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Iran 'Condemns Clampdown on Pro-Democracy Protesters' ... in Libya


22 Feb 2011 10:42Comments

Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.

MehmanparastPressTVFeb22.jpg3 Esfand/Feb 22: While the state-controlled and -aligned media in Iran for the most part either denied that there were protests in the nation's capital and several other cities on Sunday (sample headline: "Tehran saw no anti-govt. rally: Police") or simply ignored them, there has been extensive and sympathetic coverage of the ongoing protests in Bahrain, Algeria, North Yemen, and, in particular, Libya. In one of the lead stories today in the "Iran" section of Press TV's website, titled "'Iran condemns crackdown on Libyans,'" one can read:
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has condemned the Libyan regime's clampdown on pro-democracy protesters.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran deems the Libyans' uprising and their rightful demands in line with the region's Islamic awakening, and follows the developments in the country [Libya] with concern," IRNA quoted Mehmanparast as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry official expressed worries about the ongoing violence in Libya and called on the international community to move to put an end on the use of force against the civilian protesters.

"The news of aerial attacks on protesters, residential areas and mass killings of innocent people has caused concern and consternation. It is expected that international organizations and assemblies take immediate and effective measures to stop it (the violence)," [he] said.

Similarly, the lead story for much of this morning on the English-language website of the Islamic Republic News Agency has been "Majlis vice-speaker condemns crimes by Libyan officials": "First Vice-Speaker of Majlis Mohammad-Hassan Aboutorabifard on Tuesday condemned the brutalities and crimes against the Libyan people by the country's leader Muammar Gaddafi." (As of this posting, the link to the full story was not functioning, also true of IRNA's number two story, "Iran condemns aggressive clamp down against Libyan protesters.")

The level of violence in Libya over the past week, where hundreds are confirmed dead, is of a different order than what Iran experienced on Sunday and the preceding Monday, during the 25 Bahman protests. The confirmed death toll resulting from 25 Bahman remains at two -- anti-government protesters Saneh Jaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari -- while it is not yet possible to state a firm conclusion about loss of life related to Sunday's demonstrations. According to the Wall Street Journal,

The government cracked down with an extraordinary number of security forces that witnesses said beat people with steel batons, chains and even opened fire into the crowd. Three people were reported killed in Sunday's clashes; one of them identified as Hamid Nour Mohamadi, a college student in Shiraz, killed when security forces shoved him off a bridge, opposition websites said.

As homylafayette, a frequent Tehran Bureau contributor, described in his blog yesterday, "The semi-official Far[s] News, close to the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], reported that Nour-Mohammadi was not a protester and that he had died as a result of being run over by a car in a banal road accident." Iran Green Voice reports (in Farsi) that students at Shiraz University, where Nour-Mohammadi was a second-year biology student, have declared a week of mourning for him.

Homylafayette also wrote, "Sources in Iran reported that another protester was shot to death in Tehran's Haft Tir Square, but no details have been forthcoming." As we noted in our live-updated coverage on Sunday's events, the first report of that killing in Haft-e Tir Square came a little before six in the evening, which was followed by multiple reports -- at least some of them apparently independently sourced -- confirming the killing and more generally that security forces had fired directly at protesters in the square. By eight o'clock, Safar Ali Baratlou, Tehran province's social and political deputy governor, whose duties encompass security and police affairs, had officially denied that any such killing had occurred in the capital. That is where the story stands, at least for now.

It is not certain to what report of a third protest-related death the Wall Street Journal refers, though we took note Monday of the following: "In what may prove to be an unrelated matter, [there is a] report from the Islamic Republic's police news center about a young unidentified man who was killed in the Mirdamad subway station after 'being hit by a train' at 6:20 p.m. yesterday" -- that is, around the height of the protests and clashes with security forces. The report (in Farsi) has not been followed with the revelation of any other details on the incident.

