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The Call to Rally / Latest Updates: Guard Chief Reported Unsure of Troops

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

13 Feb 2011 22:35Comments
25BahmanBoxChecks.jpgAs of midnight Iran Standard Time (20:30 GMT, 3:30 p.m. EST), Tehran Bureau is providing updates on events in Iran via a 25 Bahman live blog.

Updates -- Sunday, 24 Bahman/February 13

A group of university students and young people from Khoramshahr and Abadan, in the southwest province of Khuzestan, invited people to take part in the Monday marches "to give the world their message about their anger about the present state of affairs."

A group of university activists in Mazandaran province issued a statement supporting the 25 Bahman rally.

Emruz News, the website close to the reformist Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, quoting Al-Arabiyah, reported that credible sources in Tehran have said that security forces have been ordered not to confront the marches if they are sizable, but simply try to control them.

Emruz News also reported that in the meeting of Iran's Supreme National
Security Council, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Revolutionary Guard commander, has expressed concern that the Guard's rank and file may disobey the orders of their superiors, if directed to employ violence against marchers. Given that the Egyptian army did not open fire on the demonstrators in Cairo, a violent crackdown on Monday's marches may completely destroy the credibility of the force with the people. Thus, he proposed that the police, rather than Basij and Guard forces, be made responsible for imposing order on Monday's marches.

Isa Saharkhiz, the distinguished journalist who has been jailed since summer 2009, has sent a statement from jail, supporting the call to march on Monday.

Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that the recent wave of arrests has been for security reasons and due to the actions of the "sedition's leaders."

Hossein Saffar Harandi, chief adviser to General Jafari and former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, likened marches on Monday to "injecting painkiller to the trapped United States" and said that "whoever wants to create another day [of marches] instead of 22 Bahman [February 11, anniversary of the Revolution] is a counterrevolutionary."

The Organization of University Graduates of Islamic Iran, known as Advaar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat, issued a statement about the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and expressed hope that the government will create peaceful conditions for Monday's demonstrations. The statement declared, "We announce our support for the praiseworthy call of leaders of the Green Movement for people's marches against dictatorship." Several leaders of the organization, including Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadai, Abdollah Momeni, and Hassan Asadi Zeidabadi, are currently imprisoned.

**

AgriculturalWorkers25BahmanPoster.jpgMehdi Alikhani Sadr, a senior Interior Ministry official, declared that the request by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for a Monday march permit is "illegal." He did not explain how the request can be illegal when the permit is not even required -- Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution stipulates that peaceful gatherings and demonstrations are allowed.

New software has been made available to facilitate access to the websites that have been blocked in Iran, allowing Internet users to get the latest news about the Monday marches and spread the word. It can be found via sadrah.com.

The youth branch of the Islamic Iran Participation Front has issued a statement supporting the call to march on Monday and asking people to take part.

A commander of special forces during the Iran-Iraq War has called on young people to participate in the Monday marches. He writes, "I feel as though the 25 Bahman demonstrations have exactly the same symbolic meaning for our youth, the young Iranian lions and lionesses, that the war with Iraq had for us, except that this time the enemy is not Iraq, but Zahhak," the mythical Persian emperor who is the symbol of the tyrannical ruler.

***

Updates -- Saturday, 23 Bahman/February 12

The march routes in 35 cities have been announced.

Javid Fakhrian, a university student activist and a member of Mousavi's 2009 campaign, has been arrested. He was previously arrested in November 2009.

Zahra Eftekhari and Zahra Sharif, two student activists at the University of Tehran, have been arrested. Sharif worked in the Mousavi campaign in 2009.

The Muslim Student Association of Amir Kabir University, one of the most radical student groups, has issued a strong statement supporting the marches on Monday, calling on the people to take part.

The Coordination Committee for the Green Path of Hope has issued a statement inviting people to take part in the Monday rally.

Esmail Gerami Moghaddam, spokesman for Karroubi's National Trust Party, told the BBC that there is no need for a permit from the Interior Ministry for the Monday marches. They are completely legal and will be held.

The rumor that Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, head of the Iran Liberation Movement, has passed away has been denied. The 80-year-old former Iranian foreign minister was arrested several months ago and is now under house arrest in a residence secured by the Ministry of Intelligence.

**

25BahmanPosterFeb12.jpgStudent organizations and political activists of four major universities in Tabriz -- the University of Tabriz, the University of Medical Sciences, the Islamic Azad University, and Sahand University of Technology -- have issued a statement calling on people to take part in the Monday marches.

