Iran: The Pain Has Begun

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There are no surprises in Tehran today.  Today is Sunday.  The New York Times informs us of what we already know to be the case:

A day after police and militia forces used guns, truncheons, tear gas and water cannons to beat back thousands of demonstrators, a tense quiet set over this city Sunday as the standoff between the government and thousands of protestors hardened into a test of wills that has spilled blood and claimed lives.

It was unclear how the confrontation would play out now that the government has abandoned its restraint and large numbers of protestors have demonstrated their willingness to risk injury and even death as they continue to dispute the results of Iran’s presidential election nine days ago.

Iranian state television reported that 13 people were killed in the clashes Saturday.

State television also reported that the government had arrested five members of the family of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who heads two influential councils in Iran, a move that escalates the government’s crackdown against the reform movement.

There are no surprises. Guns. Truncheons. Tear gas.  Water Cannons.  Burning motorcycles.  Injured bystanders.  Arrests. Home invasions. Brutality. Murder.  That “the government has abandoned its restraint” is a record breaking understatement.  The violence, of course, was to be expected.  After all, didn’t Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threaten violence during Friday prayers:

“Street challenge is not acceptable,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “This is challenging democracy after the elections.” He said opposition leaders would be “held responsible for chaos” if they did not end the protests.

There are no surprises.  The Times, and just about everyone else, fears the very worst:

There was no sign on the streets early Sunday of the heavy security forces from the night before, but there were reports that protestors planned to demonstrate again later in the day, beginning at about 5 p.m., giving both sides time to regroup, or reconsider.

Since the crisis broke open with massive streets protests – posing the greatest challenge to the Islamic theocracy since the 1979 revolution – the government has declared its refusal to compromise, instead turning loose its security forces and militia to crush opposition voices. The government has pressed its policy of repression and intimidation the last several days, arresting reformers, intellectuals and others who promoted reform ideas or challenged the leadership’s version of events.

But now as the numbers of dead and injured begin to mount, it is unclear how, even if the protests can be stopped, the leadership can patch over the deep divisions in the Iranian society and rebuild legitimacy with Iranians who believe the election was rigged.

There are no surprises. Things, I suppose, will now grow even worse.  The repression will become fiercer, even less restrained, even more purposeful and frightening.  More people will be killed and injured and arrested.

President Obama’s statement on Saturday was strong, and he fortunately kept the matter at arm’s length:

Saying that “each and every innocent life” lost would be mourned, he added: “Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

“Martin Luther King once said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian people’s belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.”

Sadly, he’s right.  All we can do outside of Iran is bear witness as the struggle unfolds. And while we bear witness, we can continue to lift our voices as individuals (and not as a government) in solidarity with the demonstrators.  And offer our thoughts and prayers* for a peaceful resolution.  And find other, creative ways to support the struggle in Iran for democracy and freedom.

The Iranian Democracy movement is absolutely worthy of our personal (as opposed to governmental) support.  Support and solidarity at this point require, indeed permit only the simplest of things.  There are only simple things we can and should do:

Things like changing our location and time zone on Twitter to Tehran and GMT +3.5 hours.  Things like making our avatar green.  Things like reading the posts of those who are there.  Things like posting and distributing their videos on youtube.  Things like writing blogs and asking others to link arms with them in solidarity.  Things like talking about what ideas we might have that could be of help to them.

These are things that might be completely ineffective to help Iranians achieve democracy, to get a new, fair election, to overturn the sham outcome of their last election, to prevent governmental violence and repression.  I realize that.  But that’s not what’s important.  That’s not what’s important now.

What’s important, I think, is our continuing solidarity with this struggle, our saying, however we can say it, “Brothers and Sisters, we’re with you.  We want you to succeed.  We want you to be safe, and free.  We want you to obtain the change you seek.”

I am full of admiration for the courage of the Iranian movement.  I applaud and support these people.  Please join me in solidarity with them.  Sign the available petitions.  Take the numerous, available, small steps.  It’ll make you feel great.  And it’s the right thing to do.

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles




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  1. Thanks for reading and keeping this in your thoughts and prayers*.

