21 June 2009

Reporters Without Borders / Reporters sans frontières: Iran Becomes World's Biggest Prison for Journalists

Reporters Without Borders
Reporters sans frontières

Repression stepped up
yet again as Iran becomes
world’s biggest prison
for journalists

Published on 21 June 2009
In the same country

19 June 2009 - European Union’s 27 leaders urged not to recognise Ahmadinejad’s reelection

18 June 2009 - Journalists in France demonstrate in support of their Iranian colleagues

17 June 2009 - Press freedom violations recounted in real time

The Islamic Republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world’s biggest prison for journalists. The crackdown has been intensified yet again following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s endorsement of the result of the 12 June presidential election and the opposition’s decision to call another demonstration on 20 June.

Iran now has a total of 33 journalists and cyber-dissidents in its jails, while journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi.

“The force of the demonstrations in Tehran is increasing fears that more Iranian journalists could be arrested and more foreign journalists could be expelled,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election.”

Reporters Without Borders already wrote to the leaders of the European Union’s 27 member countries urging them not to recognise President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection.

It has emerged that Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of Etemad Meli (a daily owned by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the opposition presidential candidates), was arrested at 2 a.m. on 18 June. Intelligence ministry officials took him away to an unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran’s Evin prison.

Ghochani is also the editor of the dailies Shargh and Hammihan and the weekly Saharvand Emroz. The publication of all these newspapers had already been suspended before his arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested at her Tehran home on 14 June (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com).

Husband-and-wife journalists Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee and Jila Baniyaghoob were arrested at midnight of 20 June by intelligence ministry officials in plain clothes who searched their home and then took them away to an as yet unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran’s Evin prison.

A winner of the Courage in Journalism prize awarded by the International Women’s Media Foundation, Baniyaghoob edits a news website that focuses on women’s rights, Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net). Her husband, Amoee, writes for various pro-reform publications.

Reporters Without Borders has also been able to confirm that Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested in the morning of 20 June.

The BBC confirmed in the afternoonof 21 June that its Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, has been ordered to leave the country within 24 hours. Officials accused him of “supporting rioters”. The authorities had previously accused Britain of “conspiring“ against Iran.

Journalists and activists held in Evin prison are being put under a lot of pressure to make filmed “confessions” acknowledging their participation in a “velvet revolution.” Reporters Without Borders has also received many allegations of torture.

The state radio and TV broadcaster is meanwhile putting out false information about the opposition candidates and the cancellation of today’s demonstration. Foreign news agency correspondents are also being pressured not to report anything about the opposition.

A few hours after Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech yesterday endorsing Ahmadinejad’s election and banning any demonstrations, several videos were posted online showing individuals on rooftops chanting “Allah Akbar!” (see this Iranian blogger’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZfm...).

After being blocked since 11 June, the Iranian news website Entekhab (www.entekhabnews.com/) has now been closed down on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor general.

At least 20 journalists had already been arrested since 12 June (see list below). Reporters Without Borders has not been able to trace many others. Some may have found refuge but others may now be with those of their colleagues who had already been in jail for some time. Even before the election, Iran was ranked as the Middle East’s biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents.

Twenty-three journalists have been arrested in the week since the presidential election results :

14 June:

- Somayeh Tohidloo, who also keeps a blog (http://smto.ir)

- Ahmad Zeydabadi

- Kivan Samimi Behbani

- Abdolreza Tajik

- Mahssa Amrabad

- Behzad Basho, a cartoonist

- Khalil Mir Asharafi, a TV producer

- Karim Arghandeh, a blogger (http://www.futurama.ir/) and reporter for pro-reform newspapers Salam, Vaghieh and Afaghieh, who was arrested at his Tehran home.

- Shiva Nazar Ahari (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com).

15 June:

- Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including Hamshary, Shargh and Shahrvand Emrouz, who has reportedly been taken to the security wing of Evin prison.

- Saeed Hajjarian, the former editor of the newspaper Sobh-e-Emrouz, who was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June despite being badly handicapped.

- Mojtaba Pormohssen, who edits the newspaper Gylan Emroz and contributes to several other pro-reform newspapers and radio Zamaneh. He was arrested in the northern city of Rashat.

