Burning silence in Iran

Silence seems to have rolled over Iran’s burning landscape, not because the situation has calmed, but because we know it less and less. Reporters have been banned, communications slowed, and civic organizations that might aggregate information in ordinary times have ceased to function. One exile who usually has an inside line to events unfolding in his country complained to me yesterday that he knows nothing, because all of his friends have been arrested. A normally outspoken analyst inside Iran told me that, as much as he would love to talk, he was in hiding, having been threatened by the office of Tehran’s chief prosecutor. But over here, the conversation must go on, and it has adopted a new, increasingly speculative, trope. The struggle in Iran, we are hearing, really comes down to a fight among the élites inside the power structure.

It is clearly true that Iran’s élites are disunited, but to place great emphasis on this fact is misleading. Factional differences have riven the Iranian political establishment since the Islamic Revolution itself, and sometimes quite dramatically, as during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, from 1997 through 2005. As for Rafsanjani, about whose possible role much has been made, he has been a rival of Ahmadinejad since losing the presidency to him in 2005; this has increasingly driven him toward the reformist camp, where he has been accepted only partially and reluctantly. None of these cleavages are new. In a country that does not tolerate political parties or associations in its civil society, the contest for power, and over the future of the political system, has been largely confined to the establishment itself. Khamenei has spent much of his twenty years in power checkmating his rivals inside the system and discrediting them with their supporters outside the system. [continued…]

Iran opposition leader blasts rulers; 70 professors arrested

Iran’s leading opposition figurehead, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, launched a lengthy broadside against the Iranian leadership and state-owned media in comments published today on his website as authorities arrested 70 university professors who had met with him.

The former prime minister, in comments apparently delivered Wednesday to the arrested social scientists and posted on one of his websites today, accused Iran’s supreme leader of not acting in the interests of the country and said a dramatic change for the worse had taken place in the country. [continued…]

Ahmadinejad assails Obama as opposition urges defiance

As Iran’s embattled opposition leader said he would “not back down for a second” in challenging the disputed elections, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told President Obama on Thursday to avoid interfering in Iran’s affairs and demanded an apology from the American leader for purportedly striking the same critical tones as his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The sharp words offered no prospect of eased tensions between Washington and Tehran at a time of profound differences over issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, which the United States calls terrorist organizations.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments, quoted on the semi-official Fars news agency, came as at least three Iranian newspapers reported that only 105 of 290 members of the Iranian Parliament invited to a victory party for him Wednesday night actually attended the event, suggesting a deep divide within the political elite over the election and its aftermath. [continued…]

Neda Soltan’s family ‘forced out of home’ by Iranian authorities

The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world.

Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.

“We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat,” a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave. [continued…]

Behind the protests, social upheaval in Iran

In essence, the more Nedas the Basij silence the more difficult it will be for them to maintain their monopoly over the symbolism of martyrdom. At this critical juncture of history, I am reminded of my own father, executed at the notorious Evin prison in 1982. Regarded by many as a martyr, I wonder how he would have reacted to the fallen men and women, who gave up their lives for what he also sacrificed his life for: freedom from tyranny. [continued…]

Tehran dwellers enter twilight zone

Many universities postponed exams and some came under brutal assault by the basij . But most businesses stayed open, though the days became shorter, as people rushed home before the scheduled start of opposition protests, anxious about the crackdown that would follow.

“Life is not normal any more, I’m afraid to go out after 6pm,” says Atousa, a 38-year-old electronic engineer. “I don’t take my daughter out as much and I don’t want her to see so many police in the streets,” she adds.

“I feel disappointed and depressed. I don’t want an unstable country . . . but I cannot tolerate the continuation of this government.” [continued…]

In Iran, family members wait and worry outside Evin Prison

The mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters wait.

They sip tea, amble around, look at their watches and stare at the posted lists of names, about 700 or 800 of them.

They arrived early outside Evin Prison, the notorious complex of buildings in northern Tehran where most of the Iranians arrested in the recent unrest have been locked up. [continued…]

Iran supreme leader’s son seen as power broker with big ambitions

There are few anecdotes about him, and pictures, at least ones that have appeared in public, are scarce. But Mojtaba Khamenei, the son of Iran’s supreme leader, wields considerable power and is a key figure in orchestrating the crackdown against anti-government protesters, analysts say.

