An anthology of the 2009 Iran presidential elections.
This anthology was compiled in 2009 right after the presidential elections which were marred by fraud and mass protests by the Iranians inside and the outside of the country. During the months-long protests, many Iranians were killed by the security forces. Neda Agha Soltan, a young girl who was shot on the street became the symbol of the resistance in that period.
WHERE IS MY Vote?
AN ANTHOLOGY OF IRAN’S 2009 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
This book is an anthology of the 10th presidential elections in Iran, specifically the role of women in pre-election campaigns and post-election protests against the results. The pre-election period in itself would not have been of any significance has the country not encountered massive vote-rigging which can only be described as an election coup on the one side, and the people’s awareness of the fallacy and their demands to put the wrong, right on the other. This awareness demonstrated itself in mass demonstrations and campaigns, especially by young men and women, who before the elections strived to incorporate their demands into the programmes of the candidates and raise awareness to those demands.
The dynamics of this election, which turned into a full-fledge coup cannot be explained, nor understood should we not turn our attention to the decades earlier and give a brief overview of the political and social history of contemporary Iran.
The emphasis of the author on women, in particular, arises from the fact that women of Iran have participated and contributed to the democratisation of Iran in the past hundred years. Yet, the significance of their role and their contribution on the one hand and their demands on the other had been ignored in the process. This book will demonstrate that from this point in history women of Iran must be and will be considered equal citizens in all areas of life simply because they have proved they are equal with men in all spheres of life.
This book is dedicated to Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who was shot by a militia in peaceful demonstrations and fluttered away in front of our eyes; to Taraneh Mousavi, who was kidnapped in front of many on-lookers and whose beautiful, raped and burnt body was found in the outskirts of a town; to Sohrab Ar’abi, whose tortured body was kept away for weeks, knowing that her bewildered mother was searching for him the hospital and morgues; and to all those brave men and women who have experienced or are experiencing imprisonment, humiliation, torture, rape and harassment in the dark basements all around Iran.
Extract from a page in a diary written during the summer 2009 demonstrations against the coup in Iran
People are holding slogans in their hands, days are hungry, we are running, not out of fear but a desire to reach; days are full of millions on the hot tarmac. “We have in our hand’s green writings. They have bullets.”
The bulk of demonstrators are young people from all walks of life. These days a significant number of clergy are joining in. The first time I saw one, tears began running down my cheeks! People were looking at their green shawls and the young clergies were inviting them to patience. One of them recited this from Hafiz: ‘ Love seemed so easy at first until troubles followed.’
People are holding various placards with slogans on them; poems from revolutionary poets. There was a photo of a girl in a pool of blood in the university dormitory and a poem underneath:
‘I will revenge those who killed you!’
I look at a young woman who was limping. She shows me her chin and the scars of a bullet that narrowly missed her face. She is carrying the photo of her lifeless friend
and adds: ‘she loved the moonlight and Lorka*. She shows me the half-burnt diary of her friend: My home is not mine anymore. I read on the back.
Is it a coincidence that she and Lorka both died for freedom?
These days, I have marched with friends and lost them in the crowd repeatedly. The mobiles are cut off and I prefer to accompany the strangers. One I came to know was Roya, a girl from Shiraz. On her placard, I read: ‘My silence is not due to satisfaction.’* We want to keep the serenity of the occasion. Another placard reads: ‘Oh, love, oh, love, I can’t see your blue coloured face anymore’. A young boy crosses out the blue and writes green on it.
A young man in a wheelchair says that he has pledged to wheel himself from the Revolution Street to Azadi (freedom) Square and not seek help, in memory of those who were killed. His placard reads: I want to be, I can be here so that the days won’t be idle. Students from the School of Architecture & Design are carrying a huge poster which was a combination of Iranian miniatures and a slogan: ‘I am singing a different song.’
Were these young men and women singing a different song?
Source: Roozonline.com/Andisheh Mehrjoui/7 July 2009
*Lorka, Spanish poet during the civil war.
“The Force of Truth”
Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy in his fight against colonialism
By exposing the truth we expose the lies”
Where Is My Vote?
Did they silence Iran by killing her Neda(voice)?
Iran and the tenth presidential elections
2-The role of women in creating a civil
3-Women’s Coalition in Pre-election campaigns:
4- Presidential candidates: campaigns; promises; prospects; style & substance
4- People & candidates
5- Iranians abroad & pre-election
6- Islamic Regime’s clerical hierarchy & elections
7- Election day; a road that turned the wrong direction
8- The votes not counted, the results announced
9- A pre-planned coup?
10- The day after a short-lived hope withers away
- Candidates & the election results
- The wrath of people: the two weeks that broke thirty years of silence
- The true face of coup leaders: detention, suppression, kidnapping of decent: streets turn into killing-fields
- Detention centres: horror beyond belief
- Crimes against humanity
- The role of media
- Iranians abroad & post-election
- Did they silence Iran by killing her Neda?
- Appendixes & references
On 14 August 2009, one of the hottest summer days of Tehran, the historical Baharestan Square in front of the Iranian parliament is swarming with security people, militia, plain-clothes militia and revolutionary guards. The people who have come to gather in the Square are sandwiched in the nearby alleyways and as far as the roads kilometres away. At first, there are sporadic clashes, then it all turns nasty once again, resulting in the detention of tens of demonstrators who were dragged away into the waiting cars. Against all the precautions and preparations, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the parliament by helicopter!
He was due to be sworn in as the tenth president of the Islamic Republic. The prominent personalities of the regimes and some members of parliament have abstained. Apart from the Swedish ambassador the rest of the foreign countries have sent a junior member for the inauguration. Apart from Russia, no other country has yet recognised the election results and sent congratulatory messages. The ‘President’ stands under the flag and holds his hand on the holy book, the Quoran and repeats:
Iranian Women’s struggles for freedom: brief history
Iran has a history of centuries behind her which haunts Iranians at every step. Iranian women, as an integrated part of this chain of land and people and yet apart from it, are just beginning to walk back and step forward to make sense of thousands of years that had never been buried in time and yet, not threaded concrete boundaries to safeguard their equality with Iranian men.
In the history of the Iranians with many nations, languages, religions, beliefs and colours which goes back to 3000 years, 104 years is less than a blink of an eye. Yet, for the Iranian women, this is a long stretch since they realised their place and role in the society has not been recognised equal with men and had been shrouded under men’s cloaks and turbans.
+The dialectic of the turmoil of the present Iranian society and half of its population cannot be understood, nor explained unless we walk back some 104 step years and at stages even further into the maze of history and reach where women landed upon this realisation that they are considered subordinates to men and found the urge and determination to demand their rights and free themselves by participating and contributing to process of social and political change which had started in the country.
One hundred and four years earlier on this day, the Shah of Qajar dynasty, Mozafer al-Din Shah signed an order to the formation of a parliament and the endorsement of the first constitution draft. The Constitutional Revolution was born out of people’s struggles for freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Iran was waking up from the long sleep of centuries and modern ideas were flourishing among the educated and the elite as they realised the need to catch up with the rest of the world.
Yet, modernism and the ideas of a modern Iran were born out of Amir-Kabir, the enlightened Chancellor and Prime Minister of the 18th-century monarch, Naser-al-Din Shah who was the initiator of change in Iran and also the emergence of the Babi Movement which was a diversion from the strict Shia’s sect and which preached for the rights of women to literacy and the change in the law in favour of women.
The Bani movement had at its leadership a woman, the daughter of a prominent clergy from Ghazvin, a city in the central parts of Iran who spoke of women’s rights and freedom.
Fatimeh Zarin-taj Borghani who married her cousin at an early age and had three children with him, moved to Najaf in Iraq, the centre of Shiah theology and studied Islam and eventually became a prominent leader in the Bahai faith. European politics which influenced the Middle East at the time played a role in Fatima’s awareness. As Fatmeh’s studies progressed and she was recognised as an independent voice in religious matters, she was given the title of Tahereh Gharat-al-Ein and was renamed Tahereh (clean) by the grand ayatollahs. Tahereh divorced her husband and left her children to take up the job of preaching in the public but she went a step forward and did so, often unveiled in men’s presence, where women were completely shrouded under heavy covers and lived their separate lives in the harems.
The Babi movement urged for religious reform and women’s rights. Tahereh, as one of the Babi’s high ranking preachers, had a great impact on the spread of that sect among the Iranians. Tahereh had her own followers some of which compared her to the virgin Mary and Prophet Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima. But the bulk of the Babi movement opposed her bold attitude as the Bahais (Babi) were under persecution by the majority Shia population, especially the government. Tahereh Ghorat al-Ein was finally ousted from her position and fled town to town until finally captured and murdered by the orders of the Shah. Amir Kabir, the enlightened Chancellor of Naser al-Din Shah met the same fate and was murdered by the Shah. Yet, both Tahereh and Amir Kabir’s teachings left their marks on the Iranian society as it was the first time someone tired to modernise Iran and someone spoke of women’s rights and against the veil.
In the latter half of the 19th century, two of king Naser al-Din’s daughters joined the clandestine societies for the emancipation of women. In her memoirs, Taj al-Saltaneh ( one of the King’s daughters) criticised the stagnation of the political and social institutions in Iran without rejecting the monarchy.
When in 1872 some concessions were given to the English Company Reuter and the Shah of Iran gave way to further influence of foreigners in Iran by signing an agreement giving the sole right of the tobacco industry to the English Talbot Company, people were outraged. They demonstrated on the streets of the main cities and women of the court accompanied them by refusing to smoke the Ghelyan (hubble bubble) which was a common social pastime. The Shah had to give in and annul the agreement.
The first wave of widespread awareness among women coincided with the uprisings of the groups of intellectuals against the Quajar dynasty in the late 19 century which led to the Constitutional Revolution. At the start, women were following developments and assisting men. Gradually, they were made aware of their own situation and formed unofficial gatherings and a dialogue began to shape their needs as women and their status in society. These informal gatherings led to further clandestine organisations which supported the constitutionalists and fought against foreign interference. During the revolution, women took up arms and fought in the streets in men’s clothes. Some were killed in the battlefields. When the Qajar dynasty was finally overthrown and the constitutional revolution triumphed and a draft constitution was written, some rights for women such as the right to vote were incorporated in the draft but this was opposed by many, especially the powerful clergy members and dropped from the final draft. After the stabilisation of the second parliament, women’s activities took place.
The expansion of liberal and egalitarian European views in the country by those who were sent to Europe to study and on return spoke of the need to educate women and limit polygamy and also the translation and publication of European literature by a number of male magazine editors were a further contributory factor to women’s awareness. The women’s movement in Egypt which was going through similar conditions as Iran and the October revolution in Russia had great effects on the Iranian women. Many Iranians went to Russia and supported the Socialist revolution and in return spread the ideals of Socialism and the emancipation of women in that country. Gassem Amin, the Egyptian writer and supporter of women’s rights wrote his famous book, Freedom of Women which was translated from Arabic into Farsi and read by many.
On January 20, 1907, a women’s meeting was held in Tehran where 10 resolutions were adopted including the establishment of girls’ schools and the abolition of dowries so that the money can be spent on educating girls instead.
The clandestine societies that formed throughout the country consisted of men but gradually women entered joined in. They then began to form their own societies. The first of which was the Union of Women with radical tendencies. They worked extensively during the first and second parliament and persuaded the male members to introduce reform programmes. These propositions varied in context and not specifically about women. They announced that if the parliament is unable to rule the country, women are prepared to take over for 40 days. They presented a programme to the parliament: to establish the rule of law and the banking system and a company to oversee the bread issue*, give people sanitise drinking water and drive the Ottoman military* out of the country. These bold action was a manifestation of women’s awareness of their power and the transformation of Iranian society.
The Society of Freedom for Women which was established in the late 19th century aimed to increase women’s self-confidence. Prominent women, Sedighed Dowlat Abadi *, Shams-al-Moluk Javaher Kalam and two of Naser-al-Din Shah’s *daughters (Taj al-Saltaneh and Eftekhar al-Saltaneh) were founders of this society. Men could not attend the sessions unless accompanied by a woman family member. This was a precaution to avoid scandalous rumours.
The ‘Society of Women of the Nation’ focused on national issues and organised charity events and worked against the import of foreign goods. Most of the women societies during the late 19the and early 20th centuries focused on national as well as women’s issues. In 1906, women became active in boycotting foreign import goods and raising funds for the establishment of a national bank by wearing native fabrics and selling their jewellery and dowries to finance the bank.
In the early days, women did not expect the government to assist them to establish girls’ schools although according to the amendment in article 18 of the Constitution, the government was obliged to establish free education for all but due to the opposition by the clergy and the bazaar no effort was done in this regard.
In 1838, the first girls’ schools were established by the American Presbyterian missionaries in Urumieh a city in the northwest Azarbaijan province. Only religious minorities such as Armenians were allowed to attend. Similar schools opened in other cities but Muslim girls were barred from attending. In the late 1870s, Muslim girls in Tehran attended missionary schools. The first Iranian school for girls, “Dushizegan”, was established by ‘Bibi Khanum Astarabadi’ in 1906. She allocated part of her house to the school. Her initiative was followed by other women such as ‘Tuba Azmudeh’, who established “Namus”. ‘Safieh Yazdi’ wife of a well-known clergy was another woman who endeavoured to establish girls’ schools. Unlike, Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, the well known reactionary Ayatollah who opposed girls’ education, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, encouraged his wife, Safieh Yazdi in this respect. Safieh, a member of Horriat Society (Freedom Society) established ‘Efatieh’. Her outspoken views on women earned her a reputation at the time.
‘Mahrokh Gowharshenas’, was another woman, who was illiterate when she joined the constitutional movement. She established a revolutionary society in Tehran whose members accepted a lifetime commitment to work for women’s freedom. The group wore a ring carved with two hands compressed into each other. Mahrokh established ‘Taraghi girls’ school in 1910. Her husband was unaware of her activities for two years. When he found out he was devastated as he thought it wrong and against God and religious teachings. Despite this, Mahrokh continued with her school and developed it further.
Danesh (knowledge) was the first magazine that was published for two years by a woman doctor, Masoumeh Kaahal. Danesh dealt with issues of childrearing, ethics and health. It also has a section dedicated to women’s education.
