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Women's Group Calls for UN Action; General: Vote Right or 'Bloodshed'

04 Mar 2011 09:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

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File photos of Karroubi residence under assault, reportedly by members of Basij militia, last September.

11:30 p.m./March 4 More news items and commentary from our columnist Muhammad Sahimi:

The coordination Committee for the Green Path of Hope issued its fifth statement, which hailed people's participation in the recent demonstrations and declared its support for any marches that women's organizations may organize for Tuesday, March 8. It says, "In the edited Green Charter that was signed by the imprisoned leaders of the Green Movement, it has been emphasized that effective participation of women in the movement will enable it to take important steps toward eliminating discrimination against them and help them realize their legitimate rights."

A group of women's rights activists and supporters have written a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking him to help release Mousavi and Karroubi. Referencing the letter released yesterday by Mousavi's daughters, the statement begins by questioning the situation at the homes of the Green Movement's leaders: "Why are there so many iron doors and locks? Why do agents with covered faces, without arrest warrants, arrest parents, and under whose orders? We have not seen them for two weeks. We have heard nothing [from officials] but profanity, insults, and cold stares. Where should we shout about our pains?" It continues, "In the Islamic Republic, a country whose representative in the Human Rights Council of the U.N. declares that Iran is the freest country in the world, not only university students, women's rights activists, journalists, teachers, workers' rights advocates, and human rights attorneys are arrested, but also since February 14, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, distinguished figures of the Green Democratic Movement, have been arrested, but no one know about their whereabouts and the state of their health."

Saham News reported that Vahid Haghanian, deputy chief of staff to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, led the security agents in arresting Mehdi Karroubi and his wife, Fatemeh, and taking them to an unknown place.

Haghanian, commonly referred to as Agha Vahid, is considered to be Khamenei's right-hand man. It was the group led by him that took everything away from the Karroubis' home and changed all the locks in the apartment building. On Thursday night, Karroubi's family went to his home, but was once again confronted by the security agents. Neighbors told the family that all the lights are off at night.

Mohsen Hashemi, son of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and head of Tehran's subway system, submitted his resignation to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. Since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, his administrations have refused to provide most of the approved budget for the subway system, due to the animosity between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani, even though it is agreed by everyone in Iran that the subway system has been a model of efficiency.

Dr. Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubu's son, rejected the assertion by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi that his parents have not been arrested. He said, "Yesterday [Thursday] you were quoted as saying during the conference on human rights in Geneva that Mousavi and Karroubi have not been arrested and their families meet with them. I regret and am sad about this lie. Hearing this news, especially coming from you in an international gathering and in the sharp view of the international community and the smart Iranian people surprised everyone. I would like to believe that you are not informed about the issue, but then I would have to question you ability to lead our country's diplomacy.... Your family background, education, your academic career and, most importantly, your human qualities should prevent you from resorting to making such statements."

Brigadier General Salar Abnoush, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Saheb ol-Amr division in Qazvin, 100 miles west of Tehran, said that if the elections for the ninth Majles, to be held early in 2012, do not turn out to be compatible "with our values," there will be bloodshed. The reason, he said, is that "there will be infighting in the Majles that will allow the sedition [the Green Movement] to rise up again."

In a coordinated move, most of the Friday Prayer Imams justified the "house arrest" of Mousavi and Karroubi on the ground that, otherwise, "they would have been harmed by the people." For example, Ahmad Alam ol-Hoda, Mashhad's Imam said in his sermon, "If Mousavi and Karroubi go out, people may kill them, or the hypocrites [Mojahedin-e Khalgh] may plan to murder them so that the government would be blamed for it." He also warned that if the United States and the European Union intervene militarily in Libya, "they will be slapped by the Libyan people."

Tehran's Friday Prayer Imam, hardline Ahmad Khatami, said in his sermon today that he is proud to be one of the people in a list of 80 violators of human rights of Iranian people that is reportedly being drawn up by the European Union for sanction. He said, "After every sermon of mine, the Western press calls me an extremist. If moving along the path of Islam and Velaayat-e Faghih [guardianship of the Islamic jurist] is being extreme, I am proud of it."

