Tehran Updates: 1 Esfand / February 20
by JOSH SHAHRYAR, HOMYLAFAYETTE, DAN GEIST, TEHRAN BUREAU STAFF, and CORRESPONDENTS
20 Feb 2011 23:59
Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.
Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30
9:30 p.m./Feb. 21 Blogger Homylafayette adds the following information about Hamed Nour-Mohammadi:
The semi-official Fars News, close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that Nour-Mohammadi was not a protester and that he had died as a result of being run over by a car in a banal road accident.
Homylafayette also translated the following comment from Radio Farda's website:
I am a friend of Hamed and come from the same town
Hamed is from Alashtar (NB also in Lorestan province), not Khorramabad
As I'm writing this, I can't even see the computer screen through my tears
My hand is trembling
You mean Hamed?
They killed our Hamed
Hamed, I salute you
I salute your sense of honor [...]
Hamed was a true Green
A true patriot
He loved the sunset over Persepolis
That's why he chose Shiraz University (NB Shiraz is close to the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis)
My Hamed, your friends and I will continue on your path
I can't believe it
Just a week ago you said, I'm off to Shiraz,
let me take a photo of you.
5:05 p.m./Feb 21 Homylafayette reports the following:
At least one protester was killed during nationwide demonstrations on February 20 in Iran, according to opposition sources.
Hamed Nour-Mohammadi, a second-year biology student at Shiraz University, was thrown off Namazi Bridge in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, eyewitnesses said.
Nour-Mohammadi resided at the Dastgheib university dormitory and was a native of Khorramabad, Lorestan province, according to Jaras, an opposition web site. His family is reportedly under intense pressure from security authorities to remain silent.
As Homylafayette points out, sources in Iran reported that another protester was shot to death in Tehran's Haft Tir Square yesterday, but no details have so far been put forward. In what may prove to be an unrelated matter, he also draws our attention to this report from the Islamic Republic's police news center about a young unidentified man who was killed in the Mirdamad subway station after "being hit by a train" at 6:20 p.m. yesterday.
2:50 a.m./Feb 21 A special correspondent filed the following dispatch from Tehran. Here's an excerpt:
The young man rolled his eyes, the way a dedicated anti-riot guard of the Islamic Republic might. "Only the seditionists will be out," he said. "Who do you think shot those guys last week? They were dedicated Basijis. Do you see anyone from the lower classes of society in these subversive demonstrations? There are neither rich guys, nor poor guys in these riots, only the middle class who think that something that belongs to them is not theirs anymore and they want it back."
10:45 p.m. Hamid Farokhnia has a piece for us describing his first-hand impressions of the scene in Tehran today and what it bodes for the future. By his estimate, the crowd was a third of Monday's. Here's an excerpt:
The length of Enghelab Avenue was filled with tens of thousands of protesters. Valiasr Square was the site of clashes. So was Haft-e Tir. One person is rumored to have been killed there. Other than central Tehran, heavy security presence -- including special anti-riot NAJA police, Basijis, and vigilantes -- were seen by this writer in western Tehran (Shahr Ara) and northern Tehran (Tajrish). I was told by several people that Tehran Pars and Imam Hossein Square in the western parts of the city were likewise inundated with various security forces.
Many of the security personnel wore masks to conceal their identities, as was also true on Monday. In last year's protests, only a handful of these men wore masks. Today, most of the Basij and Intelliegence Ministry personnel did so. Even some of the regular NAJA cops, whom many people regard as civil servants with batons, were wearing masks. Some Basijis were wearing ski masks that gave them a seriocomic look, especially when they were seen eating snacks with their masks on.
9:40 p.m. The live blog's cartographically skilled arm has provided this map showing the locations of today's reported protests, confirmed and otherwise:
9:25 p.m. Our correspondent quoted in the immediately preceding post provides more details:
I walked from Vali Asr Square to Vali Asr Crossing to Enghelab Square towards Azadi Square. People (hundreds of thousands I think) were walking densely in the sidewalks, with smiles on their faces. It seems that the security forces were given specific orders not to engage with the demonstrators unless they start shouting slogans. I saw many many Basijis and anti-riot police and plainclothes and bikes and so on. With the events of Feb 14 protests, people seemed to prefer demonstrating in silence in order to reduce the level of tension and violence.