The Muslim Student Associations of the University of Tehran and the University of Medical Sciences of Tehran have issued a statement calling on students to take part in the marches.

The Association of Teachers and Scholars of Qom, a leftist clerical group, has issued a statement calling on people to take part in "non-governmental and independent marches" to show support for the people of Tunisia and Egypt, a reference to Monday's planned marches.

The Association of Human Rights Activists has issued a statement demanding that the government guarantee freedom for the gatherings and marches on Monday.

A statement has been issued and distributed in Babol, in the northern province of Mazandaran, calling on people to gather on Monday in support of Mousavi and Karroubi's call.

Twelve university student organizations abroad, representing Iranian students outside the country, have issued a joint statement calling on people to take part in the Monday marches.

Rasoul Montajabnia, deputy secretary-general of the National Trust Party, Karroubi's political group, was attacked and injured by unknown assailants while saying his prayers in a mosque.

Abdolnaser Mahimani, head of the press association of Golestan province, was arrested, as was his nephew Mohammad Hossein Mahimani.

Mojtaba Shayesteh, member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country's largest reformist group, was arrested.

The Seraat cultural foundation, founded in 1986 by Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush to publish the works of Islamic scholars, has been attacked by security forces who confiscated documents and arrested a number of students and others.

A group calling itself "Hezbollah Student Followers of Imam Khamenei" has issued a statement calling on the government to allow the Monday marches to show that "the Islamic government is not afraid of the gathering of a few hundred people, and to prove to the seditionists [the hardliners' label for supporters of the Green Movement] that they can no longer fool people."

Reports from Tehran indicate that most satellite TV channels that broadcast Persian-language programs into Iran are being jammed by the government.

**

A union of Iranian truck drivers has issued a statement supporting the call for Monday marches so "the world will hear our protest." Truck drivers have been hit particularly hard by the elimination of subsidies for diesel fuel and gasoline, and even went on a brief strike when the subsidy cuts began. (Not independently verified)

A group of gold dealers in Tehran have issued a statement calling on people to march on Monday. Over the past year, friction between gold dealers in Tehran's bazaar and elsewhere and the Ahmadinejad administration has dramatically increased, as the government tried to impose first an onerous income tax hike and then a value-added tax on the dealers that provoked strong protests and multiple strikes. (Not independently verified)

Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic, said in an interview that if people come out on the streets, let the government know with utter clarity that they do not want the regime, and persist in their demands, they will eventually be successful, like the people of Egypt and Tunisia.

Hossein Zaman, a well-known political and cultural activist, has stated in his blog that marching in support of the people of Egypt and Tunisia is only an excuse. Iranians will march, he says, because they support democracy, freedom of expression, independence, and human dignity.

***

Updates -- Friday, 22 Bahman/February 11

25BahmanPosterFeb11Article.jpgYadollah Eslami, reformist ex-MP and secretary-general of the Association of Former Majles Deputies, was arrested Friday afternoon. His arrest comes in the wake of the statement issued by the association earlier this week in support of the February 14 marches.

The website Vaares, which is close to Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson
of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a strong critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been blocked.

Several university student activists in Quchan in northeast Iran have been arrested.

The Association of Teachers and Scholars of Qom, a leftist clerical group, has issued a statement in support of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. It described them as revolts against dictatorship and warned that their repercussions will reach all of the Islamic world.

A large number of Green Movement activists and reformists have called on people to go to the roof of their homes Saturday and Sunday night and shout Allah-o Akbar (God is great) in support of the Monday marches.

As of late Friday, the number of people who have enrolled with the Facebook page for the Monday marches has reached 36,000.

In a moving letter to Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, Narges Mohammadi, wife of Taghi Rahmani, the nationalist-religious figure who was arrested on Thursday, described how the security forces broke down both the front door of their apartment building and the door of their home within. She has been hospitalized as a result of the invasion, the arrest of her husband, and the mistreatment that she and her two children received at the hands of the security forces.

Mashregh, a website close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed that the main goal of Mousavi and Karroubi's request for a march permit is to revive their political careers because "they are currently considered dead." The website did not explain why, if its claim is true, the government is terrified by the prospect of a rally on Monday.

**

25BahmanFeb11Article2.jpgThe mobile phones of Mehdi Karroubi's entire family have been disconnected. His home phone has also been disconnected.