The younger Khamenei operates tucked behind an elaborate security structure, an overlapping world that stretches from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard corps to the motorcycle-riding Basiji militiamen.

Analysts and former dissidents describe him as the gatekeeper for his father, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a reclusive son whose political instincts were sharpened in a post-revolutionary Iran where affiliations with security and intelligence services were just as important as Islamic ideology. [continued…]

Israeli activist on West Bank says, I identify with Tehran protesters trying to change their country

There is a minority in Israel that is willing to risk life and limb to stand up to the occupation at its core. Multiple times a week, groups of Israelis venture through checkpoints into the West Bank in order to meet with Palestinian counterparts and help them maintain the basic necessities of livelihood and hold on to what little land they still legally own. We are continually attacked by settlers and harassed by Israeli authorities, which try to restrict our efforts and often use excessive force. Despite the constant obstacles and fear of arrest, court dates and injury, we continue to fight the occupation with nonviolence.

As an Israeli actively contesting the overt and covert policies of my government, I have been struck with a feeling of familiarity and identification with the events that have been unfolding in Iran. The images of young people flooding the streets, confronting the authorities and standing up for the rule of law is similar to the Israelis who confront the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. I see students in Tehran, of the same age as myself, using twitter and blogs to communicate information from the ground in the face of great censorship. I have been watching the YouTube videos from the front line and it conjures up the same feelings as the videos that we are making in the West Bank. It is a different situation in Tehran but one cannot ignore the common determination to challenge governmental policies, take risks and get the word out. In both countries, the only way to do that is to make your presence known in the most corporeal way. [continued…]

Open letter of support to the demonstrators in Iran

Needless to say it is up to the people of Iran to determine their own political course. Foreign observers inspired by the courage of those demonstrating in Iran this past week are nevertheless entitled to point out that a government which claims to represent the will of its people can only do so if it respects the most basic preconditions for the determination of such a will: the freedom of the people to assemble, unhindered, as an inclusive collective force; the capacity of the people, without restrictions on debate or access to information, to deliberate, decide and implement a shared course of action.

Years of foreign-sponsored ‘democracy promotion’ in various parts of the world have helped to spread a well-founded scepticism about civic movements which claim some sort of direct democratic legitimacy. But the principle itself remains as clear as ever: only the people themselves can determine the value of such claims. We the undersigned call on the government of Iran to take no action that might discourage such determination. [continued…]

Baghdad bombing kills at least 78, injures 145

A bomb in a sprawling Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad killed at least 78 people Wednesday and wounded 145, highlighting the danger of Iraq slipping back into violence after the deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave its cities — now less than a week away.

It was unclear who was responsible for the bomb, which was hidden in a motorcycle with a vegetable cart attached. Some blamed Sunni Muslim insurgents with Al Qaeda in Iraq or remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, but others raised the possibility that the bombing was the result of disputes among Shiite factions. [continued…]

Stand firm on settlements

Rightly or wrongly, Obama has made the settlement issue a test of his credibility, and if he backs down then all the progress he has made will wash away instantly. That makes this a pivotal moment, whether or not an Obama administration focused on Iran wants it to be one. Most Palestinians, with their well-earned skepticism of American policy, expect Obama to back down. Most Israelis probably do as well. And that would be tragic, because without much publicity Obama’s pressure has already started generating some important results on the ground — not just Netanyahu’s carefully hedged uttering of an emasculated two state formula, but the significant easing of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, the lifting of some of the more ludicrous parts of the blockade of Gaza, the release of Hamas prisoners (including its Parliamentarians) by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and reports that the Egyptians are planning an unveiling of a Hamas-Fatah unity government agreement on July 7. [continued…]

Palestinian groups round up rivals

On June 14, Fatah and Hamas, the estranged main Palestinian factions, seemingly moved a step closer to reconciliation when representatives met in Ramallah and Gaza City and agreed to begin releasing prisoners held by both sides.

But 10 days later, with a security sweep in the West Bank that netted more than 100 Hamas members, and the closing of a Gaza newspaper and the arrest of its editor, the rivals appear instead to have taken two strides backward.

These developments do not bode well for a happy conclusion to the Egyptian-mediated unity talks, for which exasperated Egyptian officials have set a July 7 deadline. Officials from both factions, as well as independent observers, agree that successful intra-Palestinian reconciliation cannot be achieved if the prisoner issue is not successfully resolved. [continued…]

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