Yesterday (first post at bottom of this page) we described the measures being taken by the regime to isolate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, including the erection of a large metal wall blocking the entryway to their house. Here's a video, allegedly of that new wall (the extreme slant of the image suggests the videographer's efforts to conceal the camera):
9:10 p.m. A protester sends in this report to Tehran Bureau:
The number of demonstrators was about the same as Feb 14, but scattered across two axes instead of one (which was the case with Feb 14). Violence by the security forces was significantly lower than Feb 14, although their numbers were much much more (the whole city was virtually turned into a military fort). Demonstrators were mostly walking in silence, except when attacked by the security forces.
That impression of the scene in the capital today is seconded in a tweet from CNN's Reza Sayah: "Tehran witness - 9p streets quieting down. Sec forces today one of the largest he'd seen."
9:05 p.m. Video purportedly from today shot from a moving vehicle showing anti-riot police positioned along a Tehran street.
BBC Persian quote witnesses who claim that security forces used ambulances to transport detained protesters in the capital.
8:55 p.m. BBC Persian is reporting that the scale of today's protests in Shiraz was larger than 25 Bahman. According to their account, older protesters were helping free younger ones who were arrested. One elderly protester walked to a van where detained protesters were being held and opened its doors to let them out.
8:50 p.m. On Twitter, lissnup describes how things look on Iranian television: "IR State News explaining crowds and traffic jams in Tehran as people buying Norooz nuts."
8:20 p.m. CNN's Reza Sayah with an on-air report that includes amateur video, reportedly from today, showing a large group of dark-garbed motorcycle riders, apparently security forces in Tehran.
Sayah conveys reports of protests in Isfahan and Shiraz, as well, while an eyewitness tells BBC Persian that cellphone and Internet service in the former city was severely disrupted today.
8:10 p.m. Fars now reports that Faizeh Hasehmi, Rafsanjani's daughter, was just released.
According to BBC Persian, witnesses are reporting vehicles around Tehran presumably positioned to transport arrested protesters.
8:05 p.m. We have a report of a new slogan being heard today from anti-government protesters: "Seyyed Ali bemiri, Ben Ali ro bebini" (Seyyed Ali, may you die and see Ben Ali).
8:00 p.m. Fars claims the report of a protester getting killed in Tehran is false. They quote Safar Ali Baratlou, Tehran province's social and political deputy governor, who is responsible for security and police affairs.
Here's a video reportedly from today. There is a chant of "Mubarak, Ben Ali, It's time for Seyyed Ali" -- referring to the recently deposed dictators in Egypt and Tunisia and to Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader. At the end of the video, a woman says, "Stay until these akhoonds [clerics] go."
BBC Persian reports that security forces are actively trying to disperse protesters and not letting them form a core. It adds that witnesses inform them that hundreds of protesters are present near Darwazaye Shiraz in Isfahan.
On CNN's website, Reza Sayah has a lengthy report. Here's an excerpt:
Thousands of security officers cracked down on landmark sites in Iran's capital and other major cities Sunday, at times striking at throngs of protesters with batons and rushing others on motorcycles, witnesses said.
A few plainclothes security agents stood in the middle of Tehran's Revolution Square, countering anti-government protesters with signs of their own in support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and chanting "I will give my life for the leader," an eyewitness told CNN. Hundreds of other security personnel cheered the group.
Meanwhile, another witness said large crowds chanted "Death to the dictator" at the intersection of Gharib and Enghelab (revolution) avenues. Security forces on foot and motorcycles there beat several protesters with batons and detained at least four, the witness said.
Earlier, witnesses reported that security officers doubled up on motorcycles charged a group of 150 people gathered on Vali Asr Avenue, striking at least 15 fleeing protesters with batons as crowds of people grew near Revolution Square.
