Iran Hopes

A Weblog on Iranian Affairs (Formerly Iran Votes 2005)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mr. Ahmadinejad has now become at the center of a row over his alleged involvement in the hostage-taking incident at US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. (See BBC report here.) It seems that a number of former 'hostages' have 'identified' Ahmadinejad as one of the hostage takers. But they are wrong. Ahmadinejad certainly looks very much alike one of the hostage takers (except that Ahmadinejad is noticeably shorter) but he was not involved in the incident.
The former hostage takers do not hide their past and are known to Iranians. They have occupied top positions in the government and the parliament. For example, Maesoomeh Ebtekar is currently serving as Khatami's deputy and head of the Organization for Protection of Environment. Ebrahim Assghar Zadeh (former member of Tehran Council) and Dr. Zafarghandi (Dean of Tehran Medical School) were hostage takers too. Mohsen Mirdamadi, another hostage taker, was a Majlis MP during the sixth session when the so called reformists were in majority. As one of the 'reformists', he was the head of Majlis Commission for Security and Foreign Policy too. Prior to that he had done a university degree in Britain. He has been contacted by the BBC on this matter and has dismissed the allegations over Ahmadinejad's role in the hostage-taking. So Americans need not worry, Ahmadinejad might have a terrorist background, but his victims were (and perhaps will be) Iranian nationals only.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I am following the "Iran after the Elections" conference held in Brussels today (Wednesday). With all due respect to all of its participants, I must say they are, once again, wasting their (and their fellow Iranians') time.
Human rights in Iran is obviously a main theme of this conference. If I had got an invitation to this conference, the first question I would have asked myself would be whether the Europeans are really concerned about the human rights situation in Iran. There are few indications of its concern. One example is that the EU has maintained a 'dialogue' with Iran on Human Rights since 1990s, which, to a various degrees, has produced progress in some areas. For instance, the public floggings and executions which began to become common during the early years of Khatami's administration (to damage his international efforts) were stopped under EU pressure. So, 'human rights' in Iran is one of the issues of concern for the Europeans. But it is not the most important one.
In fact, Iran's nuclear program constitutes the most important area of concern for the Europeans. This is quite 'understandable': Iran's nuclear power is a matter of concern for international community since it poses threat to other states - mainly the US, Euoropean countries and of course Iran's immediate neighbours, while the human rights issue is a domestic (Iranian) issue. In other words, violations of Iran's breaches of human rights does not threaten the EU member states, or any other country, but its nuclear program does. Therefore, when it comes to priorotising their demands from the Iranian regime, they put the nuclear program first. This may appear quite reasonable. However, what should concern Iranian human rights activists is that Europeans may consider human rights as a 'concession' to the Iranian regime to persuade them not to continue on their nuclear program. The sad thing is, and we know it, that the European are prepared to give such a concession: to ask Iran to give up on its nuclear program to get lucrative trade agreements in return - with no mentinoning of the dark human rights record. Iranian regime, on the other hand, knows very well how to play its cards to get more and more concessions from the EU.
Another question that comes to mind is whether there was a single incident where the EU has delegated to a team of foreign ministers, like the one for nuclear talks, to put pressure on Iran for its violations of human rights. The answer is simple and clear: NO!
When I put these questions to myself I become less and less interested in the European prescription for Iranian democratic movement. Furthermore, only a look at the list of the participants in the "Iran after the Elections" conference convinces me that Europeans are not really interested in the human rights issue, otherwise why would they chose most, if not all, of the Iranian participants in this conference from those who have for long been 'disconnected' with the realities of today Iran. We do not need to go too far to realize this fact that there is huge gap between what is really taking place in Iran and the 'forzen' mindframe of some of those participants. A quick review of their pre-election comments drives this message home. The sad thing is, however, that their speeches at the conference reflects no change in their perspectives, and for the EU these are taken as the "Iranian views". Quite frankly, a few of those participants know nothing about Iran and its politics. They are there just to get attention. I am certain that for many Iranians it is a big misery to see those people, regardless of their high social or academic status, be taken as 'representatives or voices of Iran today'.
In any event, let's remain assured that the Iranian regime will not at all be bothered by what is said about its human rights record - in Brussels or elsewhere . They know how to play the game with the Europeans (and others) and are certain that such conferences and semiars, etc will do no harm to their powerful position.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Khamenei to Ahmadinejad: Didn't I tell you that everything would be OK and "little Akbar" would get ditched? There you go.... Now let him cry for as long as he wants! Eventually we will have to ask "super nanny" to shut him up! But you don't need to worry, my dear Moody, OK? Good boy!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Basijis took (or were taken) onto streets on Saturday afternoon to display their joy as well as power. Enghelab and Vali-asr streets was full of these men. They blocked the roads while chanting slogans against Khatami and Rafsanjani.There was also an implicit messages for women to remind them that from now on they will have to observe 'Islamic dress code rules'.
Vali-asr road enjoys a highly symbolic status in Tehran. It is the longest road in Tehran, connecting the north and nouth ends of the city. It is a beautiful road, famous for its old, tall, and thick trees, and of course for its shops. It has a rather political signifcance too. In early post-revolutionary days, it witnessed occasional clashes between Pasdaran (members of Sepah) and women whose dressing style did not, in Pasdaran's view, meet the Islamic rule. Vali-asr road has since retained its reputation of a locus for clash between modernity and (strict Islamic) traditions particularly between 'modern' women and 'fenatic' men. I recall when I was at high school, our 'religious teacher' used to complain about the ‘disgraceful’ road, by saying that "when one (i.e a man), walks on the Vali-asr road, his "tool for sin" would constantly go up and down!", which would make us assume that there was certainly something wrong with his, and many of his likes, "tool for sin".
It was perhaps for similar concerns that in 1990's ultra hardliners of Ansar convened a number of mass prayers in Vali-asr square to 'decontaminate' the street from the effects of the sins. Seemingly, a new era of decontamination has just begun. But this time it will not be limited to Vali-asr square. Nor will women be the only target for the hardliners. During the past eight years, the fundamentalists have been able to identify their friends from their enemies. They have a long list in hand and will go after them one by one. Throughout these years they were planning a war to take revenge. This should not surprise us. Ahmadinejad and his supporters are still living in the years of Iran-Iraq war. They still glorify war and killing. To realise this, one only needs to have a look at Ahmadinejad’s website and his speeches during his campaign. There are frequent references to jihad, conflict, war, gun, and of course martyrdom. His supporters are refer to Ahmadinejad’s recent alleged victory as the ‘conquest’ (Ghalabeh). And of course they are deeply wrong. Iranians, particularly young generation Iranians, are not living in the spirit of war. No doubt that Iranians love their country and will still embrace martyrdom to save their country against foreign threats. But they are not in war with each other. They do not see one another as enemies in the same manner as Ahmadinejad and his supporters want them to do. So, if Ahmadinejad wants to emabrk on his jihad, there will be more than one Vali-asr road in Iran where he will have to fight

