More evidence both of electoral fraud and an internecine struggle among Iran’s ruling clerics emerged this weekend, as security forces clashed with protesters in the streets of Tehran. On June 21, the government said it had arrested the daughter and other relatives of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. They were apparently later released, but their arrests appeared to be a clear warning from the hard-line establishment to a cleric who may be aligning himself with the opposition. AP reports that the night of the 21st, Tehran’s streets fell mostly quiet for the first time since the disputed June 12 election—but defiant cries of “God is great!” echoed again from rooftops after dark.
The The Telegraph, citing the Iranian media, reports that 10 deaths over the weekend brought the total killed in a week of unrest into the double digits. The regime is predictably blaming “terrorists”:
State television described the opposition supporters as “terrorists” and claimed they were armed with firearms and explosives during clashes in the central Tehran neighbourhoods of Enghelab and Azadi, where the “rioters” threw stones at the security forces and were said to have set two petrol stations on fire and attacked a military post.
Another sign of a split in the regime is that the Guardian Council has apparently blinked on the question of fraud. Iran’s own Press TV reports June 21:
Iran’s Guardian Council has suggested that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of people eligible to cast ballot in those areas.
The council’s Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, who was speaking on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Channel 2 on Sunday, made the remarks in response to complaints filed by Mohsen Rezaei — a defeated candidate in the June 12 Presidential election.
“Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80-170 cities are not accurate — the incident has happened in only 50 cities,” Kadkhodaei said.
The spokesman, however, said that although the vote tally affected by such an irregularity could be over 3 million and the council could, at the request of the candidates, re-count the affected ballot boxes, “it has yet to be determined whether the possible change in the tally is decisive in the election results,” reported Khabaronline.
Even the official statistics – obtained from the Ministry of the Interior – indicate that:
* votes cast exceeded the number of eligible voters in two provinces
* claims that Ahmadinejad swept the board in rural provinces flies in the face of previous results
The plausibility of Mr Ahmadinejad’s claimed victory is called into question by figures that show that in several provinces he would have had to attract the votes of all new voters, all the votes of his former centrist opponent, and up to 44% of those who voted for reformist candidates in 2005.
Irregularities are found in conservative Mazandaran and Yazd provinces where votes cast exceeded the number of eligible voters.
As instant experts looking for an excuse to diss the protest movement squawk about its supposed bourgeois class content, Meri Javedanfar on Huffington Post makes clear the gender content of the conflict, as manifested by the arrest of Rafsanjani’s daughter:
The arrest of Faeze Rafsanjani, the oldest daughter of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by the Iranian government, is a sign of warning against her father, and her supporters.
Faeze is a well known figure. She is an ardent reformist and feminist. A former member of parliament, she was voted the 46th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2004. She has already been in trouble before. In the late 90s, her feminist magazine, called Zan (meaning woman), published an interview with the former empress of Iran, Farah Diba.
What worried the Iranian government about her is the fact that she took a leading role in the demonstrations. According to the Tehran based Asr Iran news agency, she was arrested, alongside another one of her brothers and four other family members, after attending a demonstration in Tehran’s Tohid square. The fact that she is a leading Islamic feminist is one major source of worry. What has been notable about the current demonstrations is the presence of young women on the streets.
See our last post on Iran.