7:45 p.m. According to BBC Persian, eyewitnesses heard gunfire in Sa'adatabad, Tehran.
7:40 p.m. Kaleme claims that the number of protesters in Tehran is increasing as night starts to fall on the city. RAHANA reports 50 arrests in Shiraz.
7:30 p.m. On Twitter, Persian Banoo, who has proved reliable in the past, states, "1 protester shot & killed at Vanak Square, reports of several injured there also." As yet, there's no independent confirmation of that.
7:25 p.m. Saham News, the official website of Mehdi Karroubi's National Trust Party, claims clashes continue between protesters and security forces on Motahhari Avenue in Rasht.
BBC Persian quotes eyewitnesses who claim that security forces used tear gas on Vanak Square protesters.
7:20 p.m./Feb 20 Setareh Sabety, a writer based in France, reports, "A trusted source tells me on phone, 'Tehran is gheeyamat! [pandemonium or uproar] Many have shown up! Last night Allah-o akbar loud till dawn. Today many out on the streets!' This movement is ALIVE!"
IRNA, the state news agency, reports that Faizeh Hashemi -- daughter of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council -- was arrested on Vali Asr Street, near the corner of Fatemi Street. According to the IRNA report, she was detained as she was "'preparing to instigate unrest by making sharp comments and chanting provocative slogans."
BBC Persian conveys a report from an eyewitness that security forces directly opened fire on protesters in Mahabad. BBC Persian also confirms that there has been direct fire on protesters in Haft-e Tir Square.
7:10 p.m. A trusted source tell us, "According to the latest news from eyewitnesses, there is very heavy security presence in Tehran's squares and the Basij is employing minors as security forces with batons and clubs."
Headline on Fars homepage: "BBC: There are no demonstrations in Tehran."
6:45 p.m. Kaleme, Mir Hossein Mousavi's website, claims that the number of security forces in Tehran is very high and comparable to the number in June/July 2009.
Here's a report from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI):
An eyewitness told [ICHRI] that large scale protests are unfolding on major streets of Tehran and the security forces have resorted to the use of live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Despite large presence of security and police in major intersections, crowds have been gathering since early afternoon and continue to swell.
The eyewitness reported gatherings throughout Tehran and described his observations from Valiasr Street, Tehran's main thoroughfare. "There are large crowds on the streets and although it is raining, their numbers are expected to increase as the evening approaches. The protestors are very determined to resist attempts by security forces to disperse them. The chants are primarily 'Death to the Dictator,'" he said.
Another witness on Mirdamad Street in Tehran reported security forces are using live ammunition against protestors and one person is believed to have been killed there. "There is gunfire and crowds are running in the streets," he reported by phone.
The Campaign also has received reports of protests taking place in major cities, including Mashad (around Rahnamaii Street), Shiraz (on Mollasadra Street), Isfahan (Enqelab Square),and Tabriz (Saat Square). According to these reports, security forces are currently attempting to disperse the crowds using force.
Internet connection has been slowed down and access to Gmail has been sporadic throughout the day.
Currently, large crowds have gathered in front of [the] state-controlled Radio and Television building in Tehran. Several groups of protestors have also managed to join together in Tehran's Enqelab Square.
6:30 p.m. CNN's Mitra Mobasherat tweets, "Eyewitness in Shiraz say riot police on motorcycles broke up demo on Mollasadra Ave by chasing protestors. At least 5 people injured." That appears to confirm the content of the video included in our previous post. "Shiraz witness said crowds chanted 'Marg Bar Toh' (Down with you!), as security forces chased them down Mollasadra Avenue."
RAHANA reports people being beaten on Rahnamaei street in Mashhad. In Tabriz, security forces are preventing protesters from gathering.
And Rahe Sabz just confirmed the death of one protester in Haft-e Tir Square. Several people were reportedly injured in the attack.