Prosecutor-General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said that the judiciary should stay away from politics, but understand the political situation in the country. Otherwise, he said, those who work with the judiciary "will make the wrong decisions. There are those who made such decisions and supported the sedition" -- the regime's standard epithet for the Green Movement."

Saeed Tajik, the plainclothes agent who verbally assaulted Faizeh Hashemi, has often been praised by Khamenei during the gatherings that writers have with the ayatollah. He has published a book about the conflict with Iraq, The Lovable War. He has said many times that he has taken part repeatedly in the violent crackdown on the supporters of the Green Movement.

Amir Gol, a student at Sharif University of Technology, was summoned by the Ministry of Interior, and then arrested. Siamak Sohrabi, graduate student of civil engineering at Sharif University, has also been arrested. Seventeen other Sharif University students have been arrested since the February 14 demonstrations.

Fereydoon Seidi Rad, a member of Karroubi's campaign in 2009, was arrested on March 1. He was detained along with Mahsa Amrabadi, wife of imprisoned journalist Masoud Bastani.

Two Kurdish prisoners have been executed in Orumieh's prison. Their offense, according to the judiciary, was narcotics-related. The revolutionary court has announced that four people will be executed publicly in Ardabil in the near future. It was stated that their offense involved narcotics, as well.

Saeedeh Montazeri, daughter of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri (1922-2009), said that when his father was put under house arrest beginning in 1997 for five years, many including "you, I, and he/she" were silent, and "now we should believe the effect of our silence" [on the arrest of the Green Movement's leaders]. "There were very few who protested the arrest, whose name will be registered in the history." She warned against inaction regarding the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the Ministry of Intelligence.

9 a.m./March 4 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited the Ministry of Intelligence for six hours. He repeated his recent claim that the developments in the Middle East have been inspired by Iran's Islamic Revolution, praised the work of the ministry in the "war of information," and said nothing about the recent developments in Iran.

In a press conference, Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, senior legal adviser to Mousavi, said that the government's denial that Mousavi and Karroubi have been arrested indicates that the regime is afraid of people's reaction. He emphasized that the arrest of the Green Movement's leaders is illegal. He said, "No one knows where they are being held, and the statements by the government officials are all contradictory." Regarding the continuation of demonstrations against the hardliners, he said, "The government has not been successful, and if it were, after two years of repression, arrest of the leaders of the Movement, heads of the political parties, university students, and journalists, and using such methods as rape, it should have been able to put an end to the movement, but it has not. The government does have many resources that, instead of using them to develop the country, it uses them to put people down. But, we should recognize that street demonstrations are not the only means of protesting, and the street protests do not have to be as before. We can create local networks and [with] a variety of civil resistance, sit-ins, and strikes, the resistance can continue." When asked about the Coordination Committee for the Green Path of Hope, Amir Arjomand said, "The Committee was formed according to the predictions and views of the movement's leaders, and is trying to play the role of coordinator but, for security reasons, nothing more can be said about it at this point."

In an interview with Euronews (EN), Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi insisted that the leaders of the Green Movement have not been arrested:

EN: But in Iran, there are arrests of opposition leaders.

Salehi: No, we have not done this. Those gentlemen you refer to are in their homes, they are living ordinary lives.

EN: Some reports say that they are under arrest and unable to move about freely in Tehran.

Salehi: No, this is what I heard on the news today. We do not do such things. We refute these claims.

EN: Their houses are under surveillance in Tehran.

Salehi: They are in their homes. As I said, every country enjoys its own rules and regulations. There is the rule of law. Even in European countries people are prevented from going against the rule of law. Nobody can take the law into their own hands.

EN: Reports concerning Mehdi Karroubi and Hossein Moussavi say that they have taken to an unknown location.

Salehi: I have no information about that. To the best of my knowledge, they are at their homes. They are always moving from one place to another. They are free to visit their families. They may have made their own decision to move.