Friday, June 24, 2005

"Election": a few things to remember

First and foremost I should say that from now on when I use the term "election" I do not mean that I believe that there was in fact an "election". This was not an election, even in the Islamic regime's own terminology which had been acted upon in previous elections. It was a sham, a fradulent process. I have enough evidence to believe, and of course to prove, that Iranian men and women were deveived into taking part into a show whose actors were chosen and its screen play was written long time ago. You will certainly ask me whehter I was blind yesterday and did not see the massive public turn-out. No I am not blind. I was there. I saw 'the mass' both on the 17th and the 24th. But the issue is that their votes were not counted. Karoubi and Moeen were ahead of Ahmadinejad in the first round but they were kicked out of the contest. And yesterday again, ballots were left uncounted. Because everything was pre-arranged. The Minstry of Interior had already been ordered to announce Ahmadinejad as winner. Kayhan newspaper knew last night that Ahmadinejad would be the regime's president. Its headline was set last night (before the ballots were even taken to the Minstry) and would read: "Ahmadinejad, the nation's president" and "the nation finished the job". But then it was not allowed to get published just in case it would provoke further suspicion as to the result. Also, before the official results get published, Khamenei had urged Ahmadinejad's supporters not to take on the streets, becasue "it was against the interest of the nation". In other words, the Leader warned against acts that might have caused clashes that could go out of control. It seems that the Leader himself is aware of how popular his president is.
In any event, the regime only needed the massive turn out to legitimize its position in the doubtful eyes of the public and of course the international community. And it successfully achieved what it wanted to achieve. I feel sorry for those who still believe that this was a lawful election and are wasting their time analyzing its outcome! If you read my previous posts, you will realize that I was against the much supported boycott strategy long before the election. I had argued, several times, that this election would be a very good chance for continuing on the way towards more democracy. But this was before I came to Iran. This was before I got the information on fradulent activities, and the ballot riggings.
However, despite what happened, I believe this is still the best chance to open our eyes to a number of facts. At the outset, a crucial issue is to identify those who betrayed the democratic movement along the way. Who were those who did not have the guts to stand against the tyrant? Who were those who did not have the courage to defend the people's right against the will of the greedy dictator who justifies all his actions in the name of "the interest of Islam"? I do not think it is very a hard task to find them. They are recognisable from their silence. From their cowardness. And among them is the man who was once our hero. We, Iranian youngsters, vested in him our hopes with all of our hearts. Instead what he gave us in exchange was baseless excuses, lies, and eventually, he betrayed us only to maintain his position as a loyal servant to the supreme dictator.
What would, then, we learn from this? We would, I hope, begin to draw some lessons as to our choice of heros and leaders in the future. We would acknowledge that we were disillusioned throughout this time by empty promises and lies. We were disillusioned because we had believed that this regime had room for change, for democracy. We were disillusioned because we could never imagine that the Islamic Republic would go to the extreme to meddle in people's votes, which violates both of the Islamic and Republic foundations of this regime. But the recent events clearly displayed that this regime sees no restraint on its power. It has no respect for people. Even if Rafsanjani had won this election, this argument would still hold. Thus, a major lesson to be drawn from this 'election' is to acknowledge that this regime has no room for democracy and the rule of law.
Now that Ahmadinejad is in power, it is the fundamentalists' turn to celebrate their 'vicotry' and see in him a hero who has come to rescue them from the 'oppressors' (Mustakberin). So, they are already disillusioned. An ideology which attempts to divide the people of one unified nation into the oppressed and oppressor is certainly destined to lose. Besides, Ahmadinejad may carry the title of the 'president', but he is the most powerless man in Iran. There is a long list of individuals and groups to whom he is indebted for his coming to the office: from the leader, Sepahis and Basijis, to the hardliner Mullah's in Qom and elsewhere, and those who funded his campaign. He will certainly have a hard time satisfy all of them. Moreover, anyone who has little knowledge about Iranian politics would know that Rafsanjani is not the type of person who would simply go away to learn to live with the fact he was lead astray by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani knows how to return the fist.
I said all the above to come to this conclusion: for those who wish a new Iran without the Islamic Republic, Ahmadinejad is a gift. His troubles should be turned into opportunities for opposition groups. They must rethink and rearrange but not for the next election, rather for a totally new government. But will this opportunity be taken?

Mission accomplished: Hezbollah has won with the help of the hidden hand of Allah!

As anticipated Ahmadinejad is now officially announced as the Islamic Republic's new president. Mission accomplished! Congratulations to those who voted for him! They must be delighted that their favourite cadidate was their Leader's favourite too. Ahmadinejad is the first appointed president of the Islamic Republic. And perhaps the last one? Who knows?!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

9.30 am. Tehran time:
The run-off has got underway. The turn-out is significantly higher than the first round. One can particularly notice the higher number of women who have come out to vote. I am heading to the south of Tehran where it is said Ahmadinejad has more support. That is all I can say for now.
By the way, at this time it is very difficult to get connected to the web (via this crappy dial-up system!). So I might not be able to update this page as often. Apologies in advance.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Translation of my previous post in Persian:

I have information that on Friday, after the end of the election, many ballots were not taken to the Ministry of Interior for counting, and many of those that were already taken there, were not counted. In the midnight of Saturday (June, 28) an order was received by the Ministry of Interior from the Office of the Supreme leader, which requested that the result of the election be released as (1-Rafsanjani, 2-Ahmadinejad). Subsequently, the Director General of the Elections Office of the Ministry of Interior contacted the Minister and the latter called Mr. Khatami, who urged that the counting must go on according to the law. Early in the morning, Khatami went to the Ministry of Interior to supervise the counting process in person. The first official results announced by the Ministry of Interior placed Karoubi on top, ahead of Rafsanjani and Ghalibaf. However, the Guardian Council, who did not expect the Ministry to disobey the Leader's wish, announced its own result in which Rafsanjani was on the top, followed by Ahmadinejad. As the discrepancy emerged, the same person called the Ministry again, this time using a threatening language, to deliever the message that if the Minister would not give in to the order, dangerous consequences would face Iranian nation, and the families of the Minister and even the President. Khatami was contacted again. He returned to the Ministry, and after discussing the issue with Mr. Lari (the Minister of Interior) they decided to act as per the Leader's order.
It is also said that some among the fundamentalist camp had the view that Ahmadinejad must be announced as the absolute winner in the first round. However, for yet unknown reasons, this view was not acted upon.
Currently, the fundamentalist hardliners are certain that Ahmadinejad will be announced as the winner in the run-off on Friday. Basijis are on alert to take necessary action in case of any unrest. The Iranian police are aware of this plan and it is said that the meeting between Ghalibaf and Rafsanjani a couple of nights ago revolved around this issue. A 'legal coup' is underway. Rafsanjani is well aware of this course of events and is trying to prevent the coup to happen. But he is also aware that he himself is not safe.

به من گفته شده كه بسياري از صندوق هاي آراء در روز جمعه به وزارت كشور منتقل نشده و بسياري از آنهايي هم كه در اختيار وزارت كشور بوده شمارش نشده اند. در نيمه شب شنبه دستوري به وزارت كشور از طرف رهبري ابلاغ مي شود كه در آن آمده بود كه نتيجه آراء را به اين صورت اعلام گردد (1-هاشمي 2-احمدي نژاد) مدير كل انتخابات وزارت كشور با وزير و ايشان با خاتمي تماس مي گيرد. نظر خاتمي اين بوده كه شمارش آراء مطابق قانون انجام شود. صبح خاتمي شخصا براي نظارت بر شمارش به وزارت كشور مي رود. نتايج اوليه را وزارت كشور به ترتيبي اعلام مي كند كه كروبي در صدر بوده است. در حالي كه پيش از آن شوراي نگهبان به تصور اين كه وزارت كشور از دستور رهبر تخطي نخواهد كرد ترتيب مورد نظر وي را منتشر كرده بود. پس از آگاهي از سرپيچي وزارت كشور همان فرد مجددا با خاتمي و وزير كشور تماس مي گيرد و هر دو را تهديد مي كند كه در صورت ناديده گرفتن اوامر رهبري وقايع تلخي براي مردم و براي خانواده هاي خاتمي و لاري رخ خواهد داد. خاتمي مجددا بوزارت كشور مي رود و پس از گفتگو با لاري به اين توافق مي رسند كه به امر رهبري گردن نهند. ضمنا در ابتدا نظر بر اين بوده كه هاشمي هم حذف و احمدي نژاد برنده قطعي اعلام گردد. اما در نهايت به دليلي كه بر من معلوم نشده اين نظر رد مي شود. در حال حاضر نيز اين اطمينان داده شده كه در روز جمعه احمدي نژاد بعنوان پيروز انتخابات اعلام مي گردد. به تمامي نيروهاي بسيج نيز آماده باش داد شده كه در صورت بروز آشوب با آن مقابله نمايند. نيروي انتظامي هم از اين برنامه مطلع است و دليل ملاقات دو شب پيش قاليباف با رفسنجاني نيز همين بوده و نه حمايت او از هاشمي. كودتا در حال پيشروي است. حتا گفته مي شود كه زمان تنفيذ رياست جمهوري نيز بسيار زودتر از روال قانوني معمول خواهد بود. رفسنجاني در تكاپوست تا كودتا را خنثا كند اما مي داند كه به خود او هم رحم نخواهد شد

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Iran will not be the same after June 24, regardless of who will come out victorious from the run-off on Friday. If we agree that the hardliners have been planning how to win this election since 1997, then we must agree they have also been planning how to lose it. These days there are widespread rumours that if Rafsanjani happens to win the election, a coup by pro-Ahmadi Nejad (or in fact pro-Khameneni) factions within Sepah and Basij will be imminent. I wrote about this possibility before (see my post on June 12). But would Khamenei be so witless to give in or exhort such a coup at this time of crisis when Iran is closely monitored by international community, and particularly the US who is impatiently looking for an excuse (more convincing than the worn out WMD one) to invade Iran? We know, of course, that since its establishment, the Islamic Republic has always paid minimal attention to pressures from outside or to judgements as to its legitimacy, but the situation is totally different this time. Previously, the regime could argue for its legitimacy relying on its own people support. And the international community had to submit to this argument. I was present at a conference on the Middle East in 2004, where a panelist, in answering a question on the possibility of a Coalition invasion of Iran, said "we cannot attack a sovereign state on any grounds when the president of that state was elected with more than 20 million of free votes". Thus, the public support for Khatami acted as the most important deterrent to a possible invasion. His popularity was a significant unifying factor within the society as well. An imposed government, on the other hand, will undermine the legitimacy of the regime both inside and outside the country.
Bringing Ahmadi Nejad into power, be it through a shambolic election or a coup, will certainly raise Khamenei to the peak of his power, while hugely damaging the already fading legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. And history tells us that all dictators were bogged down at the peak of their power. Is Khamenei be so naive to gamble legitimacy for power? Recent development suggest the answer to this question is positive and thus Iran will not be the same next week. It may be the final day for the so called reform that began in 1997, but it will be the first day of a wholly new era.