Nezhat Amirabadian, a reformist journalist, has been arrested. She blogs for several pro-democracy websites, including Aftab, Hammihan News, and Fararoo.

Security forces attacked the offices of the reformist newspaper Shargh, disconnected its Internet system, and confiscated the mobile phones of its entire staff. Maziar Khosravi, a journalist with Shargh, has been arrested.

Payman Aref, a former university activist and member of the opposition National Front has been arrested. He has been jailed many times before and expelled from the university where he was studying due to his political activities. Another prominent member of the Front, Kourosh Zaeim, has also been arrested.

Hossein Mahmoudi, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and a district manager in Mir Hossein Mousavi's presidential campaign, has been arrested. Another member of the group, Abbas Shojaei, has also been arrested.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front has issued a new statement, accusing the regime of trying to scare people by arresting political figures, preventing them from participating in the Monday marches.

The 25 Bahman Coalition, comprising representatives of seven university
student organizations, has called on clerics and ordinary citizens alike to take part in the Monday marches.

Other student groups in Tehran, Shiraz, Garmsar, and Mahallat have declared their support for the demonstrations and have asked people to take part.

A group of citizens arrested last year in the aftermath of the presidential election and incarcerated as political prisoners before their eventual release have issued a statement declaring that they would take part in the Monday marches.

Sardar Shafiei, commander of Sarallah base in Tehran, warned that the Green Movement is alive and well and is still active in the capital and many other cities.

Many Iranian student groups in Europe and the United States have declared their support for the Monday marches and have called on their members to take part in solidarity demonstrations outside Iran.

***

Updates -- Thursday, 21 Bahman/February 10

Special to Tehran Bureau: It was 9 p.m., and I was watching the latest developments in Egypt on TV when I heard the sound of large explosions. Bewildered, I ran toward the windows of my apartment when my sister patted me on the back and said, "Take it easy, it is just the sound of the fireworks." Yes, fireworks celebrating the eve of the 32d anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. What an irony. The Egyptians have a revolution that flourishes and their villain will soon be gone, while our demagogues still rule with an iron fist.

All day they were roaming the streets and highways, the security forces in groups of six, sitting two by two on powerful motorbikes -- a pair in anti-riot gear, a pair in police uniforms, and a pair in plain clothes. All equipped with machine guns and clubs, all big, hefty, scary people.

The Internet has been "dial-up" speed at best, most of the communication sites are blocked -- even Yahoo Mail does not work -- and mobile phones are disrupted randomly. Fear roams the streets of the Iranian capital.

A march is scheduled for Monday and the regime does not take any chances. There is no room for any mistake from the rulers of this vast land when they see that dictators are falling left and right. They arrest, imprison, torture, and execute at will and as if there is no fear of damnation. In fact, there isn't any. It is all for the coming of the Messiah, the promised, the man of all times. To hasten his arrival, as Ahmadinejad promises, nothing is sacred -- no dignity, no social norm, and no human life.

A march is scheduled for Monday and everyone is scared, everyone is hopeful, and everyone who wants to participate knows that he or she may not return from it. My wife, son, sister, mother, and even my secretary all know that I am going to the march and all are against it. "Let the young ones go. You cannot outrun the guards, they can. Don't go. Think about your family, think about your son...." But I am writing my last will anyway. -- CORRESPONDENT in Tehran

**

25BahmanPosterFeb10.jpgTerrified by the prospects of large demonstrations on Monday February 14, the regime has arrested a large number of people and has ratcheted up its pressure on the leaders of the Green Movement.

Karroubi's residence is surrounded by security forces, effectively placing him under house arrest. Only his wife is allowed in. Two of his leading advisers have been jailed, as has a close ally of Mousavi's. In a related development, judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani stated that the leaders of the Green Movement have not been arrested, because if they were, they would become "saints" in people's eyes. He did not explain why that would happen, if the regime is as popular as he professes to believe. For more details, see the Tehran Bureau Press Roundup.

Dr. Mohammad Hossein Sharifzadegan, minister of social security in the Khatami administration and brother-in-law of Mousavi, who was in charge of the Mousavi presidential campaign's outreach to various social strata, has been arrested.

Saleh Noghreh Kar, nephew of Dr. Zahra Rahnavard and secretary of the Mousavi campaign's legal committee, has been arrested. He was also arrested last year in the aftermath of the presidential elections.