While the Iranian opposition ponders its next move, Ardeshir Amir Arojmand, the aide to Mir Hossein Mousavi who has emerged as a leading spokesman for the protests, has called for an end to the strict house arrests to which both Mousavi and fellow Green Movement leader Mehdi Karroubi are being subjected. Radio Zamaneh quotes the statement he gave to Kaleme, Mousavi's website:

"Incarceration and imposing restrictions on the proud friends of the movement, far from discouraging the people, create a fresh and stronger motivation for protesters to persist in attaining their legitimate demands."

Government pressure on Mousavi and Karroubi was heightened after they began calling for renewed protests to take place last Monday. For more than a week, both men have been kept prisoner in their own homes deprived from any contact with the outside world.

[Amir Arojmand] pointed to yesterday's massive deployment of security forces in Tehran and other major cities, adding: "As we had predicted, the atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by the presence of plainclothes and special security forces did not prevent people from commemorating their martyrs and protesting against oppression."

Saham News, the website of Karroubi's National Trust Party, reports (in Farsi) that early yesterday morning his residence was attacked by a mob of about 30 people "in coordination with the government intelligence agents" who are securing the house. According to the report, the mob shouted slogans hailing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and deriding Karroubi, broke windows, and threw sound grenades into the home.

ICAHackedVOAHomepageTop.jpgThe hacking of the Voice of America website and nearly its entire system of affiliates, apparently by the regime-organized and -authorized Iranian Cyber Army, ended around 1:30 p.m. Tehran time. Control of the domains was usurped from VOA for more than eight hours. The substitute homepage mounted by the hackers listed a total of 94 hacked websites. Almost all of those checked by Tehran Bureau were indeed hacked, though VOA's Azerbaijani site was still operable. To the right is the image that resided atop the hackers' substitute homepage. The concluding declaration, evidently addressed to the United States government -- "We call on you to stop interfering in Islamic countries" -- echoes statements made by Khamenei in a speech yesterday. Indeed, the crucial verb, "interfering," appears in the first paragraph of Mehr's report on the speech:
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said the best way to resolve the problems facing regional countries is to prevent the United States from interfering in their internal affairs.

And it appears in the second paragraph of Fars's dispatch:

The dominant powers' plots against Islamic countries have created discord among Muslim nations, Ayatollah Khamenei said, calling on the Muslim nations and governments to become vigilant and stop the "great Satan" (the US) from interfering in their destinies.

Meanwhile, Iranian state media are touting a development that suggests the ouster of Hosni Mubarak may lead to an easing of the long-strained relations between Egypt and the Islamic Republic. Press TV reports,

Two Iranian warships have entered the Suez Canal and are heading towards the Mediterranean Sea after Egypt issued authorization for the move.

The two Iranian vessels, Khark and Alvand, crossed the Suez Canal, a strategic international shipping route in Egypt, on Tuesday.

Khark has 250 crewmembers and can carry three helicopters. Alvand is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. The two warships, however, are not carrying any weapons or nuclear and chemical materials.

This marks the first time since the victory of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iranian warships have been allowed to use the Suez Canal.

Iran's Navy has announced that dispatching Iranian vessels to the Mediterranean is aimed at strengthening friendly relations with other countries and conveying Iran's message of peace and security in international waterways.

A reader might tend to resolve the contradiction between the statement that Alvand "is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles" and the immediately following statement that it is "not carrying any weapons" in favor of the latter on the presumption that the intention was to say that it can be "armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles." However, Mehr News Agency flatly states, "The Alvand is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles."

Setareh Sabety analyzes the significance of Sunday's events for the Huffington Post:

The opposition group Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope issued a defiant call for protests to commemorate the 7th day of the martyrdom of two students killed during the 25th Bahman (Feb.14) demonstrations. For the first time the reformist group's call to protest was asking for "an end to religious dictatorship."

1st Esfand (Feb.20) was the test to see if the Iranian opposition movement could, now that it had been resurrected, maintain enough momentum to bring about the fall of the formidable Islamist Regime. A regime that is independent, oil-rich, and brutal is much more difficult to topple than a puppet dictatorship like Egypt or Tunisia's that depends entirely on the good will of the super power that pulls its strings.