EN: Nobody knows where they are. Their families don't know where they are.

Salehi: As I said, in Tehran we have only had the manipulated protests of a few people.

With such statements, Salehi has dashed the hopes of those who thought that he would be a better and more honest foreign minister than his predecessor, Manouchehr Mottaki.

Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, political activist and secretary-general of the Democratic Front of Iran, has been sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. He had been arrested on December 27, 2009, and spent a long time in solitary confinement. He had been given a sentence of nine years and 74 lashes, which was reduced by the appeal court.

In a memorial in Qom, thousands of people shouted slogans in support of Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the Revolution's leader. The memorial, attended by many grand ayatollahs, was for the elder Khomeini's son-in-law, Dr. Mahmoud Boroujerdi, who passed away a week ago. At the end of the memorial, a small group began shouting, "Navadeh Ruhollah [grandson of Ruhollah], Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah [of Lebanon]," to indicate that Seyyed Hassan Khomeini is not the true heir to the revolutionary icon people began shouting in response, "Navadeh Khomeini, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini."

The International Federation for Human Rights (known by its French acronym, FIDH) and the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights have announced that they would file a complaint on behalf of Mousavi, Karroubi, and their wives with the United Nations Working Group for Involuntary Disappearances. The two groups issued a strong warning to the Iranian government about the consequences of the continued disappearance of the four.

Dr. Karim Lahidji, vice-president of FIDH and president of the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights, said, "The houses of the four opposition leaders have been surrounded by the security forces and all their contacts were under scrutiny for months. Now they have disappeared. Their case constitutes a clear application of enforced or involuntary disappearance. The Iranian authorities are responsible for their safety. We will alert and file a complaint with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on their behalf."

"The ongoing extreme brutal suppression of peaceful protesters and the disappearances in the Islamic Republic of Iran should convince the international community to pass a strong resolution in the Human Rights Council that would include the appointment of a special rapporteur on human rights for Iran."

"We are also optimistic that the European Union will take action on the list of violators of human rights which we submitted in mid-February 2011, by freezing their assets and imposing visa bans on them and reiterating its ban on visits of European officials to Iran."

The diaspora branch of Iran's National Front issued a statement condemning the arrest of the Green Movement's leaders. Calling the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi kidnapping and condemning it, a part of the statement says, "We expect all the democratic groups and supporters of human rights to do everything they can to free these compatriots and other political prisoners."

In an article, outspoken reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh who has been imprisoned for 18 months, said, "My goal in writing this piece is to show that the popular uprisings in the region have provided a golden opportunity to test the popularity of Iran's fundamentalists [in the region] and test their claim that they have been inspired by Iran's political system.... As far as the Green Movement is concerned, similar to the slogan 'Iran for all Iranians,' it should advocate 'Egypt for all Egyptians' and 'Tunisia for all Tunisians.' I believe that the fundamentalists will not be able to pretend that they support the developments in the Islamic countries."

The websites Green Voice of Iran and Saham News report that for the past few days security agents have been installing security cameras and personnel by the homes of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani and Mousa Shobeiri Zanjani. The two men have in recent weeks met with families of political prisoners and expressed their strong sympathies. Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani has also criticized strongly what is going on in the country.

Ebrahim Raeisi, first deputy to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, said that it is not right for a prosecutor to jail someone until his guilt has been proven. He said that "people are innocent until proven otherwise. The prosecutor must create a sense of security in the society, such that no innocent person could be in jail." This is while hundreds of people who have arrested for political reasons are held in jail for months without any official responding to the pleas of their families to at least explain to them the offense of their loved ones. Raeisi himself played a major role in the execution of more than 4,500 political prisoners from May to September 1988.

Taha Taheri, who is in charge of government efforts against the use of narcotics, said that credible polls indicate that 75 percent of Iranians believe that getting access to narcotics is easy in Iran. He said that the Islamic Republic has not been able to lower the threat of narcotics to the society.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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