequent government crackdowns that followed the disputed presidential election in 2009, did not once–in the entire interview–mention that the brave, young Iranian people are in fact, effectively the initiators of the use of social media to organize, mobilize and disseminate information to rise up against a totalitarian regime in the region and the world–the activity that the term “Twitter Revolution” was coined from–nor does he recognize in his remarks that we are seeing a resurgence of what the Iranian people started in 2009 today–right now–in Iran itself.
There have been two major days of protest recently, with many tens of thousands protesting in solidarity with Egypt and Tunisia and against their own dictatorial government. Chants of “Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it’s the turn of Seyed Ali [Khamenei]!” and “Down with the dictator!” could be heard in Tehran and many other cities in Iran.
No mention by Mr. Aslan of the 25 Bahman (February 14) protests. No mention of the 1 Esfand (February 20) protests. And no mention of the planned 10 Esfand (March 1) protests.
And no mention of the house arrests of Iran’s prominent opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, or Mehdi Karroubi.
One has to wonder if Mr Aslan is fully up-to-date with the events in the Middle East, particularly in his own country
Activist Lissnup has posted on her blog, a letter from Majid Tavakoli, a hero of the opposition movement, arrested during Student Day protests in Iran in December of 2009 for his brave stance for freedom, human and civil rights in Iran, and currently held in Rejai Shahr prison. The letter is in Farsi. We will publish the English translation as soon as it becomes available. In the letter, Majid Tavakoli expresses solidarity with Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi asking people to “stand by the green leaders.”
The website, RAHANA, has posted a letter originally published on Kalemeh, the website associated with Mir Hossein Mousavi, from the daughters of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, expressing their pain and anguish since they have not seen their parents in the past two weeks, since they were put under house arrest by the regime:
“We killed them because they were worthless.”
They told us that our parents deserved this, but we weren’t interested in having political discussions. We were only there as concerned children. They told us that they were glad they killed people this past year. “We killed them because they were worthless”, they said. As we heard their statements the faces of Neda, Sohrab and Mohsen and so many others faces of our beloved colleagues smeared with blood appeared in front of our eyes. We kept hearing the moans of morning mothers. Who was this person who claimed that those he killed were worthless? He said: “Allah said even your cries are lies.” He went on and on and showed us his weapon and asked us to leave. When we insisted on a reason he replied: “We will call in the security forces and have you all removed by force.” It felt as though the bare trees in that long street were shouting “What are they guilty of? ” They shouted that the girls of the land of water and fire have been taught by their parents to never fear.
Regime Battle Against University Students:
Peyke Iran reports that 200 Shiraz University students have been barred from studies for two terms, in further crackdowns by the regime on dissident students.
Radio Farda reports that the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, Ahmad Montazeri, has written a letter to Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in which he advises the leader to hold discussions with Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami and Rafsanjani to solve the “current problems”.
Confirmation: We have confirmed that it is Faezeh Hashemi being harassed and verbally abused by regime goons in a video we posted earlier.
BBC Persian reports on the current situation in Iran. Shows Karroubi’s home with broken windows and Mousavi’s home fenced off. The report states that it is not clear where they are and that the lights in Mousavi’s home have remained off:
Political Prisoner Watch:
Persian Banoo reports Durham University student, Ehsan Abdeh Tabrizi, has been sentenced to five years by the Appeals Court. Tabrizi received two years for insulting the Leader and three years for protesting in front of the Islamic Republic’s embassy in London.
A must-read account by a contributer to Tehran Bureau, about a recent visit to Tehran, and the change in the feel of the city and the mood of its residents. Very telling:
The buzzing energy that was the city’s hallmark had been replaced by what at first seemed to be a dull state of apathy. Oddly enough, it was an apathy very similar to that which I had seen in Egyptian eyes on my visits to Cairo in recent years. A “look” that made me long for Tehran badly each time I set foot in the Egyptian capital. Much to my despair, now I had found that look in my own people’s eyes.
Returning to Europe, I spent a few days trying to make sense of all the new images I had carried back of my beloved city. It dawned on me that this is actually the real time of change.
As a fellow researcher in Tehran put it in weighted words before I left: I understand how you feel, but you should understand that the population has experienced extreme and rapid alterations to the conduct of its daily life over the past year and a half — so much that it probably wouldn’t have happened in 30 years if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hadn’t come to power. This has been a period of self-reflection, developing consciousness of and responsibility for the current situation. The people have understood who and what they are dealing with and this is extremely important.
This observation made me realize that while the traditional joys of Tehrani life were nowhere to be seen, while all its lightness was burdened down, if you looked very closely, you could detect in the depths the churning of a long-awaited tide of transition.
Political Prisoner Watch:
Rahesabz reports that trade unionist, Mansour Osanlou, imprisoned for the last five years in Gohardasht prison has had a blockage of an artery near his heart, requiring his immediate release so that he can receive treatment.