    • rb137 on June 21, 2009 at 22:57


    • Edger on June 22, 2009 at 00:16

    circulating on the web since late yesterday that apparently the sheer numbers of the protesters pushed the Besij froces back into their headquarters where they locked themselves in, away from the protesters who were outside chanting “Neda,” the name of the girl who was martyred Saturday.  

    There are claims now that a natural gas line that served the Besij militia headquarters was severed and set alight, and the headquarters exploded.  Apparently Five Besij were killed.  

    Yesterday the protesters were chanting that they would kill those who killed their brothers and sisters.  It would seem that they meant it.

    Again there is no verification for the story, but this 30 second video posted last night does show a building exploding near a crowd of protesters…

  2. Very sad — the violence and death!

    You know, I think that violence would have occurred with Bush in office, should we have had such a massive protest — just have a feeling.  (I note, too, that the “goons” seem to now have the same riot control “costumes” pretty much everywhere these days, or is it just me.)  

    Here is an Iranian UK website, with a number of videos, depicting close-up some of what has happened.  

    In solidarity, we can only hope and pray that these courageous Iranians will not have suffered their losses in vain and that there will be some form of justice!

  3. The Iranian ‘weekend’ starts on Thursday (I think); Sunday is a workday.

    This is significant because on a workday in Tehran, traffic is impossible, 24/7.  Tehran is a very large city, very complex, very difficult to navigate.  The photos seem to indicate that routine life in Tehran has come to a standstill; the streets do not appear to be crowded with cars.  I assume shops are closed.

    If you look carefully at some of the photos of cars – particularly the doors of white cars — you might notice the symbol of Zoroaster — a stylized bird with open wings.  It’s a subtle form of protest against the Islamicization of Iranian culture.  

  4. in solidarity with Iranian protestors.  







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  5. The major roadblock for the protest/reform/moderate movement is that as “Supreme Leader”,  Khamenei has control of the military.  Another issue that hasn’t been resolved is that, while “Rafsanjani has garnered enough support (in the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei) to remove Ayatollah Khamenei…” (emphasis mine)

    “…an announcement is being delayed amid differences on what or who should replace the supreme leader.  Some top clerics reportedly want to maintain the post of supreme leader, albeit with someone other than Ayatollah Khamenei occupying the post, while others support the collective leadership approach…”

    It seems pretty apparent, IMHO, that the “arrest”/”detention”/”protective custody” of Rafsanjani’s family is a pretty transparent attempt by Khamenei and the current regime to hold Rafsanjani’s family members as hostages to deter him from toppling their regime.  Seems that at this point at least, it may be a stalemate.  

    Yet, if the people continue to keep the pressure on Khamenei it is possible that the military leaders will turn on the regime.  Sadly, in addition to unleashing the military; paramilitary; and volunteer vigilante goon squad, the Basiji against the demonstrators–the government has sunk even lower, it has been charging the families of the dead protestors a “bullet fee” before they can get custody of their loved one’s body from the morgue:

    “…A 19-year-old shot in the head and killed during the demonstrations… and Iranian officials asked his parents to “pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a ‘bullet fee’ — a fee for the bullet used by security forces — before taking the body back…”

    Meanwhile, around the world, support for the demonstrators continues to grow:  

    The AFL-CIO, representing over 11 million working women and men in the United States, expresses its deep concern over the immediate situation in Iran, following the contested election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…Our Federation, joining the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the global labor movement, calls on the Iranian authorities to cease and desist their violent repression of these peaceful demonstrations, as well as fully prosecute under due process of law all of those responsible for the tragic and reprehensible deaths and injuries….


    UN chief speaks up. “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged an immediate stop on Monday to use of force against civilians in Iran and urged authorities to respect civil rights in dealing with protests over presidential election results. A statement issued by Ban’s press office said he was dismayed by the post-election violence, ‘particularly the use of force against civilians.'” Ban urged “an immediate stop to the arrests, threats and use of force.”

    May these brave people gain the freedom they seek soon and with a stopping of the violence against them.  

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