Iran Elections – New Developments
As we enter a new week, developments in Iran are getting more gripping.
TehranBureau (the website is currently down due to what appears to be a massive surge in traffic) reported yesterday some fairly huge news, namely that Moussavi’s appeal to the mullahs in the Holy City of Qom had, to some degree, succeeded in getting them to pronounce the election results as against Islam.
The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid.
Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity.
Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin)
While these clerics are already known to be progressive and against the regime, the fact that they would take a clear side on such an important issue adds weight to the argument and creates a massive schism in Iranian politics, the reverberations of which will be felt for a long time to come whether this wave of protests succeeds or not. This adds weight to the theory that a civil war of sorts within the clerical establishment is inevitable.
On the streets, the protests show no sign of letting up as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators packed into Azaadi Square in Tehran today to stand with Mousavi and protest what they view to be clearly stolen elections. There have been several reports on twitter that these protests turned violent, that shots have been fired and that people have been injured, below is a twitpic taken by someone at the rally
I have to say that the defiance of these Iranian protesters in the face of such danger is inspiring. Raids were conducted on Tehran University last night and other university campuses in other cities with a lot of damage done to rooms, computers and people. Hundreds of people have already been arrested and, if this protest movement should not be successful, the fate of hundreds (maybe thousands) of others will hang in the balance.
In response to the attack, as reported on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, 119 members of the Tehran University faculty staff have resigned en masse:
119 members of Tehran University faculty have resigned en-masse as a protest to the attack on Tehran University dorms last night. Among them is Dr Jabbedar-Maralani, who is known as the father of Iranian electronic engineering. They have asked for the resignation of Farhad Rahbari the appointed president of Tehran University, for his incompetence in defending the University’s dignity and student lives. [Daily Dish]
SMS, Facebook and YouTube remain down since election day in Iran, however Twitter is going as strong as ever. #IranElection has been the top trending topic for days straight now with Tehran, Azadi & Mousavi also all trending as I write this blogpost. This level of exposure is fairly unprecedented and I herald the commitment of twitter users to this movement as tweeters can be a lot more fickle (trending topics really do come & go on a daily basis). Twitter has also seen the spread of hacking campaigns against Iranian websites, including the state-television providers, Ahmadinejad’s website & Khamenei’s website, all of which have been down at regular intervals because of the sustained attack.
Demonstrations have not been limited to Tehran either. I’ve heard of things going on in Tabriz, Rasht & Esfahan at the very least. National Strike action is planned for June 16th and calls for protests have come from well-established figures such as Mousavi himself and the wife of Rafsanjani (as Juan Cole put it, this is akin to Barbara Bush calling for street protests in DC).
The reaction from leaders around the world has been mixed and cautious. The usual suspects immediately congratulated Ahmadinejad on his victory, them being Sheikh Thani of Qatar, Bashar al-Assad, Hizbulllah, Hamas & Hugo Chavez. The rest have been very cautious, many in the West, while not outright calling the election rigged, are claiming to be strongly concerned about the reaction to the protests.
It seems everyone in the world is still holding their breath waiting to see what happens and whether this election really has been a selection as so many pundits have stated. To be clear, voices (such as Robert Fisk) have come out against the election-rigging theory, but most of their arguments fall along the lines of trumpeting Ahmadinejad’s popularity in rural parts of Iran and poorer parts of Tehran, this may be true, however it is not evidence of a free & fair election. The analysis in support of election-rigging seems far more nuanced and well-thought-out to me personally.
Henry Newman (for the Guardian) sums up the most plausible-sounding line of reasoning, given what we know at the moment, to come out of the analysis so far:
Perhaps the most reasonable reading of yesterday’s story (in the light of currently available information) appears to be that forces loyal to Ahmedinejad succeeded in pressurising the release of falsified results. As the real numbers began to come in, Mousavi’s office was apparently informed by the interior ministry that he had secured a large margin of victory, and so he declared success. Soon, however, in the face of severe pressure from his rivals, the electoral commission released falsified numbers suggesting a landslide victory for Ahmedinejad. In the meantime, in what looked very much like a pre-planned operation, security services had already blockaded the interior ministry and the offices of the reformist candidates, and set up positions at nodal points across the capital.
Only time is going to tell how this will end, in the meantime, we all sit with baited breath.