Monday, June 20, 2005

From what I see, I believe Rafsanjani has little chance of winning the second round of the election on Friday - unless a miracle happens. Ahmadi Nejad camp is much more active these days. Especially in remote towns and villages. But this does not mean all of his votes will come from those areas. He generally has support among people who do not trust Rafsanjani and his policies. Thus, many of those who will vote for Ahmadi Nejad, will do so not because they are in love with him, but because they simply hate Rafsanjani. And this is how Iranian "who's who" will look like from next week:

Leader: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
President: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Head of Judiciary: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Parliament speaker: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Head of the National Radio & TV: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
...: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I have received reports from a number of towns that Basij (Sepah's militia) are active there trying to encourage people to vote for Ahmadi Nejad on Friday. This is done in a variety of ways including offering poeple money and clothes and provoking their "sense of dignity". These reports come from these Iranian towns: Klardasht, Lahijan, Asataneh, Birjand, Neyshabour, Garmsar, Varamin, and Zanjan. In one case, I am told, that Basijis personally approach peoples' houses, asking for the 'man/elder of the household' to come to talk to them. Then, they go on to give advise to the men that if they feel responsible for their family members, especially their women (Namouss) they must vote for Ahmadi Nejad, who will, they claim, protect their honour.
It now seems that Basijis have been perfectly organized and directed from since well prior to the election. The leaders of this organized move are said to be among the top ranking military officials, including General (Basjij) Firouz Abadi (head of the Iranian amred forces and the closest military man to Khamenei) , and General (Basiji) Alireza Afshar and Mehdi Chamran (former deputy to Firouz Abadi and the current head of Tehran council). Also, in another front, there are reports of Imams in mosques preaching the prayers as to the importance 'Islamic task' of voting for Ahmadi Nejad.

Karoubi - who lost in the first round - revealed that he had asked the Ministry of Interior on Friday not to extend the election time for more than two hours. But he was told that the Ministry was "under pressure" to extend the time until 11pm (which it did). It is said that a top ranking military officer had contacted both Khatami and Lari (minister of Interior), advising them not to "stand on the way of the will of the Supreme Leader" on this issue.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Election, selection, etc.!

The final ‘official results’ are out now. However, the official rate of participation in the election still seems dubious. I travelled around Tehran and was in touch with people in a number of towns across the country. I have spoken to people after the elecion about their experience.All this suggest a turn-out remarkably lower than what the regime claims. Also there are doubts as to the order of the rate of votes polled for each candidate. I still wonder how Kayhan newspaper could be so certain at 7 o’clock on yesterday morning that Rafsanjani and Ahmadi Nejad were already through?!! How could Kayhan be so certain three days before the election that 30 million people would turn out to vote (and this is exactly what the official number now indicates)! Kayhan must be either somehow in touch with the 12th Imam or? In any event, official results are all we have available.
Rafsanjani and Ahmadi Nejad are reportedly through to the second round, each with around 15 per cent of the total votes. Reading some of the comments on the election, one can see that for many Ahmadi Nejad’s achievement is quite shocking. But I do not see anything shocking about this. One needs to take into account the number of Basijis across the country, their families, and those who have voted under the influence of Basijis. Plus, his gestures as being humble and popular turned out to be very efficient, given the nature of Iranian society and the emotional psyche of many. Still, Ahmadi Nejad has only won less than 15 per cent of the entire votes. Thus, those who are claiming that ‘Iran’ has voted for him, and therefore scolding Iranians for their ‘wrong’ decision, need to reconsider their suggestion. And let’s not forget that, as we know, this is how election system works.
Besides, Ahmadi Nejad could not easily got through to the second round without the help of other candidaes. He is through because so many got disillusioned by Karoubi’s 500,000 Rls a month promise. And because still there are people who believe Rafsanjani can make a good president. And, more importantly, Ahmadi Nejad went through because Moeen and his supporters forgot that the election was going to take place in Iran, not in Ukraine, or Georgia, or France. Let’s not underestimate the help of Iranian commentators abroad. Ahmadi Nejad will be with us until next week to remind those ‘commentators’ in exile, who made the boycott recipe for Iranians, that they must either consider a hobby other than mingling Western ideologies with Iranian affairs or update their ‘Iranology’ software.
The election was also a good lesson for many, including myself, that scientific methods of predicition and evaluation do not work in the same way as they do in other countries.
In any event, the first round is past and the second round is fast approaching. It is going to be a very tough challenge for Iranians. I wanted to say they now need to decide according to the old maxim: “the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t”. But then I remembered that they must have known the evils by now. So I guess it is going to be decided according to “the better of the two evils” rule.

Update (6) 2.20pm

Official reports: 1-Rafsanjani 2- Karoubi 3- Ahmadi Nejad.
Ahmadi Nejad's headquarter claims that this latest results do not include votes polled in Tehran. They believe Ahmadi Nejad will top, once Tehranis votes are also counted in the final result. Let's wait and see.

Update (5) 2pm

Ahmadi Nejad has now jumped to the first place, above Rafsanjani and Karoubi respectively (this is according to unofficial reports though).

Update (4) -Saturday 1pm Tehran time

Iranian state news agencies and Kayhan claim that more than 30 million people have casted their votes. I do not want to dismiss this claim readily but I believe that it must be dealt with extreme caution. Let's not forget that the regime wanted to use this election to display its popularity. And Khatami and his Ministry of Interior are part of this regime. They would do anything to save a reputation for the regime even if it takes lying to their own people. There is no doubt that those who had advocated a boycott on this election, have been stunned and disappointed by yesterday turn-out. However, from what I have seen in Tehran and the news I have got from people elsewhere, it can be said that yesterday turn out was much lower than the the 1997 election, and thus the real number seems to be much lower than the alleged 30 million.
Ahmadi Nejad is reportedly among the top three at present. If people have chosen him as their favourite president, no one has the right to dispute why they have done so, although it would be necessary to investigate why people had shifted from a man like Khatami to someone like Ahmadi Nejad - with the kind of background and personality that he has and we all know about it. However, there are reports that in some poll stations, Sepah and its mitilias (Basijis) overtly interfered in the voting process by writing Ahmadi Nejad's name for those who were unable to write or those who were still undecided as to whose name they were going to put in their vote. Obviously one of the contenders - Karoubi - has been informed of this intereference and will hold a press conference soon to give more details on it.
Furthermore, this was Kayahan's headline this morning: "Rafsanjani in the first rank, Ahmadi Nejad second". How on earth could Kayhan know that Ahmadi Nejad was second at 7 o'clock in the morning (the time when it gets published and distributed), while first official results were only announced at 8am? Besides, Ahmadi Nejad has not yet come up higher than the third (not the second) place. So it is not known where Kayhan had got its 'results' from. Also, one unprecedented thing that has happened is that the Guardian Council is now announcing its own version of results!!!, whereas the law says the Ministry of Interior is the sole body in charge of announcing election result. What a mess! That's all that I can say for now.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Update (3)

According to Iranian news agencies, Karoubi, Rafsanjani and Ahmadi Nejad are ahead of others as the votes are being counted. However, the ballots in major cities (including Tehran, Tabriz and Mashad) have not been counted yet. So this order can change any time soon. The final result will be announced by tonight (Saturday night). Also it is now certain that the election will be dragged into the second round which will take place next Friday.