6:00 p.m. BBC Persian witnesses claim intense clashes on the intersection of Valiasr Avenue and Mirdamad Avenue. Security forces are firing tear gas on protesters.
Daneshjoo News reports one death in Haft-e Tir Square. And there are indications that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's personal website has been brought down.
Here's a video, purportedly from today, of protesters being chased down in Mullah Sadra in Shiraz:
5:30 p.m. A Tehran Bureau correspondent reports,
I just came back from the crossing of Beheshti (Abbas Abbad) and Valiasr. There were hundreds of guards over there and the young people were streaming south towards Valiasr square from there. The guards would walk between the young people and the people were just calm. But I don't think they will stay calm for long. The whole city is on alert. Please note that this afternoon the weather in Tehran is cold, cloudy and rainy so disregard any pictures or videos that you receive with sunny skies and warm weather. The action started here in Tehran around 3 p.m. local time.
The Wall Street Journal's Farnaz Fasihi is reporting that,
Thousands of demonstrators chanting against the government poured into the streets in nationwide protests on Sunday, clashing with security forces trying to disperse them, according to witness accounts.
In Tehran, protestors targeted government landmarks such as the national broadcast company Seda va Sima -- seen as a mouthpiece for the regime -- chanting "God is great," and "Death to the dictator," witnesses reported on opposition websites.
Citing witnesses, Reza Sayah of CNN reports that the Basij are chanting pro-govt slogans at Enghelab (Revolution) Square: "I will give my life for the Leader," referring of course to Ayatollah Khamenei.
Citing the credible Mardomak news website, Scott Lucas of EA Worldview is reporting that phone calls for Tehran from outside Iran are restricted.
BBC Persian says witness claims to have heard gunfire from northern Tehran.
BBC Persian reports from Isfahan suggest that protesters have formed several gatherings and a large number of security forces have been stationed in Enghelab Square, Rahe Nazar Crossroads and Darwazaye Shiraz.
An eyewitness tells BBC Persian that people have started to protest in the city of Marewan in the Kurdistan region of Iran. Meanwhile, the semi-official Fars News Agency is reporting that everything is calm in Tehran today.
Eyewitness on Mullah Sadra Avenue told the BBC that security forces are trying to disperse protesters using batons and that people are chanting "Down with the dictator"
BBC Persian is reporting from eye-witnesses that there are protesters gathering in Shiraz and Isfahan as well.
According to the twitter feed of CNN's Mitra Mobasherat, security forces with batons on motorcycles charged a group of about 150 people who gathered along the sidewalk on Valiasr Ave.
4:19 p.m. According to the twitter feed of CNN's Reza Sayah, securing forces clashed with protesters near Revolution Square and at least 15 people were beaten up by security agents.
4:15 p.m. Eyewitnesses in Tehran tell BBC Persian that a group of protesters have started chanting against Ayatollah Khamenei close to the Vey Park crossroad.
4:05 p.m. Protesters are reportedly chanting "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" and "Down with the dictator" in Valiasr. (unconfirmed)
4:02 p.m. BBC Persian is confirming that tear gas was fired on protesters in Valiasr Square.
4:00 p.m. Gmail blocked outside Tehran, there are reports that it has been blocked in parts of Tehran as well.
3:52 p.m. Homylafayette warns that,
Pro-regime Twitter accounts have intensified their activity on February 20 (Esfand 1 in Iranian calendar), a day of protests called by the opposition. The following screen capture shows some of the culprits tweeting the same messages at the same time. Some of the messages aim to create fear ('Motorcyclists are jotting down our car registration number...) and spread disinformation ('URGENT/ Mousavi arrested + photo'). Others are incitements to violence ('Esfand 1 - a day to demand blood')...