16 June:

- Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the “Blogging Mullah,” who was arrested at his Tehran home. His blog: http://www.webneveshteha.com/.

- Hamideh Mahhozi, arrested in the southern city of Bushehr.

- Amanolah Shojai, who is also a blogger. Arrested in Bushehr.

- Hossin Shkohi, who works for the weekly Paygam Jonob. Arrested in Bushehr.

- Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrested in Bushehr.

17 June:

- Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper Sarmayeh, who had been very critical of Ahmadinejad’s policies. He was arrested at his Tehran home.

- Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad.

18 June:

- Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of Etemad Meli.

20 June:

- Jila Baniyaghoob, editor of website Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net),

- Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee,

- Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists.


La répression s’accentue
encore et le pays devient
la première prison du monde
pour les journalistes

Publié le 21 juin 2009
Dans le même pays

19 juin 2009 - Reporters sans frontières en appelle aux 27 chefs d’Etat de l’Union européenne

19 juin 2009 - Les journalistes en France se mobilisent en faveur de leurs collègues iraniens

17 juin 2009 - La répression s’intensifie contre la presse, nationale et étrangère

La République islamique d’Iran occupe désormais, avec la Chine, le rang de première prison du monde pour les journalistes. La répression s’est encore accentuée à l’issue de la confirmation par le Guide Suprême Ali Khamenei, le 19 juin 2009, du résultat de l’élection présidentielle du 12 juin, et en marge de la manifestation convoquée, le 20 juin, par l’opposition.

Le pays compte trente-trois journalistes et cyberdissidents emprisonnés. Le procureur de Téhéran, Saïd Mortazavi, a convoqué par téléphone les journalistes qui n’ont pas été localisés à leur domicile.

“La violence des manifestations à Téhéran fait craindre a tout moment de nouvelles arrestations de journalistes iraniens et d’autres expulsions de confrères étrangers. Le régime, profondément ébranlé par sa propre population, ne peut tolérer d’être ainsi perçu. C’est pourquoi il s’attaque en priorité à la presse. La communauté internationale ne peut plus ignorer la situation. Sa réaction, claire et unanime, doit être à la mesure d’un événement de cette gravité. Il ne sera jamais question de reconnaître le résultat de la présidentielle du 12 juin”, a rappelé Reporters sans frontières, qui a écrit en ce sens aux chefs d’État et de gouvernement des 27 pays de l’Union européenne.

Mohammad Ghochani, rédacteur en chef du quotidien Etemad Meli, propriété de Mehdi Karoubi, l’un des candidats d’opposition à Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, a été arrêté à Téhéran, le 18 juin à deux heures du matin. Des fonctionnaires du ministère du Renseignement l’ont transféré vers un lieu non précisé, vraisemblablement la section de sécurité de la prison d’Evin. La parution des quotidiens Shargh et Hammihan ainsi que de l’hebdomadaire Saharvand emroz, dont il était également rédacteur en chef, avait déjà été suspendue.

Reporters sans frontières a également eu connaissance de l’arrestation, le 14 juin à son domicile de la capitale, de Shiva Nazar Ahari, cyberdissidente et activiste des droit de l’homme (voir son blog : http://azadiezan.blogspot.com).

Le 20 juin à minuit, le domicile de Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee et son épouse Jila Baniyaghoob, à Téhéran, a fait l’objet d’une perquisition d’agents en civil du ministère du Renseignement. Le couple de journalistes a été aussitôt arrêté et transféré vers un lieu non précisé, vraisemblablement la section de sécurité de la prison d’Evin. Lauréate en 2009 du Prix du Courage en journalisme, décerné par la International Women’s Media Foundation, Jila Baniyaghoob dirige un site d’informations de tendance féministe, Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net). Son mari, Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, collabore à plusieurs publications proches du courant réformateur. Reporters sans frontières a également eu confirmation de l’arrestation d’Ali Mazroui, le président de l’Association des journalistes iraniens, dans la matinée du 20 juin.

Enfin, la BBC a confirmé, dans l’après-midi du 21 juin, que son correspondant à Téhéran, Jon Leyne, avait reçu l’ordre de quitter le pays dans les vingt-quatre heures. Le journaliste est accusé de “soutien aux émeutiers” par les autorités, pour qui la Grande-Bretagne "comploterait" contre l’Iran.