One another thing: I was very close to spend the rest of my visit to Iran in jail. Yesterday evening as I was taking photo of a poll station, I was 'arrested' by the police! I could never imagine that taking photo of people in a public place was a crime! In any event, I spent a couple of hours at a police station but then got released. Afterall, being a lawyer, I knew how to deal with that kind of situation. But it was a frustrating experience I must say.

I will have more updates and analysis soon.

Election update (2)

I visited a few poll stations in Western and Northern Tehran too. Those in the north were very quiet. In fact, I waited outside one of them around Tajrish sq for almost an hour but no one turned up to vote. Not a soul! I hat saw a few people in some others as I was passing by. However, there was a line outside a mosque in Western part of the city (in Sattar Khan street). This was around 2pm. I drove further up to Shahrak Jandarmeri and Marzdaran. Most of the stations on my way were rarther quiet with no more than 10 to 20 people turning up every half an hour or so. I wonder what is happening in the south. I might go and check if I can.

There are rumours that bombs have been planted near some of the poll stations as well. Some people, I have so heard, have preferred to stay in for the fear of explosions. However, so far there has been no report of trouble.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Election update

It is 10.30 am, Tehran time. I just came back from a short trip around my place in downtown Tehran. I visited a number of poll stations: one around Vali-Asr square which was fairly busy. Another one in Felestin Street (Kakh) was rather quiet, I was there for almost 30 minutes, but I saw only 6 people turned up to vote! But it is Friday anyway, and many people sleep in. So I think stations will get busier in the afternoon. I have photos as well but cannot upload them now, because this dial-up is a really big problem here. I am heading to the West of Tehran to see what is happening there.

My vote

As you might have noticed, unlike many Iranian bloggers, I have not mentioned in here whom I will be going to vote for. I do not think it really matters at all. Who will care about my choice anyway? And really, who cares about what other bloggers say about their favourite cadidate? If someone wants to go and cast a vote they already have made up their mind. And if they do not want to vote, which for me is itself a way of casting vote in sense of expressing ones' decision, Windsteed is in no position to change their decision. Besides I am not after too much publicity in the same way as many other Iranian bloggers are - not that it is a bad thing, I just do not like it. I write out of passion, for those who want to get a 'different' perspective. That's all.

Viva Iran and God bless Iran! This is my vote.


Well, as it stands, it is unlikely that the new Iranian president will be determined in the first round. But if that turns out to be the case, then who is likely to make it to the second round? It is a very though call. Until two days ago Rafsanjani was ahead of other contenders. However, 'unofficial' reports and polls suggest that other candidates have now come up by a number of points. Thus, Rafsanjani has no longer an absolute lead. Moeen, Larijani, and Ghalibaf all have hopes to make it to the second round. But will Karoubi, Mehralizadeh, or Ahmadi Nejad be able to pull off a victory in the first round too? They might have support among certain groups of people, which would have been remarkable if they were running for parliamentary elections. However, to win in a presidential election, they need much broader support than what they already have. Besides, another factor which makes it very hard to predict the election at this stage is the public turn out at the ballots. At the moment, it is estimated that between 45 to 55 percent of people will turn out to cast their votes. This rate is, of course, variable across the country. In Tehran, for instance, it drops down to somewhere between 15 to 25 per cent. But this also can change as we get closer to the election time.

In the meanwhile, Ayatollah Khamenei has addressed the people, 'inviting' them to participate in the election - which he called a 'divine affair'. Not surprisingly, he, once again, predicted that "on Friday, the Iranian nation will vote for the Islamic republic Constitution, and the unchangeable principles of the Constituion, as well as the Islamic values." No doubt that one of the "unchangeable principles" he had in mind was the one regarding his own position, nameley, the principle of "Velayat Faghigh" (loosely translated, the guardianship of a muslim leader). I read his words as suggesting that 'whomever the people vote for on Friday, they will be voting for me'. You might disagree with me by saying that he actually said that people would vote for the Constitution. But please read the statement again. It is not just tautology that he mentioned the "unchangeable principles" of the Constitution. There is an intention behind those words. Khamenei is in fact sending a clear message to those - i.e Moeen and his supporters - who have promised that they would prepare the context for a referendum or a law to limit or abolish Velayat Faghih and his (absolute) powers. Accordingly, he is warning that even if Moeen becomes the next president, he will have to understand that it was not him who people had voted for. Rather it will be Khamenei and the regime - as it is. And Khamenei means what he is saying. He meant it last time when Khatami won over 20 million votes to become presdient. He is not joking this time either. But will the next president of nation be up for the challenge to make it clear to Khamenei that the mechanism through which people vote for the constituion, and the principle of Velayat Faghigh, is called referendum and not presidential elecion?!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rezaee out, Ahmadi Nejad in

With almost twenty four hours until the ballots open, Rezaee is out (as predicted) and the number is down to seven (although he has not yet officially reported his withdrawal to the Ministry of Interior). Rezaee has been reported as saying that he pulled out under no pressure. But he was under pressure for a long time since before he officially registered his candidature. However, he had resisted to pressures throughout, as one of his motives was to prove to the Leader, who fired him from the office of the commander in chief of Sepah after his son had sought asylum in the US a few years ago, that he still enjoys some popularity among Sepahis. A few days ago, a number of Sepahi Generals issued a statement supporting Rezaee, whom, the statement said, was a symbol of the good memories of victories during the Iran-Iraq war. Now it seems that Rezaee regarded the statement sufficient to prove his point.
People from the Council for Coeperating the Revolutionary Forces (CCRF), a hardliner body, recently increased their pressure on both Rezaee and Ahmadi Nejad to convince them that it would be against the interest of the hardliners to have four candidates in the election, particularly with the 'risk' of Rafsanjani's victory just around the corner. Obviously, Rezaee was less stubborn than Ahmadi Nejad. It is said that one of the members of the CCRF (probably Bahonar) addressed Ahamdi Nejad in anger and frustration after he failed to respond to CCRF demand to withdraw, accusing him (Ahmadi Nejad) of striving for power not service to people (referring to Ahmadi Nejad's motto that his only intention is to be of service to people).

