Dispatches: 22 Bahman
11 Feb 2010 08:16
All times EST, unless otherwise noted.
10:00 am EST: Tehran Bureau interview with Hossein Karroubi, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi's son.
How is your father Haj Agha Mehdi Karroubi?
We're treating him for burns to his face and eyes. He's having trouble with his lungs too. He was badly attacked with pepper spray. Plainclothes agents (vigilantes) approached him and kept spraying it in his eyes. He's resting at home though; he's not been hospitalized.
Any news of your brother Ali Karroubi, who was arrested today?
We haven't been able to figure out where he is. Everyone we call claims to have no information on him. We believe he's in the custody of the law enforcement agency.
Government officials are touting the celebrations today as a referendum on the past few months, on the Green Movement. What do you think? Was this a defeat for the Green Movement?
Well, they bussed in as many people as they possibly could from many towns and locations and depositing them at Azadi Square, surrounded by and escorted by thousands of officers. I have even seen them rounding up people myself. This is while they started beating the others (opposition) starting at 8 am. Of what value is such a pro-government turnout? If they allowed this side (opposition) to gather, they would see how the masses really turn out. For example, at Sadeghi Square, where we were, folks told us they started beating up on them since they started arriving at 8 am. They kept gathering and they kept dispersing them. What value was their [the government's] turnout under these circumstances?
The Iranian blogosphere appears to be disappointed by the lack of a Green presence. Some are claiming they are no longer worthy of Mr. Karroubi?
No, that's not so. This is not the case. The people were actually very kind. There were gatherings starting at 8 in the morning there. They got beat up pretty bad. When we got there, people warmly gathered around him. But when they were violently attack -- they even pulled a dagger. When a thug pulls a dagger and attempts to attack you with it and with knives and batons.... No, we actually thank the people for their support.
Do you think this paves the way for the arrests of Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi?
Until now their [government] actions have been irrational; we hope they proceed in a more rational fashion from this point. I hope such a thing doesn't happen. I hope they don't act in such a disgraceful manner for the whole world to see.
if there are arrests, do you believe they will be followed by televised confessions of the opposition leaders?
They've already tried really hard to use such tactics and failed. For all their efforts, the many arrests and all the pressure they've put on detainees, they were only able to televise a handful of these so-called confessions.
Do you think the arrests of Mr. Karroubi's bodyguards were premeditated?
Mr. Karroubi received a letter from [NAJA intelligence] saying that Mr. Karroubi would be the target of a suicide attack and that he shouldn't participate in the march today. And at the same time, they called some of our friends, his entourage in for questioning. They got a written promise from them, agreeing they wouldn't take place in gatherings with Mr. Karroubi anymore. They did everything to dissuade Mr. Karroubi from attending. But when I saw him this morning, he was intent on going to the march.
How may Greens do you think showed up and participated today?
I really couldn't tell. I was only in the Sadeghiyeh area, which was only one of the paths of the march. The folks there said there were many of them there, but they [authorities] would beat them up and not allow them to gather.
Other areas it was the same. I asked around and they said more or less the same thing. They said police forces and vigilantes had a strong presence and they beat up on many people.
We're hearing reports that Zahra Rahnavard was beat up. Is this true?
I don't know. This is the first I've heard of it.
08:00 am EST
Everyone we have spoken to so far this morning has said about the same thing -- in a word or two: "A big anticlimax," "defeat," "An overwhelming presence from the other side. People were terrified."
In fact, it appears that the regime was so confident, it did not feel the need to disrupt cellphone or messaging services, or even the internet for that matter.
One Tehran Bureau correspondent relayed the following:
Today has been a bust. Lots of people left town, left the country. There was extra security. I was down at Azadi Square, and they [regime] couldn't even get the huge crowd they wanted. It didn't matter though, because the Greens either didn't show up or authorities were successful in keeping them out.
The square was crowded, but not super crazy. There were definitely a lot of people, but compared to the way it's been filled by Greens a couple of times, it was much less than that. One could move around and it wasn't the crush of people you sometimes see (except in the front). I think they used all their resources to get people there, but the fact is this was a five-day weekend this year and many people (even from their side) just decided to get out of town. They also blocked all of the entryways into the area, so it was hard to get in without permission.
In terms of actual numbers, it's hard to say... Of course tens of thousands (from the non-Green side), but I have seen bigger crowds here from both sides.
In all of Tehran, fewer than 7,000 people. In Sadeghiyeh (which is considered a 'Green stronghold', there were not even 1000 people.
03:00 am EST
Got off phone with Hossein Karroubi. He confirmed the assault on his father Mehdi Karroubi as he descended from his vehicle at Sadeghiyeh Square, a little over a mile north of Azadi Square (a Green stronghold where there is also a metro station). It was an ambush, as he was expected there at 10:30 am sharp Tehran time, as he had announced the day before.
The entire area was filled with Basiji from the provinces. NAJA, the law enforcement agency, had a strong presence as well. For about six minutes, a violent attack took place.