Taghi Rahmani, a leading nationalist-religious figure, member of the central committee of Nationalist-Religious Activists, and advisor to Karroubi's campaign, has been arrested. Over the past 32 years, Rahmani has spent 14 years in the Islamic Republic's prisons. He was also arrested last year after the presidential election. His wife, human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, was also arrested last year, but released after a month when she became severely ill in jail. Reports indicate that Mohammadi was hospitalized after her husband's arrest today.

Veteran reporters Omid Mohaddes and Maysam Mohammadi, members of the Martyr Beheshti Foundation, have also been arrested.

Dr. Mostafa Mir Ahmadi Zadeh, professor of law at Mofid University in Qom, a disciple of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, and an advisor to Karroubi, has been arrested. He was previously arrested in March 2010 and released after 18 days. He has been charged with organizing meetings between Mousavi, Khatami, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and young clerics in Qom.

Fariba Ebtehaj, chief of staff to Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, a vice president in the Khatami administration and currently a member of Tehran's City Council, has been arrested.

Sadr-olddin Beheshti, a son of Dr. Alireza Beheshti -- Mousavi's campaign chair and son of Iran's first judiciary chief after the Revolution, Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti -- has been arrested.

The Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, a leading reformist political group that has been outlawed by the hardliners, announced that it has activated a branch outside Iran. In a statement the organization declared, "The best evidence for the Green Movement being alive and well is that the government is terrified by the prospects of peaceful demonstrations by the movement's supporters."

Green Movement activists in Babol, in the northern province of Mazandaran, issued a statement calling on people to take part in the marches on February 14.

Since Wednesday afternoon, access to the Internet has become very difficult in Iran. Access to the blog hosting service WordPress has been entirely blocked (or "filtered," in the officially favored term) to all Iran-based Internet users in a move evidently intended to curtail the dissemination of information about February 14 events.

Multiple reports from Tehran indicate that calls to people to take part in the demonstrations have increased significantly. Slogans in support of the rally are being written widely, on walls and rials, Iran's currency.

In a clear retreat from his earlier position, Ayatollah Khamenei in a meeting with Air Force officers avoided discussing the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and stopped likening them to the 1979 Revolution in Iran. He only mentioned in passing "developments in some of the countries of the region." He was clearly trying to avoid saying anything that would remind people of the February 14 marches in solidarity with the people of the two nations.

The European Union has announced that its representatives will not take part in the official ceremonies marking the 32d anniversary of the 1979 Revolution.

***

Updates -- Wednesday, 20 Bahman/February 9

Political prisoners in Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj have issued a statement supporting the call for solidarity marches and demonstrations on February 14.

The Muslim Student Association of Shahr Kord University issued a strong statement, supporting the call for February 14. Students of the Karaj campus of Islamic Azad University also issued a statement calling for participation in the marches.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mehdi Karroubi said that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have rejuvenated Iran's democratic movement. He said that if the marches are held, the world will see that the Green Movement is alive and well and its true strength will be exhibited. It will also test the regime.

In the first official reaction to the call for solidarity marches, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, Iran's chief prosecutor, said, "If someone really want to support the uprisings of the people of Tunisia and Egypt, he can join the [state-sponsored] demonstrations on February 11," the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Of those calling for an independent demonstration of February 14, he said, "These people have separated their path from that of the people and they want to divide the people of Iran."

Brigadier General Hossein Hamadani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Mohammad Rasoulallah Division, whose mission is to defend Tehran, declared that the Guards will strongly confront any attempt by the Green Movement to demonstrate. He said, "The seditionists should know that we no longer consider them as people who were fooled and protested the result of the [2009] election. We consider them as anti-revolutionaries and spies and will confront them."

***
167849_140654309332902_139858942745772_266679_7033385_n.jpgOriginal report -- Tuesday, 19 Bahman/February 8

[ comment ] Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, leaders of Iran's Green Movement, have made a courageous call for large solidarity marches on Monday, February 14. Although their call is ostensibly to show support for the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, in reality it is a call to reenergize the movement. It is also a shrewd tactic to put Tehran's hardliners in a tough position. If the hardliners oppose the demonstrations, their supposed support for the two revolutions will ring hollow. If they permit the demonstrations, the day may mark a show of strength for a movement that they do not fail to declare dead on a daily basis.