I will have more on the latest developments in my next post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Kayhan, June 13, 2005 (the day after the bombings in Ahwaz). The headline above the photo reads: Khuzestan joyful over the victory of Foolad

More on recent blasts

It is good to hear that one of the candidates - Moeen- has disputed the 'foreign element' in the recent blasts in Tehran and Ahwaz. He is reported as saying:"recent bombings are suspicious and their roots must be discovered", warning that there are "pressure groups" who want to "change the election results". I have said before that the extremist factions in the hardliners' camp are highly concerned about Rafsanjani or Moeen winning the election. They are attempting to stop the election. If they fail at this stage, which so far seems very likely to be the case, they have plans for after the election. What causes worry is that their plans are backed by top-ranking officials. I hesitate to say this, but I am somehow inclined to conclude that the Supreme Leader himself will not stop those plans from going ahead, even if he would not formally endorse them. What directs me towards this conclusion is that he did not officially condemn the bombings or send a message of condolence - somehing that he almost always does after disasterous incidence like these. This might not be a good 'reason' to believe Khamenei has a role in the recent events, but I do not want to argue that he has a role. Rather I want to suggest that he is aware of those plans and prefers to remain silent. Interestingly, on the day after the explosions, Kayhan, Tehran daily which is under Khamenei's contorl dedicated its second main headline (see the picture above) to the victory of Foolad (an Ahwazi soccer team) in the Iranian league, while Ahwazis were mourning for their beloved ones. Remember that this is the newspaper that wanted days of mourning to be announced for the "half-naked" Armeninans dancing in Ahwaz a few months ago. Now human lives are lost but no one seems to be even interested in mourning, let alone investigating to find out who was behind those murderous acts. Does this not at least indicate that there are powerful hands behind this incidence and Iranian officials, law enforcement agencies, and security are aware of it?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Rafsanjani: a gifted psychoanalyst

With only three days left, it is almost certain that Hashemi Rafsanjani will win the election - although there has been a steady rise in the rate of Moeen supporters across the country.
Rafsanjani's successful return to the office of presidency, and even his candidature, deserve some scrutiny. In my view, his success offers a great opportunity for psychoanalysis of Iranians and Iranian politics. I also believe that Rafsanjani is not only a genius Iranian politician but, more than that, he is gifted with an extra ordinary psychoanalytical knowledge of the Iranian society. Ali gives a simple but illustrative account of Rafasanjani's endeavor to impact the Iranian psyche in an 'election show' broadcast on TV. Ali is obviously furious with the way Rafsanjani attempts to depict himself as a hero, as a good listener, as a libertarian, or as a compassionate leader. Ali might not believe in a Rafsanjani with those qualities, but how about the rest of the Iranian society? Does the current situation suggest that so far Rafsanjani's psychoanalyticial skills have successfully differentiated him from all other Iranian politicians? What do you think?

Nice police officers - mushroom headquarters

These days, police officers on patrol in Tehran are so nice to everyone. Have they always been like this? They don't show any interest in reacting even to those who insult them on streets. And one another thing, why are there so many candidates' headquarters everywhere? Does anyone have any idea why, for example, Mehralizadeh would need a headquater in every corner of the city?Or Rezaee?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Who is behind yesterday blasts?

I posted the following yesterday morning (before the explosions) but then removed in order to make further verifications. However, in the light of yesterday's blasts in Tehran and Ahwas, I think it is worth re-publishing it.

The hardliners (Ossulgarayan) are deliberating on how to reach on an agreement on a single, or ultimately two candidates. It is very much likely that Ahmadi Nejad and Rezai pull out of the competition by Tuesday this week. In the meanwhile, exterimist factions in the camp of Ossulgarayan have already started contemplating on possible post-election strategies. Almost certain that Moeen has little chance to attract a high number of votes, now their main concern is how to deal with Rafsanjani. There have been propositions that, should Rafsanjani win sufficinet votes in the first round to become president, attempt should be made to cause instability and unrest. The proponents of this strategy argue such a rioting shall be provoked in the first place by using Hezbollahi militias and Ansar. They anticipate that the rioting will soon spread as a large number of the public, who are generally unhappy with the regime will also join in. Here, the plan goes, the hardliners should take utmost advantage of their control over Sepah, the Police, as well as the militia. These forces shall not make any attempt to control to stop (perhaps only contain) the riots so that the country will end up in a chaos. Under such circumstances, it is hoped, Rafsanjani would step down, which would then enable Khamenei to invoke Artilce 131 of the Constitution to order a new election - of course without Rafsanjani. But some argue that this plan can better work whenRafsanjani has officially taken office. Their argument is based on the presumption that, should Rafsanjani seem to be unable to control the unrest- which in their opinion will be the case - then the Majlis, controlled by a hardliner majority, can easily ask the Leader to exercise his power under Articles 89 and 110 of the Constitution and remove him from the office . Neither of the propositions has yet gained a wide acceptance among Ossulgaras, due to the fear that an unrest may lead to mass uprising which may get out of control and ultimately lead to regime change. In any event, they show how desparate the hardliners are getting to get their hand on to the post they have been deprived of for the past sixteen years.

Let's pray now!