Les journalistes et activistes emprisonnés à la prison d’Evin subissent d’importantes pressions de la part des autorités pour faire des “aveux” filmés, au titre de leur “participation à une révolution de velours”. Nombreux sont les cas de tortures signalés à Reporters sans frontières.

La radio-télévision d’État s’est par ailleurs employée à attribuer de fausses informations aux candidats d’opposition, notamment l’annulation de la manifestation du 20 juin. La pression s’exerce également sur les agences de presse étrangères pour que leurs correspondants ne relayent aucun fait rapporté par l’opposition. Quelques heures après la discours du 19 juin de l’ayatollah Ali Khamenei confirmant la “victoire“ de Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad et interdisant toute manifestation, plusieurs vidéo circulant sur Internet ont montré des individus perchés sur des toits et scandant “Allah Akbar !” (voir la vidéo d’une blogueuse iranienne : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZfm...). Le site d’informations Entekhab (//www.entekhabnews.com/), filtré dès le 11 juin, a été fermé sur ordre du procureur du Téhéran.

Au moins vingt-trois journalistes ont déjà été arrêtés depuis le 12 juin (liste ci-dessous). Nombreux sont ceux dont Reporters sans frontières a perdu la trace. Dans le meilleur des cas, ils se sont mis à l’abri. Au pire, ils sont déjà sous les verrous, rejoignant leurs confrères détenus de longue date. Avant le scrutin présidentiel, l’Iran avait déjà la triste réputation de plus grande prison du Moyen-Orient pour les journalistes et cyberdissidents.

Les vingt-trois journalistes arrêtés depuis le 14 juin 2009

Le 14 juin 2009 :
- la cyberdissidente Somaieh Tohidlou (http://smto.ir)
- Ahmad Zeydabadi,
- Kivan Samimi Behbani,
- Abdolreza Tajik,
- Mahssa Amrabadi,
- Behzad Basho, le caricaturiste
- Khalil Mir Asharafi, réalisateur à la télévision iranienne
- Karim Arghandeh, journaliste pour les journaux réformateurs Salam, Vaghieh etafaghieh, et blogueur (http ://www.futurama.ir/) a été arrêté à son domicile de Téhéran.
- La cyberdissidente Shiva Nazar Ahari ( http://azadiezan.blogspot.com)

Le 15 juin 2009 :
- Mohamad Atryanfar, directeur de plusieurs publications comme Hamshary, Shargh, Shahrvand Emrouz, aurait été transféré à la section de sécurité de la prison d’Evin.
- Saïd Hajarian, ancien directeur du journal Sobh-e-Emrouz, a été arrêté par les forces de l’ordre dans la nuit du 15 au 16 juin à son domicile de Téhéran, alors même qu’il est handicapé.
- Mojtaba Pormohssen, journaliste pour plusieurs journaux réformateurs, collaborateur à la radio Zamaneh et rédacteur en chef du journal Gylan Emroz, a été arrêté à Rashat (nord du pays).

Le 16 juin :
- Mohammad Ali Abtahi, surnommé “Mollah blogueur“, a été arrêté à son domicile de Téhéran. Son blog : http://www.webneveshteha.com/.
- Mme Hamideh Mahhozi, arrêtée à Bushehr (sud de l’Iran)
- Amanolah Shojai, journaliste et blogueur, arrêté à Bushehr
- Hossin Shkohi, journaliste à l’hebdomadaire Paygam Jonob, arrêté à Bushehr
- Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrêté à Bushehr

Le 17 juin :
- Saide Lylaz, journaliste au journal Sarmayeh, a été arrêté à son domicile de la capitale. Ce spécialiste des questions économiques s’est montré très critique envers la politique d’Ahmadinejad.
- Rohollah Shassavar, journaliste de la ville de Mashad, est détenu depuis la même date.

Le 18 juin :
- Mohammad Ghochani, rédacteur en chef du quotidien Etemad Meli.

Le 20 juin :
- Jila Baniyaghoob, directrice du site d’informations Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net),
- Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee,
- Ali Mazroui, président de l’Association des journalistes iraniens.


