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Iran Election Live-Blogging (Wednesday June 17)

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This is the archive of my Iran election live-blogging from Sunday, June 14. For the latest updates, click here.

11:40 PM ET -- Tear down this cyberwall. Nicholas Kristof's Thursday column:

If President Obama wants to support democratic movements on a shoestring, he should support an "Internet freedom initiative" pending in Congress. This would include $50 million in the appropriations bill for these censorship-evasion technologies. The 21st-century equivalent of the Berlin wall is a cyberbarrier, and we can help puncture it.

Mr. Zhou, the son of a Chinese army general, said that he and his colleagues began to develop such software after the 1999 Chinese government crackdown on Falun Gong (which the authorities denounce as a cult). One result was a free software called Freegate, small enough to carry on a flash drive. It takes a surfer to an overseas server that changes I.P. addresses every second or so, too quickly for a government to block it, and then from there to a banned site.

Freegate amounts to a dissident's cyberkit. E-mails sent with it can be encrypted. And after a session is complete, a press of a button eliminates any sign that it was used on that computer.

11:05 PM ET -- Solidarity. Via reader Toni, hundreds turned out in New York City tonight for an Iran rally. And John Legend tweets: "Sending love to the Iranian people and to all those who seek freedom around the world."


10:45 -- The revolution will be faxed. A valuable service being organized by Eric Purdy and his crew at the University of Chicago:

We have set up a website to receive faxes from Iran, which we will post online. Hopefully this will be another way for information about what's going on in Iran to make its way out of the country.

Please disseminate this fax number as widely as possible: 001 773 321 0202. We will post any faxes we receive at iranfax.org.

10:06 PM ET -- "Why would our kids break our cars?" Just after finishing the note directly below, I received this email from reader Keivan -- one sign, at least, of people seeing through the "rioter" PR strategy:

this is a video that show the aftermath of security forces breaking into a residential parking. the camera man keeps asking the women who did this, and she explains that it was the special security forces. he asks "so it wasn't the protesters?" she explains why would our kids break our cars? she says at least 3 or 4 times that it was the security force that broke in and smashed all the windows.

this happened in saadat abad, which is north east of tehran, I grow up in that neighberhood!


9:37 PM ET -- Connecting the dots: the government's "rioter" PR strategy. Khamenei's government is fighting a multi-pronged war: it is trying to restrict communication among its restless citizens, trying to suppress media coverage of its crackdowns, trying to fight off challenges to its power from dissident clerics -- and, very importantly, it is trying to persuade other Iranians to turn against the group of activist reformists who have been showing up in the streets the last several days.

So what's the government's strategy to achieve that last goal? As an Iranian-American friend pointed out, It's becoming more clear. We see state-run TV repeatedly interviewing shopkeepers whose stores have been damaged. We see the plainclothes Basijis and even riot police committing indiscriminate acts of vandalism -- on houses, cars, and businesses (which of course the media never shows). We see top government officials refer to the demonstrators as "rioters."

The PR campaign, in other words, is to convince the broad swath of the public -- the people who may sympathize with the Green Uprising but aren't yet motivated enough to join it -- that the Green movement isn't political at all. It's merely a group of hooligans who are causing chaos and committing petty crimes for the thrill of it.

Whether the broader Iranian population ends up believing this line may determine whether Ahmadinejad and Khamenei maintain their grip on power.

9:25 PM ET -- Why the arrests may be futile. Robert Mackey makes a crucial observation:

As we look ahead to what is likely to be another dramatic day of protest in Iran, it is worth noting what The Guardian's Ian Black said in an audio interview this morning, after he returned from Tehran. Asked "who's leading the protesters," Mr. Black said that "it is in effect rather amorphous and leaderless." He said that many of the rallies seemed to be "pretty much happening spontaneously without anyone organizing them." As the Iranian government continues to try to stop the protests by arresting reformist political leaders and intellectuals, the opposition's ability to keep mobilizing seemingly spontaneous rallies could be crucial to its success.

8:40 PM ET -- Cell phones were shut down today. It sometimes gets confusing figuring out which technologies and websites are being censored or blocked at any given time in Iran. On Wednesday, though, we saw something unique -- a widespread termination of cell phone service.