The first serious women newspaper, Shokufeh was published during the early 20th century. Shokufeh, editor, Maryam Amid published articles on women’s education, rights and against forced marriages an early age. From its third year of publication, Shokufeh became the official paper of Anjoman Hemat Khavatin and focused on political and national issues as well.
Sedigheh Dowlatabadi published Women’s Tongue in Esfahan. This magazine focused primarily on women’s rights and critical political articles. For this, its editor was harassed and the magazine was finally closed down. Dowlatabadi went to France for a while and on return moved to Tehran in 1927 and published the magazine as the official organ of Women’s Society in the late 1930s. She was the first woman to appear in the public unveiled.
Another magazine published in the early 1920s was ‘Women’s Letter’ in Tehran. Its editor, Shahnaz Azad published articles on education. Shahnaz and her husband supported the unveiling of women and worked on this issue as well. ‘Women’s World’ was a magazine published in the City of Mahsad by Fakhr Afagh Parsa. This magazine wrote on the necessity of education for women and housewifery and health.
During the years after the constitutional revolution, women were politically active and wrote to the members of the parliament demanding change and the introduction of bills that would develop the country. Women first supported the clergy who supported the change and the establishment of a constitution. As the clergy opposed the rights of women in the constitution, women were distanced from them.
There are a number of letters written by women to the parliament warning the members that they have distanced from the revolutionary ideals which included women’s rights in it. In one letter they wrote: ‘Are we not the suppressed women of this land? Are we not humans the same as you men? We want justice and demand the elimination of all discrimination in gaining knowledge. This is as much the right of women as it is of men.’
Women also tried to make contact with the outside world. The ‘Committee of Iranian Women’ sent a telegram to the English and German queens pleading with them to help the Iranian women. This committee made some efforts to contact the European women’s organisation and attracts their attention to the plight of women.
The period after the constitutional revolution and Reza Shah coming to power and the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty is the booming period for the women’s movement. Throughout the two decades women and men who were influenced by liberal European thought and also the October revolution were actively engaged in debates; published magazines, wrote articles, established schools and trained women to be teachers, debated about the necessity of the unveiling and many appeared in public unveiled.
Reza Shah declared himself monarch in 1926. He had the vision to build a nation-state out of fragmented Iran the feudalist system of governance. Among his priorities were the change in the Iranian dress code. In 1928, the parliament ratified the new dress code. All males except the clergy were required to wear European attire. Taxes on women’s hats that were imported from Europe had already been removed to facilitate the purchase. The emancipation of women was the topic of the day and encouraged by the state. In 1930, the first Emancipation Society was established by a man* and at the same time Sedighed Dowlatabadi attended a conference on Muslim Women in Damascus, Syria accompanied by two men representatives. In 1931, the parliament approved a new civil code giving women the right to ask for divorce under certain conditions and the age of marriage was elevated to 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Although the civil code was secular but the family laws remained under Shariat. In 1932, the Congress of Oriental Women convened in Tehran with specific recommendations.
In 1933, recommendations of this conference on reforms along with the Damascus conference were presented to the parliament and women demanded electoral rights which were denied by the deputies once again. In 1934, Reza Shah issued orders to his Minister of Education Ali Asghar Hekmat to establish a Women’s Centre and implement reforms. Hajar Tarbiat ( an educated woman) and Princess Royal Shams became the first chairwomen of this centre. Now for the first time, women’s activities were legitimised though the Ladies Centre was not well received by the socialists and independent intellectuals because it was supported by the monarchy. The course of the modernisation of Iran continued with a great pace. Reza Shah Established Tehran University, Women’s Teachers Training College along with the establishment of other institutions such as various ministries, army, police and navy forces. A national education scheme for both sexes was introduced. In 1936, Shams al-Moluk Mosahab, Mehrangiz Manuchehrian and many other young girls, including an Indian woman, Saraj al Nesa entered Tehran University.
In 1936, Reza Shah, along with his wife and daughters attended the graduation ceremony at the Teachers’ College. The royals wore hats and all the rest of the women were advised to attend unveiled. This was a hallmark for the emancipation of women as Reza Shah saw it. Subsequently, the official and compulsory unveiling of Iranian women was announced and they were barred from wearing rubandeh* or chador in public. The compulsory unveiling which was welcomed by feminists and intellectuals was vehemently opposed by the clergy and ordinary Iranians.
After the fall of Reza Shah, the majority of women returned to the traditional veil but for generations, millions left the veil behind until 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic regime forced women back into veil.
Reza Shah’s endeavours to build a nation-state were partly carried out by the use of force. Nevertheless, the outcome of these efforts in the coming decades brought Iran in line with countries such as Turkey which was in a similar situation. After Reza Shah was deposed and his young son, Mohammed Reza replaced him, the country was caught in the chaos of World War Two and under virtual occupation by the Allies. This period nonetheless was a period where independent organisations and political parties, especially the Tudeh communist party flourished. In 1944, Tudeh party’s Women’s League was well organised and worked on a number of women’s issues. Other independent women’s organisations such as the National Women’s Society also formed and continued work on women’s issues. Women’s League later changed into the Organisation of Democratic Women and opened branches in all major cities. In 1949, the Organisation of Progressive Women was established headed by Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s twin sister.
In 1953, the CIA coup in Iran and the fall of the nationalist Prime Minister, Dr Mohammed Mosadeq and the repression that ensued put an end to the liberal atmosphere which was created after the war as Mohammed Reza Shah took firm control and all political and cultural activities were once again channelled through the government.
In 1964, the Organisation of Progressive Women which then had branches throughout the country changed into the Women’s Organisation of Iran headed by many prominent women who pursued a policy of change in the women’s status in Iran. By 1978, this organisation had 349 branches, 113 centres and over 55 sister organisations dealing with welfare and health programmes. According to the data, over one million women used the centres on regular basis. Women’s Organisation of Iran, having a number of lawyers and political activists working on women’s issues pursued fundamental changes in the areas that concerned women.
In 1962, women were given the right to vote and to be elected. In 1968, the Family Protection Law was ratified. The age of marriage for girls was raised to 18 and women gained the right to guardianship of their children after the death of the husband. Divorce was referred to the courts. Polygamy was limited and required the first wife’s consent. Although abortion was never legalised existing penalties were removed from the law.
Just like the daughters of Naser al-Din Shah of the Qajar dynasty in the 19th century who joined secret societies to change the situation of women, some of the women in the Pahlavi dynasty, though not popular for their positions, played their part in promoting women’s rights and displaying Iran’s image outside the country. Over years, scandalous accusations regarding the personal life of Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s twin sister tarnished her image to such an extent that her continuous efforts as head of Women’s Organisation of Iran, who pressed for the ratification of laws that changed women’s status were ignored and never acknowledged. In a country that is deeply patriarchal and women have no right to sexual freedom wild accusations regarding the lives of royal women left little space for appreciation of their contribution to the promotion of women’s situation. This included the Shah himself who saw women as sex objects and ‘admired them for their beauty and totally undermined their ability as human beings.
It would be unfair to women’s history if the impact of Royal women is erased from history. As indicated in documents and memoirs, Princess Ashraf repeatedly argued with her brother as head of the state to let her represent Iran in the world stage. She even had an eye to be nominated as the United Nation’s General Director. However, she managed to convince the Shah to delegate Iran to the United Nations and was nominated as the Head of the United Nations International Women’s Conference at Mexico in 1975.
Queen Farah Pahlavi, the Shah’s third wife who had studied in Paris was also engaged in promoting culture and art by creating a Cultural Foundation which oversaw museums and cultural centres and organised annual festivals and art events.
In a wide range of analyses of the Shah’s era, it is assumed that the US policies of modernisation in Iran demanded change in the situation of women and in line with that and the Shah granted women the right to vote as part of his so-called White Revolution. This assumption has clouded the role of powerful women in the Shah’s household as the spearheads and initiators of change and thousands of educated women who worked in various capacities throughout Iran. To ignore this fact is a distortion of the history in Iran in the realm of social transformation of the society in favour of women. The truth is the Shah himself had a deep-rooted contempt for women as competent players in the political and social realm as he never accepted them as equals and demonstrated this in numerous interviews and memoirs. It was indeed the persistent and the pursuance of women around him, especially Princess Ashraf, whom he saw as a ‘nuisance’ that he granted women the right to vote and approved the changes in the law in favour of women. Later in the 1970s, women had advanced to such degree that he approved the establishment of the ministry for women with Mahnaz Afkhami as the First Minister and appointed a woman, the late Farokhru Parsa as Minister for Education.
However, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Shah’s increasing arrogance towards western governments’ strategies in the region and his misjudgement of their attitudes towards a third world monarch bought him a lot of enemies and his eventual downfall. Within the country, his autocratic policies of modernisation without due consideration to the growing dissatisfaction in the deeply religious and illiterate majority of the population, which saw them as a threat to their traditional way of life and the suppression of the voices of opposition and critics, especially the intellectuals and the religious circles headed by Ayatollah Khomeini whom Shah had sent into exile to Iraq in the early 1960s, created grounds for the mass upheavals which finally overthrew him in 1979. The clergy whose majority were opposed to a modern Iran and who saw the Shah’s policies especially the increasing women’s presence in the society, against the principles of the Shari’at were a major contributory in spreading unrest among the grass-roots.
Another voice of opposition in the period after the 1953 coup and especially in the 1960s and 1970s was the traditional Left Movement, socialists and communists, some of which were under direct influence of the then Soviet Union who considered the Shah as an American puppet and Gendarme of the region. Gradually, intellectuals and especially university students formed into cells and organised themselves in clandestine meetings, read prohibited books on Marxism, Maoism and urban wars in the style of the Latin American guerrilla movements. Later, a number of them went abroad to the training camps of Palestinians to learn combat techniques and returned home armed with fresh knowledge. A larges number of women joined these groups, took up arms and succeeded to destabilise the regime. Women who joined these groups were either university students or family members who also lived in the underground collectives and took up arms and fought alongside men.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, these cells were routinely identified and attacked by the secret police (SAVAC) and members guerrillas were captured, among whom a good number of women. These were brutally tortured and some were put to death alongside their male comrades. Others were sentenced to long term prison, a few managed to escape from prison. Ashraf Dehghani a communist guerrilla was the most famous woman at the time whose escape from Evin prison in Tehran and the country and her subsequent memoirs of the prison years stirred outrage among the young, angry people who understood the extent of the brutalities of the secret police.
The 1960s and 1970s the guerrilla movement had two distinguished wings; Marxist (Fedaian ) and Islamist (Mojahedin Khalq). These two movements though far apart in ideology fought alongside each other for a common cause. Among both groups, women constituted a good number. Among the Islamists, the Rezaie family had four children in prison including their daughters. One of which managed to escape prison. The Islamists were mainly under the influence of a Muslim Scholar, Ali Shariati, who argued for the reinterpretation of the faith and published a book ‘Fatima is Fatima’, prophet Mohammed’s daughter as an example of Muslim woman and declared all western looking Iranian women as corrupt. Among the clergy, apart from Ayatollah Khomeini who opposed the rights granted to women as against Shari’at, Ayatollah Motahari started a series of articles in the weekly secular magazine, Zan-Rooz (women of today), on women’s situation in Islam and the necessity of the veil.
The women who fought alongside men in the armed struggles did not argue for women’s rights in society. It was due to the ideological reasons and the victory of that ideology, be it Islam or Marxism that women joined these movements. The issue of women and their place in the society as half the population with unequal rights were never discussed nor incorporated in the literature of these movements. Even after the revolution and when Ayatollah Khomeini issued his famous first-order ‘advising women to wear the veil’ and the mass demonstration of secular women against it faced the criticism and the disagreement of these groups which by then had thousands of followers throughout the country.
Other factors that contributed to the debates against the Shah’s dictatorial style were the intellectuals: writers, poets who attended the poetry nights at the German-sponsored Goethe Institute where they read their poems of oppression and criticised the regime and praised freedom large crowds gathered. These gatherings attracted huge crowds. The Students Confederation outside Iran was also a major contributory to expose the Shah’s Secret Service (SAVAC) and the imprisonment, torture and execution of intellectuals and guerrillas. Women students were active in the Confederation.
However, all this set aside, by the mid-1970s, Iran had a large number of women at higher posts such as two ambassadors to foreign countries, two ministers, two senators, twenty two in parliament, a number as province governors and 333 as councillors at the city councils. As part of equality with men, women were required to pass military service and serve in the education and health corpses and thousands were dispatched to the villages and remote areas. At the time of the revolution, women comprised 33 percent of university students, about two million were in the workforce, out of which 190,000 in professional positions. There were about 500 women under training to become lawyers and judges. Iran was considered a world stage player in politics and for that Iranian women were regarded as the most progressive and educated and a model for the rest in the region who were still fighting for basic rights.
The paradoxical dialectic between Iran’s modernisation programmes and women’s achievements on the one hand, and educated and intellectual women’s involvement in a revolution that was dominated by Islamic ideology and worked against them, on the other hand, is yet to be understood. As one scholar put it, ‘traditional women at the 1979 revolution became modernised, while modern women were forced to become traditional.’* As the pace of upheavals gained momentum, ironically, a large number of secular, educated middle-class women who enjoyed relative social freedom under the Shah got involved in the movement to overthrow the Monarchy. Apart from these women, millions of traditional, Muslim women who were otherwise barred from going out on the streets and show their presence, joined the demonstrations especially under the banner of Ayatollah Khomeini who would send tapes of his sermons from his exile in Iraq and later France which were distributed among the followers, encouraging the populace to take part in the utopia in the making.
Between summer 1978 and winter 1979, the majority of Iranians, even those in the high office distanced from the Shah’s administration and became ‘revolutionaries’, went on strike at workplaces, marched on the streets, sabotaged the system to paralyse it. To prevent his downfall, the Shah imprisoned a large number of high ranking personalities, including his prime minister of 13 years and also the head of secret service (SAVAC). The royal family and the elite rich took their reserves out of the banks and fled the country. Finally, in December 1978, the Shah himself left the country with his family among tears and final farewells. As soon as the Shah left millions poured into the streets in jubilation and brought down statues of the Shah and his father, Reza Shah, founder of modern Iran. On February 12, the end of 2.500-year monarchy was declared and the way was paved for the establishment of a republic. Ayatollah Khomeini, now the official leader of the upheavals returned to Iran a few weeks later and the last Shah’s prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar went into hiding then fled the country and a few years later was assassinated by the orders of the Islamic authorities in Paris.
