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'So Long as We Still Have Breath': Green Council Pledges to Fight On

18 Mar 2011 08:30Comments

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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8:30 a.m./March 17 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the leadership group that helps guide the Green Movement in the absence of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, has issued a statement on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. The statement declares, "We are well aware that peaceful protests are our fundamental right, as has been recognized and emphasized by the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are also well aware that defending the rights of the minorities, ethnic groups, and women to create a better Iran is fundamental. We consider it our duty to do whatever we can, so long as we still have breath, to end the detention of the Green Movement's leaders and their wives, who are symbols of resistance and the effort to restore people's rights.... We begin the new year with you [the people] with hope for victory."

Eight former heads of state and prime ministers have written a letter to Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei expressing their concerns about the fate and condition of Mousavi and Karroubi. They say that it has been three weeks since the two Green leaders' "forced disappearance" and "their families have no information about them." The letter continues, "It appears that no judiciary official is willing to take responsibility for their disappearance and the heavy pressure that is exerted on them." The letter was sent before the recent meeting between Mousavi's daughters and their father and mother, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and the report by a son of Karroubi's that a trusted cleric had met with his father and mother, Fatemeh. Former prime ministers of the Netherlands, France, Norway, and Yemen, and a former president of Colombia are among the letter's signatories.

Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, senior advisor to Mousavi, addressing a conference in London, said, "The hardliners did whatever they could to crack down on the movement over the past 20 months. They killed some people, jailed others, and even raped people in jails, and then claimed that the movement is finished and nothing is left of it. But after what he [Mousavi] said [in the Green Movement Charter], a new debate began that guaranteed the survival of the movement. In this debate we are taking about peaceful struggle, the Constitution as the framework for a national accord, and discussions about human rights, fundamental rights, pluralism, the rights of ethnic minorities and women, and preventing the abuse of religion. The Green Movement will no longer ask [the Ministry of Interior] for permission to hold demonstrations. We will only announce them, because it is a right that has been specified in [Article 27 of] the Constitution. The government has been hit hard because of people's participation in the demonstrations. The present government has lost its legitimacy and cannot even hold onto its own supporters. Internally, it is suffering from chaos and is collapsing, and must confront many difficult economic problems. By cutting off the communications between the Green Movement's leaders and the people, it is searching for a temporary solution to its problems."

Amir Arjomand continued, "The hardliners used the same tactics in the past and had been successful. They did not realize that their success was temporary and that the movement would emerge again at the opportune moment. The government tried for a long time to present the movement as the enemy and counterrevolutionary in order to preserve itself and attract the support of the neutral parts of the population, so that they would not join the Green Movement and, at the same time, provide itself pseudo-legal justification for a crackdown on the movement. It is really painful for the government that the Green Movement, despite being pluralistic, is totally united. [They do not recognize that] a movement that does not have centralized leadership and which respects a variety of views cannot lose its unity. They tried to create fissures between Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami, but did not succeed. Mousavi and Karroubi now issue joint statements, and jointly signed the second revised version of the Green Movement Charter."

Amir Arjomand ended by saying, "Only truly democratic elections without vetting by the Guardian Council are acceptable, and whatever the outcome of such elections, they [the hardliners] must accept it, even if it is against them, because that is the people's vote."

A group of political prisoners' families who have repeatedly asked Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi to give their loved ones furlough for the Nowruz holidays, which begin March 21, have been told by his chief of staff, "The names of your jailed persons have been crossed out by the prosecutor," implying that they will not be granted the furlough. In particular, leading members of the Organization of the Educated of Islamic Iran (Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat, an association of former university student activists), such as Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi, Abdollah Momeni, and others, have been denied furlough. Dolatabadi had previously said that the granting of furlough to political prisoners is done selectively and with precise goals.

Asadollah Badamchian. a Majles deputy from Tehran and leading member of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party, said today that Iran will be facing many complex social and political issues in the upcoming year. He claimed that because the Western world has been defeated in its plans for Iran, it has been made angry and will try to create difficulties for Iran, and that the elections in Iran are free and all groups can take part in them.

Majles deputy Davood Mohammad-Jani said that elimination of subsidies for natural gas used for residential heating and other domestic uses has created severe difficulties. He said that reports he has received indicate that in some cases the bills sent to people indicate a 40-fold increase in the price that they must pay for natural gas.

