Iran: regime split as fraud evidence mounts

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.

A post on Daily Kos informs us that the British think-tank Chatham House, crunching the official numbers, has arrived at similar conclusions:

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.

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  1. Tehran: arrested students tortured
    Received via e-mail, June 21:

    Excerpts from a Report on the Torture of Students Arrested At Tehran University

    Translator’s note: During the early morning hours of June 15, 2009, the dormitory of Tehran University was attacked by Iranian security forces and plainclothes policemen. Five students were killed and many were arrested. Below is a report which describes the ordeal of the
    arrested students.


    June 19, 2009

    Editor’s Note from Akhbar Rooz: Below is a brief report about the arrest of several students at the dormitory of Tehran University on June 15, 2009, and their transfer to the detention center located in the basement of Iran’s Ministry of Interior. We hope that professors and students who read this text call for the investigation of this horrible and hellish place.

    The arrest of students at the dormitory of Tehran University has involved violent, hostile and insulting treatment. The police and plainclothes policemen severely beat students upon arrest and showered them with insults. . . Their treatment at the detention center has been much worse and has included physical and emotional torture. The students who were arbitrarily arrested by plainclothes policemen were mostly sent to the basement of the Ministry of Interior or detention centers at various branches of the police department. Some were subsequently sent to the Evin Prison and have not been released. The report below recounts the arrests of several students who were sent to the torture center of the Ministry of Interior. It is based on accounts by the students themselves.

    Our group of 46 was transferred to the basement of the Ministry of Interior on a minibus. On the bus, we were blindfolded and placed on seats with tin hats put onto our heads. On the way, the police used their truncheons to continuously pound on the tin hats which created a horrible noise. . .

    The basement which was about 100 meters long was covered with black soot which exuded smoke. They forced us to lie on the floor and roll around. We had to roll around without hitting the next row of people. If any contact with the other row occurred, they would hit us with truncheons, punch us, utter sexually vile insults and say : “You want to make a revolution?” There were about 20 guards and plainclothes policemen there. Next, they made us sit on the floor and alternately look at the floor or the ceiling. After ordering us to stare at the floor, they would suddenly hit us in the back and the neck with their truncheons. . .

    Those who needed to use the restroom were treated inhumanly. The restroom was not covered and restroom use was limited to 30 seconds. Those who exceeded the limit were punched and thrown out of the restroom . . .

    A student who was beaten in the eye complained of losing his vision, but was beaten further and punched in the eye and the face. Another was suffering from a broken leg. . .

    We were not even given water. When given water, the liquid was poured down our throats from above. . .Later when they brought us a water hose, we approached the hose in the hope of getting water. But hot water came out, which burned our lips and mouths. Some thirsty students nevertheless drank the hot water. . .

    The food they gave us was moldy pasta which was thrown into the palms of our hands. We were told that if even one strand fell on the floor we had to pick it up and eat it. If we didn’t, we were hit on the head. . . .

    The sexual tortures were so ugly that we are ashamed to describe them. Such treatment was not limited to the Ministry of Interior. When we were transferred to the office of the Security Police, the sexual torture continued.

    Our day at the Ministry of Interior was the worst one of our lives. The experience will never be erased from our minds. One officer at the Ministry of Interior told us: “This place is a thousand times worse than Guantanamo.” . . . .

    At the office of the Security Police, we were visited by the president of Tehran University, Dr. Rahbar, who was accompanied by a member of Parliament. Some reporters were there to take pictures of this honorable act on the part of the university president. Each of us was given a clean shirt in order to prevent the public from seeing our bloody clothing. We were thinking the following: “Where was Dr. Rahbar on the night of the attack on our dormitory? Why hadn’t he done anything to prevent the attack?” Most of us thought that his presence at the office of the security police was a propaganda move. If he were really concerned about the students, he should have opposed the attack on our dormitory . . . .

    See our last post on the student movement.

  2. Tehran transit workers condemn repression
    Received via e-mail, June 21:

    Excerpts from Statement by Tehran and Suburbs Bus Workers Syndicate
    Published in

    Translator’s note: The Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate has been in the forefront of Iranian labor struggles since 2005. Their leader Mansour Osanloo has has been languishing in prison since the Summer of 2007. Other members of the organization have been under attack and in and out of prison.

    “We Condemn the Suppression and Intimidation of Civil Institutions”

    During the past few days we have witnessed the passionate struggle and presence of millions of women, men, old and young, ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. They demand that the government recognize their most basic rights, that is, their right to choose freely, independently and without fraud. This right has been recognized in most parts of the world where every effort is made to protect it. In the midst of this situation, we have witnessed intimidation, arrests, murders and an egregious crackdown which is about to expand and lead to the deaths of many innocent human beings. This crackdown will only lead to more protests among the people, and not their retreat.

    The Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate had said the following in a statement that it had issued prior to the June 12 presidential election. “In the absence of freedom of organization, our organization is naturally deprived of a social institution that would protect it. The Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate considers political activity to be the definite right of each member of society. If the presidential candidates present their labor charter and give us practical guarantees on their election promises in relation to labor, workers have the choice to participate or not participate in this election.”

    It is clear to all that the demands of the majority of Iranian society goes far beyond economic demands. During the past few years, we have emphasized that so long as the principle of freedom of organization and choice is not realized, any talk of social freedom and economic rights is more of a joke as opposed to reality.

    On the basis of this reality, the Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate supports those who are giving their all to build a free and independent civil institution. We condemn any kind of suppression and intimidation.

    In order to recognize economic and social rights in Iran, Friday June 25 has been declared an international day of support for imprisoned workers and trade unions in Iran. We are calling on everyone to consider this day to be more than a defense of economic rights. Let’s transform this day into a commemoration of human rights in Iran and ask our fellow workers around the world to take actions in defense of the pummeled rights of the majority of Iranians.

    For the Expansion of Justice and Freedom
    Vahed Workers Syndicate
    June 2009

    See our last post on the labor struggle.