Hossein Karroubi said that his brother Ali Karroubi had been arrested along with others. He also confirmed the arrest of some of his father's entourage by intel agents the day before. Some were let go after signing a written promise "to stay away" or not accompany the opposition leader.
Contrary to earlier reports, Mehdi Karroubi was not injured.
03:30 EST: This map of central Tehran measures the heavy traffic near Azadi Square near noon Tehran time.
03:24 EST: In his speech, Ahmadinejad announced that "the first convoy of 20%-enriched nuclear fuel has been produced"
03:15 EST: Parleman News reports that Mohammad Khatami was present at around 10:30 am Tehran time among opposition supporters near Azadi St. in central Tehran
03:12 EST: Joanne Michele, live-blogging from Tehran, posts on Twitter [11:40 Tehran time]: "Can clearly hear "Marg bar diktator" ['death to the dictator'] right after Ahmadinejad says the 'malicious govts' will fall."
03:10 EST: Rahesabz confirmed that Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami, and his wife Zahra Eshraghi, Khomeini's granddaughter, have been arrested.
03:04 EST: The websites of state broadcaster IRIB, state news channel Press TV, state news agency IRNA and semi-official Fars news agency are all down. It appears that the internet slow-down has affected the state media as well.
02:47 EST: Source reached by landline in Tehran reports that internet is almost completely shut down and email will not open.
1:50 EST: Trendsmap, which tracks over 5 million tweets per day in 500 cities to identify trending topics on Twitter in real time, shows that #iranelection is the top hashtag in Tehran at the moment, with the next "hot spots" around the world showing on this interactive map as US, UK, UAE, and less predictably, South Korea, India, and Venezuela.
01:40 am EST:
IRIB Channel 2 is broadcasting live footage of Tehran's Enqelab [Revolution] Square, but has not yet aired images of Azadi [Freedom] Square. (Source: Mardomak)
Dispatch from Mohammad Sadeghi, administrator of official Mousavi Facebook page:
Iranian opposition activists from across Germany gathered in Berlin to stage a demonstration in front of the Islamic Republic's embassy as it hosted a 22 Bahman celebration Tuesday evening.
In minus 10 degrees, the demonstrators sang popular resistance anthems such as Winter is Over and Yare Dabestani.
German police, however, asked protesters to turn off their loudspeakers, which protesters maintained their permit allowed them to use. According to eyewitnesses, the German police proceeded to attack and beat back protesters.
Reports: At about midnight (EST), Basij reportedly started flooding the center of Azadi Square, where the ceremonies are to be held. Area had been sealed off, and not open to the general public.
From Tehran, Wednesday.
@ Everyone had been told to go out tonight on the roof and shout "Allah o Akbar." Turnout, at least according to these two videos below, was relatively weak. But a resident of Gisha, in western Tehran, gave the following account: "Tonight I was really tired so I lay down to rest and apparently dozed off. However, the chanting of 'Allah o Akbar' was so loud, and so many had turned out for it, the roar shook me from my sleep."
@ Many people have created lists of do's and do-not-do's for tomorrow and are sharing it with others. This didn't happen in the lead up to prior protests and appears to show the growing maturity of the Green Movement.
Among the instructions are the following: show up early and disperse quickly at the end of official ceremonies to minimize the chances of arrest; try to get inside the Azadi Square perimeter where Ahmadinejad speaks in the early morning hours; don't be distracted with false rumors or provocations which are intended to prevent you from reaching the Square; keep within the space of your fellow-protesters (only those isolated from their groups are usually arrested); if arrested, do not under any circumstances confess you were picked up at or near the Square (initially all those arrested are thrown in one place with no information available on them); make an alibi with your family as a kind of false lead in case you are arrested; don't use text messages; have a second email which you never use since they would force you to provide them with your email and password during the interrogation; since individuals arrested are taken to a room where pictures of protesters are hung on the wall, change your jacket immediately with other detainees so that you won't be recognized; even if you are beaten harder initially, don't confess to being a protester because your sentence will be much lighter in the end.
@The strategy as discussed by many protesters is to have a whistle in their pocket tomorrow and use it when Ahmadinejad begins his speech. Also if they were able to get inside the inner perimeters of the Square, (since they will be searched before entry) to get pictures of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and turn it upside down in front of the international press people. That would be the safest thing to do given that the enclosed area will be swarmed with agents and basijis.
@ A relatively new anti-regime organization called the "Theological Students and Teachers of Qom and Najaf Seminaries" has issued a statement on the eve of the February 11 protests urging a massive turnout to counter the regime's propaganda. The statement reads in part: "If this despotic regime, despite all its bogus might and omnipotence and despite its profanation and misuse of Islam and Qoran, has not undertaken executions (of opponents), it has been for one and only one reason: the presence of your mojahid and God-fearing people which... has shown to the entire world that this regime which has hidden its true identity behind a mask of Islam, has lost all its legitimacy... It was this civil, temperate resistance of yours in full accord with your Islamic-Persian culture that is bringing us to the cusp of victory."