Kayhan, the hardliner Tehran newspaper, has predicted that at least 30 million Iranians will turn out to vote on June 17. In its editorial, it has even gone so far as to thank God for "this exciting event which indicates peoples participation in demonstrating their unity with each other and the religious government" - as if that 'exciting event' had already happened !! But Kayhan is right, whatever happens on Friday, it is going to be very exciting and will be taken as a move by people to support the religious nature of government not as a sign of opposition to it. And the regime will thank God for it. This is exactly what happened in 1996 when millions voted against the wishes of those who assume they are in charge of people's religion but still peoples' vote counted as an approval of the Islamic regime. This is because every act of Iranians, as subjects of the Islamic regime is seen as being religious (Labayk) as long as it serves the Mullah's ends. In line with this, Ayatollah Messbah Yazdi offers a very interesting guideline as to how to determine "the best candidate":

"One should never underestimate the impact of praying and recoursing to Imams in elections. In early years of the revolution, there were people who would fast during the period of elections [...] lest an incompetent individual would get elected. I am not sure whether this practice still exists among religious and sacred [sic] individuals. However, if they would deliberately forsake this important issue, it is unfair that we, whose flesh is of the bread of the Imam Zaman (the 12th Imam) [he means that he and his followers are indebted to the Imam] do not recourse to him and [turn up at polls] wihtout praying to him in advance for the best of the world of Islam."

Thus, the regime is hoping that on Friday, 30 million Iranians will first say their prayers to the Imam, then will go to peform their religious obligation at the ballots by casting their vote for the Islamic regime. But perhaps Messbah and Kayhan and their likes must first say prayers to the Imam to help them get at least half of that number to turn up at the poll stations.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Everyone I asked about the election this morning believed that Rafsanjani would win it. Obviously, the old guy's propaganda campaign has been far more successful than expected. Here are the most common reasons given by those who believe that the Godfather of the Islamic regime will -or shall- come out victorious:
"All this election is a show. The regime has already appointed its next president: Rafsanjani"[Yes, it is a show but why should Rafsanjani get the joy of it?]
"Rafsanjani is the best person to lead Iran out of the international crisis it is currently facing" [No he is not!]
"At least Rafsanjani can contain Khamenei and disallow him to become the absolute power" [No, he can not!]
"Rafsanjani is an Islamic liberal, and this is what we need at a time when Iran is trying to become global" [No, he is not, and Iran cannot become 'global' under a president who see himself above the law]

Very superficial, aren't they?
But I am really stunned by the extent to which Iranians' judgement has changed in only a few years. Six years ago, the image they had of Rafsanjani was nothing but that of a murderer. A cruel dictator who kills mercilessly. Now they see him as a powerful leader who can save them against threats. And apparently, no one has the courage to challenge this absolute wrong and in fact dangerous belief. Akbar Ganji was the last man who had the guts to stand up against the Godfather. But now all the writers and the so called politicians and intellectualls are in a frustrating silence. Islamic republic is falling back to the arms of its Godfather. The dictator is pairing his boots.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Latest moves by the candidates

I have just spoken to the person who had provided me with the poll results that I published in my post on Wednesday. I asked him whether he knew why there were such big inconsistencies between the results he had given to me and those published by the ISPA. This is what he had to say:

"All latest polls show that, Rafsanjani and Moeen are ahead of other contenders. But there are organisations that are publishing fake polls for their own particular purposes."

Thus, it seems that, if no unexpected adverse events occur, Hashemi and Moeen will make it to the secound round of the elections. Hashemi, however, certainly likes to knock out Moeen in the first round, as things might not turn his (i.e Rafsanjani's) way in the second round. Thus, he and his camp are doing their best to create a (false) belief among the public that Hashemi is well ahead and will win the elections. On the other hand, some in the camps of Larijani, Ahmadi Nejad, and Ghalibaf have come to the conclusion that, as they have very little chance to win in the current situation, they must, by any means, prevent people from voting for Hashemi or Moeen. One such means is to use violence. A case in point is the recent hand gerenade attack against Mohammad Reza Khatami (Moeen's apponted vice-president in his government). What other strategies might opponents of Moeen come up with? We shall wait and see. The main show starts tomorrow with the beginning of the last pre-election week in Iran.

Comments on ISPA's "latest poll"

Iranian Students Polling Agency ISPA has published its "latest polls results", a summary of which can be found on Iran Scan (by Hoder). As one can clearly see, there are remarkable discrepancies between figures in ISPA's poll and the figures I recently referred to (see my previous post). The poll to which I referred yesterday was conducted over two weeks in Tehran by a governmental centre. The number of participants in this poll was significantly higher than that of ISPA, and the survery was conducted across all districts of Tehran.
What surprises me about ISPA's results is that it indicates that Moeen is far behind Rafsanjani in Tehran - by almost 30%. However, according to the results I have been given, there is only around 5% difference between their overall chances, with Rafsanjani being ahead. Furthermore, the percentage of those who have said "I will not vote" fluctuated between 55 to 65, whereas in IPSA's poll this figure drops to as low as 11%.
I do not want to readily doubt the authenticity of ISPAs poll but I think it must be treated with extreme caution.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Celebration in Tehran

Celebrations in Tehran, June 8, 2005 (Photos by M. P)

An update

My apologies for my rather long disappearance. The reason was that I was robbed after I came back from my trip to Garmsar. My notebook (laptop) is gone now, with all my notes and files and everything. Thankfully I had back ups on USB for some of those files , otherwise I would be dead! In any event, now I have to go to police station almost everyday which is such a big hassle! However, I make sure I update this blog more regularly. There are so many things going in Iran, I really do not know which one I can write on.

One important development was the coalition between Moeen's supporters and the group called "Melli-Mazhabi (Nationalist-Religious)". This comes at a time when letters from three political prisoners with affinities with the Melli-Mazhabi group. In their letters, Hoda Sabe, Reza Alijani, and Taghi Rahmani, give details of abuses and violations of their human rights the had undergone. The letters are addressed to Mr Khatami and Mr Shahroudi. I wonder what Khatami can do about them. Also, if elected, would Moeen be able to guarantee their release? I doubt it.

Another development in the camp of hardliner was that there are speculations as to the possible withdrawal of one or two contenders. It is said that Ahmadi Nejad and Rezai will move out of the contest shortly before the 17th of June.

