Iran – Death Counts, Voter Analysis & Mousavi’s Credentials
Firstly, updates on what’s going on.
Death counts, or the war over numbers and statistics, is shaping to be a key feature of this campaign. When organisations providing statistics are so obviously delineated along reformist/conservative lines, it’s difficult to know who to trust. Iranian state television were reporting 8 dead, including basij members, but an Iran-based NGO called “Iran Human Rights” reports 32 dead today, including the murder of a 10-year old girl (also confirmed by several other sources). This statistic is also reported by TehranBureau (same source), as well as specified reports of deaths (including in Orumiyeh, a city in Azerbaijan province). Do you trust the state-run media apparatus or do you trust the liberal/reformist NGOs/protesters on Twitter? Tough call. I will attempt to report both sides if I can.
As for arrests, a source inside the capital’s Evin Prison, told LA Times that upward of 1,500 people, mostly young men, have been arrested during the clashes and roughed up in prison before being let go with warnings.
Some more inspirational protest footage to show you what these people are fighting for, I believe this video is from yesterday’s march.
Some doubt has been thrown on reports that Hamas & Hizbullah have fighters in Iran, treat these reports with caution as they are far from confirmed (though several tweeps have been claiming that they are being yelled at in Arabic and broken Farsi by supposed basij).
Meanwhile, the supposed recount by the Guardian Council is under way, and reports are coming in that the election is being stolen all over again (though none of the protesters are having a bar of it anyway). Michael J. Totten for Commentary Magazine:
Fars [Iranian state News Agency] says the “recount” in the Kurdish province of Kermanshah shows “no irregularity.”Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has almost no support among Kurds whatsoever. Claiming he “won” 70 percent in Kermanshah is as outlandish as Dick Cheney winning San Francisco and Berkeley in a landslide.
The British Ahwazi Friendship Society has a further in-depth analysis of ethnic minority voting and turnout patterns and political positions.
The Abu Dhabi based National newspaper still has a reporter on the streets, something to follow for sure, and a well-written article:
At night, families in the residential suburbs of Tehran and other towns open their doors to young Mousavi supporters fleeing truncheon-wielding basijis, members of a highly ideological militia who prowl in search of “hooligans” – as the pro-Ahmadinejad media calls his opponents – to beat up. For the parents of young men who go out at night to burn rubbish bins, shout slogans and sound their car horns, their children’s defiance is a source of worry, but also of pride. Many people have taken to wearing black, to mourn their “stolen” election-and, more recently, the lives that have been lost to Basij gunfire. Mousavi’s supporters tie a green ribbon around their wrist – Mousavi is a seyyed, a descendent of the Prophet, and green is the colour of Islam. They hold up two fingers in the V-for-victory sign, and sing old revolutionary songs. These Iranians have a venerable culture of resistance to draw on, for their country’s intermittent struggle for increased democracy started way before the 1979 revolution, at the beginning of the 19th century.
TehranBureau casts further doubt on the election results, as well as the US poll conducted (on May 20, before election campaigning had even started) that suggested Ahmadinejad may have won fair & square. TB also summarises some of the main arguments so far levelled in favour of the election fraud theory.
Robert Tait, for the Guardian, says that some Iranian protesters are targeting Khamenei, as well as Ahmadinejad, and in Khamenei’s staunchly sticking to Ahmadinejad, referring to him as “the elected president” in public appearances, he may be losing ground. The stance of reformists (ie. Khatami, Rafsanjani, et al) is already clear but Tait rightly points to the stance of key conservatives shifting as the key to the battle ahead:
Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, and Mohsen Rezai, a former revolutionary guard commander and the election’s fourth candidate, have suddenly started playing their cards close to their chest, despite initially accepting Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
Larijani, also considered close to Khamenei, even condemned a brutal raid by security forces against students at Tehran University on Sunday, ordering a parliamentary inquiry into the incident. It was the tell-tale sign of a cautious man hedging his bets in a highly volatile and unpredictable field.
Robert F. Worth, for The New York Times, talks up Mousavi’s liberal credentials. A lot has been said recently about whether Mousavi represents true reform for Iran or whether he’s much the same, a lot has been said about his role as PM during the Iran-Iraq war. Worth argues that proof of Mousavi’s quiet, liberal pragmatism lies in his personal life:
Although he is deeply religious, Mr. Moussavi (the name is also often rendered in English as Mir Hossein Mousavi) appears to hold relatively liberal social views. His wife is a well-known professor of political science who has campaigned alongside him, often giving speeches and news conferences independently. When they were younger, he was sometimes introduced as “the husband of Zahra Rahnavard.” His wife promised that if he was elected, he would advance women’s rights and appoint “at least two or three women” to the cabinet.
His oldest daughter is a nuclear physicist. The youngest prefers not to wear the Islamic chador, and her parents do not mind, the relative said. “There has never been any compulsion in the family,” the relative added.
It appears to me, from all I’ve read about Mousavi so far, that he is a quiet pragmatist, he does not have the conviction or charisma of Khatami, but I think he has proven his liberal and reformist credentials, particularly in his private life. The fact that he started the nuclear program and continues to support it should not count against him, 80%+ of Iranians support it and so would I if I was Iranian. I’m sure he is also stridently anti-Israel but so is most of the Middle East (understandably so).
The Economist also takes on Mousavi and is a little less flattering but they do sum up the realities of the matter rather well:
The current battle is over power and control of the electoral system—the clerics have it and the people want it. The specifics of governing will be worked out later, should the people succeed.
Abbas Milani, an Iran expert, takes an interesting track for The New Republic, arguing that if Khamenei resorts to using the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Revolutionary Guard as they are simply known) then all Hell could break loose politically for him, thus leaving him stuck between a rock and a hard place:
It is difficult to imagine the IRGC quelling the current protests and then simply turning power over to the clergy. If a political compromise cannot be reached between the regime and the opposition, and the IRGC is used in suppressing the protests, its commanders would likely expect a bigger role in the government. It is even conceivable that faced with irresolution among the clergy, they will act on their own, and establish a military dictatorship that uses Islam as its ideological veneer–similar to Pakistan under Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.
Khamenei thus finds himself in a difficult situation as a result of his incautious gambit with Ahmadinejad. Whether he gives more power to the IRGC or to the opposition, there is little chance that he will emerge from the current crisis with his supremacy intact.