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News | Quake Volunteers Arrested; Mir Hossein Mousavi Home from Hospital

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

24 Aug 2012 12:05Comments

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

EarthquakeWallGreenGlassMehr.jpg 12:05 p.m. IRDT, 3 Shahrivar/August 24 Agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and special forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps attacked a camp Thursday in Sarand, a village between Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan, and Varzagan, a town near the epicenters of the two large earthquakes that struck the northwestern province nearly two weeks ago. They arrested a reported 45 social activists who had volunteered to help the survivors. A partial list of those who have been arrested is given here.

Apparently, the day before, two security agents, posing as volunteers, had entered the camp and inspected the storage area. According to an eyewitness account, the Revolutionary Guard forces first tried to seize all the donated items, mostly food, blankets, tents, and medical supplies that had been brought to the camp to be distributed among the people. The volume of items is very large and the volunteers told the Guards that they had no problem working with the Red Crescent Society to distribute the aid. They even said that they could give a complete list of all the items and their origins. The Guard commander, however, apparently emphasized that his forces would seize all the items. The volunteers responded that the fact that they have been able to collect so many items to be distributed among the earthquake survivors means that the donors trusted them, evidently more than they did the government.

The Revolutionary Guard special forces tried to use the excuse that the camp and the storage area did not meet sanitary standards, and thus they had to close them, but the volunteers with the help of the villagers resisted. More forces were then brought in and the volunteers were arrested. Police cars now control the entrance to the camp. There have already been several reports indicating that Ministry of Intelligence agents prevented volunteers from helping children, including several child psychologists. There was a report that a Revolutionary Guard commander had taken some of the aides to his own home, but was arrested.

One of the leaders of the volunteers was political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, who had been granted a furlough. An Azeri himself, he had volunteered to help the people of his province, and the judiciary officials who handle his case had not opposed his participation in the relief operations. Another report indicates that three volunteers in Gorgan in northeast Iran, who are believed to be supporters of the Green Movement and were collecting donations for the earthquakes' survivors, have been arrested.

One of the arrested volunteers, human rights advocate Saeed Shirzad, is now reported to be in a prison in Ahar in the earthquake-stricken area, and has gone on a hunger strike to protest the arrests. The following have also reportedly gone on hunger strike to protest their arrests: Milad Panahipoor, Navid Khanjani, Vahed Kholoosi, Misagh Afshar, Hooman Taheri, Sepehrdad Saheban, and Hossein Ronaghi Maleki.

In an interview with the pro-Green Movement website Rahe Sabz (JARAS), civic activist Amir Kalhor explained that the activities of the volunteers were completely apolitical. Their only goal was to help the people, because the government and the Red Crescent Society had failed to do their jobs. According to Kalhor, it was the government that made the work political so as to justify the arrests.

Kalhor provided more details of the arrests. According to him, the governor of the town of Haris in the earthquake-stricken area ordered invasion of the storage area to take away all the donated items. Security agents tried to do just that, but the volunteers and the people resisted it, telling the security agents that, "We will not give you even one bottle of drinking water. They belong to the people." The volunteers and local people then formed a human wall around the camp to prevent the agents from entering it and, thus, the camp was surrounded by the security forces for seven hours. The Revolutionary Guard special forces were called in. They invaded the camp, after which all communications between the volunteers and outside were cut off, and they were arrested.

Kalhor also said that the Red Crescent Society was not doing its job properly. For example, those families who were known to the local Society workers, received ample aid, multiple tents, and so forth, and those who were not received much less. People were afraid that wolves would attack their cows and sheep and, thus, were sleeping next to them at night to protect them. The volunteers brought fences for them to put around the animals to protect them, whereas the Society had refused to do it. In one area with a large population there were only two medical doctors to help the people, and the Society refused to bring in more, and thus the volunteers brought in volunteer doctors that wanted to help the people.

***

Mir Hossein Mousavi, a leader of the Green Movement, has been returned to house arrest after he was hospitalized Thursday. The reason for his hospitalization is said to have been clogging of the arteries, for which he underwent treatment that took three hours. Mousavi's wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, reportedly accompanied him to the hospital, but no other visitors were allowed.

The news of the former prime minister's hospitalization was first reported by Advar News, the website of the dissident Organization of University Graduates. Mousavi, Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest for 18 months. In Karroubi's case, the house arrest has been virtually a solitary confinement, while Mousavi and his wife are rarely allowed any visits from their three daughters. Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, senior adviser to Mousavi who lives in Paris, has confirmed that Mousavi has been returned to his own home and put once again under house arrest.

It appears that the hardliners have been pressuring the Mousavi family not to divulge any information about his health. Mousavi's brother, Mir Mahmood Mousavi, told the Kaleme website, "Knowing what is going on is people's right, but due to the interest and expediency of [the Mousavi family] we are not supposed to provide any information" about Mir Hossein. Told that people would like to learn about the state of his brother's health, Mir Mahmood Mousavi responded, "This is not the entire story. We are in a very complex situation, and based on the current condition of Mir Hossein's [extended] family, please allow us to be sensitive about what is going on. At the same time, there are certain conditions and problems that are not reported by the press, and the domestic and security problems limit us in expressing our views." Saying that he respects people's wishes, Mir Mahmood Mousavi said, "For now, it is advisable for us not to provide the information. God willing, people will learn about it through channels that will not cause any problems [for them]."

Meanwhile, Dr. Ali Shakouri Rad, a physician and member of the central committee of the outlawed Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country's largest reformist group, said that one of the arteries to Mousavi's heart had been clogged. His physicians installed a stent in it and used balloons to open the clogged artery. Mousavi was under the care of hysicians for one day, and then was released by them and returned home. His daughters met with their father Thursday night. According to Shakouri Rad, the physicians said that Mousavi is in stable conditions and in generally good health. He criticized the fact that Mousavi was not allowed to be treated by his own doctor, saying, "Addressing problems with the heart is an urgent matter that, if not done immediately, can be dangerous. He must be treated by his own doctor whom he trusts. It is not right to take him somewhere to be treated by a doctor who is not known to him."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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