Update: Iran Releases 140 Prisoners

The Iranian authorities have announced they have released 140 prisoners from Evin Prison in northern Tehran, reports Reuters. Parliament official Kazem Jalali says that 150 prisoners, arrested during the uprising after the June 12th Presidential election, still remain behind bars.

Ayatollah Khamenei has also ordered the closure of a detainment center in Kahrizak after it failed to “preserve the rights of detainees”. Whether the prisoners in that prison were released or transferred elsewhere remains to be seen.

Iran Global Day of Action a Resounding Success

Protests in more than 80 countries, with numbers ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand, took to the streets on Saturday to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against the government’s brutal crackdown this summer. Among the 1,000 people in Amsterdam was Iran’s Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who led the crowd in chanting: “We want to live in peace. Long live peace”.

The event will hopefully force the Iranian authorities to display greater transparency regarding election results and provide those imprisoned with their human rights.

“Our message is very simple,” [Aaron Rhodes, an event organizer] said. “We’re supporting civil and human rights in Iran and we’re calling upon the government in Iran to cease their abuse of power, cease the imprisonment of innocent people and the torture of detainees and stop the violence against people who are simply trying to exercise their internationally protected human right to peacefully protest.”

Back in Tehran, opposition leaders Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Khatami urged the country’s clerics to intervene to help stop the spread of “oppression” by the authorities. They accused the government of “savagery” and that its “interrogation methods are a reminder of the dark era of the Shah”, who ruled until 1979.

Below are some videos from the various rallies across the world:


Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Ahmedinejad Blames West for Election Unrest

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a speech on state television on Tuesday insisting it due to the meddling of Western nations that violence broke out following the June 12th presidential election. “Our arrogant enemies tried to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to undermine these great elections. The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful. What they did was very wrong, and some of our people were, unfortunately, hurt.”

20 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election results with over 100 people injured and thousands detained. Opposition leaders, including Mir Hussein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, have released a statement saying such a crackdown would not help his reputation amongst the people. Mousavi also has called on the EU to not recognize Ahmedinejad as a legitimate leader.

In his first public appearance in over a week, Mousavi’s comments suggested that the opposition will now be taking its fight off the streets and into the courtroom– and understandably so. Due to the large-scale crackdown and fear of the government’s seemingly indiscriminate arrests, protests numbered have begun dwindling.

Ahmedinejad continued to dismiss charges of election fraud, stating that, “the people who claimed there was fraud didn’t even have one document” to prove it, that “we have no expectations from

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a speech on state television on Tuesday insisting it due to the meddling of Western nations that violence broke out following the June 12th presidential election. “Our arrogant enemies tried to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to undermine these great elections. The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful. What they did was very wrong, and some of our people were, unfortunately, hurt.”

20 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election results with over 100 people injured and thousands detained. Opposition leaders, including Mir Hussein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, have released a statement saying such a crackdown would not help his reputation amongst the people. Mousavi also has called on the EU to not recognize Ahmedinejad as a legitimate leader.

Ahmedinejad continued to dismiss charges of election fraud, stating that, “the people who claimed there was fraud didn’t even have one document” to prove it, that “we have no expectations from normal people, but we didn’t expect politicians to question this great epic.”

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Iranian Journalists Detained in Unknown Location since June

UPDATE: 22 OF 25 IRANIAN NEWSPAPER STAFFERS FREED

The Committee to Protest Journalists published a statement today that said 22 of the 25 journalists that worked on the staff of Kalameh Sabz have been released. According to their website, “Alireza Hosseini Beheshti, manager of Kalameh Sabz, told the site that three editorial staffers remain behind bars. Over the weekend, authorities also released Life.com photographer Amir Sadeghi, who was arrested about a week earlier.”

Iran’s presidential election saw a government clampdown not only on protestors’ right to express themselves, but the media’s right to, as well. Currently, dozens of journalists – some who also campaigned for either Mir Hossein Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, both candidates in the presidential election, have been detained in the past fortnight with their whereabouts mostly unknown.

For example, around 20 of 25 employees of the newspaper Kalameh Sabz arrested at their office in Haft Tir Square on June 22nd are still detained and their whereabouts remain unknown. Kalameh Sabz is a newspaper established by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in 2009, and which has not been published since June 14th.

Amnesty International calls for the immediate release of journalists arrested since June 12th who are at risk of torture in detention.

Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui released the following statement:

“If nothing else, the authorities must immediately disclose the whereabouts of these journalists, ensure that they are not tortured or otherwise ill-treated and allow their families and lawyers access to them. Unless the authorities lift all unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression – which includes the right of journalists to report on events – and release all the journalists arrested, we can only assume they are trying to hide evidence of abuse and further silence any critical voice.”

Take action to help release human rights defenders, journalists and others detained in Iran!

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

"Do Not Be Afraid" is One Word in Farsi

Of all the players in what has become Iran’s bloodiest uprising in 30 years, few have captured the world’s attention like the Iranian women have. It began with Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi. An professor at Tehran University, she was the first candidate’s spouse to campaign publicly on behalf of her husband, and as a result, her rallies drew thousands decked out in green. Rahnavard was even nicknamed the Michelle Obama of the Middle East. Post-election, she is still campaigning fiercely against the current Iranian regime, only this time for the release of detainees and to allow legal protests to continue.