Despite all the buzz around Twitter, that service is only used by a small minority of Iranians. Cell phones, on the other hand, are ubiquitous. The fact that Iran's government waited this long before wiping out the cells indicates how seriously they considered it. And, one imagines, even if you're an Iranian not actively taking part in the demonstrations, it's got to feel very frustrating -- very repressive -- to have such a basic convenience stripped away by the government. It will be interesting to see whether this particular technology crackdown ends up mobilizing a broader swath of Iranians against the state.

4:43 PM ET -- World Cup update. Iran is out. (Via emailers David and Rajeev.)

4:39 PM ET -- Interior Ministry official denies ballot access. This BBC Persia article, translated from Farsi by a reader, quotes the Interior Ministry's head of elections saying he has denied the request for ballot access made by Mohsen Rezai (one of the two other candidates in the presidential race besides Ahmadinejad and Mousavi).

In a TV interview, after being pressed by reporters, the senior election official said he would not make any details of the voter fraud probe available, and that "the laws do not have any provisions" for Rezai's request.

4:21 PM ET -- "I am convinced that they just pulled it out of their hats." Professor Farideh Farhi, "whose decades of studying Iran has included poring over data from Iranian elections," tells the Christian Science Monitor: "They certainly didn't pull it out of ballot [boxes] or even stuffed ballots, they just made up numbers and are putting it out"

3:54 PM ET -- Pletka under fire. Danielle Pletka, one the more audacious neocons working at the American Enterprise Institute, published a New York Times piece today blowing off the Iranian reformist efforts. "Five days later, the uprising is little more than a symbolic protest, crushed by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps," she wrote.

Andrew Sullivan takes her to task here. And one reader, with the Twitter account @khoobehi, even got her to back down a bit.

khoobehi: WTF??: "5 days later, the uprising is little more than a symbolic protest, crushed by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps." your NYT oped: agree about coup but disagree in that it is failing. also crckdwn is basij not rev guard. some revguard helping ppl.

Pletka: sorry perhaps unfair but fundamentally unsure reins of power will B retaken by the ppl. tell me, wht does victory look like?

khoobehi: 2 many ppl to crackdown IMO. khamenei grtly weakened. future gov oblig 2 respect ppl. btw diff POV but enjoy yr column.

Pletka: hre's my fear: victory looks lk status quo ante. Iranians still enslaved under IRI tyranny. hence "symbolic". Is victory in sight?

3:52 PM ET -- Iran events near you. Via reader Anna, you can find them here, and more U.S.-based rallies here.

3:16 PM ET -- Silence. The best video from today's march yet, via reader Alex:


3:14 PM ET -- The "recount" kicks off. "The Fars news agency also reported that the partial recount of votes ordered Tuesday by the Guardian Council, the 12-member body of jurists which supervises elections and holds veto power over legislation in Iran, had begun. A recount of votes in Kermanshah, a Kurdish province, showed that 'there has been no irregularity,' the news agency reported."

3:09 PM ET -- A few days ago, I linked to an excellent interview conducted by the Nation's Robert Dreyfuss, titled, "Iran's Ex-Foreign Minister Yazdi: It's A Coup."

And now comes news, via email:

Ibrahim Yazdi was arrested at 3:00 pm today in the Pars Hospital in Tehran. He was hospitalized yesterday because of some health complications. He and close to about 100 others were taken from the hospital to Evin prison.

2:55 PM ET -- Iran summons ambassador over "interventionist" U.S. statements. "The Iranian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Tehran, to complain of 'interventionist' statements by American officials, state-run media reported. ... The Iranian Foreign Ministry officials, without being specific about which comments they were reacting to, expressed displeasure, the official IRNA news agency reported. The Canadian chargé d'affaires was also summoned."

2:51 PM ET -- Iran prosecutor warns of death penalty for violence. The New York Times reports:

The sense of threat against the opposition was growing. Reuters reported that Mohammadreza Habibi, the senior prosecutor in the central province of Isfahan, had warned demonstrators that they could be executed under Islamic law.