Reporters Without Borders
Reporters sans frontières


Published on 24 April 2009

"Don’t wait to be deprived of news to stand up and fight for it"

In some countries a journalist can be thrown in prison for years for a single offending word or photo. Jailing or killing a journalist removes a vital witness to events and threatens the right of us all to be informed. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Investigate, expose and support

Reporters Without Borders:
- defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job and exposes the mistreatment and torture of them in many countries.
- fights against censorship and laws that undermine press freedom.
- gives financial aid each year to 100 or so journalists or media outlets in difficulty (to pay for lawyers, medical care and equipment) as well to the families of imprisoned journalists.
- works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones.

Before taking action, Reporters Without Borders researchers, who each handle a region (Africa, the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe and the former Soviet bloc, Middle East/ North Africa) or a topic such as the Internet, compile reports of press freedom violations. After checking the information, the researchers and the organisations’ correspondents send protest letters to the authorities to put pressure on governments which do not respect the right to inform and to be informed, and send releases to the media to drum up support for the journalists under attack.

Sometimes gathering information is not enough. A Reporters Without Borders fact-finding mission is then sent to investigate on the spot the working conditions of journalists, as well as cases of imprisoned or murdered journalists, and also to meet with the authorities in the country concerned.

Publicity campaigns conducted with the help of public relations firms aim to inform people and try to give countries which do not respect this basic right a bad name in the eyes of international institutions, the media and governments that have ties with them.

Reporters Without Borders is funded by the sale of its twice-annual albums of photographs as well as calendars, by auctions, small and large donations, member dues, public grants and partnerships with private firms.

An international organisation

Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches (in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), its offices in New York, Tokyo and Washington, and the more than 120 correspondents it has in other countries. The organisation also works closely with local and regional press freedom groups that are members of the Reporters Without Borders Network, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, Colombia, Democratic Congo, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Russia, Somalia, the United States and Tunisia.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations.

In 2005, the organisation won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

A constantly-updated website

All the organisation’s press releases and publications are available online in five languages (Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Persian) at its website www.rsf.org which keeps a daily-updated list of journalists killed or imprisoned around the world. It also contains detailed reports on special cases and invites the public to sign online petitions for the release of jailed journalists.

Press freedom events

As well as its daily press releases, fact-finding mission reports and regular publications, Reporters Without Borders stages several annual events to highlight the issue of press freedom.

- The round-up of press freedom in the world In January, the organisation summarises the previous year, with the number of journalists arrested, threatened, physically attacked or killed and media censored.

- World Press Freedom Day On this day (May 3), Reporters Without Borders publishes its list of the predators of press freedom, as well as a book of photographs which is sold to raise money for the organisation to continue its work.

- The Worldwide Press Freedom Index Issued in October, measuring the degree of freedom journalists and media have in more than 160 countries.

- Jailed Journalists Support Day Reporters Without Borders has lobbied media and journalists since 1989 to “adopt” journalists imprisoned for doing their job and to publicise their plight on this day each November so they are not forgotten. A second book of photographs is also published on the day to raise money to help imprisoned journalists.

- The Reporters Without Borders Prize In December. This honours a journalist who, by work, attitude or principled stands, has shown strong belief in press freedom, a media outlet that exemplifies the battle for the right to inform the public and to be informed, a defender of press freedom and a cyber-dissident spearheading freedom of expression online.



Anonymous Abbas said...

it's interesting how when the media wants to put a spin on something it so easily does.

ahmedenijad is a non-violent and sensible man. the man lives in a dump of a house, sleeps on the floor, brings a sandwich from home to eat as lunch, drives a 79 corolla and gave the expensive persian rug in his office over to the local mosque. he hates red tape as much as he hates the west.

though hate doesn't mean he is a terrorist or that he rigged these elections. i'm not saying there may or may not have been fraud...all i'm saying is that when the CIA wants something, they spend a lot of money and media hype to go get what they want. and seems like what they wanted this time...was someone who would play patsy for them and ahmedenijad wasn't one of those two persons.

Monday, 22 June, 2009  
Blogger Vleeptron Dude said...

