Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran: From Eyewitnesses in Tehran

Below are two reports relayed from eyewitnesses in Iran.  There are additional reports that give the same picture essentially: Demonstrators shot, means of communications cut off, Police removing satellite dishes, arrests...
What you would expect from a crackdown in an authoritarian regime. But the crowds shouting "Allah o Akbar" do not suggest that this is a liberal revolution or that the demonstrators have any interest in changing the constitution of the Islamic Republic. Nor do the reports suggest that they have much chance of success.
Ami Isseroff

As we speak, I can clearly hear gun shots in the streets and people shouting 'Allah o Akbar' and 'Death to this liar government'.

All mobile phones are off, sms has not been working for days, internet is extremely slow, some pages take over 20 minutes to load. Many sites have been filtered, France 24, Deutsche Welle, BBC Persian and BBC World Satellites are not working. VOA Persian just works every now and then, over 100 reformists have been arrested, and we have at least 7 confirmed dead!

The atmosphere up to the election day had been one of joy and happiness. All sides have demonstrated side by side, without violence and in friendship. I could go with Karoubi banners into an Ahmadi crowed and we could have friendly discussions.

The whole city of Tehran was generally in green. But the day before election when advertising was banned, no one, really no one was wearing green or advertising. This to me shows great respect for the law and how advanced our civil society is.

After the announcement of the results, all major squares were suddenly packed with anti riot police, basij, ansare hezbollah and gaurdaye yegan vije. I was stuck in Abbas Abad. It has been the most violent scenes I have every seen. Motorcycles were burning, buses were burning, the government forces were randomly attacking people and blocking both sides of the roads.

I have seen women and old people been beaten. These were people passing by. I was hiding in two garages with a friend. People would let us in so we wont get beaten up. But we later found out that basij would even storm houses and destro the dorrs.

Sunday Tehran seemed calmer. The University of Tehran dorms was fully isolated. There were at least 200 guards there. At night they attacked the dorms. In central Tehran ansare hezbollah and basij stormed the university building. There are rumours of deaths but nobody knows. In Tehran people were honing their cars and police was smashing cars.

There were apparently many riots in Sa adat abad and Shahrake Gharb but I was not there.

Yesterday we went to the mass rally. Many did not come because their were reports that there would be shootings. Still 1 to 2 million showed up.

I have never seen crowds this large and this peaceful. The main slogans were:

marg bar diktator. che shah bashe che doktor nasro menallah va fathon gharib, marg bar in dolate mardom farib haleye nooro dide raye mano nadide in 63 darsad ke migan koo? dooroogh goo, dooroogh goo ey dolate koodetah, estefa estefa na qaze na lobnan, faghat mellate iran mardom chera neshestin, iran shode felestin iraniye ba gheyrat, hemayat hemayat ta ahmadinejade, harooz hamin basate raye mano dozdide, dare bahash poz mide estefah estefah esteeeefaaah, begoo

From Enghelab square to Azadi and from Azadi square to Sadeghiye the streets were packed.

Unfortunately you all know what has happened at the end.

Today the atmosphere is even more tense.

But in central Tehran, any house we passed had green flags hanging from hanging from it.

Everyone you talk to voted for Mousavi.

I have no doubts the votes were rigged. Best,


I talked to two well-connected friends in Iran today; this is their analysis.

- In their opinion there is no doubt that there was fraud in the elections.

- Motivation: The leadership and conservative forces have decided once and for all that there is too much tension in the country, and they want to run the country with no more tensions (between them and the reformists/left). The plan is to immediately open up to the West/US, reduce tensions, focus 200% on the economy, and in the next 4 years reduce inflation and unemployment dramatically and improve people's economic lot significantly. So that in 4 years, they can press the reset button on elections, and the people, having seen 4 years of good economy, vote them into office. And from this point on, no reformist/leftist will ever be allowed to assume power in Iran. This is all well and good on paper - except that it does not include one factor: the people's will and desire! We're talking pseudo-Chinese style management with lip service to elections.

