Protest at Tehran University

tehranuniprotest1

Defying the stringent security measures taken by the regime, large crowds gathered outside Tehran Uni today.

From what we can gather, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s ‘Friday Prayers’ speech sought to avoid controversy as much as possible, but he did keep referring to the ‘crisis’ in Iran and the need to save the ‘Islamic State’. Moreover, he stressed that the Islamic Republic is precisely a Republic and that this is extremely important.

Israeli Navy prepares for potential attack on Iran

Developments such as this underline the necessity of making opposition to war and sanctions on Iran a central tenet of our solidarity.

From The Times:

Two Israeli missile class warships have sailed through the Suez Canal ten days after a submarine capable of launching a nuclear missile strike, in preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The deployment into the Red Sea, confirmed by Israeli officials, was a clear signal that Israel was able to put its strike force within range of Iran at short notice. It came before long-range exercises by the Israeli air force in America later this month and the test of a missile defence shield at a US missile range in the Pacific Ocean.

Israel has strengthened ties with Arab nations who also fear a nuclear-armed Iran. In particular, relations with Egypt have grown increasingly strong this year over the “shared mutual distrust of Iran”, according to one Israeli diplomat. Israeli naval vessels would likely pass through the Suez Canal for an Iranian strike.

“This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These manoeuvres are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats,” an Israeli defence official said.

It is believed that Israel’s missile-equipped submarines, and its fleet of advanced aircraft, could be used to strike at in excess of a dozen nuclear-related targets more than 800 miles from Israel.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, said that his Government explicitly allowed passage of Israeli vessels, and an Israeli admiral said that the drills were “run regularly with the full co-operation of the Egyptians.”

Two Israeli Saar class missile boats and a Dolphin class submarine have passed through Suez. Israel has six Dolphin-class submarines, three of which are widely believed to carry nuclear missiles.

Israel will also soon test an Arrow interceptor missile on a US missile range in the Pacific Ocean. The system is designed to defend Israel from ballistic missile attacks by Iran and Syria. Lieutenant-General Patrick O’Reilly, the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency, said that Israel would test against a target with a range of more than 630 miles (1,000km) — too long for previous Arrow test sites in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Israeli air force, meanwhile, will send F16C fighter jets to participate in exercises at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada this month. Israeli C130 Hercules transport aircraft will also compete in the Rodeo 2009 competition at McChord Air Force base in Washington.

“It is not by chance that Israel is drilling long-range manoeuvres in a public way. This is not a secret operation. This is something that has been published and which will showcase Israel’s abilities,” said an Israeli defence official.

He added that in the past, Israel had run a number of covert long-range drills. A year ago, Israeli jets flew over Greece in one such drill, while in May, reports surfaced that Israeli air force aircraft were staging exercises over Gibraltar. An Israeli attack on a weapons convoy in Sudan bound for militants in the Gaza Strip earlier this year was also seen as a rehearsal for hitting moving convoys.

The exercises come at a time when Western diplomats are offering support for an Israeli strike on Iran in return for Israeli concessions on the formation of a Palestinian state.

If agreed it would make an Israeli strike on Iran realistic “within the year” said one British official.

Diplomats said that Israel had offered concessions on settlement policy, Palestinian land claims and issues with neighboring Arab states, to facilitate a possible strike on Iran.

“Israel has chosen to place the Iranian threat over its settlements,” said a senior European diplomat.

Moussavi to attend Friday prayers

From Reuters India:

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi will attend Friday prayers this week in his first official public appearance since last month’s disputed election, a statement on his website said.

Mousavi’s statement, posted late on Wednesday, confirmed a media report earlier this week that he would attend the prayers at Tehran University to be led by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June 12 presidential election, says the vote was rigged in the hardline incumbent’s favour.

The authorities reject charges of vote fraud, but the official election result sparked days of mass street protests by supporters of Mousavi and exposed deepening divisions within the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

“Since I regard as obligatory responding to the invitation of the sympathisers and supporters in the path of safeguarding legitimate rights of a free and honourable life, I will maintain a presence alongside you on Friday,” Mousavi said.

Mousavi’s website said he made the statement “in response to the public’s invitation for him to participate in Friday prayers in Tehran.” Friday prayers in Iran have the potential to reach a wide audience as they are broadcast live on radio.

On Tuesday, the Etemad newspaper said both Mousavi and reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, a supporter of his, would attend the prayers, which are broadcast live.

Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, upheld Ahmadinejad’s landslide win in his Friday sermon one week after the vote.

But Mousavi, who was prime minister in the 1980s, has said Ahmadinejad’s next government would be “illegitimate”.

He has also called on authorities to release hundreds of people detained in the turbulent aftermath of the election, including leading reformists, journalists and rights lawyers.

Rafsanjani will lead the prayers after two months of absence. Some of his relatives, including his daughter Faezeh, were arrested briefly for taking part in pro-Mousavi rallies.

State media say at least 20 people were killed as protesters clashed with riot police and members of the Basij militia, but some rights activists believe the figure is higher.

The authorities and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed. Hardliners have called for Mousavi to be put on trial.

Iran has accused Britain and the United States, which have criticised a crackdown on opposition protests, of interfering in its internal affairs. London and Washington reject the charge.

Calls for Civil Disobedience on July 21

Hopi activists have been informed that there is talk of civil disobedience  in order to shut down the electricity network in Iran on Tuesday July 21. This has predominantly come from technicians and workers in the power service, but they are also calling on people to help by switching on all power to force a shutdown. We will keep readers posted on developments as they happen.

Death in the Dorms: Saeed Kamali Dehghan

From Guardian Online

They came in the small hours, just as the dormitories were settling down for the night. Outside, Tehran was still in ferment, a city gripped by fury two days after a “stolen election”. Inside the dorms on Amirabad Street, students were trying to sleep, though nerves were jangling; just hours earlier several had been beaten in front of the main gate to the university.