Women in their millions were an integrated part of this extraordinary process that made the revolution. On those historical days, Tehran University as the heartbeat of revolution witnessed historical scenes, one which was the moment a woman guerrilla drove a tank confiscated from the army into the university grounds. While thousands from traditional families were allowed to step outside homes and rally on the streets and chant slogans and hear their own voices as a voice of power and change, the intellectual, working women contributed to the Shah’s downfall by participating in the strikes at workplaces, universities and colleges as well as marching on the streets alongside others. In the final analysis, millions of men and women who overthrew the Monarchy in Iran had no idea what will be the aftermath. A country as big as Iran and as strategically important as Iran stood in the limbo for a short period of time as Khomeini’s utopia was yet to consolidate.
As soon as the revolutions passed its first few weeks and Ayatollah Khomeini declared himself the leader and his assistants who had accompanied him from abroad and the high ranking clergy who lived in Iran but as supporters and contributors, began establishing an Islamic state, the issue of women came on the top of their agenda. Although Ayatollah Khomeini had never mentioned the use of veil for women in his utopia of an Islamic state, neither in Iraq nor in Paris, the very first decree he issued ‘advised women’ to regard the Islamic principles and wear proper dress. This decree was the first tip-off behind Khomeini’s doctrine and alerted secular women immediately. Those thousands who were on the streets in support of the revolution a few weeks earlier, poured on the streets spontaneously, demanding an explanation and assurances from the newly non-appointed leaders on women’s situation.
On 8 March 1979, four French women film-makers accompanied thousands of women who were marching on the streets of Tehran, chanting ‘We didn’t make the revolution, to go backwards’. A middle-aged, veiled woman from among the crowd told the filmmakers that ‘Our daughters have studied for many years to be free. I myself know how the veil is restricting’. Among the crowd, nurses in their white uniforms were saying: ‘We have to declare what we want and these must be incorporated in the new constitution. Kate Millet, the American feminist and author accompanied women on that historical day. She told the French filmmakers that ‘This demonstration is a fight for survival. I never thought I would see so many conscious and militant women in Iran. Now, Iranian women are the centre of our struggles in the world’. Kate Millet left Iran shortly and published her account.*
Women’s demonstrations continued in many places and for a long period of time. They assembled at the prime minister’s offices, had a three-day sit-in at the ministry of justice in opposition to the ban on trainee lawyers and judges, gathered at Tehran University on many occasions and marched towards Azadi Square until Khomeini was forced to back off from the issue of the veil temporarily. Women’s demonstration against the veil decree was a spontaneous movement that didn’t have the backing of any of the political organisations which had hundreds of women in their ranks. There were also a number of newly established women’s groups but these were not in the position to support women. Most of these groups consisted of the women members or supporters of the political organisations (Marxists/socialists/ radical Islamists), which announced that any objection to the newly-established regime is a diversion from the revolution and will be at the service of the Imperialists! Women who did not support the anti-veil campaign argued that the veil issue is not an important issue and we have to compromise for a bigger goal which is the success of the revolution.
The veil dilemma was carried out for almost two years without any official decrees but gradually, women were ordered to wear it in the workplaces and those who appeared in the public unveiled were systematically harassed by organised groups of thugs. Gradually, thousands of women were made redundant or dismissed from the offices and forced to stay at home. As the constitution was written down and the referendum took place in March 1979 with 98 per cent announcement in favour of an Islamic state and the new regime got hold of the power, the appearance of the Iranian society changed forever.
The women’s dilemma and the loss of their rights on almost every sphere including the dress code and the veil set aside, from the onset, the Islamic regime walked on a path that was garnished by blood. Initially, and in the first few weeks and months, those personalities who had not left the country and who were either in prison or in the country at the time of the revolution were summoned in front of show trials which took a few minutes and executed immediately. Among these were Hoveyda, the ex-prime minister, General Nassiri, the head of SAVAC and Farokh Rou Parsa, the first woman Minister of Education. This process of killing and imprisoning those who were branded anti-revolutionary has continued ever since. Gradually, political groups such as Marxists and Radical group of Islamist Mojahedi Khalq found themselves outside the circle of power and under persecution. Negotiations with the newly appointed authorities and the clergy close to Khomeini to incorporate other groups into the government were rejected by Khomeini. He had set his mind to establish an Islamic state ‘no more, no less. As a result political organisations, secular movements and secular personalities who had fought against the Shah for decades found themselves an outsider and gradually under persecution. The Iraq war and the invasion of the western provinces by Saddam Hossein in September 1980 contributed to the consolidation of the regime as all attention and support were diverted towards the war efforts.
The state of war which lasted eight years and cost both countries billions of damages and the lives of over a million of its young generation had an ironic result. It helped the Islamic regime to consolidate its power pretext of war. base and to further silence every voice of opposition under the During the eight years of war while secular women were isolated and driven out of public life, Islamic women became increasingly active and contributed to the war efforts behind the war fronts and at home. Some joined the ranks of the revolutionary guards and were promoted to high positions. The war widows who were mostly young women and who were under the umbrella organisations of the war got the opportunity to benefit from their position and some went to university and the job market. Other traditional women who until then were not allowed to further study or seek employment got the opportunity to get out of their traditional roles.
The state if war, the siege of the American Embassy in 1981 by a group of university students and taking hostage 52 staff of the Embassy which lasted over 400 days was another factor to consolidate regime’s position further. This consolidation went along with the harassment of other political organisations outside the regime and secular women as well as personalities who had no political connection but opposed the regime’s policies of Islamisation of the country. Gradually, and systematically the Secret Service of the Shah’s era SAVAC changed its name into SAVAMA and employed some of the previous staff with experience or trained its own rank and file and filled the prisons with opponents from any trend of thought. Another policy of annihilation of opponents was killing them by various methods either inside or outside the country which to this day had continued.
In the 1980s the regime had thousands of Mojahedin and Marxists supporters or members of other religious groups or faiths in prisons. Almost all of these prisoners went under the most barbaric and horrendous tortures throughout their detention without proper court procedures or the presence of lawyers. A large number of them among which women as young as fifteen, were executed in the darkness of the nights and their bodies were buried in unknown graves. In 1988 however, in a secret meeting with the high ranking officials, Khomeini issued an order to cleanse the prisons and get rid of all prisoners of consciousness. Between summer and autumn that year, the biggest act of genocide was committed in Iran. Over four thousand prisoners were executed in a short period of two months. To this date, the families of these prisoners are still pursuing channels to seek justice or simply find out where their loved ones were buried.
However, gradually the Islamic regime realised that Islamisation of a secular society required profound transformation in the infrastructure of the society. So, the policies of segregation in the public and educational establishments, re-writing textbooks, re-defining the male and female roles, dress-code, public and private relations, and in short all matters that were related to human social activities became the state’s affairs and so the Iranian society was stripped of its independence in almost all spheres and slid into the abyss of time. By this time some three million had left the country among which a large number were women.
For almost fifteen years, traditional women whose lives had been transformed by attending the university and workforce and who were gradually made aware of the shortcomings of the law in their favour and the deep-rooted discrimination in the society realised the need to seek change. Initially, they sought the answer from among the interpretations of religion, women and society. A woman’s magazine, ‘Zanan’ became the centre focus of debates and published articles on modern women in an Islamic society. Secular women social scientists and lawyers contributed to these debates and the process of building bridges between the two factions went further. The debate was carried out for almost ten years until the magazine was closed down by the authorities. During these years young women from traditional families became like a river which was moving under glaciers and gained knowledge through reading the history of women’s struggles in other parts of the world, debating women’s issues, contacting secular women and making peace with them and moving away from their previous ideals of building an Islamic utopia towards secularism and understood the roots and the causes of their second-class status and slowly broke their silence and rank and emerged as a movement and a strong force to challenge the Islamic regime.
By then Ayatollah Khomeini had ended the war with Iraq then passed away and left the country to his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei who took a strong stance against all manifestations of modern life except those which were at the service of his own goals. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Iranian population doubled. The society became young and vibrant but deprived of freedoms and the life it sought and so became more distanced from the Islamic rhetoric which still dominated the ruling leaders.
Iranians, especially women were openly criticising the regime for its failure to provide employment and reduce poverty and the lack of basic freedoms in the society. Iranian Women’s movement which had gradually taken shape concentrated on the issues of law and its shortcomings and through seminars, conferences, books, translations a feminist discourse which was initially called ‘Islamic Feminism’, paved the way for a broader movement. During the eight-year presidency of Ayatollah Rafsanjani, and with the collaboration of his daughter, Faezeh Rafsanjani who argued for women’s rights within the Islamic doctrine and which published a newspaper ’Zan’, women’s movement took further steps to consolidate its presence.
The Iranian civil society was in general more active in the 10th presidential elections than before. This book focuses on two key areas: Women in the pre-election period as an independent group, and the ongoing struggles of the civil society in the post-elections period which women are an integral part of it.
The 8th March has a special significance for all women of the world but it bears more significance for the women of Iran. Every year, for the past 30 years, this day arrives, carrying with it jubilation and tremors. On 8th March 1979, just a few weeks after the Iranian Revolution, the life of Iranian women changed forever. Women had supported the revolution, marched on the streets in their thousands and were a considerable force to topple the Shah of Iran with the belief that they will gain more freedom and contribute to the democratisation of the country. Ironically, the first decree that Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolution leader issued, ‘advised’ women to regard the Islamic veil as ‘Iran was now an Islamic state! From then on, and for the past 30 years, women have marched on the streets in their thousands, formed various groups or fought as individuals against the first decree and other decrees and bills and orders and laws and the establishment of special forces which exclusively deal with women on the streets. They have gone to prison in their hundreds, tortured and executed. They have written about their experiences in memoirs and websites. They have made films and documentaries. Those who were forced to exile have proved their efficiency in education, employment, art, cinema and other areas. Inside the country, they have entered the universities in their thousands, took up to 64 per cent of the placements and graduated with high marks. Iranian women have received the Nobel Prize and tens of other international prizes *for their bravery and courage and commitment to women’s as well as human rights causes. Iranian women have a brilliant record of proving themselves to be equal with men. ………………………….
Every year on 8th March, women gather to evaluate their gains or mourn their losses. This year, their gathering had a special significance. The 10th presidential elections were due in June. In the past, women participated in the elections more as passive vote givers than an independent group with its own demands. They have been encouraged by the candidates to rally on the streets and vote for them. Although a few have entered the parliament it has been more of a token than actual participation. Women can not even stand for the presidency due to the interpretation of the RAJOL term used in the constitution for those who are eligible for candidacy. This year, women decided to go one step further and form a broad coalition to put their demands to the candidates. This decision was based on their awareness of the strength of their voice and the importance of their vote.
Iranian women have come a long way from 103 years ago, where, during the Constitutional Revolution they joined in and even fought on the streets in men’s outfit and even got killed; a long way from the late 1930s, when Reza Shah ordered them to take their veil off, sent them to schools to get educated, opened university doors and let the women enter it and finally gave them opportunity to enter the workforce; from the unsettling years of post-war * and the emergence of the communist parties which gave women piecemeal service by letting them in; from the 1953 coup against the nationalistic government of Mohammed Mosadeq, where they marched on the streets alongside men to protest; from the revolutionary Marxist-Leninism of the guerrilla movements of the 1970 against the Shah, where they joined in, took up arms, were detained, served long prison sentences, were tortured and executed; from the 1979 revolution, where they marched on the streets, went on strike in the workplaces and formed the biggest opposition group to topple the Shah. Iranian women have come a long way to reach this far.
Unlike other periods in history, the process of living the past 30 years under a theocratic regime with a tough stance against women has taught women hard lessons. A process that began in the late 1970s and has extended to the present day. Living through discrimination, violence and prejudice, fighting in every corner for their basic rights, being harassed, detained and even imprisoned and executed has driven the Iranian women into an abyss where they see no other way except to stand up and separate their demands from that of men and to form their own league and fight their own corner. It has not been as easy fight nor are they at the end. It is just the beginning of a road to self discovery and self-awareness which gives hope that in the future, women as half of the population will be considered equal to the other half and have their human rights restored and stapled in the constitution, the law and judiciary system *, in education, employment, family and all aspects of social and cultural arena.
With a rich history of gains and losses behind, the 10th presidential elections provided an opportunity for women to put to test their power and lobby the candidates to incorporate their basic demands in their programmes.
The first chapter gives a detailed projection of the efforts of women activists who worked within a democratic framework and organised about 700 individuals and 42 groups from inside and outside the country who signed up to the first statement and formed Women’s Coalition, which in a short period succeeded to put forward, sort out, analyse and decide upon proposals and programmes and summarise them in a workable platform to lobby the presidential candidates and make them react to their demands. They learnt in the process how to create a democratic atmosphere and give space to every one who signed up to the Coalition.
The author re-read about 3000 emails and vetted them to for this chapter. The reader might find it tiring details of the campaign as it shaped and developed but the author believes this in itself is the manifestation of the process of democratisation of the women’s movement as the biggest and the most advanced group in the emerging civil society in Iran. The effectiveness of their tactics led to the awareness of the presidential candidates of women’s demands and forced them to react and respond and learn in the process. During the presidential campaigns, women opened a dialogue with three out of the four candidates, Mr Mousavi, Karubi and Rezaie who responded positively to women. The fourth, Mr Ahmadinejad remained outside and was not approached as he did not show any interest in women’s causes during his 4-year presidency. He relentlessly introduced laws to the parliament which limited women’s rights even further, harassed and intimidated women on the streets detained and imprisoned them and left a dark legacy that could not be forgotten.
Never before has the country witnessed such a broad and democratic gathering of women around specific issues which were summarized in a statement. The gathering of 42 groups and over 700 hundred activists; secular and Islamists, inside and outside the country, from those who believed there is scope for change within the current system, to those who believed the system should be overhauled in order to meet the demands of women; all joined this coalition because they believed they have to use this window of opportunity to renew their demands for equal rights.