- Technicalities: there were about 48,000 ballot boxes. None of the candidates had representatives for all of them. Mousavi only had 5,000 approved representatives. Karrubi had even less than that. The Interior ministry did not issue the necessary documents for all those suggested as representatives. According to first hand reports, these election monitors witnessed only the counting process but they were not authorized to sign any document or approve anything. That means Mousavi and Karrubi do not have any "legal" documents to object to the results. The only hope that they may have is to reopen some boxes randomly and recount and see if there is a large meaningful difference between the outcome and what has been announced. Even in that case they may only be able to disqualify those particular boxes and not the whole election, unless that they can recount all boxes. Also there were at least 14,000 mobile boxes. There was no supervision on these boxes at all. Ahmadinejad and his team can easily manipulate those boxes according to their wishes.

- They therefore engineered this election. Ahmadinejad had to have much more votes than Khatami in past elections. Karroubi had to be destroyed with that ridiculously low number of votes. Rezaie's economic plans/use of experts/professionals was to be killed off since they have their own economic plans. And of course Mousavi had to go.

- In preparation for this, they foresaw some minor disturbances, put security forces on alert, and even warned the people against "agitation" (Khamenei's televised speech right after he cast his vote), but overall they thought the left are a bunch of sissies; shoot a few bullets in the air, intimidate, beat, and they go away. They have reason to believe this - over the past 20 years every time the system has come under some so called "threat" (e.g. via press freedom) or "expediency" (e.g. vetting of candidates) has been required, the left (e.g. Khatami) has backed down, to the point that the left has given up a lot and the right has advanced and gained a lot.

- As for the fraud itself, one said he has official data from the past elections (2005) which shows that Ahmadinejad's gains in 2009 were almost entirely in the big cities, and not in the small provincial villages/cities in which he didn't gain as much. This by itself points to fraud, and also is the cause for the immense level of discontent in the large cities. People see who votes in their neighborhood and city and when they see the announced results, they know it can't be possibly true (he mentioned seeing people in line who were voting for the 2nd time in their life: the first time was at the Islamic Republic Referendum in 1979!).

- Another point is that finally in this election, it became absolutely clear where the leader stands. In the past the reformists would go meet him, and seek his intervention, and he leaned this way and that. This time, he is firmly behind the takeover of power and this is clear to all. He has made his decision for the future.

- So now, what has gone wrong? a) the fact that Khatami is not leading the movement (who would have backed out by now for "expediency"), but rather it is Mousavi who told the leader point blank in their meeting that there has been fraud and it has to be dealt with (after being told by the leader to "let go"); and b) people's demonstrations which have surprised even the left. He said from Tuesday morning till 3 pm, the Tehran District and Provincial Heads, and Head of police were on TV one after another over and over, warning people that if they take part in any demonstrations, that will be it! People didn't listen and 1 million showed up.

- The reason you are not seeing foreign condemnation of this also is because the foreign countries are waiting for the government to finish its job. They foreign states will then recognize the President, and justify it saying the elections were fair and there are rioters everywhere in the world. The longer this recognition takes (the longer the government takes to "finish" things) the worse things will be; at some point they will have to make statements, do something, ... if there is killing and the problems continue they may be forced to recall ambassadors, downgrade relations, ... and that will be the kiss of death for the government who wanted to open up to the West and improve people's economic lot.

- Will the reformists give up this time too? Both think unlikely since the reformists/left now understand 100% that this is their last stance; if they give up now, they will never, ever, be able to hold any power in Iran in the future.

- This is confirmed by Ahmadinejad's three statements since the elections in which he has basically drawn out his sword and shown a no-compromise stance with respect to the reformists.

- Government is in a bind now. They didn't expect the large demonstrations. And they can't do anything when people go to work and on way back home every single car is honking horns in protest, and when after dinner they go to the balcony and chant Allah-o-Akbar. The people realize that they are out of the government's equation. This is the reason for the revolt.

- The only factor that can change the game is popular demonstrations by people, going on strike and with a high regret, some bloodshed. The amount of blood depends on the resistance of both sides. Only in that case the whole system will come under question and to retain legality they will need to do something, perhaps dramatic.

- The best thing the US and EU can do is to not recognize this government, and downgrade relations. Else they will be seen as co-conspirators by the Iranian people. One CIA led coup in Iran's history is enough.


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