Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yesterday In Iran

Image credit: .faramaz

It looks like the crackdown promised by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has begun. Al Jazeera reports today:

Iran's state media has said that at least 13 people were killed on Saturday as police and pro-government militia clashed with protesters gathering over the disputed presidential election.

Tehran Clashes 'Left 13 Dead'

The pictures that appeared yesterday at .faramaz's Flickr page, which is where I found all of the images that appear in this article, would seem to confirm this. There are no large crowd shots. There are, however, shots that illustrate this statement from the Al Jazeera article:

The street appeared to be largely calm on Sunday, with security forces preventing people from gathering in groups.

A number of water cannon were in place on Revolution Square which leads to Azadi avenue, while police and pro-government militia dressed in full riot gear moved about on motorbikes.

"I think the clashes have taken their toll on the people who took to the streets," Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran, said.

Tehran Clashes 'Left 13 Dead'

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the foreign spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Iranian opposition leader, defended the actions of the protesters.

"These people are in the streets to say 'We don't want atomic bombs, we want democracy'," he told Al Jazeera from Paris.

Witnesses said that dozens of people were hospitalised after being beaten by police and the pro-government Basiji militia.

Tehran Clashes 'Left 13 Dead'

The crackdown has begun, as the BBC confirms. It looks like how Iran chooses to respond in the next few days will determine whether its aspirations for freedom will come true, or be put on hold for a few more years. It appears that Iran will get there eventually, though. As the BBC's Hugh Sykes put it:

There is a velvet rebellion taking place. It is not a revolution yet - but it could evolve into one if the Supreme Leader and his associates do not listen to the people.

I heard with my own ears dozens of peaceful, young Iranians saying they wanted change.

Sixty percent of the population are under 30 years old. They have no memory of the Islamic revolution in 1979. Many of them use the internet and watch satellite TV. Their window on the wider world is irreversibly open.

Freedom Craving 'Fuelling Iran Unrest'

The stakes are being raised in Iran, as Press TV reports:

Iranian security forces have arrested five close relatives of Iran's Expediency Council head Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, including his daughter Faezeh Hashemi.

Last night, five members of the former president's family were arrested, Iran Newspaper on Network reported.

Five 'Hashemi-Rafsanjani' Relatives Arrested

All but Rafsanjani's daughter have since been released, but the implications are clear. The charges may or may not be valid, but the Iranian government now holds a close relative of the man who heads the country's leading arbitration council, and has shown it has no compunctions about holding more.

It should also be noted that the user name associated with the .faramaz Flickr site that has been providing these images is "fhashemi". Whether that user name is in any way related to Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter who was arrested, I do not know. Nevertheless, it may not be coincidence.

Meanwhile, President Obama weighed in again yesterday on Iran, as quoted by CNN:

"If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion."

Obama quoted slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

"I believe that," Obama's statement said. "The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian people's belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness."

Obama to Iran: 'The whole world is watching'

Coming from a President who has abjectly refused to prosecute anyone in the previous Administration for its lying to justify the war in Iraq, or for kidnapping and torturing innocent people, nor even allowed a full airing of the evidence, this can't be all that much of a rebuke. The Republicans criticizing Obama's response as not sufficiently moralistic are so divorced from reality that they ought to be embarrassed, however. In many cases the same ones who gave full-throated support to both the Iraq War and the torture that helped justify it.

Still, the world is watching, and we are remembering. Iran's leaders will wear the disgrace of their actions as surely as our leaders will for theirs.

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh has some harsh words for the U.S. State Department's diplomacy blog, Dipnote, and its coverage (perhaps I should say, non-coverage) of the Iran situation:

Considering the story is unfolding online through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the blogs, it does render judgment on Dipnote. It’s irrelevant. Because as human rights violations play out in Iran, with Pres. Obama offering his strongest statement addressing this subject to date, which I posted earlier, Secretary Clinton’s “official” State Dept. blog remains silent on all things Iran.

While Dipnote Slept

Of course, this is something of a side issue, but as a measure of how effectively our government is using the Internet to disseminate information, this doesn't bode well. Reading Taylor's blog, Juan Cole's, or even this one would provide a reader far more information than the State Department's diplomacy blog has on the situation. It makes you wonder what their purpose was in starting it.


Taylor Marsh said...

Nice round up. That first picture is one of the photos that sent chills down my spine. Still does.

I also appreciate that you mentioned the State Dept issue. As I said in ending the saga with snark, though it's not a central issue at all, considering there is absolutely no info at all in any post on the subject of Iran, your very last line in this post really is the issue.

Cujo359 said...

Hi Taylor,

One thing I didn't write, but could have I suppose, is that the last day's pictures from Iran look much darker than the earlier ones. No big crowd shots anymore, just people being harassed, or worse, by police and government thugs.

In my time with the government, I saw countless projects that, even though well-conceived, turned out badly. They tend to do this either because the people who are responsible for doing the job have had it forced upon them, the leaders didn't support it, or because the principle people doing it were incompetent. I suspect at some time in the future we'll find one or the other is true in the case of Dipnote.