The Coalition was born during the 8th March gatherings but it was launched in April 2009 by a small group of women activists in Tehran who met at the offices of Roushangaran Publishing House which is the first women publishing house and called on women and men to join in*. A group email was set up and circled around the world. In no time civil society and human rights groups and women and some men joined in. Women believed that in the ‘relatively open atmosphere in the run-up to the elections there was the opportunity to renew their demands and reach out the broader layers of the society as well as the presidential candidates and the lawmakers. During the initial discussions, many issues were brought up but at the end, the consensus was a declaration to focus on the specific basic demands from the candidates on the one hand and educating grassroots of the necessity of those demands simultaneously.
The Coalition decided to focus on two key demands as a principle and immediate to be included in the candidates’ campaign programmes.
- Making Iran a state-party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This was introduced to the parliament in 2003 and ratified by the members but summarily rejected by the Guardian Council on the grounds that it contradicted the doctrine of Islam.*
- Advocating the elimination and review the articles 19, 20, 21 and 115 of the Constitution which are discriminatory against women and make amendments to them.*
The past 4 years since Mr Ahmadinejad became President, women lost most of what little they have gained during the 8 years presidency of the so-called ‘reformist’ government of Mr Mohammed Khatami.
Women activists fighting against legal and social discrimination have been under growing state pressure. There has been a systematic campaign of harassment, court summons, detention and even jail for those who have campaigned for women’s rights. The leading women’s magazine, ‘Zanan’ was closed down and a number of bills were introduced to the parliament limiting women’s rights in family, education and work. There was much work to be done.
Azam Taleghani joined the Coalition but decided to raise issues with the candidates outside the Coalition mandate as well. Taleghani who was an MP in the first years of the Islamic regime has run for the presidency several times and was rejected on a technicality of the interpretation of a word used for those who can be nominated for the presidency in the Iranian Constitution, ‘Rejal’ which in Arabic means ‘personalities’, which means only ‘men’. She said in a meeting that some officials see women as ‘slaves and second-class citizens.
In the initial gatherings, women activists spoke of limitations and barriers against women ranging from standing for the presidency at the highest level to inequalities in many spheres of the society; law, family, employment etc. The Coalition decided from the start to commit itself to an independent outlook: it neither supports any specific candidate nor infringes on the right of the Iranian citizens to choose to participate or to abstain from the elections as they wish so.*
18 April 2009
The work starts
The core group of the Coalition met up in mid-April and decided on some main issues:
- To set up a group email so that they can reach the members.
- To publish the statement and translate it into various language for use outside Iran.
- To organise committees to deal with specific issues:
- Media and information
- People’s relations
- Public relations and information
The organising committee requested the members to join any of the above committees. Those who were outside Iran joined the International Committee and members inside joined the rest. Responsibilities of each committee were discussed via emails and the work of each committee was agreed upon as such:
- Media Committee: contact with the press and candidates and provide platforms for the Coalition to reach the candidates and put forward their demands.
- People’s Relations’ Committee: to organise seminars in cultural centres as well as public places and to distribute brochures and booklets and to attract membership.
- Public Relations and Information Committee: to introduce the Coalition to other civil society groups and ask them to join or to support the Coalition.
- International Committee to translate the Statement into various languages and to introduce and publicise in their relevant countries.
People and NGOs who signed the statement were given the opportunity to join the group email and some 300 joined in. Emails went back & forth on the categorisation of the group email. It was impossible for 300 on the list to speak to each other and decide upon an issue. It was decided that
- Each working group assigns a volunteer as responsible for the issues related to that group so emails go to the relevant person. She would brief the others of the outcome.
- To use Balatarin Website which uses the voting system with membership as a base and to ask members to vote on any issue.
The first meeting of the People’s Relation Committee was convened at the offices of the Roshangaran Publications with 16 women present. The matters discussed:
- Translation of the statement into German
- Reply to the questions related to the Constitution on the Facebook.
- To have the first meeting with Mr Karubi.
- To design a logo.
There was some discussion about articles 4 & 177* of the Constitution and who to ask for verification. The Grand Ayattolah Sanei was proposed.
It was decided:
- To contact Ms Marzieh Mortazi, in Mr Karubi’s camp.
2-To, contact Mr Mousavi’s camp for an appointment.
3-To ask Ms Massoumeh Ebtekar* to answer some questions.
4-To contact all candidates except those who do not act as they have promised!
5-To ask men to join the Coalition.
There were other matters arising which were discussed by the bigger group vial email:
The execution of Delara Darabi.*
The detention of Jelveh Javaheri on May Day and search of her house. Jelveh Javaheri is a woman’s rights activist and member of the Coalition.
There were a lot of emails in the International Committee regarding the English translation of the statement which has been done by a number of activists abroad. It seemed that at the end more than one translation was published. Those in London used their own translation for a Media Release and publicity and those in other parts agreed on another translation for publication on the sites and distribution. Members of this committee were asked to declare where they live.
A general meeting was due to convene at the Roushangaran offices on 3 May at 5 PM.
The meeting convened as planned. There were a lot of discussions:
- Translation of the statement by the International Committee. A number of women have joined in.*
- In London, members are trying to contact the BBC Persian and Amnesty International. The English translation by London members is underway.
- In Kabul, women are encouraged to develop the Coalition ideas among the Afghan Women.*
- In Italy, translation is underway to go to the press.*
- In Philippines, to contact the Iranian ambassador.*
The gathering discussed the issue of the key slogan.
- The Elimination of Gender Discrimination is what all Iranians want.
- Our Vote, Women’s Demands
- Gender Equality is Our Right, Not a Slogan
- Freedom, Equality, Gender Justice
- Our Right, Our Demand, Our Vote, Gender Equality
- Our Right, Our Vote, Equality
- Abolition of Gender Discrimination, Wish of all Iranians
- Equal Citizens, Equal Laws
- We vote the candidate who incorporates women’s demands in his programmes.
- Our Selection, Abolition of discriminatory Laws
- Abolition of Discrimination in All Areas
- Women want to join the Convention
- Women’s Demands, Gender Equality, Women’s Vote Elimination of Discrimination
- Our Vote, Equal Right
These slogans and some others were put forward to the group and asked them to vote.
Finally, the votes were cast and the slogan which got the biggest vote was chosen:
We Vote the Women’s Demands!
Another meeting of the Tehran members made the following suggestions:
- To take photos of the gathering.
- To arrange the first meeting with Mr Karubi.
- To organise workshops for grassroots to discuss the Convention and the articles as mentioned by the statement.
Due to the timetable and the difficulties of travelling some proposed that a DVD of Tehran workshops be sent to the cities for training purposes, otherwise, law experts should volunteer to travel around the country.
The group proposed some names for the Karubi meeting: Shahla Lahiji, Minoo Mortazo, Farzaneh Taheri, Firouzeh Saber and Djila Baniyakoob.
This meeting convened with the participation of a number of women activists.
- Some a number of people volunteered to run the workshops possibly in Esfahan and Shahr Kord.
- The English version of the Press Release was also discussed. There was a discussion on the style and the language of the publications. Some of the email group have suggested that the published literature by the Coalition is not edited properly.
- It was reported that the Coalition has now active members is many countries including: England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway, US, Phillipins and France. There were a number of interviews with women scholars and activists by the VOA and the BBC is due to run a programme on the Coalition.* A few women who are not supporting the Coalition have published articles and statements.
- The publication of an on-line magazine was proposed and Ms Shahla Sherkat who was the chief-editor of the Zanan magazine for 10 years before it was closed down by the government was proposed to run it. There were a lot of proposals on the name of this magazine and it was decided to put the names to the email group to cast their votes. Some of the proposed names were as follows:
- Hamgaraie (Coalition), Women Today, Hamgaraie Zanan (Women Coalition), Women & the Elections, Women’s Movement, Women’s Voice, Women’s Demands.
- It was reported that someone from the Karubi headquarters has informed the Coalition that they can use their premises.
– It was decided the Coalition shows its presence in as many election venues as possible.
– On May Day peaceful march some of the Campaign (One Million Signature) members as well as students and workers were detained including Jelveh Javaheri, the Campaign and Coalition member. A statement signed by 200 people has been published to demand the immediate release of all detainees.
– There was a discussion on the publication of the second statement and a draft was presented.
– The BBC Persian interview with Ziba Mirhosseini and Azadeh Kina was reported.
– It was decided that the Coalition meets regularly as there was a short time before the elections.
– The workshops needed the name of the Islamic countries which have signed in the Convention.
– The name of the online magazine was announced as the votes were counted: Hamgaraie Zanan (Women’s Coalition).
– A radio run by a Mr Reza Goharzad from the US has requested to include reports on Hamgaraie (Coalition) on its daily news bulletin.
– A woman who works at Mr Mousavi’s campaign headquarters in Rasht announced her willingness to run a workshop.
– The necessity of a regular bulletin was discussed and a number of women volunteered.
Mohsen Rezai, a presidential candidate has announced that he will appoint a woman as Iran’s Foreign Secretary!
- Mousavi said that women NGOs can help the government to decrease discrimination. He also said the cliché picture of women should be eradicated and more important post be allocated to women. Mousave is against polygamy.
- Karubi announced he is a defender of women’s presence in every area and will have at least one woman minister at his cabinet and a deputy and will pave the way for women to enter the Assembly of Expediency.
In the Public relations committee the use of all electronic means; email, text, Facebook etc was agreed to send the messages out to the people. The public relations committee decided:
- To publicise the Coalition (Hamgarai).
- To prioritise women’s demands.
- To work on the elimination of discrimination.
- Employment and economic situation.
- Security and social welfare.
– The organising group was informed of a seminar at the School of Social Sciences with Ms Zahra Rahnavard (Mr Mousavi’s wife) and Ms Massoumeh Ebtekar. It was agreed that a representative from the Coalition attends with the intention of informing, publicising the Coalition’s main demands.
– It was reported that the translation of some articles about the Coalition can be seen on Radio 670 website.
– One of the women from the Coalition managed to talk with Mohsen Rezai at the Book Fair and he said he is ready to talk to women about
The Media committee* the discussion was on the priorities of the Convention or the constitution articles.
The Coalition met up with Ms Rahnevard. She said she is well aware of the women’s problems but she believes the change must be structural. Mr Mousavi believes we shouldn’t give false promises. His priority is economy and foreign investment and employment but it doesn’t mean that we have to wait.
Zahra Rahnevard is an enlightened intellectual and her being involved in the presidential; campaigns is positive.
The Coalition had a discussion about the VOA interview with Ms Shahla Shafiq from Paris and Ms Shojai from Tehran. They concluded that although most of the time was given to Ms Shafiq who was opposed to the Coalition, Ms Shojai defended the Coalition very well and sent its message across in her limited time.
The International Women’s Media Award was this year given to Djila Baniyaqub.* Ms Nayereh Towhidi informed the group of the winner. She said she is glad to announce that the two candidates she has put forwards to the Award Committee have won the award. The first was Ms Shala Sherkat, editor of the banned Zanan magazine and now Djila.*
There was a discussion about second discussion with Mr Karubi. It seemed that he is too enthusiastic about women’s issues and sometimes mixes serious issues with flirtatious remarks as if he is now courting and then will forget his promises after marriage! Ms Kadivar, Karubi’s advisor in women’s issues was present as well. He said he has a lot of programmes for women; from the economy to sports, university, women’s specific issues etc.
The group favoured appointing a temporary spokesperson.
The BBC wants an interview and some names were proposed. From London Rouhi Shafii and Samar Meranlu were invited to answer questions and the Coalition should propose someone from Iran as well.
In the 2nd weekly Bulletin the candidate’s remarks in the campaign trail was reported briefly:
- Zahra Rahnevard spoke at the gathering of students at Shiraz University. She emphasized that women have no independent personality, face problems in employment, are excluded from macro-decision making policies. Regarding the compulsory veil she said this has never been a cliché. The Quoran, the holy book only advises women to wear suitable clothes in order not to be exploited.
- In the gathering of a group of girls (the Turquoise Girls), Ms Rahnevarsd emphasised that the behaviour of the Patrol Corpse in harassing women is ugly and patronising.
- Zahra Borujerdi from Mohsen Rezaie’s camp emphasised that women do not want to be used as the foot soldiers anymore. The most important issue is to be allowed compete based on ability.
- In a speech, Elaheh Kulai from karubi camp said that after the war there was a consensus for support the women’s causes. In his 8 year presidency, Mr Rafasanjani paid some attention to women but the golden age of women came during the Khatami presidency. He had two women in his cabinet.
- Ms Rafat Bayat, one of the women presidential candidates announced that if given the opportunity, she will be appointed president because of her gender. She said she will appoint 5/6 women ministers and a number at high profile jobs as well.
- In the gathering of students in the city of Yazd, Mr Mousavi said there is no ceiling for women to be appointed to higher positions in the government.
- The Media committee of the Coalition met up with Ms Rahnevard. From the Coalition Shahla Lahiji spoke about the Convention and emphasised that the demands set there are general to all women and not just the middle classes. Minoo Mortazi spoke of the discrimination between men and women. She mentioned that there are 4 types of discrimination in the world: class, gender, ethnic and international. Iranian women are discriminated against all four. Shala Sherkat spoke of the problems of women’s publications. Ms Rahnevars listened to the Coalition and replied that she is well aware of all these difficulties but Mr Mousavi’s priority is economy. She asked the women to stay in the scene. She said women’s demands are a huge project and needs a national consensus and determination to achieve them.
- Women present at this meeting were: Shahla Sherkat, Minoo Moertazi, Pourfazel, Fatemeh Govaraie, Farideh Machini all from the Communications committee of the Coalition and Ameneh Shirafkan, Shokufeh Azar, and Farideh Gayeb from the Media committee. Fatemeh Rakeie from the Mousavi camp.
- In the opening gathering of karubi’s headquarters in the city of Aradabil, Ms Jamileh Kadivar said that Mr karubi has special programmes to deal with women in management, single mothers, house wives’ insurance and their retirement.
- In his 5th statement, Mr karubi emphasised that he will have women ministers and advisors. He will revive the rule of law and citizens rights for women and will ensure the presence of women in the Guardian and Expediency Councils. On violence against women he said the issue of violence at home, honour killing and prostitution must be studied and dealt with. He said he will deal with the issues of health, sports, empowerment, employment, disabled and senior citizens, women farmers and cattle raisers. In all, he emphasised that women constitute a big proportion of his 35 point programme. He condemned the detention and terrorising of women activists. He indicated that he will try to ratify the Convention conditionally (those articles that are against the Shariat law will not be ratified). He has a 35 point plan for the country which includes women’s demands as well.
- There has been a lot of reaction to the Coalition;
- It was announced that women candidates were rejected by the Guardian Council. Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani wrote an article and proposed the Coalition demands change in article 115 as well.
- Partow Nouriala had an interview with Pars TV in LA.
- Mansoureh Shojaie and Farzaneh Taheri spoke of the Coalition at a gathering in Shiraz where some NGOs were also present. Shiraz activists volunteered to run a workshop.
- Fatemeh Farhangiaqn had an interview with the online daily Rooz online.
- Parastou Alahyari has written an article on the Change for Equality website criticising the Coalition.
- Zahra Rahnevard announced in one of her speeches that Mousavi would agree to join the Convention.
- Rouhi Shafii and Samar Meranlou had an interview with the BBc on the Coalition and its activities. The London team decided to issue a press release on the Coalition activities.
- The workshop in Esfahan sent its report.
- The Coalition decided to issue a statement to condemn the rejection of women candidates for presidency. In all 471 registered as candidates, out of which 42 were women. The Guardian Council approved the candidacy of only 4 men: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Karubi and Mohsen Rezaiee. In the statement it was decided to ask the approved candidates whether they are prepared to object to the Guardian Council the rejection of women which goes back to the misinterpretation of article 115 of the Constitution. If they do so, it shows that in future they will act on their promises of equal right for women.
- Mohsen Rezaie issued a statement he said he will recognise housewifery as a job and pay women a wage and insurance. He said he will use women in higher positions But he emphasised he will do that regarding the Islamic values at the same time. He will ensure the equal distribution of opportunities in all levels.
- The Coalition agreed to distribute brochures and booklets in various parts of Tehran, A public meeting is scheduled by Mousavi and Karubi camps in the coming weeks and there were discussions on how to lobby them.
The Coalition and activists had a lot of discussions on whether the candidates’ promises are real or just the ‘election’ promise!
- There was a discussion regarding the seminar of civil society organisations and who wants to represent the Coalition.
- The Publicity Committee should distribute the placards and persuade people to stick the Coalition demands on their vehicles.
A report of the last general meeting of the Coalition before the elections convened at the offices of Rowshangaran Publishing House on 17 May was presented by Ms Shadi Sadr.
Present were 50 women and men activists.
Matters discussed and approved:
- There were long discussions on meeting with the candidates. It was decided that the Public Relations committee also meets up with all personalities whose views are of value and importance on women’s demands.
- For the second phase of Coalition activities, it was proposed and agreed that;
- The Coalition organises a seminar at Ms Azam Taleghani’s Institute in order to raise awareness on the Coalition demands. This will be organised by the Publicity Committee.
- In the last days of the campaigns members will be at the town squares and key points to discuss and explain women’s demands to the general public.
- A report on the outcome and the activities of the workshops in various parts of the country was presented to the meeting.
- Two Graphic designers; Ms Eskandari and Mr Sahihi recently joined the Coalition. It was decided that with their expertise new designs of the slogans and logo goes on the pamphlets and placards.
- Ms Rakhshan Baniadam, the film-maker will make a three minute clip of the last week of Coalition activities for use on Youtube and other online facilities.
- Based on the second statement and with regards to the views given via emails by other Coalition members, Ms Bakhtiari was assigned to write a third statement with extra clarification.
- The People’s Committee has repeatedly asked for extra members to join in.
- It was decided to write ‘the main points of meetings and the decisions made as subject’ in each email because some of the members do not have time to read the details of the many emails that constantly circles around.
- There was another discussion on the Logo.
- A report on the gathering of Ayandehnagar Society and Ms Fatemeh Rakei (President of Women’s poets and former MP) was presented.
- Parvin Ardalan (Member founder of One Million Signature Campaign) has written an article criticising the Coaltion and Ms Shadi Sadr has replied to that in Women’s Field site.
- As Jelveh Javaheri is in prison, in London women activists reported that they are in constant contact with Amnesty International for her release. A statement was given to the BBC Persian and Radio Zamaneh.
- It was decided to vote on the issues using the Balatarin website.
- Proposal on the final acts in the last days of campaign:
- To see the candidates and press them to include women’s demand in their final statements.
- There was a proposal to use the system’s own tools for publicity; the coming birthday of Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Fatemeh Zahra. This evoked a lot of discussions.
- Based on the experiences of first years of the revolution and the suppression of women activists, some one from abroad advised the central members of the Coalition to safeguard their documents and even cautioned them against their own safety, should Iran be unfortunate and Ahmadinejad becomes the president once again!
- It was announced that the Karubi campaign is going to discuss the Convention and they wanted volunteers from the Coalition to talk about it.
- Etemad Meli Website (Karubi’s official online paper) published the Coalition meeting with Mr Karubi.
- Ms Shokuh Mirzadegi has written several article against the Coalition.
- The People’s committee had a gathering with Sara Sabaghian, Mosoumeh Vatani, Zahra Minuiee, Maryam Karbasi, Shadi SAdr and Mahbubeh Karami present.
- Presence at main squares, the distribution of brocures and talking to the people was agreed upon. The committee proposed that each member writes her experience of their presence and the people’s response so the committee prepares a report to the general meeting.
- The education and publicity committee reported that so far they have had workshops at the cities of Hamedan, Zahedan, Tabriz, Esfahan, Yazd and Shiraz.
The offices of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, a clergy who is in for the past 3 years has issued a statement supporting the Coalition.
- The was only 12 days left to the elections and the Coalition is anxious to utilise all its forces to publicise women’s demands especially on the internet and Coalition Facebook.
- There was a feeling among the members that the more Mr Mousavi’s candidacy gets momentum, the more NAJA Chief( Tehran’s special police force) limits the publicity campaigns. They do not issue permission for concerts anymore. The publicity parades are banned. Facebook has been filtered for two days. Posters are not allowed on many places.
A request was issued by the organiser in Tehran urging social science researchers to support the Coalition and write and publicise it.
The publicity committee had a meeting with the presence of: Parvin Bakhtiari, Mina Rabiee, Azita Sharaf Jahan, Mansoureh Shojaie, Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh, Rozita Sharafjahan, Shahla Lahiji, Shadi Sadr and Noushi Ahmadikhorasani.
To issue the draft of a statement and to have further debates with the candidates, their representatives and other civil society groups were approved.
There was a proposal to establish for a permanent committee to pursue women’s demands post-election. The Coalition has received lots of emails on this issue. No firm decision was made. There were lots of discussions on the draft of the final statement.
It was reported that Mr Mousavi announced that he is against any change in the constitution. A clip of a film from an all-male Mousavi’s rally was shown in which Ms Rahnavard appeared for 3 seconds! Ms Kulaie from Mousavi’s camp announced that he will reform the discriminatory laws and will reinforce civil institutions to defend women’s rights.
According to Ms Kadivar, Karubi’s advisor, he has promised to eradicate all discrimination which are in the area of his authority as president.
Mohsen Rezai was inaccessible but it was reported in the papers that he is standing to the promises he announced earlier in the campaign.
No one from Ahmadinejad’s camp has agreed to meet up with the Coalition but his supporters claim that he will try to open the stadium doors to women, reduce working hours during pregnancy.
Ahmadinejad’s critics refer to his actions in the past 4 years: introducing the Family bill to the parliament which gave men the right to polygamy; the strategy of gender separation and other discriminatory strategies in higher education; detention of women activists and so on.
It was proposed that if in this short period before the elections women meet up with any of the four candidates, they ask them the following questions:
- Is your first deputy going to be a man or a woman?
- How many women will you appoint in your cabinet? What ministries?
- What are your strategies regarding universities?
- How do you join the Convention?
The Coalition believes that in general the candidates either speak in general terms or repeat election slogans and do not have a concrete strategy for women as they never have in the past.
1 June will be the last general meeting of the Coalition.
Mousavi had a rally in the south of Tehran. The Coalition women were present and distributed brochures and booklets.
The Coalition has decided to be present at all the gatherings as time is pressing.
Outside Iran, Zahra Rahnavard’s presence beside her husband has had a wide coverage. It is the first time that a candidate is accompanied by his active wife in a campaign. Other candidates are bringing their wives and other female members alongside them to boost votes.
In Afghanistan whose presidential elections is imminent, the Coalition has already had its effects and Afghan women have issued a statement stating their demands. There has been some correspondence between Iranian and Afghan women activists.
- It was reported that in one of Karubi’s gathering with families of the political prisoners, about 200 booklets were distributed.
- Ahmadinejad is utilising government facilities for his campaign.
- Khatami will have a live debate on Facebook, supporting Mousavi. This is the first session of “Green dialogue” initiated by Mousavi’s camp, the Third Wave, Weblog activists and online media. The Third Wave website will broadcast this debate live.
- Mousavi has announced his strategy for women in a rally at the Bahman Cultural centre;
To join the Convention but keep the articles that contradicted with the Shariat Law.
To review the disputed articles in the Constitution.
– The Coalition is planning for further presence at the strategic positions in towns.
– Mousavi has sent a message in the Turkish language to the Azerbaijani people. This is the first time a candidate speaks in his ethnic language as a sign of recognition which is much disputed in Iran.
– Rakhshan Baniadam has made a film about the elections.
The Coalition continued its activities right to the last days of the election campaigns. The last statement was issued but the Coalition kept its original strategy that members were free to vote any candidate or not to vote. The Coalition will not interfere with citizen’s rights to vote.
The reflection of the Coalition outside and inside Iran was widespread and made women the core of the election campaigns. There were numerous women individuals and groups that campaigned for women’s rights but the Coalition as an ad-hoc group became the focus and the core of women and election. After 30 years of living under a theocratic regime and being discriminated in every step, women found a common ground to the group and speak in one voice. This understanding and enlightenment derive from their previous work as a group; in the demonstrations of 2004, where many were arrested and sent to jail and the ongoing harassment and their successful campaign against the Family bill, the One-million Signature Campaign and various other campaigns.
Tenth Presidential Elections
Main players: Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karubi, Mohsen Rezaie, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammed Khatami
The tenth presidential election was an important phase in the 30 years of the Islamic republic regime. Elections in Iran are neither fair nor free. People are allowed to choose only among a few candidates who have passed the screening process and been vetted by an elected body called the Guardian Council.*
The world has moved on since 30 years ago when the Iranian revolution as the last revolution of the twentieth century shook the world. Despite the ceaseless efforts of the Islamic regime to keep the population under its grip and impose its own interpretation of the state and people, the internet and other advanced means of communication have connected Iranians, especially the younger generation which comprise the majority of the 70 million population of Iran to the outside world. This means that the third generation after the revolution understand and value their aspirations which are fundamentally different from what they have been offered. They want change, not in the revolutionary style of their parents three decades earlier but a gradual, peaceful transition to democracy, freedom and the rule of law. The tenth presidential election gave them ample opportunity to shift from political apathy and hopelessness to a sense of hope for change and a show of strength which resulted in the mass mobilisation to participation in the elections. Among participants women, students and workers had their specific demands from the candidates. Gender politics in the pre-election period occupied a good amount of debates and all three candidates apart from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to address women’s demands. Among the candidates, Mousavi was accompanied by his wife, Zahra Rahnevard, a prominent woman academic and writer. In her meetings with women’s activists, she promised to encourage her husband to incorporate women’s demands into his strategies although she emphasised that Mousavi’s priorities were the state of the economy.
Mehdi Karubi, the clergy candidate had a more women-friendly approach and allocated most of his campaign headquarters to women’s activists to use. He also addressed the concerns of other groups. Mohsen Rezaie also joined the bandwagon and promised to change farther than expected.
Although from among over four hundred candidates only four passed the screening of the Guardian Council and women were refused participation, the tenth presidential elections brought millions of people into the open to cast their vote. Prior to elections day and from all accounts and poles, Ahamdinejad was not predicted to win, especially with a landslide vote.
The candidates were divided into reformists which meant Mousavi and Karubi and fundamentalists which was Ahmadinejad’s camp. Rezaie stood in the middle. He was neither a reformist nor a fundamentalist. Prior to the elections day and for the first time in Iran’s history, presidential candidates attended in live televised debates. They spoke about their programmes and answered questions. On Ahmadinejad versus Mousavi, the debates took a sharp turn as Ahmadinejad took an offensive tone and attacked Mousavi’s programmes as well as his wife, Professor Zahra Rahnevard and Mousavi’s associates. He also attacked Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of Council of Expietry for his role in the reformist’s camp without him being present in the studio. Ahmadinejad also managed to campaign on the state-controlled television network on June 11, a day before the elections while other candidates were not able to do so as Television was controlled by his government. Apart from some comments given by a few people in Ahmadinejad’s camp* and from all accounts, the elections were expected to run smoothly although minor discrepancies would have been predicted.
Chronology of a Coup
June 12, Election Day
On June 12, from 8 in the morning, people queued to cast their votes. Outside Iran, thousands of Iranians voted as well. While casting his vote, Ayatollah Khamenei said this election is a ‘Great National Test’ for the Iranian people and asked them to participate in the elections. He also said that there are rumours around regarding my views and asked the people to ignore them. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani also cast his vote in the north of Tehran. When asked about his favourite candidate he said he cannot tell people who to choose. It is up to them to decide. Mir-hossein Mousavi along with his wife, Zahra Rahnevard cast their vote as did Mehdi Karubi, Mohsen Rezai and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
On the international level, Barak Obama said that it is to the Iranian people to choose their leaders. He said Iranian people are looking forward to new opportunities and hope that Iran’s next president would pave the way for positive dialogue.
A few incidents before and on elections day are necessary to be mentioned. On June 12, employees at the government-owned daily newspaper, Iran were summoned to be on standby to publish the first results which were rumoured to be “Ahmadinejad’s victory”. At the time, voting was still underway and it was rumoured that Mousavi is ahead of Ahmadinejad. The rumour of Ahmadinejad’s victory came from Keyhan Newspaper headquarters and spread to Iran and the Fars News agency.
An hour later as some voting stations were asking for more paper ballots and people were queuing to cast their votes in many places. Although some ten million ballot papers were distributed they didn’t reach the voters. The Ministry of Home Affairs announced that voting will extend to 8 PM, then 10 PM and more ballot papers will be sent to those stations which have run out of them. This did not happen. Reports of an attack on Mousavi’s headquarters spread in town. Some unknown men armed with a hand grenade attacked the building, smashed the furniture, attacked the volunteers and threw them out. Apart from that by announcing the ‘Manoeuvre of Eghtedar (Power)’ on the streets, there was a sense that Tehran was under military siege. Armoured vehicles and Basiji militias and revolutionary guards were deployed at every corner of the capital’s main roads and squares ‘to avoid’ violence. Needless to say that from June 11, the internet was slowed down and SMS on the mobile phone was cut off and phone lines were disrupted. On this day while no one expected violence, some of the reformist websites, including ‘Ayandeh News’ were filtered and the BBC Persian broadcasting was severely disrupted.
The people who have rallied prior to the elections in a peaceful manner and festive atmosphere were not expected to be violent or confront violence. All through the day, they were casting their votes in the same manner although in some stations they noticed irregularities and the shortage of ballots and the rejection of the voting commission to extend the hour although they have promised it earlier on. That deprived many of voting altogether.
On the night of the voting apart from rumours and counter rumours, observers of the three candidates were asked to leave the polling stations. Consequently, ballot boxes from many in Tehran were taken away by armed guards who were not the designated authority despite the objection of the employees and volunteers at the stations. At about 10 PM while at some stations people were still casting their votes and some were waiting for fresh ballot papers, Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, and official news agency, IRNA and Fars news agency suddenly declared Ahmadinejad as the winner. At about 11 PM Mousavi announced that according to the reports he has received from his team of observers he is expected to win.
However, at around midnight, news of Mousavi’s victory with %65 votes were dispatched by the international media and many prepared themselves for the victory parade of the reformists over fundamentalists.
According to some reports, Mir-Hossein Mousavi received a call at about midnight from someone at the Ministry of Home Affairs, congratulating him on his victory. Mousavi sat to prepare his speech. Consequently, and while Tehran was increasingly under military siege, the authorities at the ministry surprisingly announced Ahmadinejad as the winner! Mousavi phoned Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme leader to intervene until all votes are cast.
However, at about 10 PM, Mousavi’s headquarters at Gheitarieh in north Tehran was attacked but his supporters who had rounded up the building resisted and scaffolding broke out between them and the armed men who attacked the people with pepper gas and threw the furniture out of the windows. It was reported that some of the armed men had foreign features and spoke Arabic. A suspicion that the government was using elements of Lebanese Hezbollah who were being trained in Iran by the Quods Military Training Centre.
All at the same time, Ahmadinejad’s supporters were celebrating his ‘victory’ at the Ministry of Home Affairs. When the ‘results’ were published later, the defeated candidates, Mousavi and Karubi did even win votes in their respective hometowns an occurrence that surprised many. It seemed from all accounts that the decision was already made. The supreme leader hastily congratulated Ahmadinejad while Karubi called the results ‘ridiculous and amazing’!
According to the Elections Bill, after all, votes including votes from outside Iran are cast and counted, the results must be confirmed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and then sent to the Council of Guardians for approval. If the Council approves, the winner will then be announced. Ayatollah Khamenei as the Supreme Leader then will have to give his blessing to the winner. In this case, Ayatollah Khamenei did not wait for any of these procedures to complete. He sent his congratulations almost immediately after the announcement.
Later, it was revealed that a few days earlier in a letter to the supreme leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi had pleaded with him to oversee a healthy election in order to avoid ‘a dangerous choreography’ and prevent the government from stopping the people’s decision.
According to an interview with Abolfazl Fateh, Mousavi’s election manager who fled Iran before being imprisoned, when this letter was delivered to Khamenei’s offices, his personal secretary, Mr Vahid indicated that nothing will change the results!
On June 13,
The morning after, people woke up to the most surprising piece of news. Ahmadinejad was declared as the winner with over 24 million votes! Mousavi issued a statement indicating that he will not rest until people’s votes are recognised. He also urged the high ranking clergy to intervene in what he called ‘cheating in people’s votes’. On the afternoon of Saturday, June 13, Sadegh Mahsouli, Home Affairs minister officially announced that Ahmadinejad had won with twenty-four million and five hundred thousand, % 63 of all votes! In a televised speech, Ahamdinejad said the results were an amazing victory and called on his supporters to prepare for celebrations. Abbas Kadkhodai, speaker of Guardian Council announced that 85 per cent of those eligible have cast their votes.
The Association of Clergy Fighters issued a statement indicating the results were ‘engineered’.
There were sporadic scaffolding between people and the police. Associated Press reported the unrest as one of the most serious since a decade earlier. Outside the country, Iranians gathered outside the Iranian embassies to object to the results.
In a televised speech Ahmadinejad announced the voting was free and fair and a ‘Great Victory’ and called on his supporters to assemble at Vali –Asr Square to celebrate. At this time, Tehran was virtually under military siege.
Late on Saturday, armed men attacked the headquarters of Etemad Meli, Karubi’s official Newspaper and did not allow the workers to leave the building. Simultaneously, the wave of arrests of various reformist personalities began and newspapers were warned not to print any statement issued by Mousavi and Karubi.
On the international stage and in a short statement, Hilary Clinton, the US Foreign Secretary said that: ‘her country would not comment on the results but hoped that they were according to Iran people’s wishes.’ She didn’t mention Ahmadinejad nor Mousavi in her statement.
The truth was the majority of the middle-class Iranians which comprise about 70 per cent of the population, especially women, students and workers, tired of the past four years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, participated in the elections in their millions to make a change. Their demands were published in their manifestos and statements, none of which ever acknowledged by Ahmadinejad.
When the results were announced, initially people were in shock, then angry and poured on the streets. On Sunday, the wave of arrests continued and a large number of reformists were detained. The defeated candidates, Mousavi and Karubi along with their allies, Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani did not have a concrete strategy to confront the coup. It showed that none expected such a thing to happen. The Organisation of Islamic Fighters and the Movement of Participation whose high ranking members were being detained both called the moves as a ‘velvet coup’. There were rumours of an all-out strike but no one was certain of anything. On Sunday night people went on the rooftops and chanted ‘God is Great’ in objection. They also began shouting slogans against the election coup and in support of Mousavi. By then, arrests of the opposition figures continued and two Dutch foreign journalists were ordered to leave the country. The BBC Persian service was disrupted and the activities of the Al-Arabieh network ceased for a week.
Mousavi wrote a letter to the Guardian Council objecting to the results. Karubi said that he does not recognise the results as legitimate. Ahmadinejad on the other hand said in a televised speech that those who object to the results are nothing but a ‘Bunch of Motes and Straw’, which later led to the creation of songs and music to ridicule him for calling millions of the most educated and intelligent Iranians such names.
On Sunday evening Mousavi visited Ayatollah Khamenei but he advised him to distance himself from the rioters.
At this stage, it was evident that cracks in the foundations of the Islamic regime have widened and two camps emerged from among the division: Ahamdinejad, the Supreme Leader and their followers which comprised the bulk of the revolutionary guards, the Basij militia and the security forces along with the most fundamentalist in the clergy establishment, especially those who in the back-stage supported Ahmadinejad. The most powerful Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is rumoured to be the wealthiest among the clergy, ayatollah Janati and the Hojatieh clandestine organisation.*
On the so-called ‘reformist’ camp stood, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of Expediency Council, Mohammed Khatami, Iran’s president prior to Ahmadinejad, Mousavi and Karubi and the rest of the Islamic reformists and intellectuals. Mohsen Rezaie announced that he will not contest the results and crept into anonymity. Millions of Iranian seculars inside and outside the country who had participated in the elections and voted for either Mousavi or Karubi stood on the sideline for a brief period, watching the dramatic events to unfold.
On Monday, June 15, Mousavi issued a statement asking his supporters to join him on Enghelab* Square to march towards Azadi Square at 4 PM. This act was a no return back to Mousavi, his supporters and also Mehdi Karubi and his supporters and the majority of the Iranian people who had already gathered on the rooftops at nights chanting ‘ God is Great’ and ‘Death to Dictator’ in Tehran in the cover of night. Iran was waiting to witness the gradual fall of a regime that had imprisoned the Iranian people in its vile grip for so long.
The process of arrests which had started a few days before the elections continues in earnest. Prominent reformists such as Mohsen Mirdamadi, Mohammed Reza Khatami, Mohsen Amin Zadeh and their wives were detained. In all, Ahmad Reza Radan Chief of Security Forces announced 100 people were so far detained. The organisation of Islamic Fighters was the first political group inside the country that announced a: ‘velvet coup’ has taken place in Iran. Iranians outside the country continued their protests for the second time.
On June 15, Mousavi, accompanied by Karubi and Khatami participated in the demonstrations as announced and demanded the annulment of the elections. Ahmadinejad also gathered his supporters at Vali Asr Square and spoke to them. The Guardian Council invited Mousavi and Karubi to a meeting and promised will investigate the allegations of vote-rigging.
The brutal sign of the coup apart from detention of reformists head figures was the attack to the Tehran and Esfahan universities by special guards which both took place in the middle of the night during which dormitory doors was broken, tear gag was thrown at the students, many were beaten up and some were shot by bullets fired by Winchester guns. A number of students were taken away by the guards. Ali Larijani, head of Parliament ordered an investigation into the incident.
At the international level, Hamed Karzi, Afghan president was the first to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his victory. The EU foreign ministers issued a statement warning Iran about the harsh treatment of peaceful demonstrators and indicated that they follow the developments closely.
Davi Milliband, UK Foreign Secretary said that his country is following the developments with concern. He also mentioned the disruption in communications, SMS, telephones, TV broadcasting and the internet. However, he indicated that the consequences of the elections are not clear but his country would pursue the dialogue on the nuclear issue. The German and French called the Iranian foreign ambassadors and demanded clarification on the harsh treatment of Iranian people by the security forces and the situation of foreign reporters.
On June 16, demonstrations continued in silence but demonstrators were attacked according to government sources:, state TV, Press TV and ILNA press agency, 7 people were shot dead by ‘mobs’. Although Head of Parliament, Ali Larijani ordered a delegation to investigate the attacks on the universities and shootings on the streets, the head of his delegation, Hamid Katuzian was quick to announce that shootings were ‘the work of mobs’. However, as a result of Larijani’s intervention detained students were released. Eyewitnesses said those dead and wounded were shot by the security forces. Films of a Basiji man shooting directly at the people from a Basij headquarters was shown on Youtube.
The wave of arrests continued. Ali Abtahi, Khatami’s Vice-president, Said Hajarian* and Mohsen Aminzadeh were detained. Guardian Council announced that if it finds discrepancies in the votes it will order a partial recount. However, Ahmadinejad supporters announced in their gathering that Iran’s enemies; the US, Britain and Isreal are involved in the plot against the Iranian government. Mousavi’s supporters gathered in front of Iranian state TV stations to voice their protests against biased reports. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri announced that the legitimacy of the system is in danger. Thousands of people have continued chanting on the rooftops at night.
Iranians outside gathered in front of embassies. At this stage, green colour became the official emblem of demonstrators and green ribbons and green shawls and scarves were used to identify with a growing movement that Iranians have not seen for almost three decades. Iranians have gathered spontaneously in front of the embassies in most of the European countries demanding what happened to their votes. The UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Austria were among the countries, where Iranians were seen to demonstrate. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Iranian film-maker and a supporter of Mousavi along with Marjan Satrapi, another film-maker spoke at the EU parliament and told the MEPs that Iranian people are killed on the streets. Iranian people do not want an atomic bomb. They want peace and democracy. They want fresh and fair elections with the presence of international observers. Makhmalbaf also asked the Iranians outside the country to be an ambassador for their country and inform the media and the people in their relative countries of the dire situation in Iran.
Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance along with the State prosecutor office stopped the publication of three more newspapers: Aftab Yazd, Hayat-Now and Khabar. On this day a statement issued by a number of artists and filmmakers objected to the situation on the streets and also criticised the biased policies of state media, especially TV and Radio broadcasting. Association of Writers in Iran also issued a statement calling the elections ‘a show and an anti-democratic act’. Abdol Karim Soroush, the Islamic philosopher issued a statement in which he asked those who have tarnished Islam to come back to their senses. He said ‘the doors to repent are open. Bring back the water to the brook’.
In objection to the security forces attack on the student’s dormitories in Shiraz, the president of the university resigned from his post. It was reported that head of one of the faculties and his so were injured in street demonstrations. Abdollah Shahbazi, historian and critic who worked for the state TV and Radio for many years asked the two establishments not to use any of his work anymore. On this day a large number of prominent reformists were detained. Mousavi and Khatami wrote a joint letter to Shahrudi, head of judiciary asking to prevent violence against demonstrators.
Mohsen Rezaie, another defeated candidate wrote a letter to Sadegh Mahsuli, Interior Minister informing him that if election results are not given to him before the end of the day, he will ask the Guardian Council to ‘do more than just a recount of the votes. He indicated in his letter that maybe this delay is due to the efforts to ‘adjust the number of voters with the final results!
Kamran Daneshju, head of elections announced in a televised speech that the law has not given the candidates such rights as to be given detailed results. He also said the ministry had not received not a single written objection regarding the results of the election. All Ahmadinejad’s rivals say are ‘unspecific accusations’.
In the afternoon of Wednesday, thousands of people gathered in silence carrying placards that read: ‘Where is my Vote?’ The number of demonstrators who were wearing black and green were estimated between 100,000 to 500,000. In other cities, demonstrators were attacked by Basiji militias. The foreign press is under strict orders to avoid demonstrations. In a statement, Mousavi called the attack on people ‘barbaric’ and asked the people to gather on Thursday to march in silence in objection to the ‘shameful vote-rigging and in sympathy with the families of the murdered demonstrators. Mousavi also wrote a letter to Iran’s National Security Council reiterating the presence of people in plain clothes, armed with chains and iron bars as well as guns, attacking people.