What happened next developed into one of the seminal events of Iran‘s post-election unrest: police broke locks and then bones as they rampaged through the dormitories, attacked dozens of students, carted off more than 100 and killed five. The authorities still deny the incursion took place. But the account pieced together from interviews with five of those present tells a different story.

“We were getting ready to go to sleep when we suddenly heard them breaking the locks to enter our rooms,” said one of the 133 students arrested that night. “I’d seen them earlier beating students but I didn’t imagine that they would come inside. It’s even against Iranian law.”

Forty-six students from one dorm were arrested and taken to the basement of the interior ministry on nearby Fatemi Street. It was there, on the building’s upper floors, that the vote-counting and – claim opposition supporters – the rigging, was going on. Another 87 were taken to a security police building on Hafez Street. Students spoke of torture and mistreatment.

Five died: they were Fatemeh Barati, Kasra Sharafi, Mobina Ehterami, Kambiz Shoaee and Mohsen Imani – buried the following day in Tehran’s famous Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, reportedly without their families being informed. Their names were confirmed by Tahkim Vahdat, a student organisation.

Witnesses said the two women and three men were repeatedly beaten on the head with electric batons. Their families were warned not to talk about their children or hold funerals – like the parents of Neda Soltan, whose face became synonymous with the protest movement after she was filmed being shot dead in the street.

Under Iranian law, police, revolutionary guards and other militia are not allowed to enter universities – a legacy of the 1999 student riots. Until last month those riots were the most serious unrest the country had seen since the Islamic revolution.

But with the country convulsed by protests at the 12 June elections, there was no holding back that Sunday night. “The police threw teargas into the dorms, beat us, broke the windows and forced us to lie on the ground,” one student recalled. “I had not even been protesting but one of them jumped on me, sat on my back and beat me. And then, while pretending to search me for guns or knives, he abused me sexually. They were threatening to hang us and rape us.”

Another described the scene: “The riot police stood in two lines, formed a tunnel with their shields as its roof, and made us run through it again and again while beating us and banging on their shields. “One of my roommates had a broken leg but they still made him run.”

Others spoke of similar experiences at the hands of the Basij (paramilitary militia). “The Basiji was on my back and told me: ‘I have not fucked anyone for the past seven years, you cute boy! I’ll show you what I can do to you when we arrive.’ They were harassing us and claiming we insulted them or the supreme leader.”

Before being taken away on a bus the students were made to stand in front of a dormitory block with plastic bags over their heads, their hands bound with plastic ties – known there as “Israeli handcuffs”.

“I had a second to recognise that it was the main building of the interior ministry in Fatemi Street,” said another student, weeping. “I just couldn’t believe it, there were senior politicians, members of parliament and investigators on the upper floors and we were in the basement. I have no doubt that they were busy rigging the votes upstairs.”

One detainee was abused by guards after he lost control of his bladder. Hours later they were given bread and cheese that had been placed on a dirty floor and warned they would be punished if they refused to eat. A Basiji called Ali filmed them with his mobile phone, ordering the captives to say “I am a donkey”.

Injuries were ignored. One student who had lost an eye after being hit by a plastic bullet was not given medical attention. “We were begging them to transfer these two who were suffering more than others to the hospital but they just said ‘let them die’,” a witness said.

Later, gas was pumped into the cells when all the students were being held in the security police building. Their ordeal ended 24 hours later when the president of Tehran University, Farhad Rahbar, and Alireza Zakani, a Tehran MP, spoke to the detainees. Rahbar told them that he had given the police permission to enter the dormitories to control the situation – but denied it a few days later.

Before being released the students were ordered to put on fresh clothes supplied by the police. “They didn’t want there to be any evidence of what had happened,” one of them said. “But what’s stronger than 133 students who were there, who saw everything, and suffered?”

Iran executes 'Sunni Militants'

From the BBC

Iran has executed 13 members of a Sunni rebel group blamed for a spate of attacks in the south-east of the country, Iran’s state news agency says.

They were members of Jundallah (God’s Soldiers). The execution of the brother of their leader was postponed, the agency reported.

Tehran blames the group for a series of attacks including the bombing of a mosque in May which killed 25 people.

Amnesty International had appealed for a stay of execution.

It said that the convicts had not received a fair trial.

Ebrahim Hamidi, who heads the judiciary in south-eastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, told the official Irna news agency on Tuesday that 13 of the group had been hanged inside a jail in the city of Zahedan.

“After last minute consultations, the executions were carried out in a prison,” Mr Hamidi is quoted as saying.

Fars, a semi-official news agency, had earlier reported that the executions would be carried out in public.

Abdolhamid Rigi, the brother of the group’s leader Abdolmalek Rigi, was not among those hanged on Tuesday but would be executed later this week, the report said.

‘Executed in prison’

Iran state radio quoted Zahedan’s prosecutor, Mohammad Marzieh, as saying that the men had been hanged for killing dozens of civilians, policemen and for bombings in the region.

Most people in Sistan-Baluchestan are Sunni Muslims and ethnic Baluchis.

The provincial capital Zahedan, near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the centre of a rebellion by Baluchis.

Predominantly Shia Muslim Iran says that Jundollah is part of the Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda network.

Jundallah has claimed repeated attacks in the province, including a bombing in May in a Shia mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people, Iranian media say.

In recent weeks the Iranian government has increased the already high number of executions, possibly as a way of asserting its authority in the wake of the disputed presidential election result, says the BBC’s Jon Jeyne.

Human rights groups accuse Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty but Tehran insists it is an effective deterrent that is used only after a lengthy judicial process.