Oh man, I woke up at 4 am with The Mother Of All Anxiety Attacks, and was hoping for a Monday entirely filled with Happy Bunnies and Pretty Ponies.

This matter does not look like the Bunnies and Ponies to me, but what the heck ...

This post is not a filch from "the media" exactly. "The media" is in the 55th floor executive suite, and what those guys do or want or lie about is a very different thing from this post.

Reporters without Borders / Reporters sans frontières is an NGO of schlubs like me, or schlubs like I used to be -- low-paid, overworked, and regularly assassinated jerks from all over the world most of whom aren't biased or skewed or corrupt.

During my reasonably long and very entertaining career as a reporter, I was only Threatened With Death once that I can remember, and it was a pretty unimportant and low-rent local story that just really pissed this one guy off.

But the unhappy fact is that journalism is the most lethally dangerous job on Earth. And that's when reporters are doing their job at its best -- asking questions, getting as close to factual accuracy as they can, and writing what they've learned.

In Latin America, from Mexico to Colombia, there's a phrase for reporters: Plombo o Oro. Your choice -- do you want Gold, or do you want Lead? Someone will accomodate you either way.

[blogger warns me I must break this up into smaller parts]

Monday, 22 June, 2009  
Blogger Vleeptron Dude said...

I have a recent pal, my real estate agent, and he is a real estate agent in the USA because when he was a reporter and columnist in Turkey, his boss -- who liked and sincerely cared for my pal -- told him to get the hell out of Turkey quickly before he was killed and the newspaper building was bombed. The issue was over columns my pal was writing urging the government not to execute a Kurdish nationalist rebel leader they'd finally captured. But the prevailing popular sentiment was to hang the rebel. My pal wrote that Life In Prison would project the image of a more merciful government, and earn Turkey better things in the future (e.g., smoother acceptance into the EU).

But me, I prefer controversial public debates where everybody blasts each other with Bad Breath and Harsh Language, but keeps it at that level, and doesn't reach for assault weapons or a car filled with Semtek and a cell-phone detonator. (This was also a common aspect of the political dialogue when I was a reporter in Miami; Cuban exiles did not constrain themselves with Bad Breath.)

What you describe about Ahmedenijad's personal lifestyle and popularity within Iran is well-known and accurate.

But if I have a gripe with him, it is that he buys his popularity with an old post-colonial dodge first perfected in Uganda by Idi Amin Dada. Ahmedenijad builds popularity by pissing on the West, infuriating the West, sticking his finger in the eyes of the West -- anmd that's the beginning and the end of Ahmedenijad's notion of Foreign Policy. It works, the folks love him. But it only works when he is playing to a somewhat unsophisticated audience, and the recent post-election crisis in Iran has very clearly shown that Iranians who have good access to modern telecommunications -- Twitter, Facebook, blogs -- see the world, and even The West, quite differently from Ahmedenijad's base of supporters, who wouldn't know a Twitter from a goat.

Ahmedenijad's political opponents don't love Israel, don't love The West, but their familiarity with and access to the Internet have given them a more sophisticated idea of a more complicated world than the worldview of Ahmedenijad's base. And like my Turkish-American real estate broker, the Web-savvy urban Iranians see ways they can still be a unique Iranian society and culture retaining sovereignty and regional and world influence WITHOUT constantly sticking their fingers in the eyes of New York and London as a quick and unsophisticated vote-getting tool.

And then there's the 2008 USA election.

It made a lot of sense for Ahmedenijad to say Fuck You Bush; it wasn't just a noisy, headline and vote grabber. I was saying Fuck You Bush as often as he was.

[another blogger warning]

Monday, 22 June, 2009  
Blogger Vleeptron Dude said...

But there is a very significant question over whether good things will happen to Iran over the next four or eight years if Ahmedenijad now says Fuck You Obama.

Because America may still be America, and the CIA may still be the CIA -- but Obama is Not Bush.

The bitter schism that goes back to the overthrow of the Shah and the taking of the American diplomatic hostages -- well, no matter who's in charge of Iran and no matter who's in charge of the USA, who is served in either country by letting it continue forever. It's gone on for 30 years now. Are we all hoping and praying for 50? For a century of hostile saber-rattling?