In a separate statement, Karubi asked his supporters to come to the streets in black costume and march to the Friday prayers which is lead by Ayatollah Khamenei. Reports from Wednesday indicated that 120 university lecturers resigned in protest to the attacks on the students’ dormitories and beating and injuring students on Tuesday.
Outside Iran, Iranians continue their protests outside the Iranian embassies. In a match with South Korea, some of the Iranian players wore green wrist bands in the first half of the match but had to remove them in the second part.
Thousands of people gathered in Imam Khomeini Square and the night before, the streets around it to keep a silent vigil and listen to Mousavi’s speech. Some were carrying placards of the photos of those killed in previous demonstrations, others simply asked: ‘Why did you kill our brothers?’
Reports suggested thousands of people attended the gathering. Traffic in and around the streets in the areas came to a standstill and in the metro station at the Square people could not get out. There were few Basijis guarding the crowd but people still moved in groups to avoid the sudden attack. Foreign reporters such as the BBC and Sunday Times reported of minimum clashes. But Wall Street Journal reported that one of their reporters was interviewing a man when a paramilitary man neared them and shot the young man in the neck from close range.
In Shiraz about 2,000 to 3,000 people gathered at Shahecheragh mausoleum, carrying mock coffins in silence. The paramilitary men and the Basiji militias were among the people but unlike the days before they did not attack, maybe as one demonstrator put it due to the holiness of the place. In Zahedan in far southeast of the country, demonstrators gathered in silence and they held a ceremony at Taleghani Mosque to commemorate those killed the days before without any major incident. In Orumieh, in the northwest country, most of the main squares and streets are occupied by the security forces and people cannot demonstrate at public places.
At this stage, Iran was becoming increasingly divided as the majority of the urban population were frustrated by massive vote-rigging and the coup that they believed had been planned way before the elections. Gradually, a divide was taking shape. Presidential candidates, Mousavi and Karubi were increasingly moving away from the body of the regime while Mohsen Rezaie was wavering in between. Ahmadinejad on the other hand, with the full backing of the Supreme Leader, was not prepared to compromise his position and negotiate for fresh elections. The Guardian Council as the body in charge to oversee a fair and healthy election was also backing Ahmadinejad although it announced that it will deal carefully with 646 complaints received regarding the elections. If necessary some recount might be done but re-election was out of the question.
On Friday 19 June, Ayatollah Khamenei was scheduled to speak at Friday prayers. It was reported that Karubi could not get permission for the march he planned on Friday and so he announced the march will take place on Saturday.
While Thursday demonstrations were widely reported outside the country and on the internet, there was no mention in any of the state-controlled media. Ahmadinejad’s supporters held their own demonstration at 25 Khordad Square and demanded ‘a swift and resolute approach against elements of unrests’.
Demonstrations of people who believed the elections were rigged and they wanted to know why their votes were cast for the wrong person were repeatedly attacked by plainclothes militias carrying guns, batons, clubs, chains and even water hose. They rode on their motorbikes and terrorised the people. They attacked people in their homes and damaged their properties and personal belongings and the government officially announced that they were ‘people’s forces’!
In his letter to the National Security Council, Mousavi warned that:’Freedom and security are one of the basic rights of citizens which at present are violated by the plainclothes forces.’
Experts and observers inside Iran warned that these groups are organised by the government, otherwise who can obtain guns and batons in a country that carrying any of these bears a severe penalty?
On Friday from early in the morning buses brought people from around Tehran to Tehran University where Friday prayers have been held for the past 31 years.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme leader was scheduled as the Friday Imam and the main speaker at the Friday prayers. The eyes of the world and Iranians were on him. He was expected to show the way ahead. It was predicted that if he supported Ahmadinejad and stamped his approval to the elections and refused re-count or fresh elections, the Islamic Republic will split in two. If he accepted discrepancies and ordered a re-count then reconciliation was possible. The state TV showed pictures of those present at the front row; Ahmadinejad, Speaker of the Parliament, Larijani, Head of Judiciary and Mohsen Rezaie, the defeated candidate. Mousavi and Karubi were not present at this gathering.
Ayatollah Khamenei began his sermon by thanking the people for their participation in elections. He urged the people to accept the results and pursue their complaints through the Guardian Council. He condemned street demonstrations and reiterated that after the initial results all votes were counted and Ahmadinejad was the ultimate winner with the majority of the votes. He said that people’s participation was a political earthquake for the opponents and a feast of victory for friends of the Islamic Republic. Khamenei also commented on the pre-election televised debates as an unprecedented act which increased people’s participation in the elections. He criticised the negative aspects of the debates where influential people within the system such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Nategh Nouri were accused of corruption by Ahmadinejad. He supported Rafsanjani as the pillar of the Islamic regime and a man he came to know some 50 years earlier. He emphasised though that Ahmadinejad is closer to his way of thinking than any other candidates.
As with charges of corruption within the regime he said he cannot deny there might be some corruption but nevertheless, the system is one of the healthiest in the world!
He returned to the elections and emphasised that it would be impossible to create 11 million votes. He advised the political leaders to control themselves and do not let things get out of hand. He said terrorists might use demonstrations and marches to tarnish the regime. Westerns governments are waiting to utilise the situation in their own benefit and he warned the political leaders not to fall into their trap. He said he was not happy with what the western governments called their support of human rights in Iran and he referred to the policies they have taken towards Iraq and Afghanistan. At the end of his sermon, Khamenei emphasised that he is ready to sacrifice for Islam and the revolution.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s sermons at that Friday prayers were carefully dispatched throughout the world as it would have made the difference between making peace with the people or departing from that point.
He decided to depart. The people, comprising reformists within the regime, a large number of the clergies, Muslim intellectuals outside the regime, seculars, men, women, students, workers and in all millions of Iranians inside and outside the country, who believed they were cheated along with the two candidates; Mousavi and Karubi who were certain the votes were rigged stood on the one side; fundamentalists within the system who ranged from low-level clergy to high ranking personalities and government ministers, Ahmadinejad and his supporters who were mainly from among the lower classes of the population and revolutionary guards and the Basij militia were about to face the challenge of their life.
Observers noted that by his Friday sermon, Ayatollah Khamenei has issued the death sentence of his opponents.
At the international level, Amnesty International was the first human rights organisation to issue a statement to cast its worries about the future of human rights in Iran. The 19th June issue of the Weekly Economists showed a demonstrator wearing a green balaclava, rising two fingers is a show of victory with the title: Iran Rises UP. The magazine wrote an article in which it predicted that the Iranian regime is facing a complicated situation. The Elections which were apparently rigged have shaken the body of the Islamic Republic. For many people, 63 per cent vote for Ahmadinejad seems ridiculous. The unrest is spreading. This clearly manifests differences among the people and a deep divide in the regime. The reformists are concerned that the Guardian Council will not allow some recount and Ayatollah Khamenei’s emphasis in dealing with complaints is a tactic to waste time so people calm down. Another probability is the imposition of a military regime by Ahmadinejad, detaining known reformists, controlling means of communications and ordering the Basij and plainclothes armed men to deal with the people. This magazine predicted that few Iranians would be prepared to participate in the election show. It also indicates the bitter fact that rulers in Iran are frightened of a Velvet revolution. But the situation inside the regime itself may actually lead to such a revolution.
After Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech in which he accused the British government of meddling in Iran’s affairs, Iran’s ambassador to Britain was called to foreign office. Other European countries issued statements demanding an end to violence. President Obama said that the whole world is watching what goes on in Iran and the way it deals with demonstrators shows the true identity of the Islamic regime. The US Congress and the Senate issued statements condemning the Iranian regime. They emphasised that they will support all Iranians who have accepted the values of freedom and human rights. They also condemned Iran for disruption in electronic and telephone communications.
Iranians around the world use the internet facilities such as Google and Facebook to get information and also spread the news on Iran. For that Google tried to facilitate and speed up the process of translation programmes and let the users have extensive access to news and exchange of news and views on Facebook.
Saturday 20 June was a hallmark in the short history of people’s protests against the regime. One of the political personalities was detained. Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to the Leader thanking him for his support. People went on the streets in their thousands to demonstrate once more. People were in a silent mood, just walking in groups of 400-500 and shouting slogans. The presence of security guards, revolutionary guards and the Basiji militia at every corner of every street had created a frightening atmosphere. Whenever the crowd increased they cordoned off the roads and attacked people even those who were going about their business and not part of the demonstrators.
Among the crowd was a young 27-year-old woman. A philosophy student accompanied by her music teacher, a white-haired man. They were walking alongside other demonstrators on one of the side streets of Kargar Avenue in central Tehran. Suddenly, a shot was heard. People turned around to look for the source. The young woman who a second before was talking on her mobile struggled to keep her balance but fell down, blood gushing from her throat. Nearby, a young man who happened to be a doctor turned and saw the scene. He understood the calamity of what was there and his responsibility as a doctor. He later recalled that in one flicker of a moment he had to choose between his safety and his integrity. He chose the latter and rushed to the young woman, examined her and held his hand on her throat to prevent the gushing blood. The white-haired old man was shouting uncontrollably: don’t be frightened, my daughter. Don’t be frightened. Stay with us. My daughter. My daughter.
Blood gushed out of the woman’s mouth. She turned her head to the right and looked, a long look of inquisition. Why? And died within a minute after being shot by a Basiji militia from close range. The onlookers took photos of her tragic death on their mobile phones and within a short time, the tragic scene of her death travelled around the globe via Youtube, through Twitter and on Facebook for the world to see an unwashable stain of her blood on the flag of the Islamic Republic.
Later it was revealed that the crowd detained the assailant and questioned him and took photos of his identity card. They did not know what to do with him. Had they kept him and gave him to the police as the murderer they themselves would have been in danger as they understood he had the order to shoot. Suddenly, an ambulance arrived, a number of plainclothesmen came out and took the man in and sped off. Although his details were posted on the sites and he could have easily been identified, to this date he was never found.
Neda, the young woman soon became the emblem of the Green Movement. Her death rose outrage inside and outside Iran. Posters of her tragic death soon dominated all other posters in demonstrations and she was named as the Neda (voice) of Iran. The outrage that followed spread into the world media as Neda’s tragic death was shown over and over again and the regimes’ brutalities to deal with peaceful demonstrators.
In an interview with the BBC Perisian, Caspian Makan, Neda’s boyfriend said that Neda who would be 27 this year was neither supporting Mousavi nor opposing Ahmadinejad. All that was important to her was her country. She attended most of the demonstrations usually accompanied by her mother. On that tragic day, she was walking with her music teacher. Makan said that when she was taken to hospital Neda was already dead. Neda’s body was transferred to a mortuary outside Tehran and was delivered to her family after they agreed to donate parts of her body (legs). No explanation was given as to the need for the body parts. Neda’s family were afraid they might not give them any parts of her for burial. She was hastily buried in a bloc in Behesht Zahra cemetery where other recently murdered were also being buried. Security agents ordered the coroner not to mention the cause of death. But Makan said he is not sure since he has not seen the death certificate. The authorities also did not permit public commemoration for Neda as they were concerned it might turn into yet another occasion for protest. Both Mosques near her residence which were prepared to hold the ceremonies were occupied by the security and the Basij Militias and people were forcibly dispersed.
That day 20 June registered as the bloodiest day of the past ten days since the elections. At least 10 other people were reportedly killed throughout Tehran. Mousavi sent a message to the Iranian people in which he gave his condolences to those killed in the unrest. He invited people to calm and pleaded with the police not to tarnish their relations with the people forever. Mohammed Khatami issued a statement indicating his concerns of the atmosphere of terror in the country and reiterated that ‘the way out is not violence’.
In the meantime detention of personalities continued and spread to journalists. Maziar Bahari, New York Times reporter was detained and John Lions, the BBC residing reporter in Iran was ordered to leave within 24 hours. Reporters Without Borders condemned the detention of journalists including Mohammed Quochani, Jila Baniyaquob, Bahman Ahmadi Amuie and Shiva Nazar Ahari.
Karubi issued a statement asking the government to permit both sides to bring their supporters to the streets to see who has the biggest support. He also criticised the biased reporting of state television and radio. Ghalibaf, Tehran’s mayor issued a statement indicating that the use of force on demonstrators is unacceptable. Abdolali Bazargan, another politician issued a statement indicating that the Supreme Leader’s confirmation of the election results was hastily decided. On Monday evening employees at Mousavi’s website were detained
In a statement, 180 journalists stated their concerns on the current situation of terror and detention. In the meantime, Mohsen Rezaie, the defeated candidate wrote a letter to the Guardian Council indicating that he would withdraw his letter of objection to the results.
Ban-ki Moon United Nations Secretary urged the Iranian government to stop the use of force against opponents. President Obama said that his country and the world community is horrified at the scale of violence in Iran. Shirin Ebadi urged the European countries to press Iran stop the violence.
All at the same time people continued their protests and gathered in Baharestan Square, in front of the parliament in protest. The security forces attacked them brutally.
The Iranian government which is unable to stop the demonstrations accuses foreign media such as the BBC Persian and foreign embassies of encouraging demonstrators and has threatened to expel foreign ambassadors from Iran. France and Britain on the other hand threatened to expel Iranian diplomats. All this set aside, the Supreme Leader said once again that elections was fair and the results accepted by him.
Home Affairs minister accused demonstrators as followers of Mojahedin Khalq organisation. No one asked him how millions of people who most of them hate Mojahedin policies as much as they hate the Islamic republic can be supporters of yet this Islamic group. In the meantime, the Commander of the revolutionary guards brigade in Tehran Province claimed that in recent unrests 8 Basiji militias were killed and 300 injured. He did not mention how many demonstrators were killed or injured.
In support of the Green Movement, 4 out of 6 football players in Seul South Korea who had green wristbands were made ‘retired’. This included the captain of the team, Mahdavi Kia. Fifa, football’s governing body wrote a letter to Iran requesting an explanation.
In support of the Green Movement, international artists, singers, musicians wrote songs and performed them, some even in Farsi. This included Bon Jovi along with Andy Median who sang the famous song ‘Stand By Me’ and Joan Baez who sang ‘We Will Overcome’.
In a gesture to ward off growing opposition to its policies in Iran Russia denied it has congratulated Ahmadinejad on his presidency.
In an open letter to the world, 180 Iranian journalists reiterated that while Iran is on top of world news, Iranian state media does not reflect what goes on in the country.
In the meantime, it was reported that most of the advanced equipment used to intercept telephone and mobile conversations and track people were made by the Nokia and Siemens companies. In a widespread campaign, Iranians were urged to boycott the two companies. In an interview with the BBC Persian representatives of the two companies confirmed they had sold such devices.
The turmoil and widespread demonstrations continued inside and outside the country. Mehdi Karubi emphasised once more that he does not recognise this government as legitimate and Ayatollah Khamenei said the Islamic regime and the ‘people’ will not bow to pressure. Mousavi also said in a speech to the Association of University Lecturers that ‘he does not want to destabilize the government but people have woken up and things will never return to 6 months earlier. The information and interior minister on the other hand accused demonstrators as agents of CIA and the Mojahedin Khaleq.
In the turmoil of events accusations as such will be accepted neither by the people nor even the authorities themselves as millions cannot be collaborating with a foreign intelligence service or an Iranian political organisation whose cadres and leaders live in a camp inside Iraq and surrounded by the American and Iraqi authorities.
People on the streets or on the rooftops and the state in panic attacks anything and everyone. The offices of ‘Green Word’, a pro-Mousavi newspaper were attacked but he pledged with his supporters to ‘raise their grievances’ through legal channels and ‘avoid extra tensions’. He emphasised: ‘those who cheated’ are responsible for the blood spilt’.
At the international level, Europe denounced the Iranian government and Ahmadinejad ‘advised’ president Obama not to follow the Europeans. Republican senators, John Mckain and Lindsy Graham with the support of the independent democratic senator, Joseph Lieberman announced they are introducing a proposal to stop censorship in Iran.
Another interesting development on this day was the interview the BBC Persian TV had with Dr Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to rescue Neda. Arash Hejazi fled Iran after the incident for fear of his life. He said he went to the street to see ‘what was going on. As he and his colleagues approached Kargar Street, where people had gathered, there were motorcyclists who pushed people back and threw teargas. People began to run along the side of Khosravi street and dispersed in various directions. Suddenly a shot was heard. He asked his friend what was? And he said ‘probably plastic bullets’. They said he turned around and saw this young woman standing, then falling a few feet away, blood gushing from her chest. He rushed to her and tried to save her but she died within a minute after being shot. He said the people who were filming the scene detained a person temporarily and confiscated his identity card. He was a Basiji militia. The man was shouting ‘ I didn’t want to kill her’. People did not know what to do with him. They let him go but kept his identity card. Hejazi said that he knew talking about the event will put him in danger. That was the reason he fled to England where he was studying before. He believed ‘Neda died for a reason. She was fighting for basic rights. She died on the street to say something’. He didn’t want her blood to go in vain.
The Guardian Council appointed a delegation to oversee the recount of 10 per cent of the votes but Mehdi Karubi and Mousavi refused the delegation on various grounds. In the meantime, one of the grand ayatollahs in Ghom, ayatollah Mousavi Ardabili in a visit by some of the Guardian Council members criticised the methods used to confront people. In another development, it was rumoured that some of the detainees have ‘confessed’ to their crimes! Gholamhosein Elham, justice minister announced that the government cannot be held responsible for the detention of opposition.
In the mayhem of events, 9 Iranian employees of the British Embassy were detained on charges of instigating unrest. Throughout the week and in the darkness of the night, people were on the rooftops chanting Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) and other slogans. The revolutionary guards and the Basiji Militias attacked apartment blocs and houses and went on a rampage causing tremendous damage to the properties, creating a further atmosphere of terror. Human Rights Watch warned that these forces attack indiscriminately people’s properties and ruin their belongings. In one incident which was reported to a friend by an old woman, the Basijis enter an apartment building in the north of Tehran and put petrol all over the entrance and set fire to it at 1 am while everyone was asleep. Residents woke up terrified of the smell and the noise, rush downstairs and beg the Basijis to leave them in peace as they do not have anyone in the building to go on the rooftop and protest.
On the occasion of the anniversary of the 27 June massacre of 7th Tir,* hundreds assembled at the Ghoba Mosque to commemorate the occasion but the police and Basiji militias attacked and dispersed them. The wave of arrests has continued. Mehdi Khazali, son of a member of Guardian Council* and the owner of a publishing house and Kambiz Nowrouzi, legal secretary to the journalists association were detained. Behind the scene, talks continued. Information Minister, Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejeie, in a live televised programme, told that he met up with Mousavi and warned him that: ‘ The path he has taken is wrong and your insistence to annul the elections will not get anywhere.’ He also emphasised that ‘he is not happy to harm anyone but every organisation has a duty to perform and we do our duty!’ He said a number of those detained will not be released.
The Guardian Council announced that a recount of 10 per cent votes was carried out and the results showed the elections reaffirmed the initial results. Interior Ministry spokesman, Kadkhodaie said: ‘there is no space for objection on the validity of the elections by any person or authority.’ Earlier on, a spokesman from the Interior Ministry said that there has been a surplus of votes in 50 cities which counts for 3,000,000 votes but that does not affect the overall results. Mehdi Karubi on the other hand announced that he does not recognise Ahmadinejad as the rightful president of Iran and will not attend his inauguration. People demonstrated on the streets as usual and the widespread presence of the police was seen everywhere.
Following a strong objection by the British Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, 5 of the 9 employees of the Embassy who were detained a few days earlier, were released but the rest were kept in custody pending further investigation. Amnesty International warned that the detainees are in danger of being tortured. In a statement, European Parliament strongly denounced the detention of the British Embassy employees. Shirin Ebadi issued a statement demanding the annulment of the elections.
Interior Ministry announced that some of the political parties such as Participation Front, Organisation of Islamic Combatants and Association of Champion Clerics might be banned from political activity.
The wave of protests continued on the streets and the rooftops. People who went on the streets in their thousands and in silence to protest against the murder of 8 demonstrators in previous days were faced with the Basiji Militias and the police who attacked them indiscriminately.
Tens of reporters outside the country and Reporters Without Borders gathered in front of the Iranian Embassy in Paris and demanded an end to the press suppression in the country.
On Friday 19 June,
Ayatollah Khamenei, in his Friday sermons, denied vote-rigging and warned against the continued demonstrations and the consequences its leaders would face. He also accused Britain of meddling with Iranian affairs. Observers believe the Iranian leader virtually ordered the suppression of demonstrators. Nevertheless, people gathered on the rooftops and chanted slogans. Mehdi Karubi wrote a letter to the Guardian Council demanding the annulment of the elections.
Thousands of Iranians outside the country gathered in front of the Iranian embassies and demonstrated their objection to the ongoing events back home.
The weekly Economist which regularly writes on Iran on its 19 June issue wrote: ‘Iran is facing a complicated dilemma. As a result of the recent events, the Iranian regime has been diverted from its main course. The differences among the authorities have widened and Ahmadinejad is heading towards a military system. Detention of reformists has accelerated and control of the media and suppression of protestors has increased.’
The US senate and congress denounced the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Iran.
Association of Champion Clerics asked permission from the Interior Ministry for demonstrations but this was rejected. The commander of Tehran police wrote a letter to Mousavi warning him that demonstrators will be dealt with relentlessly. Nevertheless, people demonstrated on the streets in their thousands and the police tried to disperse them with tear gas and even live ammunition. Plainclothes militias attacked indiscriminately beating people with batons and water hoses. Communications such as mobile phones and telephones were severely disrupted. Earlier on Mousavi has written a letter denouncing the use of force and the presence of plainclothes men armed with various means including live ammunition.
Mousavi also indicated that Ahmadinejad’s government lacks legitimacy. In a meeting with the families of a number of detainees, Khatami reiterated that a ‘velvet coup’ has been carried out against the people of Iran. Karubi wrote an open letter calling Ahamdinejad’s government illegitimate. After the publication, his newspaper, Etemad Meli was banned from publication by the authorities. Ahmadinejad on the other hand wrote a letter to the judiciary authorities in which he asked for an investigation into the death of Neda Agha Soltan in order to stop speculations of foreign powers.
The start of forced confessions from the detainees had wide reflection throughout the world. Human rights organisations pleaded with Ban Ki-Moon to visit Iran. Some 180 university lecturers, artists and specialists in various areas wrote an open letter to the political leaders and warned against the collapse of national unity.
Esmail Moghadam, Commander of Iran’s Disciplinary Forces announced that an order has been issued through Interpol for the arrest of Arash Hejazi who was present at the scene of Neda Agha Soltan’s death for spreading ‘Poisonous lies against the regime’.
General Hasan Firouzabadi, Commander of Iranian Armed Forces criticised the ‘Ridiculous criticisms’ of the European Union against Iran and indicated that this political ‘Bloc lacks legitimacy’ to negotiate with the Islamic Republic.
Among the continued demonstrations and further arrests, the session of the Association of Journalists which had planned to deal with the arrests and detention of journalists was cancelled by the order of the security authorities.
Newsweek magazine demanded the immediate release of its journalist, Maziar Bahari. The US Foreign Ministry warned US citizens against travelling to Iran. Ahmadinejad’s trip to Libya was cancelled a few hours before his plane was scheduled to take off.
Gholam Hossein Elham the government spokesman said recent unrests have not decreased the government’s popularity but on the other hand it has strengthened its ties with the people. Security Director-General of Ghazvin announced the detention of 7 people in connection with an anti-government group.
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor compared the recent situation in Iran with that of East Germany during communists rule and the role of the secret police, Stasi, in suppressing people. She asked the G8 Group to give Iran a ‘Proper response’. Upon request from Britain, 27 European members will meet to decide whether to recall their ambassadors from Iran.
Ahmad Janati, Friday Prayers Imam announced the detention of a number of the British Embassy Iranian employees in connection with recent unrests. On the other hand European Union in protest against such an act withdrew its ambassadors from Iran.
The Grand Ayatollah Montazeri criticised leaders of the republic for militarising Iran’s cities and placing military and police against the people. This is similar to that of the Shah’s thugs. The regime is killing the men and women of this country in the same way as the Shah did.
The Grand Ayatollah Sanei announced that no order can deprive people of their rights and people should not despair in this regard. At the same time and as the rigging of the elections is widely believed to have taken place throughout the country, four unaccounted ballot boxes were found at a library in Shiraz. This demonstrates the extent of irregularities in the whole process.
Lawyers who could access some of the files of the famous detained reformist personalities and Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek journalist told the BBC that their clients have been accused of; conspiring against national security.
Iran’s General Attorney, Dori Najaf Abadi accused Britain of conspiring and inflicting the unrest.
Etemad Meli newspaper reported that in a meeting with a number of reformist families, Abtahi and Ghouchani, Karubi said that if we keep our silence the situation will get worse and our job will be more difficult. Hashemi Rafsanjani in a meeting with the families of some of the detainees also reiterated that the situation is not favourable. Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the state newspaper, Keyhan accused Mohammed Khatami and Mir Hossein Mousavi as traitors and announced that it would not be long before they establish an organisation to conspire and it is our duty to prevent such an act.
One of the revolutionary guard’s top commanders said that the Guard has only used about 30 per cent of its capabilities to counter the unrest. Azar Mansouri, general secretary of the Participation Front reported that Said Hajarian and Mohsen Aminzadeh, the regime’s former personalities and present Mousavi supporters have been transferred to hospital from prison. Mahmoud Shahroudi, head of judiciary issued an order to the courts to take serious actions against satellite and internet in the country and if necessary to impose Islamic punishment against the providers.
The Basiji Militia Commander, Hossein Taeb said that western governments are encouraged to shift the demonstrations of people into a bloody confrontation. At the same time, Mousavi advised his supporters to connect with each other by any means as the internet and phones are severely disrupted.
A number of Iranians in London went on a 3-day hunger strike in front of Amnesty International offices.
Europe’s Union of Radio and Televisions deleted Iran’s Seda and Sima from its list of participants at its forthcoming Annual meeting in Copenhagen.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech that the 10th presidential elections were the healthiest, freest and most beautiful elections in the world. At the same time, Morteza Moghtadai, director of Ghom’s Religious Seminary announced that the 10th presidential elections were approved by God and the absent Imam Zaman.
Ten Nobel Prize laureates denounced the violence in Iran and demanded an end to pressure on Shirin Ebadi and requested that the UN Secretary dispatches representatives to Iran.
The French President, Nicolai Sarkozi called accusations against detained French national Cloud Rice ‘unfounded’.
Norway called Iran’s Charge D’affair and indicated the country’s concern’s on the abuse of human rights and demanded an end to violence in Iran.
Commander of Iran’s police, General Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam announced on the state TV that 100 of the detainees will soon be freed. He also said that some of the conspirators are being pursued through Interpol. Arash Hejazi, the doctor who was present at the time of Neda’s murder is said to be one of them. Reports indicate that about 2000 have been detained in the unrests out of which 500 are still in detention.
The wave of unrest continued. Many of the veterans of the Islamic revolution and high ranking personalities in Mohammed Khatami’s cabinet including Gholamreza Zarifian, Behzad Nabavi, Mostafa Tajzadeh and Mohammed Javad Emam are in detention. The pro-state’s media have called on the dissolution of the reformist parties.
On the other hand, reformist parties and reformist leaders along with international human rights organisations warned against pressure on the detainees for the project of ‘confessions’.
The Participation Front issued a statement that accused the government of mistreating the detainees. It also said that by these acts the state aims to eradicate the ‘Republic’ element from the constitution. The Guardian newspaper quoted from a ‘high ranking political figure’ in Iran that the Basij Milia are under direct order from the son of the supreme leader, Mojtab Khamenei.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the filmmaker who has turned into an outspoken political figure and left the country shortly after the elections and represents Mousavi abroad, told to the European Union on Foreign Affairs Committee that “Iran is now a hundred per cent dictatorship.” He asked the EU not to recognise Ahmadinejad’s government. The EU members of parliament will discuss Iran in their forthcoming session. Some of the parliament members have asked for severe actions against Iran and the possibility of recalling EU ambassadors from the country.
The G8 head of state issue a statement in which they said ‘violence in Iran and the government’s intervention in the media, the unsubstantiated detention of reporters and foreign nationals is totally unacceptable.’ At the same time 6 UN facts finding experts
are seeking permission to visit Iran as they are concerned that Ahmadinejad’s opponents will be continuously under harassment.