Dr. Scott Lucas of EA World view challenges Ali Eshraghi with regards to his views on the opposition challenge to the regime. Dr. Lucas states:
We are well past the period just after the 2009 election when Green could cover the specific protests against the vote. There are wider civil rights issues beyond that, which means there are a range of groups in play for the opposition. The phrase “Green” might be used from time to time, but Mousavi’s Green Path is an obsolete notion — look at the approach of the statement in the names of Mousavi and Karroubi this week.
This is far more than what Eshraghi pictures as a north Tehran movement. The shrewder people in the opposition know that they have to look to other social movements and economic groups to move forward.
Political Prisoner Watch:
Persian Banoo reports that the whereabouts of Sharif University student Hossein Salemkar, arrested on February 15, are still unknown. In a short phone call to his family, Salemkar told his family that he has been arrested but is not allowed to tell them his location.
Reformist Dr. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, who had been out of prison on bail, is apparently back in Evin.
Author and translator, Payman Gholami was arrested on February 14 and is now in Evin prison.
Payam Aghzani has been fined and sentenced to three years in prison for being of the Bahai faith. The court used bunch of fabricated charges for the ruling.
Persian Banoo reports that Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani met separately with Ayatollah Shobeiri Zanjani and Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili, discussing the current situation in Iran.
BREAKING: We are not sure when this video was filmed or where, but the title says February 2011. It purportedly shows plain-clothed regime goons confronting one of the daughters of the current head of the Assembly of Experts, Hashemi Rafsanjani. It appears like the person filming the video is actually one of the goons but we are not certain. The video shows one of the plain-clothed regime goons threatening to tear the daughter of Rafsanjani apart, hurling all sorts of insults and threats. We are trying to determine when and where the video was shot, and what the broader ramifications are:
The following video purportedly shows satellite dishes destroyed by regime forces in recent days, in attempts to systematically prevent news from the outside from reaching Iranians. Satellite dishes are illegal in Iran, but very common and widespread:
Ahmad Batebi, activist and famous Iranian opposition figure, who first became known to the world when in 1999 the first major student uprising against the regime took place, and his face was plastered onto the cover of the Economist, holding up the bloodstained shirt of a fellow protester, and who was held in prison for years, where he experienced the worst torture at the hands of the regime, has put out a video in which he discusses the plans for protests on Tuesday’s starting on 10 Esfand (March 1).
He makes the same case that we have been making; namely, that by arresting Mousavi and Karroubi, the regime has escalated the conflict with the opposition. Planning has now moved abroad, with advisors to Mousavi and Karroubi using their networks to organize upcoming protests:
Political Prisoner Watch:
Persian Banoo reports that on Thursday, student activist Ziya Nabavi was moved from Ahvaz Karon prison by security agents to an unknown location.
Ayatollah Dastgheib has stated that the illegal detention of opposition leaders must end.
Former President Khatami, talking about the house arrests of Mousavi, Rahnavard, and Karroubi, has stated “People of the world will ask: is this the result of the Revolution’s diversion and corruption?” He is basically letting the regime know that their escalation of the conflict, by arresting important figures of the opposition, will not be ignored by the world.
Kamran Daneshjoo, Minister of Higher Education in Iran, has declared that supporters of the Green Movement are counter-revolutionaries. Within regime lingo, anyone labeled a counter-revolutionary is basically an outsider whose life if forfeit. This declaration is basically a threat to students and faculty.
Josh Shahryar, writing for Tehran Bureau, explains why Iranian protesters are tremendously brave:
Imagine a country where when protesters are killed, their families have to pay something called a “bullet fee,” because the government expended resources to murder them. Imagine being a war veteran, standing in a morgue and begging the very men who are responsible for your son’s death to return his body to you because you cannot possibly pay the amount they’re asking for.
Yes, stoning is horrifying, but there are other things you don’t hear about much. Imagine a regime that doesn’t execute virgin women. Don’t get too excited. It doesn’t mean what you think. It actually means that when a woman who’s a virgin is condemned to death, she’s married off to a prison guard in a sham ceremony hours before her execution so he can rape her. Only then can she be executed.
These are only a few of the things protesters have to worry about. Josh provides more examples of the regime’s sadism and brutality. Despite these things, the people of Iran still turn out in tens–if not hundreds of thousands–to challenge this regime and voice their opposition.
Tehran Bureau has published a piece, Eliminating the Opposition, Islamic Republic Style:
The tactics that Iran’s Islamic regime has employed against the opposition Green Movement follow a well-worn pattern that can be summed up as “call them counter-revolutionaries and then destroy them.”
There is nothing creative or innovative about this approach, which emerged in Iran at the dawn of the 1979 revolution, in a febrile atmosphere dominated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s charismatic personality and populist support. Leftists and communist groups initially joined in, though they were later to fall victim to the technique.
We start our live-blog today with a featured report: Iran: “A marathon not a sprint”, in which we discuss the regime’s challenge to the opposition via the house arrests of Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi and the opposition’s response, a call for more protests.