Ali Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubi's third son, who was arrested on the evening of February 14 after the demonstrations called for by his father and Mousavi, was released from Evin Prison. To obtain his release, he had to post $100,000 bail. Also released were Dr. Yadollah Eslami, reformist secretary-general of the Organization of Former Majles Deputies, who was arrested February 11; and Seyyed Bagher Oskoee, an adviser to Karroubi and head of the youth branch of the National Trust Party, who was arrested February 14 and held in solitary confinement.

Imprisoned university student Arash Sadeghi has been tortured and is being held in solitary confinement. He had been interviewed by Rooz, the European-based Persian-language website, and announced that his mother had passed away due to his imprisonment. His family has been banned from visiting him, and he was not granted a furlough for the Nowruz holidays. Also denied a furlough is journalist Mehdi Mahmoudian, who is jailed in Gohar Dasht prison. Along with his journalistic employment, Mahmoudian worked in the public relations department of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front and was a member of the Society for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights. He suffers from heart and lung ailments, and his family has said that he has recently been experiencing severe headaches as well.

Journalist and university activist Parsa Bahmani, 19, was arrested two weeks ago, but there is still no information on his whereabouts. Security agents have told his family that he is in solitary confinement, and so long as he does not cooperate with them, he will remain in the confinement. Bahmani was also arrested after the 2009 election, but was released after paying a $1,000 fine.

Three political prisoners -- Amin Roghani, Ehsan Ghashghaei, and Mina Rezaei Farrokh -- were released from detention. Rezaei Farrokh, after being arrested in December 2009 and then released on bail, was given a one-year jail sentence that was reduced to 105 days on appeal.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani, the most important Marja taghlid (source of emulation for the masses) living in Iran, issued a statement strongly condemning the violent crackdown by the Bahrain government on its citizens. He said, "Currently, the most important and sorrowful problem, which pious people should inform each other about, is the injustice that is being done to the people of Bahrain, not only the Shiites, but also all the people of Bahrain who are suffering as a result of the invasion by foreign forces. Words cannot describe this catastrophe.... We asked: Which of these [heads of state who are involved] does not have a good relation with the presidents of European and American countries?" The ayatollah was referring to the intervention by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and their leaders' close relations with the West.

Major General Ataollah Salehi, chief of staff of the regular armed forces, denied that Iranian-manufactured weapons had been seized by Israel. He said that if any weapons have been seized, they were not manufactured in Iran, and Israel is lying about it. At the same time, however, Malaysia has seized a Iranian ship that was reportedly carrying parts that can be used in "weapons of mass destruction." Malaysia's police chief, Ismaeil Omar, has said that the ship was carrying boilers suitable for use in a nuclear program and that his country's atomic experts were examining them.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced that ten people have been secretly executed in Mashhad. Their offenses were apparently narcotics related. Reports indicate that hundreds of people have been executed in the same jail over the last year on similar charges.

Former president Mohammad Khatami traveled to the town of Ardakan in Yazd, the province in which he was born, where he was greeted by a large crowd. The people were carrying posters bearing his image his posters and shouting slogans in his support. Reports indicate that security officials ordered Khatami not to get out of his car and forced him to go home.

Majles deputy Amir Taherkhani declared, "A seditionist is someone who lies, breaks the law, and makes baseless accusations." Taherkhani, who represents Takestan in Qazvin province, said, "There is a group in Qazvin that enjoys no popular support and believes that it has no obligation toward the laws.... They are pursuing only their own interests. We know them, and people also recognize them. To give themselves legitimacy, these people link those who oppose them to the United States. Who is an American? Those who respect the laws, or those who break them?" "Sedition" is the name given by Khamenei to the Green Movement.

A group of political prisoners' family members tried to deliver a letter to the United Nations office in Tehran, but were prevented by security agents, who arrested two members of the group and interrogated them for two hours. The agents also threatened the families, telling them, "These actions will yield no result, but will only worsen the conditions of the imprisoned people.Therefore, it is better if you do not protest."

Vahid Alipour, husband of Mahdiyeh Golrou, a university and human rights activist who was expelled from her school and imprisoned, was finally allowed to visit with her after three months. Golrou, who is ill, has been sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment. Her husband was also arrested and briefly detained, even though he is not active in politics, in order to pressure Golrou.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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