The numbers are difficult to ascertain in Iran where all but state-approved reporters are banned, but most agree that in Tehran the protesters were in the thousands spread out in different spots of the city. The clamp down was brutal, with the use of motorcycle forces with clubs, security forces shooting tear gas canisters and vans ready to take away the many arrested. [...] On days when [those] going out on the street bear terrible risk, anyone who joins the protest acquires revolutionary stature. If Mousavi and Karoubi were loyal reformist opposition before 25th Bahman, there is no doubt that their call for protest and subsquent house arrest has turned them into revolutionaries. Others like [former President Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani [...] and Mohsen Rezai, the conservative candidate who showed some fleeting signs of dissent after the 2009 elections, once again showed their colors by voicing their allegiance to the regime.

1st Esfand (Feb.20) was big enough to show that 25th Bahman (Feb.14) was not a single outburst inspired by the events in Tunis and Egypt but rather the revival of an opposition movement that continues to show signs of resilience. Iranians are pragmatists and unlike their Arab neighbors have recent experience with revolution. They will not risk life and limb unless they are sure that they are on the winning side. 1st Esfand was a step in the winning direction for the opposition in Iran.

Enduring America presents an extensive collection of videos purportedly shot at protests in various cities around Iran on Sunday (and at least one with a claim to having been shot the previous week).


Update: Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi relays the following:

In a speech to thousands of people in the Grand Mosque of Qom, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani, the most important Shia Marja living in Iran, severely criticized the judiciary for turning arrests and incarceration into a normal and common practice in Iran, disregarding Islamic teachings regarding imprisonment. He said that only "a true Faghih [accomplished Islamic scholar] who has understood the depth of Islamic teachings knows when jailing someone is allowed and why jailing is such a severe punishment, and as the basis of religion is people's freedom and jailing them and taking them away from their families and society is a severe punishment, the cases for which jailing is allowed have been carefully laid out."

Khorasani is the father-in-law of Sadegh Larijani, the judiciary chief. He has reportedly told his son-in-law not only that is he is unqualified to lead the judiciary, but that he should resign, given the present terrible conditions. He has consistently refused to meet with Khamenei wherever he travels to Qom, and reportedly told him many years ago, "You be the sultan, and leave marjaeiyat to others to others," effectively questioning his religious credentials and his very legitimacy. (Marjaeiyat is the status of a Marja, a source of religious emulation. Khamenei and his supporters have tried, with little success, to secure that status for him in the broader clerical community.) Just before the February 14 demonstrations, Khorasani met with families of imprisoned political figures, expressed his sympathies and declared, referring to the hardliners, "We have no relations with them." In meeting with these families he has repeatedly made statements that clearly indicate that he does not believe his son-in-law is qualified or even fair-minded enough to lead the judiciary.

The day after the February 14 demonstrations, followers of Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, the reactionary cleric and spiritual adviser to Ahmadinejad, forced the cancellation of classes taught by Khorasani. They apparently wanted to make it look like Khorasani had canceled his classes to protest the demonstrations the day before, but it quickly became clear that it was the work of Mesbah Yazdi's coterie.

In other major news, the most important Marja in the Shia world, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who lives in Najaf, Iraq, has declared that demonstrating against shortcomings is a fundamental right of every citizen, but that it should not result in murder and the destruction of public and private assets. Back in October, Sistani warned against the intervention of the military and security forces in political affairs and demanded that they remain neutral.

And today, Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, who was the first secretary-general of the Guardian Council, said that injustice and oppression do not end well, and the oppressors will be punished and eliminated in this world. In a meeting with a group of Shia families of Bahrain who lost loved ones in the demonstrations there, the grand ayatollah condemned the atrocities committed by their country's government. It appears that he was indirectly criticizing what has been happening in Iran, as his statements were very relevant to developments in the Islamic Republic. Like Khorasani, Golpayegani also met with families of political prisoners prior to the February 14 demonstrations and expressed his sympathies.

Original material copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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