Since then, women of all ages have been turning up at the protests against the contested election results. One 19 year old girl told CNN that she was beaten by paramilitary forces and forced to give them her camera’s memory card—something she stealthily got around by giving them an empty card instead. “They were hitting everyone, and everywhere was fire because of the tear gas they throw at us,” she said. “There were a lot of other women there. We gave the boys the stones because we can’t throw them so far. We gave them the stones, and we said the slogans.”

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama acknowledged the role of women in the Iranian protests. “We have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets,” Obama said.

Perhaps the most iconic woman of this struggle is now Neda Agha-Soltan, the non-political, 26 year old music student who was shot to death as she stepped out of her car to get some air. The graphic video of her death has already been viewed on YouTube over 200,000 times, in which onlookers tell her “do not be afraid”. She is now referred to as the new voice and symbol of the revolution.

Melody Moezzi, an Iranian American author, went on CNN and emotionally declared that Neda’s death has made an enemy out of all the Iranian people for the Supreme Leader and his leadership. “Natersid, natersid—do not be afraid—is one word in Farsi. That word has become so powerful. She’s a martyr; she’s going straight to heaven. God is on her side, we are on her side.”

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Iranian Protesters Stay One Step Ahead in the Cyber World

In the face of a tightening government grip on all things viral, Iranians have managed to circumvent the communication restrictions laid upon them to tell the world their story in ways previously thought to be reserved only for social networking. For anyone who has so much as glanced at the news during the past week, Twitter has been the name of the game for Iranian protesters.

With a limitation of 140 characters per post, only the most pertinent information is tweeted—rally locations, real-time updates, and details only those on the ground can see. While sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked off before, Iranians have continued to gain access to them via proxies, servers that allow users to access another site through them. Proxy sites are continuously being updated in an effort to stay one step ahead of the Iranian government’s filtering apparatus.

The Iranian government’s strategy for blocking the flow of information appears to be two-fold. Foreign news services have all been asked to leave (just this morning, the BBC reporter Jon Leyne, one of the few reporters left, was given a similar request) and the internet speed has been slowed to a snail’s pace. According to the Wall Street Journal, limiting bandwidth in this manner is meant to discourage and frustrate users so much that they’ll give up.

This strategy is, for now, not working. Iranians have harnessed the internet in ingenious ways—from their Twitter posts to uploaded YouTube videos. All major news networks have caught on to the phenomenon, allowing the messages coming out of Iran to truly reach the entire world.

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Protests and Crackdowns Spread Throughout Iran

There is a misconception that protests against Iran’s contested election results have been confined to Tehran. That is not the case. Although the largest protests have indeed been taking place in Tehran, Iranians in many other cities and towns have been taking to the streets. Unfortunately, the crackdown carried out by Iranian authorities has correspondingly extended to every corner of the country.

Mir Hossein Mousavi hails from Azerbaijan, in the northern part of Iran. The capital of Azerbaijan province, Tabriz, has seen some of the most severe crackdowns.  Seventeen political activists including those associated with the Nehzat-e Azadi (Freedom Movement) were detained on Monday night after they held a peaceful protest in Abresan Square in Tabriz. Security forces entered the dormitories at Tabriz University and detained ten students who had been involved in demonstrations. Student leader Amir Mardani and Dr. Ghaffari Farzadi, a leading member of the Nehzat-e Azadi and a lecturer at Tabriz University, were among those detained.

In the city of Oroumiye, local media reported on Tuesday that two people had been killed and hundreds more detained in a crackdown on about 3,000 people protesting in Imam Street.

In Shiraz, southern Iran, security forces used tear gas as they forced their way into a library at Shiraz University. Reports say that several students were beaten and around 100 were detained. Unconfirmed reports suggest that one person may have been killed. The chancellor of that university, Mohammadhadi Sadeghi, resigned on Tuesday in protest.

Meanwhile, in Mashhad, in the northeast, there were further reports of security forces attacking students and in Zahedan, in Iran’s southeast, two students are among at least three activists who have been detained.

In one particularly ominous piece of news, Reuters reported that Mohammad Reza Habibi, the public prosecutor in the central province of Esfahan, had warned demonstrators that they could be charged with engaging in “Mohareb” or “Enmity with God”—a crime punishable by death according to Iranian law. It was not clear if his warning applied only to Esfahan, where there have been violent clashes, or the country as a whole.

Protests are expected to continue today as a large opposition rally has been called. Large crowds can also be expected to congregate for Friday prayers on the following day. Amnesty International has called for the Iranian authorities to refrain from using violence against peaceful protesters and to release all those detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

Solidarity (and Suspension) on the Soccer Field

June 19 Update: Any soccer players that were seen wearing the green wristbands have been suspended for “government interference”.

The Iranian soccer team was seen clad with green wristbands during their World Cup qualifying match against South Korea.

Green is the signature color of the mass Iranian movement for former presidential candidate Mir Hussein Musavi. Daily protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, numbering in the tens of thousands, have become virtual seas of green–with participants sporting green-colored headbands, shirts, and posters.

While there is no confirmation that the soccer team wore the wristbands in support of Musavi, it is not customary for players to wear wristbands at all.

Soccer has long been the sport of choice in Iran by both men and women. There’s a fantastic Iranian film called “Offside” about a group of women who try to sneak into a soccer match (interestingly enough, a match that determines whether Iran will compete in the World Cup) dressed up as men. It is directed by Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most influential and acclaimed directors. NPR has a great review on their website here, and you can also see a trailer on YouTube. Check it out!

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post