The other day I saw some film of two guys hugging -- an old US fighter pilot, and the Vietnamese fighter pilot who shot him out of the sky 40 years ago. The US pilot visited Vietnam, met the Vietnamese pilot, and that's where they hugged -- because the two former enemies now have full diplomatic and full economic relationships healed and restored.

Notice I have not mentioned the actual election results in Iran. I read this and that -- but you tell me: Did Ahmedenijad win fair and square? Or was the election rigged?

What does seem clear to me is that bloggers and reporters -- Iranian women and Iranian men -- are getting tossed in the jug (echoes of the Shah's Savak prisons) because they're doing what reporters and bloggers are supposed to do: Ask questions, raise doubts.

They can't ALL be on the CIA's payroll. But I'm sure a few are. That's what the CIA does, that's what Iran's intelligence service does overseas, that's what Canada's intelligence service does, London's, Havana's -- that what spooks do.

Interestingly, there's a little Window Opening which Ahmedenijad COULD make some gain out of. Obama appointed a new CIA Director, not from the traditional ranks of career spooks, but from the ranks of senior Clinton-era White House political staffers: Leon Panetta. Most observers interpret this historical change from Business As Usual as an attempt to get CIA abuses under control, and to restrain the CIA from standing in the way of possible diplomatic and economic overtures between the USA and Iran.

The CIA that restored and supported the Shah and trained his Savak may finally be ancient history. If Ahmedenijad still thinks Iran is in a death match with Kermit Roosevelt and John Foster Dulles -- he might not be helping Iran into the next decade as well as he might.

Okay, that's it for now, I need some Bunnies and Ponies and coffee and a shower. I am, as always, quite eager for ANY & ALL different perspectives on these issues.

Monday, 22 June, 2009  
Anonymous a. said...

dont get me wrong. my response wasn't about the right to protest or justifying the disappearance of reporters. but i'm sure you got that bit already.

Monday, 22 June, 2009  
Anonymous Abbas said...

I think the revolution is over. Only a farce is being televised. Intellectuals and university students that are protesting probably want Iran to be a secular state. Kudos, I agree with them, go all Attaturk on the Ayatollah's ass. But the fact is Ahmedinawhatdyameanajad won the election and wouldve won it even if he hadn't rigged it which he did just a little bit. Much of Iran's sophisticated urban population regard him as a provincial and closed minded little shit. He is too. But the majority of Iranians support him. Funnily enough, they don't care as much about his crazy remarks about the Holocaust as they do about the concrete benefits his regime has provided, particularly to the poor and rural people who his economic policies have benefited. Plus, the vast Iranian countryside and small towns are conservative. Deal with it.

Iran's ruling system is funny. They have a democratically elected parliament and an unelected Guardian Council and Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah, that has the final say. This is vilayat-e-faqih, rule by a jurist. Its the Islamic version of the philosopher king, if you will. What we don't hear about is that Ahmedinajad doesn't get along with the ayatollahs much and is far more inclined to follow people power because it translates to Ahmedinapower. The Iranian system to a large extent builds consensus between elected and divine representatives. Because frankly, the Almighty is the Almighty, but the guy you really don't fuck with is the guy that controls the masses and has power in the here and now (come what may judgement day).Thats why the Ayatollah supports him, and because his hardline foreign policy positions are popular with the army and security agencies. Rafsanjani, God's second-in-command in Iran, doesnt support him because Ahmedinajad has spoken out about his corruption. Ahmedinajad has been trying to make an example of him. It would the first time an elected head did such a thing to a high up in the religious establishment. This is a clear power grab - grabbing some political power away from God and vesting it in the people.

The real struggle in Iran is sadly between two sets of conservatives. They both want nuclear weapons, regional influence, and disagree only on how much power Allah gave the mullahs and how loudly to say "fuck you" to the US. So there is an internal struggle in Iran right now. But its deeply internal. Its between people that disagree on window-dressing and do not want to fundamentally alter Iran's political setup. The liberals protesting are a side show. Its like Tianamen Square. Western media will talk to a few English-speaking intellectuals and think this is the supression of some great liberal, pro-democracy movement. Most Irananians, like most Chinese, won't know what all the fuss is about.

Wednesday, 24 June, 2009  

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