3:20 p.m. Karroubi's Saham News website and Rahe Sabz (Green Path) are reporting that a group of people have gathered in front of the IRIB (state broadcasting) building on Valiasr and are chanting "Allah o Akbar." "According to witnesses, people have also gathered on Sohravardy Avenue, Hafte Tir, Enghelab and Valiasr Square and are chanting." (Unconfirmed)
2:50 p.m. An Iranian opposition group is reporting that Ahmad Maleki, a senior diplomat in the Islamic Republic's consulate in Milan, resigned today to protest "the merciless crackdown on the people." According to the AP:
An Iranian opposition group is claiming that an Iranian diplomat has defected from his post in Italy and is seeking political asylum in France as a protest against the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Officials at Europe-based group Green Wave said Sunday that Ahmad Maleki -- who is also a nephew of reformist Ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi -- quit his post as first secretary at Iran's consulate in Milan a day earlier.
Maleki later confirmed his defection during an interview with BBC Persian, claiming there were many more like him in the diplomatic corp.
Iran on Saturday warned of a crackdown if opposition supporters stage new rallies which they have called to mourn the deaths of two victims of recent unrest and to show support to their leaders.
Websites of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have posted calls by their supporters to stage nationwide rallies on Sunday.
"We will confront them as per the law," Iran's Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was quoted as saying on state news agency IRNA when asked about Sunday's expected rallies.
"The agents of sedition and sedition leaders, who staged illegal rallies" on February 14 with the help of "monafeghin, monarchists, rascals and thugs, should know that the interior ministry will confront" them, Najjar added.
"Monafeghin," literally "hypocrites," is a catchphrase for the Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO). The exiled opposition group, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, is routinely claimed by the Iranian regime to be the source of various violent acts inside the country, including the killings of 25 Bahman protesters Saneh Jaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari. (In the image at right, an attendee at yesterday's Friday Prayers/pro-government rally holds up a poster with the "official photo" of Jaleh.) Evidence for these claims is rarely produced, and few share the regime's expressed view that the MKO has a significant presence within Iran.
Yesterday evening, the Washington Times ran an editorial chastising U.S. President Barack Obama for providing "no support" to the "people flooding into the streets of Iran to seek regime change." Online readers might well have been riveted by the photo that accompanies the editorial, which bears this caption:
Escorted by his bodyguards, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi [...] attends Quds Day rally Friday as a pro-government man tries to attack him in Tehran, Iran. [T]housands of opposition supporters held protests in competition with government-sponsored mass rallies to mark an annual anti-Israel commemoration, the Quds Day that reflects the Persian nation's sympathy with the Palestinians.
In fact, Quds Day falls on the last Friday of Ramadan -- in late August this year, early September last year, and on September 18, 2009, when the picture was probably taken.Far from crashing pro-regime rallies yesterday, Mousavi not only remains under house arrest along with his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard (file photo at right), he has now been cut off from all forms of communication. Radio Zamaneh reports that the couple
lost their last link to the outside world today when their personal guards were dismissed by the Islamic Republic security forces.
Kaleme website reports that the house arrest of these two opposition leaders has become complete, with no direct news of the couple in the past three days.
According to Kaleme, the guard kiosk at the entrance to Mousavi's street is empty, and the spot where Mousavi's personal guards used to stand next to his home is now occupied by security forces from an unidentified government institution.
A security van has blocked the entrance to the street, and all traffic is closely monitored. Eyewitnesses report that the passengers in the security van are masked.
Kaleme notes that Mousavi and Rahnavard are left to eat food that's being supplied by the security forces, which is cause for further concern.
Opposition websites report there has been no contact with Mousavi since February 15, and the security personnel now stationed within his home are preventing any unauthorized contact.
Kaleme, Mousavi's website -- operated from another location by his associates -- additionally reports (in Farsi) that a "large iron wall" is being erected in the passageway to his and Dr. Rahnavard's house.
This fulfills the threats we noted over the past day and a half from Guardian Council Chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati and Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary, that Mousavi would be effectively silenced.
