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16 Mar 2010 05:20No Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press, and excerpts where the source is in English. The link to the news organization or blog is provided at the top of each item. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the story in perspective. You can follow our
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Militants deface home of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi

CSM | photos | March 15, 2010

Hard-line militants in Iran defaced the Tehran apartment block of senior opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, using splashes of blood-red paint and graffiti to step up the conservative campaign to silence the former presidential candidate.

Right-wing officials have accused Karroubi, former candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and former President Mohammad Khatami, of "sedition" for continuing to reject as fraudulent the June 2009 reelection of arch-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Weeks of street violence followed, during which scores of activists of the opposition Green Movement were killed by pro-regime security forces, more than 100 hundred were tried, and thousands were arrested in the most serious crisis faced by the Islamic Republic in nearly 30 years.

Spray-painted black graffiti on the apartment read "Death to Karroubi" and "Death to Khatami," according to photographs published on Monday by the government-run Borna News Agency.

In one image, a bearded man with an untucked white shirt and a white scarf with thin black lines -- the typical "uniform" favored by hard-line militants and ideological Basij militiamen -- used a can of spray paint in daylight to write "the donkey Karroubi" and "the donkey Mousavi" near the front door.

"They vandalized the building. These are thugs who are on a payroll" and had the "support of intelligence and police forces," Fatemeh Karroubi, the cleric's wife, was quoted on Monday as saying on Karroubi's website Saham News.

Iran Sentences 6 Protesters to Death

NYT | March 15, 2010

Six people arrested in December protests will be put to death, Iranian authorities announced Monday, in what appeared to be strong warning to the opposition ahead of a traditional annual celebration.

The tradition, the Feast of Fire, goes backs thousands of years to Zoroastrian times and has been banned in Iran in recent decades because of its non-Islamic roots. The opposition had called for its celebration this year as a sign of protest.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a decree saying the feast "has no religious basis and is harmful and must be avoided," the government Web site reported.

The celebration includes jumping over fires in the evening, followed by the Iranian version of trick-or-treating, when young people cover themselves head to toe in chadors and bang spoons on pots as they knock on neighbors' doors for candy. Two men who had also received death sentences for their part in the December protests were executed last month, just ahead of another holiday, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Since a disputed presidential election in June set off enduring unrest, the opposition has timed some of its protests to holidays. The December protests came during Ashura, the commemoration of the martyrdom of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

The six people whose sentences were announced Monday were among nine convicted of waging war against God by demonstrating during the commemoration. The death sentence for one was confirmed last month, and he was identified weeks later as a student, Mohammad-Amin Valian, 20. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York group, warned this month that he was "in danger of imminent execution."

Ahmadinejad to pay visit to Sources in Qom

Khabar Online
| March 15, 2010

Hojjatoleslam Nasser Saqayi-Biriya, presidential advisor for clerical affairs, announced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit to Qom and for meetings with Shia Sources of Emulation.

"The president will soon travel to Qom to meet and confer with some of the Sources of Emulation," Fars News Agency quoted Saqayi-Biriya as saying.

According to the report, Ahmadinejad will present the sources with a report on the current developments in the country.

Iran bans leading pro-reform political party

AFP | March 15, 2010

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hard-line government said Monday it has banned Iran's largest pro-reform political party in a new strike against an opposition movement that has largely been swept from the streets since last year's post-election turmoil.

Keeping the pressure on elsewhere, dozens of government-supporters descended on the home of Mahdi Karroubi, one of the main opposition leaders, on Sunday night, shouting slogans against him and vandalizing his property.

Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June ignited Iran's opposition, first in challenging the legitimacy of the official vote results and then in confronting the entire ruling system for supporting him and killing protesters. Besides the crackdown in the streets, authorities responded with a mass trial of pro-reform leaders and activists, restrictions on journalists and a campaign to choke off hundreds of opposition Web sites.

Under the assault, opposition parties are already up against harassment, raids on offices and the confiscation of documents and equipment. So it was not clear what additional effect Monday's announcement would have on the Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Deputy Interior Minister Solat Mortazavi said judiciary has stripped the party of its authorization to conduct political activity, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

The party disputed that, saying there was no such court ruling, though it was forced to cancel its annual meeting on March 11.

"There is no court ruling banning us," spokesman Hossein Kashefi said. "We won't be coerced. We will continue our activities as a legal party ... (and) we will take the government to court for seeking to deprive Iranians of their rights as citizens."

Imam Relief Foundation will not hand out aid this year

Tabnak | March 15, 2010

The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation said it would not be giving New Year financial aid to the families under its care this year, as it has not received its $20 million budget.

"This year no financial aid will be given to the families under our care as a new year present," Hossein Anvari told ISNA.

"The Relief Foundation was unable to bring in resources from other institutions for New Year's aid and therefore this year it is unable to hand out any New Year presents to its aid-seekers."

Police, IRGC, Basij command formed for Chaharshanbe Souri

Asr Iran | Khabar Online | March 15, 2010

A joint force consisting of police, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basij has been established in order to maintain security and head off problems caused on Chaharshanbe Souri, the fire festival held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Persian year.

According to the Fars News Agency report, the command has met four times to discuss methods to maintain order and ensure the safety of citizens on that day.

The meetings have stressed the importance of the full preparation of the police, IRGC and Basij and decided the locations where these forces will be stationed throughout the city of Tehran.

Iran Braces for Fire Festival Crackdown

HuffPo | March 15, 2010

Traditional pre-Islamic celebration could be occasion for opposition protests.

Iranian officials are warning the opposition not to turn an ancient fire festival this week into a protest against the government.

The celebration of Chaharshanbe Souri, Red Wednesday, on the evening March 16 marks the last Wednesday of the Iranian year and is rooted in pre-Islamic Zoroastrian tradition as a rite of the arrival of spring and is thus rejected by the country's ruling Muslim clerics.

But this will be the first time the occasion has been marked since last June's presidential election, which sparked a resurgence of opposition to the regime by the Green Movement that believes the poll was rigged.

The occasion has led to trouble and violence in the past because of rowdy behavior by young people and the use of illegal home-made fireworks, which have also caused injuries.

Police appear to be braced for a large number of arrests and young people are reported to be preparing home-made firecrackers and even grenades packed with gravel as they have done in recent years, which will fill the Tehran streets with explosions, smoke, and the smell of gunpowder. A black-market trade has grown up in the items, some of which are made by school children who get the information from the internet.

Police say they have confiscated more than 30 tonnes of explosives in Tehran alone and seven people have been killed across the country while making firecrackers and other devices.

This use of home-made explosives on Red Wednesday festival has evolved over the last decade as young people manifest their frustration over official restrictions imposed on social freedoms and popular entertainment.

Opposition leaders are encouraging people to protest peacefully. In a recent statement, one of them, Mir Hussein Mousavi, called for a "festival of light against darkness", which many saw as an invitation to protest this week.

Pro-Green Movement websites are recommending innovative methods such as "a Green silence - every Iranian should hold a candle and cry out loud, 'God is Great', and plant a tree", instead of taking part in violence and conflict with the authorities.

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