Supreme cub

During the especially brave recent street protests (on 9th July), a new name was heard on the lips of the protestors:

[A] new phrase entered the lexicon on Thursday that referred to Mojtaba, the son of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei: “Mojtaba bemire, rahbariroh nagiri,” they chanted: “Die, Mojtaba, so you don’t become the supreme leader!” During the past week, rumors have surfaced that Mojtaba has taken over the pro-government Basij militia and that his father is grooming him to be the next supreme leader. Thursday marked the first time protesters chanted against him.

Mojtaba was first flagged up here on 24th June. He had helped Ahmadinejad with his re-election campaign and is now said to have taken over command of the Basij Militias. No wonder the Supreme Donkey proclaimed himself “especially close” to the Ahmadinejad candidacy.

These three are now prepared to stand, in a naked military dictatorship, against even their own turban support, the serried ranks of black-clad mullahs in Qom and elsewhere, who are apparently opting for a quiet life.

The Goon Show

The Basij are volunteer recruits, mainly in plain clothes, who charge into crowds of their fellow-citizens on motorcycles, wielding batons. Their chain of command places them under the Pastoran, the Revolutionary Guard, who are the principal power  ─ commercial and military ─ in the land. Often the Basij are bussed in from the provinces. As a reward for their efforts, they are given places at the University of Tehran. Consequently, the university is full of informers and disaffected students have to go to great lengths to ensure privacy.Basiji

More evidence of fraud

A statistician, Walter Mebane, from the University of Michigan, who has analysed many sets of election results, now advances three further arguments that support a prima facie case of fraud in the June 12th election in Iran.

  1. Benford’s law states, in the case of elections, that the number 1 occurs 30% of the time in second place. The ballots for Ahmadinejad and two minor candidates did not conform to the expected pattern.
  2. People adding extra votes to a count often forget to add invalid ones. Towns with few invalid votes showed least conformity with Benford’s law and greater majorities for Ahmadinejad.
  3. Comparing the 2009 results with those from 2005, Mebane found that his model produced an unexpected number of outliers, 172 out of 320 towns. Ahmadinejad did better than expected in most of these towns.

Trial of seven Bahá’is

The Iranian regime regularly harasses, imprisons and tries members of this world faith on trumped-up charges. With all previous leaders arrested or destroyed, these seven have stood in as administrators for their co-religionists. They too have therefore been arrested and imprisoned for more than a year. Their trial – on charges of engaging in anti-regime propaganda and ‘spying for Israel’ – is, of course, a farce. After eighteen moths of unjust confinement with access to defence lawyers prohibited, we hear today (13 July 2009) that the hearing scheduled for 12 July 09 has now been adjourned sine die, as we say here.

One of the charges is that the accused are ‘corrupt of the earth’. Imagine a death penalty here following a successful prosecution for being a smelly toe-rag.

There is considerable, well-practised (unfortunately) international support, especially at international level (United Nations). Among the supporters of the seven, in addition, have been Roxana Saberi, the US journalist recently tried (for espionage), sentenced to imprisonment and released, Cheri Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). There is a reasonable summary of events here. Roxana Saberi shared a cell with an imprisoned Bahá’i at one point: hence her interest.

The magnificent Shirin Ebadi, human rights lawyer and Nobel peace laureate, will represent them, though she has been denied access to her clients and their nominated advocate, Abdolfattah Soltani, was arrested on June 16 and also disappeared into prison.

One of the seven, Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, apparently grew this plant from a carrot head in prison, as a birthday present for her youngest daughter, who is shown holding it.
Fariba's gift to Taraneh from prison

Arab anti-Iranian cartoons

The wonderful MEMRI has rounded up a selection of cartoons satirical of the recent election published in Arab news media. My favourite is reproduced here (cartoonist Jihad ‘Awartani, Source: Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 24, 2009).

So is free speech making inroads into the normally wishful Arab press? Probably not. Hazen Saghieh notes that the youthful ’people’s revolutions’ of Eastern Europe only highlighted

the prevailing  tendencies of Arab political thought to [persist] in their allegiance to despotic ways of thinking … the Arabs looked at the transformation and the forces behind it with doubt and suspicion.

Thus, cartoons aside, Arab intellectuals contemplating ‘the Iranian tumult’ fail to see thatMullah walking on WWW

what is certain is that the events surrounding the election have wrecked the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei and put “change” on the Iranian people’s agenda.


it is most probable that the future is going to belong to the latter groups [of the most dynamic, young, educated and modern sectors], if not tomorrow then the day after … In any event, it is necessary to challenge the very assumption that Ahmadinejad and his cohorts in any way serve Palestinian and Arab causes or interests.

So for observers in the Arab world the question must be:

Is it really possible to combine the cause of democracy and progress with a system of  “national”-collective priorities  where the struggle with Israel dominates Arab minds and actions?

The establishment opposition

The list of prominent figures in the Iranian political firmament who deny the justice of the June 12th election has been enhanced with the trenchant presence of the aged successor-designate of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Montazeri. Actually the opposition of this frail, 87 year old, already known as the dissident ayatollah, who spent six years under house arrest from 1997 to 2003, having been passed over for the succession in favour of the ill-qualified Ali Khamenei, was already established. But he has now issued a fatwa condemning the entire Ahmadinejad regime!

A regime that uses clubs, oppression, aggression against [the people’s] rights, injustice, rigged elections, murder, arrests, and medieval or Stalin-era torture, [a regime that] gags and censors the press, obstructs the media, imprisons intellectuals and elected leaders on false allegations or forced confessions… – [such a regime] is despicable and has no religious merit … The proud people of Iran know very well exactly how authentic [the detainees’] confessions are; they are like [confessions obtained] by fascist and communist regimes. The nation knows that the false confessions and televised interviews were obtained from its imprisoned sons with threats and torture, and that their aim is to cover up the oppression and injustice, and to [present a] distorted [image] of the people’s peaceful and legal protest.