Jannati explicitly stated that Mehdi Karroubi, as well, should receive the same treatment. He too remains under house arrest. According to his political party's website, Saham News (translation via Rooz),
As of 9pm a group of thugs gathered in front of Mehdi Karoubi's house and engaged in disturbing the peace of the neighborhood. Around 12 o'clock another group join the first one and began chanting slogans in support of Iran's supreme leader and insulting Karoubi, Mousavi, Khatami and Rafsanjani, and even family members of ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic regime.
Rooz adds, "According to various reports, the protestors chanted offensive slogans against Hashemi Rafsanjani, and against seyed Hassan Khomeini, seyed Yaser and seyed Ali, the latter close relatives of ayatollah Khomeini."
On Thursday, Karroubi was still able to communicate with the outside world. An open letter from him was made available, as Tehran Review reports,
In his message, he first apologizes to his neighbors for the harassment the IRI thugs have created; for having them and their families hear profanities that are not even expected from the governmental thugs [...]
Next, he addresses some of the conservatives, like [former Revolutionary Guard commander] Mohsen Rezayee, Mahdavi Kani (he is promised Hashemi [Rafsanjani]'s job [as chairman of the Assembly of Experts]), [former Supreme National Security Council Secretary-General] Hasan Rohani and [Tehran Mayor Mohammad] Ghalibaf, who had been silent to date about all these events, but who joined the camp of death-seekers for Mousavi, Karoubi, Hashemi and Khatami. Karoubi states that he understands that their statements are based on pressure from above; he draws attention to similar statements made by Abtahi, one of his consultants who was arrested, tortured and forced to make a televised condemnation of Karoubi.
He states that he understand that there is a concerted effort to bring them to trial and is asking only one favor from the conservatives who have just now joined the camp of anti-Greeners: To push the judiciary to try them in public.
A few hours ago Rooz reported (in Farsi) that Karroubi's neighbors have lodged a complaint with the Interior Ministry about the behavior of the regime supporters around the house and the failure by local police to control them.Enduring America's Scott Lucas takes a look at Friday's pro-regime gathering in Tehran:
It was such an anti-climax. I had expected a big display from the regime on Friday. I had analysed why, given the opposition's public re-emergence on Monday, it was necessary for Iranian authorities to show the "positive" of mass support to match the "negative" of their continuing detentions and intimidations.
It never really happened. The space at Tehran Friday Prayers was filled -- it always is, even at the most settled of times -- and there were enough people to give an aerial shot of a filled Enghelab (Revolution) Square. It was "thousands" in the summaries. It was "tens of thousands" in one (AFP), but it was no 30 December 2009, when the regime drew out many tens of thousands to blunt the Green Movement's challenge in the Ashura demonstrations.
There would be no regime support for executions -- [Mousavi and Karroubi] apparently were already "dead" because their Revolutionary reputations had been blackened forever. There would not even be formal trials. Jannati, who has previously called for prosecution, apparently accepted the judiciary's caution that this might make martyrs out of Karroubi and Mousavi.
State outlet IRNA tried its best to big up the occasion, with several articles and a set of photographs, but even the hardline Fars could not be bothered to do much more than put out a cursory article and an eight-point resolution condemning Mousavi and Karroubi. Press TV did not care at all -- they were wall-to-wall with a focus first on Egypt and then on Bahrain.
Earlier today, the government released Marcus Hellwig and Jens Koch, the two journalists working for Germany's Bild am Sonntag who have been detained since last October. They were arrested when they interviewed the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning for the crime of adultery. The Associated Press reports,
An Iranian court threw out their 20-month prison sentence Saturday, commuting it to a fine of $50,000 each and clearing the way for their release, state media reports said.
Throughout their detention, Iranian officials accused them of a range of serious crimes from spying to having links to groups of Iranian exiles.
Ultimately, they were found guilty of committing acts against Iran's national security. State media reports on Saturday did not elaborate on the details of their alleged offenses.
Iran's state TV said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will arrive in Tehran later Saturday for discussions on "mutual ties and regional developments." He is likely to take the two Germans back home.
We'll be transforming this page into a live blog to cover developments in Iran on Sunday, as events warrant. -- DAN GEIST
Original material copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau