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Iran Uprising Blogging (Sunday July 5)

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I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at nico.pitney@gmail.com or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Monday's updates are here.11:36 PM ET -- Where in the world is Grand Ayatollah Sistani? Fareed Zakaria asks the question.


11:07 PM ET -- Did the New York Times err in report on clerical group? Late on Saturday, the New York Times published a story with this lede:

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran has called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate, an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country's clerical establishment.

The statement by the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult -- if not impossible.

The TImes has since shifted its description of the group -- they're now described as "an important group of religious leaders" -- and several readers believe the Times misidentified the group in question. Here's one such email:

I'd like to point out a couple of important issues. The "Top clerical group defies Supreme Leader" has considerable factual flaw. Seems NYT was a bit confused over the issue and the article's opening as posted on NYT site: "The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country's clerical establishment. " is a gross exaggeration of facts, as I will explain.

The statement apparently came from the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum headed by Hojjat-ol-islam Musavi Tabrizi, and is not nearly as powerful as stated by NYT. It is a very loosely worded statement which, certainly does not directly declare the AN's Gov't or the elections illegitimate and, just poses the question "In light of all these discrepancies, would it be possible to accept the legitimacy of elections entirely based on the confirmation of Guardians Council? In current situation, could the government resulted from all these infractions be regarded legitimate?".

But the real powerful top clerical group that has perhaps been innocently presumed as the source of this statement, is the extreme-right Association of Teachers of Quom (a more accurate translation of the name would be: Association of Teachers of Quom's Theological School). The name of both entities in Farsi is exactly the same - except for lack of the word "Researchers" in the latter. Had the second entity actually made a statement in this context, the "KhameneiNejad" show would certainly have been over and done with.

10:57 PM ET -- 30 years later, a family takes to the streets again. A great piece by the L.A. Times: "Three decades ago Mina, an 18-year-old who had recently graduated from high school, took to the streets with her family to protest the injustice and tyranny of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in demonstrations that led to his overthrow. Last month, the 48-year-old professor of physiology again took to the streets, again her with family, to oppose the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid allegations of massive vote fraud."

Definitely worth checking out the nearly identical photos published by the Times -- one from '79, one from '09 -- showing the same bridge filled with demonstrators.

10:50 PM ET -- New communications crackdown. "The head of the judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi today has issued a directive to Iranian courts allowing them to sentence anyone working with satellite television channels or Internet networking websites to up to 10 years in jail, according to several news agencies."

More here.

10:45 PM ET -- Mousavi said to be planning new political party. CNN reports:

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi plans to form a new political party aimed at reining in the power of the Islamic Republic's leadership, a leading reformist newspaper reported Sunday.

Moussavi told supporters the party will be focused on upholding "the remaining principles of the constitution," according to Etemad-e Melli, a newspaper aligned with fellow opposition candidate Mehdi Karrubi.

He is expected to file papers with Iran's Interior Ministry to establish the party before hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sworn in for a new term, the newspaper reported.

More coverage in Farsi here.

7:11 PM ET -- More Biden on Iran. Reader Jon sends along the full video from Biden's discussion of Iran on ABC's This Week. The White House really needs to clarify its position on an Israeli strike on Iran -- Biden today implied that the Obama administration would look the other way, while Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called the prospect of an attack "very destabilizing" (details of both comments are below). Some clarity is needed.


6:54 PM ET -- A hotline for journalists in danger. Reporters Without Borders post information about its hotline to report repression of journalists in Iran: "SOS Presse, a phone hotline for journalists - (33) 1 4777-7414 - is open every day round the clock and, with the help of American Express, a Reporters Without Borders official can be quickly reached."

6:41 PM ET -- Roger Cohen can't give up Iran. And he's written a beautiful column explaining why. I hope you read it all. Here's a piece:

To bear witness means being there -- and that's not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream.

No news aggregator tells of the ravaged city exhaling in the dusk, nor summons the defiant cries that rise into the night. No miracle of technology renders the lip-drying taste of fear. No algorithm captures the hush of dignity, nor evokes the adrenalin rush of courage coalescing, nor traces the fresh raw line of a welt.

I confess that, out of Iran, I am bereft. I have been thinking about the responsibility of bearing witness. It can be singular, still. Interconnection is not presence.

A chunk of me is back in Tehran, between Enquelab (Revolution) and Azadi (Freedom), where I saw the Iranian people rise in the millions to reclaim their votes and protest the violation of their Constitution.

We journalists are supposed to move on. Most of the time, like insatiable voyeurs, we do. But once a decade or so, we get undone, as if in love, and our subject has its revenge, turning the tables and refusing to let us be.

3:12 PM ET -- "I must go home to Iran again." I'm very late in posting this op-ed, but wanted to make a point to highlight it because so many Iranian expatriates emailed it to me, saying it represented their own feelings. It's a piece by Marjane Satrapi, whose work includes the book and film Persepolis, that ran in the New York Times. Here's a portion:

Death, torture and prison are part of daily life for the youth of Iran. They are not like us, my friends and I at their age; they are not scared. They are not what we were.

They hold hands and scream: "Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid! We are together!"

They understand that no one will give them their rights; they must go get them.

They understand that unlike the generation before them -- my generation, for whom the dream was to leave Iran -- the real dream is not to leave Iran but to fight for it, to free it, to love it and to reconstruct it.

They hold hands and scream: "We will fight! We will die! But we won't be humiliated!"

They went out knowing that going to each demonstration meant signing their death warrants.

Today I read somewhere that "the velvet revolution" of Iran became the "velvet coup," with a little note of irony, but let me tell you something: This generation, with its hopes, dreams, anger and revolt, has forever changed the course of history. Nothing is going to be the same.

Read the whole piece here.

3:05 PM ET -- Mousavi details alleged election fraud evidence.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate in last month's disputed election, released documents Saturday detailing a campaign of alleged fraud by supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that assured his reelection, while an adviser to Iran's supreme leader accused Mousavi of treason. [...]

In a 24-page document posted on his Web site, Mousavi's special committee studying election fraud accused influential Ahmadinejad supporters of handing out cash bonuses and food, increasing wages, printing millions of extra ballots and other acts in the run-up to the vote.

3:00 PM ET -- Iran shows YouTube should change its rating system. Via reader Alex, a good case is made here.

2:58 PM ET -- Iran's young rebels. Reader Michèle passes on a link to a CBC documentary released shortly before the election that's available for viewing online.

1:57 PM ET -- 'New video by Iran's best female rapper.' That's the subject line of an email I just received from Mark Levine, who has traveled through Iran learning about the country's underground metal and hip-hop scenes. Levine's been publishing a running set of messages from Iranian artists about the uprising, and yesterday he highlighted a new video "from Iranian rapper Kalameh (pseudonym) expressing frustration of Iranian youth at the pro-democracy and reform crackdown, which is increasingly a bitter culture war as well."

Full lyrics are in Mark's post -- here's the first verse:

"The greatest sin, must be killing the hope"
It was a murderer who killed my friend's hope,
the friend who just said those words.
Every step in this way was void, so was every speech and every action
Do not muddy the water!
Politics are dirty; it swallows you as down and throws you up brain washed
Behind every person, there is a hidden reason
I wanted to go live on top of a mountain, staying away from politics
But I couldn't, because it is hard to accept what they do


1:50 PM ET -- Chief U.S. general: Iran strike would be "very destabilizing." "Both a US strike on Iran, and the Islamic republic attaining nuclear weapons would be "very destabilizing," chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said on Sunday. He said called both situations 'really, really bad outcomes,' and urged appropriate actions to prevent either eventuality."

This seems far closer to the administration's current policy than Biden's comments (below) may have indicated.

1:46 PM ET -- Iran to free another British embassy worker. "The eighth of nine British embassy employees detained by Iranian authorities is to be released later, the UK foreign secretary has said. David Miliband said 'all of our efforts are now directed' at securing the release of the man still being held - the embassy's chief political analyst."

Also, the lawyer for the last embassy employee still under investigation for subterfuge has "refuted reports that his client had been formally charged, saying he was optimistic the Iranian national would be released in the coming days."

Hossein Rassam, 44, is the top political analyst at Britain's mission in Iran, where he headed a staff of eight or nine who were all arrested on suspicion of promoting or taking part in weeks of unrest that followed the disputed reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which was marred by opposition claims of vote fraud.

"I think his situation will be fixed soon," said Abdul-Samad Khoramshahi, his lawyer, who also represented jailed journalist Roxana Saberi. "I think that in the next few days I will get good news."

Khoramshahi said he visited the Revolutionary Court this morning to discuss the case of Rassam, who remains under investigation. Authorities have not yet formally lodged a complaint against him, but could decide to do so in a week.

1:17 PM ET -- Biden gives green light to Israel? "Vice President Joe Biden seemed to give Israel a green light for military action to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat, saying the U.S. 'cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do. ... If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.'"

How much should this be chalked up to Biden's tendency to go off message?

12:56 PM ET -- Doonesbury on Iran. I'm surprised I missed this: Reader Chas notes that the widely-syndicated U.S. cartoon Doonesbury has largely been devoted to Iran over the last several weeks.


11:39 AM ET -- Creative activism: world's longest petition. A reader emails, "Here's an interesting effort that was also featured on Mousavi's Facebook page - opposition trying to create the longest petition to be featured in the Guinness World Records - the idea is to collect 90 cm long green fabric scrolls and get signatures on it to condemn Iran's Coup d'etat government and to name Ahmadinejad as the world's most despised president. The scrolls will then be collected from around the world and put together in Paris and hung from the Eiffel Tower!"