Mousavi and Karroubi appear determined to go ahead with the demonstrations. Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, senior legal advisor to Mousavi, has declared, "There is no plan to cancel the demonstrations. The government should comply with its duty.... Do they not claim that the Green Movement is dead? Do they not claim that they support the people of Egypt and Tunisia against dictatorship? This is their chance to demonstrate their honesty in supporting those who are protesting dictatorships and their claim that the Green Movement is dead." Kaleme, Mousavi's website, has opened a special page for the event, reminding the readers that Article 27 of the Constitution stipulates that people can hold peaceful demonstrations, and that Article 9 states that no one can take away people's legitimate rights in the name of independence and the country's territorial integrity.

Many university student organizations around Iran have called on people to take part in the planned demonstrations, not just in Tehran but in other cities as well. They so far include those at the University of Ashrafi Esfahani, the University of Tehran, and the Islamic Azad University campuses in Qazvin, Khoramabad, Tehran, and elsewhere.

Reformist political groups in Iran and their allies have also issued statements calling on the people to demonstrate on February 14. Majma Nemaayandegaan-e Advar-e Majles (the Association of Former Majles Deputies) issued a statement analyzing what has been happening in Iran ever since the 1979 Revolution, referring to Mousavi and Karroubi as "freedom fighters not seditionists," declaring, "There is no other way for the ruling elite other than immediately granting the people their rights," and concluding, "Long live the Green Movement." The country's largest reformist group, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, which has been outlawed by the hardliners, issued a statement asking people to participate in the demonstrations.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani appears to support the call to demonstrate. He has used his memoirs that he posts on his website to send clear messages. The title of one section that concerns February 14 in the 1980s is, "Meeting of the heads of the three branches of government in Mir Hossein [Mousavi's] office," reminding everyone of the importance of the former prime minister. In a statement regarding the developments in the Muslim nations that have recently witnessed mass popular uprisings, Rafsanjani was completely blunt. Referring to those countries' leaders, he wrote, "The crises in Tunisia and Egypt indicate that they either did not hear the voices of protest of their people, or did not want to hear them. These uprisings will not be limited to just these two nations."

Thus the three leaders of the Green Movement -- Mousavi, Karroubi, and former President Mohammad Khatami -- together with Rafsanjani, continue to resist the tremendous pressure exerted on them by the hardliners. In a meeting with a group of leading reformists, Khatami repeated his minimum conditions for improvement in the nation's political state, namely, release of the political prisoners, freedom of the press and political groups, and free and democratic elections. He declared, "One can tolerate hunger, but not dictatorship."

There is also a wave of support in cyberspace. There are pages on Facebook and Twitter calling on everybody both to take part in the demonstrations and to spread the word about them. All sorts of banners have already been designed for the occasion and posted on the Internet; see, for example, here and here. People have been asked to bring posters and placards in different languages to the demonstrations. There is a call to demonstrate until "victory is achieved." YouTube is buzzing with all sorts of video clips of last year's demonstrations and summons to the ones next Monday. There is even a post that excitedly predicts "good weather for Tehran" on February 14.

As usual, the hardliners have reacted angrily to the call by Mousavi and Karroubi. According to Kayhan, the mouthpiece of a faction among the security and intelligence forces, "The reformist leaders know that they cannot revive their sedition and chaos, and their request [for a demonstration permit] is to show that they are not totally powerless."

Friday, February 11, is the 32d anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. In a joint statement commemorating the event, Mousavi and Karroubi declared that Iran is run by hooligans, and that the "political condition of the country is such that the danger exists of reproducing the same type of relations [between citizens and rulers] that existed during the Shah.... The government is hiding behind religion and warns people that if it is removed from power religion will be destroyed, whereas what has hurt religion most is the oppressive and anti-religion behavior of the ruling elite."

Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of the Siahkal event, in which members of the Organization of People's Fedayeen Guerrillas attacked a police station in Siahkal in northern Iran to free a comrade who had been arrested. The Marxist organization was formed from the merger of two smaller groups, one led by Bijan Jazani and Hassan Zia Zarifi, the other by Masoud Ahmadzadeh and Amir Parviz Pouyan. Jazani and Zarifi were murdered by agents of the SAVAK, the Shah's dreaded security organization, in April 1975, while the other two were killed in May 1971 and March 1972, respectively. The Siahkal event represented the beginning of armed struggle by guerrilla groups against the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Although they did not directly achieve their goal of overthrowing the Shah, they did pave the way for the 1979 Revolution.

Whether large demonstrations and marches will break out on February 14 remains to be seen, in view of the harsh crackdown on the supporters of the democratic movement. Regardless, Mousavi and Karroubi have already scored an important psychological victory by energizing the Green Movement.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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