"We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution," Mr. Habibi said, according to the Fars news agency. It was not clear if his warning applied only to Isfahan or the country as a whole, Reuters said.

2:43 PM ET -- Blocked in Iran. From an extensive report on the state of Internet filtering in Iran published today by OpenNet.net, passed along by reader Chas:

Independent media Web sites offered only in English are inconsistently blocked, though a number of prominent Western news Web sites have been blocked in Iran. The HuffingtonPost and the website for Al-Arabiya (alarabiya.net) are blocked in Iran.

2:33 PM ET -- The comedians of Iran. From reader Justin:

I spoke with my father last night who is [in Iran]... [He] told me the common sentiment among the protestors is that of incredible resolve. He said that from what he's heard, this will not stop until the Ayatollah himself is overthrown.

As he put it, "Even if a million people (Moussavi supporters) die, they will not back down".

And my father being a comedian from day one, also summed up the whole situation very eloquently....."Only in Iran!"

2:18 PM ET -- "Allaho Akbar!" Such haunting video. Midway through, you'll hear a woman's voice, whose words were translated by emailer Lily:

The woman in this video is saying something that really touched me. She is saying that they can take our phones, our internet, all our communication away, but we are showing that by saying "allaho akbar" we can find each other. She ends it my saying that tonight they are crying out to god for help.


The NIAC relays word today from a friend in Iran: "Until it's clear what the fate of the new elections are, we will chant 'Allah Akbar' three times every night - once at 10:00, 11:00, and midnight."

2:15 PM ET -- Cracking down. "Two pro-reform figures, newspaper editor Saeed Laylaz and Hamid Reza Jalaipour, an activist and journalist, were arrested on Wednesday morning, reports said. Mr Laylaz is a political and economic analyst who is often critical of Mr Ahmadinejad and who has often been interviewed by foreign media."

2:07 PM ET -- Hoekstra's tweet. The mockery of Rep. Pete Hoekstra's recent tweet -- "Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House" -- is totally hilarious.

But there's more, this from Texas Republican Rep. John Culberson. These people are truly delusional:

Good to see Iranian people move mountains w social media, shining sunlight on their repressive govt - Texans support their bid for freedom

Oppressed minorities includeHouseRepubs: We are using social media to expose repression such as last night's D clampdown shutting off amends

For more substance, the progressive National Security Network has a new fact sheet out: "Conservatives' Dangerous Iran Response Runs Off the Rails."

1:47 PM ET -- The silent rally. More video from today, via reader Chas -- incredible how quiet the scene is. Half way through, paramilitaries approach, and the crowd sits down, seemingly a non-violent act of resistance.


More from today:


1:28 PM ET -- The letter alleging fraud. Many, many of you have sent along a letter alleging to be a government official admitting that the election was a fraud and presenting the accurate total, with Mousavi ahead. It is a hoax, as Mousavi's official Facebook acknowledges today (in Farsi). I wrote more extensively about the fraud question earlier (12:51 AM) if you're interested.

Also, a quick note about emails. I've been trying to respond to every message I've received over the last few days, but they are coming so fast now that it's grown impossible. Please excuse me if I don't get a chance to reply!

1:19 PM ET -- Good news. The medical student in Iran I referenced below finds his young daughter, who had gone missing in the crowds. The tweets are from over the last hour or so:

are parent you know how hard it is to be away from a injured child

but her life is more important than my life and putting her in dange is not what i want if you
she is very scared now i am sure she hates gunfire and darkness
i just want to hold her again to kiss her forehead ..to be free with her...to see her run free in the park
we students do not chant death to america we want american constitution
ok so i know my daughters safe..

1:12 PM ET -- "Brushwoods and thorns."

In response to Ahmadinejad calling Mousavi supporters "brushwood and thorns" at the victory rally Monday, Iran's most famous classical musician has ordered that Iranian government television/radio never play his music again. Mohammad Reza Shajarian told BBC Persian in an interview:

"Don't broadcast my voice on Seda va Sima [IRIB Music channel] ever again: my voice is like brushwood and thorns, and it will forever remain brushwood and thorns!"

The line has also angered Iran's top conservatives. "Habibollah Askaroladi, a member of Iran's Expediency Council, has said that no person created by God can be called 'brushwood and thorns.' Askaroladi is a member of the central committee of the Islamic Coalition Party, one of the main conservative parties in Iran."

1:09 PM ET -- 32 reported dead. The National Iranian American Council passes on the latest report on casualties by a trusted Iranian human rights organization.

12:35 PM ET -- A child goes missing. Reader Alex sends along a rather heartbreaking series of tweets from tonight by a reliable Twitter user in Iran. He is a medical student whose 3-year-old daughter, apparently while out in the streets with her older brother, gets lost. The stream of tweets extends over several hours. (Note: I earlier wrote that the daughter was 10 years old, a misread on my part.)

My daughter had to cross vali y asr exactly where people were shot I am afraid I am holding her little dress

I am the voice of the students of Iran. This is not right ...it is murder all we want is freedom we do not want violence
She is my life...my daughter is the reason I am a medical student and the reason I fight for justice
My daughter has been bruised by baton I hear also my brother injured by baton and is more injured but I do not know much now
I think basiji have base near her
Thank you very much for support I am worried more now more than three days no sleep daughter injured...I am smoking like chimney
I hear news of rally but I am treating woman and finding my daughter
The pain of not knowing is worse than injury
Using American alcohol on wounds fight infection
Good day for revolution for peoplebad day for family
Some boy has come in he said someone shoot at his he has small wound from baton on eye
I ask him what did you do child he said when someone shoot at you, you shoot them back.
Oh god!
This child is near 14 years... why must kids fight for the mistake of old mullahs?
I have aged 10 year in 3 days
I am not afraid to die for freedom I am afraid to die without getting it for my daughter
We are young// the kids fighting are very young but we our minds are captive to old men in silly dresses
Why should the youth obey the old when their ideas are not our ideas when their actions are violent... this is not Muslim
This is not fair... we are free in our minds let our bodies and our mouths be free to say what we want.... to do what we want
I am afraid most of the world does not care if we are free or slaves
My brother has many friend in regime he should have sent word by now
Saw police wear green scarves riot man was crying
Well I want to find email addresses of doctors and link them too the medic.
Doctors are trying to get to rural areas, as there is less support there
Far as eye can see people in every corner people everywhere...revolution is close to end... Ghandi would be proud
I cannot count the numbers too big
When all these troubles behind us I will get my camera back and go to the park with my daughter

12:28 PM ET -- Khamenei getting more engaged. From the BBC:

Ayatollah Khamenei has not appeared in public since the election results, but now seems to be deeply involved in the search for a solution to the stand-off.

Meeting representatives of the four election candidates, he urged all parties not to agitate their supporters and stir up an already tense situation. He also repeated his offer of a partial vote recount, a proposal already rejected by the main opposition.

"In the elections, voters had different tendencies, but they equally believe in the ruling system and support the Islamic Republic," the Associated Press reported him as saying.

"Nobody should take any action that would create tension, and all have to explicitly say they are against tension and riots."

12:19 PM ET -- Mousavi's wife joins the students.

Saeed reports that Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard today joined injured students at Tehran University, and condemened violence by the government and riot police.

Also, Mousavi has written a letter (in Farsi) to the Iranian security council saying that personnel from the Ahmadinejad-loyalist Basij militia are doffing their uniforms and attacking innocent people in the streets.

12:15 PM ET -- The early days of Iranian web resistance. Via reader Chas, a July 2000 New York Times article about the website run by "Iran's most prominent dissident, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri," whose name you might recognize.

Many Iranians wonder why the authorities have not found a way to log him off the net. "Maybe technology has finally given him the freedom he has been denied for nearly three decades," a supporter said.

12:14 PM ET -- Demonstrators embrace the police. Very touching video with helpful English subtitles:


12:00 PM ET -- Seriously? GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, tweets: "Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House." From reader John.

11:57 AM ET -- Finding the rats. A Twitter user with the account name, appropriately, @FindTheRats, is helping expose users spreading fabricated information on Iran. (I don't think that's possible with a fax machine.) Via reader Justin.

11:51 AM ET -- Today's rally. Another incredible sight. Also, an Iranian in Tehran just sent us several fantastic photos, we're uploading now.

BBC reports, "Iranian state television has aired brief footage of the rally."


11:45 AM ET -- Those armbands. Iran's soccer team removed their green wrist bands for the second half of the game. On Twitter, Alireza writes, "Soccer Team official: green wristband were due to religious tradition, we removed to deny any speculation and misunderstanding."

Asked about this, an Iranian-American friend had an interesting thought.

This is the beauty of picking that color. You can't fault it. It's like having an anti war rally in US and the demonstrator all painted in red white and blue. GOP can't come and say they are anti american.

See the problem is anything colorful was deemed as western and too flaunting after the revolution, so to be proper, you had a few choices -- white, black, green, and variation of khaki or gray, etc. And among all those option green was the most colorful one and within the acceptable norm by the more conservative and religious groups. This way it's hard to fault the demonstrator as bunch of westernphile, which has always been used to undermine or delegitimize the middle class and upper class of the society.

Update: Reader JW sends over several images from recent matches with Iran's soccer team. They weren't wearing green armbands then.

11:44 AM ET -- What just war theory can tell us about cyber attacks against Iranian government websites.

11:11 AM ET -- Huge reformist rally underway. From the Guardian:

More than 500,000 Iranians are silently marching from from Haft-e-Tir Squre to Vali Asr Square, reports Saeed Kamali Dehghan in Tehran.

Many are wearing black in mourning for those killed in earlier protests. Protesters want to go to Tehran University later to mourn the killing on Sunday of students in a dormitory.

Reuters says that "tens of thousands" of people are protesting.

One street leading to the square was packed for several kilometres, witnesses said.

Most of the protesters were silent and making victory signs. Some are holding pictures of those killed.

Here's an image posted on Twitter:


Via reader Anne, another pic:


11:01 AM ET -- Mousavi's latest message. Posted on Facebook, translated by reader Alex.

Like you know, in the past few days, there have been clashes - legally and illegally - that have been violent between protesters of the election and their critics.

A number of you have been injured and several have been martyred.

I would first like to convey my condolences to you.

At the same time, I would like you all to go to mosques and to places of worship in order to remember them and to pray for them.

We will also commemorate them by our peaceful protests.

I would like you to know that I will also be taking part in these protests and commemorations.

Mir Hossein Mousavi

End of letter.

10:49 AM ET -- Overnight raids on dorms prompt new rallies. The BBC reports:

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi are planning a new demonstration in Tehran against what they see as a fraudulent presidential poll in Iran.

The planned rally follows overnight raids on university dormitories in several Iranian cities and as two pro-reform figures were arrested.

The U.S.-funded, youth-focused Farsi station Radio Farda publishes a photo today of the wreckage at one of the dorms.

Also, the NYT's Lede blog noted this earlier today:

According to reports from a Twitter feed that has been a reliable source of information on the protests, opposition supporters are rallying right now in Tehran:

we are now leaving for Meydan Haft Tir - 7 Tir Sq for sea of green - reports afterward -

sea of green to approach 7 Tir from 2 directions - Tehran Uni via Enghelab Ave AND 7 Tir via Vanak Sq - CONFIRMED MOUSAVI

10:41 AM ET -- Disinformation. A note of caution to those of you following Iran news on Twitter, via reader Chas (who has become an expert on Iran's Twitter scene). The user @serv_ is aggressively spreading false information, including fabricated "re-tweets" supposedly written by good sources, seemingly trying to discredit them.

10:38 AM ET -- Mousavi calls for a day of mourning for Iran dead. Reuters reports:

"A number of our countrymen were wounded or martyred," Mousavi said, calling the day of mourning for Thursday.

"I ask the people to express their solidarity with the families ... by coming together in mosques or taking part in peaceful demonstrations," Mousavi said on his website.

10:30 AM ET -- The World Cup variable. A few days ago, I printed this mail from an Iranian-American friend:

Wednesday is the last qualifying game for the Iranian national soccer team for the World Cup. If they lose they don't qualify. This revolt is different from '99 and '04 in that it's not primarily student based. It's worth noting that if Iran loses to the good South Korea team, there is a whole another spark of frustration.

Reader Ryan sends over the results from today's match -- a tie. "Iran tied S. Korea. 1-1 in world cup qualifier. Iran had lead starting in second half until the equalizer in the 80th minute by Park Ji Sung of Man. U. Iran needs a N. Korea win vs Saudis to qualify now for the World Cup. A Saudi win or tie elimnates them. That match is today and could be another spark for protesters."

Update: Reader Khaled writes: "Just a quick comment... a Saudi win does not necessarily eliminate Iran. If Saudi Arabia wins 1-0, 2-1, or by a goal difference of 2+ against North Korea, Iran can still play two more games (both of which they would have to win) to qualify. Your reader is otherwise correct: any other Saudi Arabia win, or a tie, eliminates Iran, whereas a North Korea win keeps them in qualification (again, if they win two more games).

10:22 AM ET -- Busting the stereotypes. An article from Time magazine that I should have linked to earlier, by one of the most knowledgeable voices on Iran in the U.S. media, Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council:

The schism in Iran is not reducible to social class, ethnicity, region or generation. A simple glance at the crowds over the past week reveals women in black chadors on both sides of the divide, and women in makeup too. Many kids whose parents were poor have themselves managed to get university degrees as a result of the revolution's largesse -- Ahmadinejad may be a populist, and he may emphasize his humble origins, but he's proud of his Ph.D. (His supporters call him "the Doctor.") And many children of rural poverty who are now educated and living in the cities, though still of limited means, don't necessarily share the outlook of their parents. Absent a proper tabulation of the actual vote on June 12, we'll never know the exact distribution of political support to each candidate across the regions, social classes and age groups. But even in the rallies in support of the candidates before and after the election, it's plain that the country can't be neatly divided along the lines of those categories.

Also, Andrew Sullivan highlights some analysis on the "rural/urban canard" from a man who has "studied Iran's rural villages for thirty years."

10:08 AM ET -- The citizen journalists of Iran. From an Iranian on Twitter: "(CONFIRMED by ONE source, police wearing green scarves. Need two more sources or another Primary Source to confirm)" Via reader Alex.

9:59 AM ET -- "Reading Gatsby in Iran." Todd Gitlin highlights this passage, from an message to Middle East expert Juan Cole from a reader in Iran:

The procession passes through an underpass and just as there is great pleasure in honking the car horn in tunnels these many people send up an enormous cheer, echoing off the walls. From dark to light the crowd emerges from the underpass and looks back to see what they have done. There is above them stretching across the tunnel a dissonant sight, a sign with the visage and message of the Supreme Leader. He watches over this protest in the manner of TJ Eckelberg...

9:45 AM ET -- Where are the standards? The Jerusalem Post runs a story, based off the claims of "two protesters," that Palestinian Hamas members are attacking the reformists in Iran.

On Monday, he said, "my brother had his ribs beaten in by those Palestinian animals. Taking our people's money is not enough, they are thirsty for our blood too."

The protesters quoted offer no evidence (that the Post printed) of a tie to Palestine or Hamas. It seems quite irresponsible to me for a newspaper to be printing these serious allegations with apparently zero evidence. I should say, the Jerusalem Post isn't the only guilty party, just the most recent.

That said, as I wrote last night, I am very eager to find evidence of foreign fighters in Iran. If you see any, please send it over.

9:23 AM ET -- Solidarity. Via reader Dean, Iranian soccer players are wearing green wrist bands in their World Cup Qualifier match on Wednesday versus South Korea.

These players, who can't hide their identity, are placing themselves at potential grave risk. How courageous, how inspiring.


9:16 AM ET -- Trying to create a black hole. What they can't censor with technology, they'll try to censor with a violence-backed threat.

The BBC claimed today that Iran has widened electronic jamming of its services, as the country's Revolutionary Guard ordered domestic websites and blogs to remove any material that might "create tension" amid post-election unrest.

Both the BBC's World News and Persian TV channels are now being jammed by "ground-based interference" in what one senior corporation insider told MediaGuardian.co.uk was akin to "electronic warfare".

Iranian authorities also blocked access to Yahoo Messenger early today as the country intensified its crackdown on all means of communication following Friday's controversial presidential poll.

8:50 AM ET -- Jon Stewart on Iran. Last night his target was CNN.

3:45 AM ET -- Journalist defies the crackdown on foreign media. Via readers John, Pejman, and Colin: the pugnacious British reporter Robert Fisk witnesses a stunning scene in which Iranian soldiers keep a group of plainclothes paramilitaries away from Mousavi supporters:

In fact at one point, Mousavi's supporters were shouting 'thank you, thank you' to the soldiers.

One woman went up to the special forces men, who normally are very brutal with Mr Mousavi's supporters, and said 'can you protect us from the Basij?' He said 'with God's help'.

It was quite extraordinary because it looked as if the military authorities in Tehran have either taken a decision not to go on supporting the very brutal militia - which is always associated with the presidency here - or individual soldiers have made up their own mind that they're tired of being associated with the kind of brutality that left seven dead yesterday - buried, by the way secretly by the police - and indeed the seven or eight students who were killed on the university campus 24 hours earlier.

Quite a lot of policeman are beginning to smile towards the demonstrators of Mr Mousavi, who are insisting there must be a new election because Mr Ahmadinejad wasn't really elected. Quite an extraordinary scene.

2:49 AM ET -- Iranian Artists in Exile: An Open Letter to the World. The video below is passed along by reader Lili. It is powerful, but perhaps not as much as the note she wrote accompanying it:

The [video] is important because it is a very eloquent communication indicating how many members of the worldwide Iranian diaspora community feel and it is important to share this message with the world whose attention is currently fixated on the Iranian plight.

I am an Iranian by birth whose family fled Iran 30 years ago as a result of the 1979 revolution and have not set foot back in Iran due to the political situation which makes it impossible to do so for me and my family. Now, as an adult, I am witnessing these events which are awakening within me feelings that I didn't know I had or didn't know the extent to which they were present and I feel compelled to speak up for all of my fellow Iranians, as well as for all members of the human family who are being oppressed throughout the world, to make
sure that their struggle is not in vain.

Here's the Iranian Artists in Exile Facebook page.


2:42 AM ET -- Twitter, the new fax machine. From Time magazine, datelined Jun. 19, 1989 (thanks to reader Chas):

When word of the massacre in Tiananmen Square first reached the University of Michigan, the 250 Chinese students studying there jumped into action: they purchased a fax machine. Daily summaries of Western news accounts and photographs were faxed to universities, government offices, hospitals and businesses in major cities in China to provide an alternative to the government's distorted press reports. The Chinese students traded fax numbers back home along the computer network that links them around the U.S. The fax brigades at Michigan were duplicated on many other campuses. "We want everyone to see that there's blood in the streets," says Sheng-Yu Huang, a chemistry student at the University of California, Berkeley.

2:01 AM ET -- Aslan: Rafsanjani calls "emergency" meeting of Assembly of Experts. If true, this is a bombshell. Appearing on CNN last night (video below), Iran expert Reza Aslan reported this:

There are very interesting things that are taking place right now. Some of my sources in Iran have told me that Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who is the head of the Assembly of Experts -- the eighty-six member clerical body that decides who will be the next Supreme Leader, and is, by the way, the only group that is empowered to remove the Supreme Leader from power -- that they have issued an emergency meeting in Qom.

Now, Anderson, I have to tell you, there's only one reason for the Assembly of Experts to meet at this point, and that is to actually talk about what to do about Khamenei. So, this is what I'm saying, is that we're talking about the very legitimacy, the very foundation of the Islamic Republic is up in the air right now. It's hard to say what this is going to go.

Aslan's scoop is also reported by the Farsi-language Rooyeh.

The reader in Iran who tipped me off to this sent a follow-up note:

jesus christ dude,


I'm [in my 30s] and never thought of it, let alone witnessing it as it unfolds.

I'm going nuts.

HOLY SHIT !!!

An informed Iranian-American had a different take. "I think Rafasanjani is not going to ask for Khamenei's removal, but is bluffing to force Khamenei to drop support of Ahmadinejad."

Here's video:


1:50 AM ET -- A few requests. If you've seen video of people in Iran yelling "Allah o Akbar!" from their roofs at night, please send along. Also, for the computer security experts out there: reader Chas notes, "there seems to be a raging debate as to whether the DDOS attacks on government websites screws up bandwidth and make it harder for ordinary Iranians to connect there." Would love some informed opinions on this topic.

1:47 AM ET -- Fighting in the sidestreets.


1:45 AM ET -- Never saw this in Sturgis. A rally in Isfahan, Iran on Monday, led by a crew of bikers.


1:38 AM ET -- "This is it. This is the big one." NYU Professor Clay Shirky (via email from Diane Tucker):

"I'm always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that ... this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I've been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted 'the whole world is watching.' Really, that wasn't true then. But this time it's true ... and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They're engaging with individual participants, they're passing on their messages to their friends, and they're even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can't immediately censor. That kind of participation is really extraordinary.

Traditional media operates as source of information not as a means of coordination. It can't do more than make us sympathize. Twitter makes us empathize. It makes us part of it. Even if it's just retweeting, you're aiding the goal that dissidents have always sought: the awareness that the ouside world is paying attention.

1:29 AM ET -- The nuclear calculus for Iran. Joe Cirincione (one of the best writers on proliferation issues) says the uprising is a "game changer" for how Iran may treat the nuclear weapons question in the years ahead. Really interesting piece.

12:51 AM ET -- Was Ahmadinejad's victory really fraudulent? I meant to mention this yesterday but never got the chance. Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett -- two long time analysts and former U.S. government officials -- published a piece in Politico titled, rather abrasively, "Ahmadinejad Won. Get Over It." Go over and read it. As you'll see, the article includes a lot of snippy references to "Iran experts" (in scare quotes) -- but for the life of me, I cannot find an argument in there that could possibly justify that headline.

There are very few people in this world who know for certain whether this election was rigged. I am not one to charge that it was definitively fraud without having facts to prove it.

But what we have is evidence of two key problems: 1) highly improbable outcomes in the alleged vote count, and 2) allegations of fraud from people in the position to know the truth. Let me briefly address both.

1) As a smart Iranian-American reader pointed out, the best evidence of potential fraud is that the alleged results indicate that Mousavi did not even win his hometown. Now, Mousavi comes from a minority background in Iran, and in his hometown, virtually everyone is from the same minority. As the reader noted, "it's almost like having Obama getting only 20-30% of the African American vote." It's not direct evidence of fraud -- just highly improbable.

2) As to serious allegations of fraud, I present you with this excerpt from NYT executive editor Bill Keller's first piece from Iran:

One employee of the Interior Ministry, which carried out the vote count, said the government had been preparing its fraud for weeks, purging anyone of doubtful loyalty and importing pliable staff members from around the country.

"They didn't rig the vote," claimed the man, who showed his ministry identification card but pleaded not to be named. "They didn't even look at the vote. They just wrote the name and put the number in front of it."

Again, not direct evidence of fraud, but a serious allegation from someone in the position to know the truth.

In other words, Iranians are completely justified to be highly suspicious of the results of this election. They shouldn't "get over it."

12:42 AM ET -- Solidarity. Actress Alyssa Milano is now tweeting obsessively about Iran (via reader Laura).

The Pirate Bay -- the most heavily-trafficked website you've probably never heard of (massive file-sharing site) -- goes green and renames itself The Persian Bay.

And an email from reader Mark, an American in South Korea:

Tonight I plan on going to the Iran v. Korea soccer match wearing green, and cheering for the Iranian team. I know that if I was in their in their situation back home I would be doing the exact same thing. Everybody should in some way or another show that we support what they are doing. Whether its something simple like wearing green, sending out chain emails, or calling into radio shows. We all must do a little something to make sure that this historic event only picks up more steam in the media. I'll make sure to send you pics and anything interesting.

12:19 AM ET -- Thanks. Sincere thanks to Rachel Maddow and her staff, who just could not have been kinder. And as I tried to say on the show, it really has been all of you emailing and commenting who have kept this going. We're informing, and supporting, one another.

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