The petition site is here. Some creative projects like this will succeed, others will not. But they're an important part of making sure that attention stays focused on Iran as the stream of new information from within the country ebbs and flows.

11:37 AM ET -- Video. I'm just catching up with the news and emails from yesterday. Here's a video of people clashing in the streets with the Basij. The caption says it is from July 3.


10:25 AM ET -- Saudis ok with Israeli strike on Iran? The UK Times has published, and some other outlets are picking up, a report that the Saudis have given Israel approval to use their air space for a raid on Iran's nuclear sites.

This may very well be true, I don't know. But the UK Times has a fairly poor track record when it comes to this issue -- it's been running stories for years claiming that an Israeli strike on Iran was just around the corner. So I would look for further confirmation before getting too worried about this piece.

10:02 AM ET -- Clerical group's website blocked. The L.A. Times reports that authorities today "blocked access to the website of a pro-reform group of seminary scholars in the holy city of Qom" -- the Association of Seminary Teachers and Researchers -- "that has joined other reformist clergy in sharply criticizing last month's vote as authorities continued a crackdown against supporters of failed presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who has alleged massive fraud."

9:51 AM ET -- Greek reporter for Washington Times finally released. "Iran's state television is reporting that a Greek journalist that had been held for more than two weeks has been released. State television Sunday quoted a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Hasan Qashqavi, as saying that Iason Athanasiadis-Fowden had been released in, what he described as the framework of Tehran-Athens ties. Athanasiadis-Fowden of The Washington Times was arrested on or around June 19. He has dual Greek and British citizenship and was believed to be the only foreigner being held by Iranian authorities in the post-election crackdown that has swept the country."

Update: Here's the Washington Times report.

3:05 AM ET -- Iran media: Ahmadinejad wants public talks with Obama. Via reader Chas, CNN runs this report:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wants to engage President Obama in "negotiations" before international media, a semi-official Iranian news outlet reported on Saturday.

Speaking at a meeting of medical school deans, Ahmadinejad said Iran "will soon pursue a new round of diplomatic activity" amid a new position of strength for the Iranian government, the Iranian Student News Agency quotes him as saying.

"I will go to the United Nations and will invite Obama to negotiations," Ahmadinejad said, adding that such talks would be "in front of the international media, not a sit-down behind closed doors in order to talk about matters."

Ahmadinejad has previously claimed he wanted to debate Obama before an audience at the U.N. This offer appears to be a bit different, but still unserious.

1:31 AM ET -- Reading Independence Day in Iran. A great Iran analyst emails this article by University of Virginia Professor R. K. Ramazani. The attached note: "Ramazani is the dean of Iranian foreign policy. No one in this country knows more about Iran and its foreign policy than Prof. Ramazani (who has been a professor at UVA for almost six decades!)"

Here's an excerpt of the piece, which notes the similarities between the American and Iranian revolutionary traditions on the occasion of America's Independence Day:

This need not be a clash of alien values, of America vs. Iran.

One hundred years ago, Howard Baskerville, a 24-year old missionary educator, became Iran's American martyr while trying to help Iranians then struggling for freedom. He's still admired in Iran; in 2005, former President Mohammed Khatami unveiled a sculpture of Baskerville in Tabriz's Constitutional House museum. Before his death, Baskerville explained to skeptical friends that "The only difference between me and these people is my place of birth, and that is not a big difference."

He was right.

1:02 AM ET -- Top clerical group defies Supreme Leader, calls government illegitimate. This is very significant.

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran has called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate, an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country's clerical establishment.

The statement by the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult -- if not impossible.

"This crack in the clerical establishment and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic," said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. "Remember they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei."

Read the whole New York Times story here.

1:00 AM ET -- Great news. Tech guru Austin Heap, whose work on Iran was profiled early on by the San Francisco Chronicle, is set to release a new tool to help Iranians get online. Here's Austin's blog post about the program, called Haystack:

In the upcoming days, Daniel Colascione and I will release a new program to provide unfiltered internet access to the people of Iran. A software package for Windows, Mac and Unix systems, called Haystack, will specifically target the Iranian government's web filtering mechanisms.

Similar to Freegate, the program directed against China's "great firewall," once installed Haystack will provide completely uncensored access to the internet in Iran while simultaneously protecting the user's identity. No more Facebook blocks, no more government warning pages when you try to load Twitter, just unfiltered Internet.

The network will be supported by donated high-quality servers outside of Iran. We will be able to provide an individual user with unfettered internet access that costs the donor $0.015 to $0.0375 per month.

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Useful Resources

Translations: TehranBroadcast.com | Translate4Iran
Helping Iranians use the web: Tor Project (English & Farsi) | IranHelp.org (Farsi)
Demonstrations: Facebook | Sharearchy | WhyWeProtest
Activism: Avaaz.org | National Iranian American Council