I also heard from a very reliable source that polls (in Tehran) show that Larijani and Ghalibaf are almost neck and neck and Moeen's popularity is rising steadily. The latter is good news, but the former? The turn-out in Tehran is estimated to be somewhere around 25 to 35 per cent. However, I understand that some polls may indicate otherwise.

One more thing. Last night, Iran's football (soccer) team beat Bahrain to secure its ticket for the World Cup. The whole nation was in joy after the match. They were dancing on the streets, playing music, sounding their cars' horn, as the police were watching them: powerless and themselves bemused with such a national spirit. Some were also carrying posters or banners in favour of some candidates. Some others were backing a boycott on the elections. But many did not seem to really care about the elections at all. People were happy and cheerful. Extremely so! It was a national moment of joy.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Windsteed's elections diary - Part One

It is long weekend in Iran. It is the sixteenth anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini. Everywhere is closed for three days. There is nothing but mourning shows on telly. Men in black hitting their head and chest in mourning their Imam. I thought the best thing to do during these holidays was to leave Tehran and travel around a little bit. Since my return to Iran I had not have the chance to leave Tehran. I also wanted to see what people outside Tehran think about the elections.

So I took on the road. Destination: Garmsar, a town in 100 Km south east of Tehran. I had to drive to Jaddeye Khorasan (Khorasan Road). Tehran was still quiet at that time of the morning. Posters of candidates pasted everywhere: on houses, bridges, light-posts. On the way, I drove past the new parliament building in Baharestan square. Wow! It was spectacular, especillay its huge green pyramid. I was told that billions of Rials were spent on this construction. Its budget law was passed during the parliamentary session when the conservatives were in control. Those whose slogan these days is to avoid luxury and lavishness in social and political life.


Pakdasht was the first town that I reached on the way to Garmsar. The first thing that caught my eyes from distance was the thick layer of dust and smug that had settled on the town. Pakdasht is surrounded by factories and brick-klins. It is working-class town and has a high population of Afghan refugees.

I was feeling a bit thirsty, so I thought that I just stop there and pop into a local store, get a soft drink and maybe talk to a local about politics, something that almost every Iranian is interested in and alwasy has an opinon about. The local store I went to was run by a man in his fifties. I greeted him and asked for a bottle of Delster (non-alcoholic beer). As he was getting me the drink, I told him that I wanted to know his opinion about the elections. He first asked me if I were a spy! I assured him that I was not, but only interested in knowing his views. This is what he said:
"What difference will it make? Whoever wins the elections, it will make no difference to people. One goes, another one comes. They are all the same. They only think about their pocket, not the public. None of them knows how people live, how they suffer. They live their luxurious lives. People are in poverty, there is insecurity, but no one seems to care."

I asked him if he knew any of the candidates. He said:
" I know that man, Ghalibaff. He was the chief commander of the police. It was during his time in office when innocent Pakdashti childern were raped and murdered. If he were a competent commander, he could have saved the children, he could have done something to prevent so many children from being killed. But he did not do anything. Now he wants to run the country. God help us all! I know Rafsanjani and Karoubi too. They are Mullahs. That's why some people tend to trust them because they think Mullahs are sacred, are not theives. But I doubt it. I doubt whether Mullahs can really run the country."

Then someone came in and the shop owner stopped talking. I thanked him for the drink and said goodbye. He said: "goodbye, but just make sure that I don't get into trouble because of what I said, I already am in lots of trouble!"

To be continued...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A small explanation

I came across this comment by WishMeLuck :
"In response to fellow Iranian bloggers who are promoting Dr. Mostafa Moin (moeen) in the upcoming Iranian election (a.k.a. Iran elections 1384/ Iran Votes 2005): renaming "eslah-talabs" (reformer) to "mosharekati" (affiliates of Islamic Iran Participation Front) is like putting lipstick on a pig. A pig is a pig with or without lipstick. These people neither believe in eslahat (reforms) nor mosharekat (participation). Their idea of reforms and participation is nothing but endless talks and pseudo-philosophical debates about the relation between the government and the governed, designed to deceive the people."

I would like to make it clear that I totally agree with WishMeLuck on that point . That's exactly why I try to make sure , as much as possible, to put the term reformist in quotation marks ("), or condition the term by using "the so-called reformist(s)". However, let's admit the fact that they (i.e. Mosharekatis) are regarded as 'reformers' by many inside and outside the country.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The other side of Rafsanjani

Mr. Rafsanjani says that he has no money to spend on his election campaigns. There was no sadder sight than Rafsanjani's broken-hearted face as he was lamenting bitterly over his financial problems. Poor thing! But did he really think that people were going to believe that the King of Iranian pistachio who has lots of shares in numerous businesses in Iran has gone so bankcrupt that now he does not even have a penny to spend on his election campaign?
Three possibilites spring into mind. The first is that Rafsanjani is so down to earth type of man. He wants to tell people that despite my high financial status, I want to at least pretend that I live like the majority of the people who are in deep economic trouble these days. He is desparately trying to win people's hearts by trying to convince them that he is one of 'them'.
Or, there is a second possibility: maybe Rafsanjani thinks that people are stupid. One would have expected that he would at least try to change this misperception after people showed their back to him in the parliamentary elections in 2000. Well obviously he has not. Otherwise he would not have placed a bid for this elections, would he? But I am still confident that he does not think that people are that stupid. They might have forgotten about his role in political murders, or in the economic chaos, etc. but they cannot really forget that this man is the Godfather of a corrupt rich clan who have their dirty hands in every dirty businesses in Iran. But I am inclined to go with Possibility No. Three: see, I don't believe that Rafsanjani is really trying to convince people that he is poor. In fact, I think, he is making this up to make people think about his 'almighty' absolute power. He wants people to find out for themselves that this 71 year old veteran is still functioning like a hard-hootered hunky action-boi. My belief is reinforced as I review the photos of him on ISNA newsagency website, showing him as if he is flirting with a young attractive girl sitting next to him. All I can see is a cool Mr. Rafsanjani posing as a smooooooooooooth, nice, charming, and of course, powerful president. Yes, Mr. Rafsanjani, we have been thinking a lot. You are still the one and only Man: strong, rich, powerful, and...?