Iran News And The Next Phase In The Protests

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 23, 2009

Iranian reformists appear to have decided to focus more on the institution of general strikes throughout the country, and less on street protests, that have led to injuries and deaths at the hands of the brutal basijis. We shall see how this plays out. It was general strikes that helped bring down the Shah and led to the advent of the Islamic regime. Perhaps this time, the general strike tactic will be used to better effect.

In other news . . .

1. Al-Arabiya is reporting that there may be a fundamental change at the top of the regime. This appears to be speculation for the moment, but it is worth noting and commenting on:

Religious leaders are considering an alternative to the supreme leader structure after at least 13 people were killed in the latest unrest to shake Tehran and family members of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were arrested amid calls by former President Mohammad Khatami for the release of all protesters.

Iran’s religious clerics in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.

Five family members of Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s most powerful men, were arrested at rallies on Saturday, including his eldest daughter Faezeh Hashemi, but released later.

The influential Rafsanjani, 57, heads two very powerful groups. The most important one is the Assembly of Experts, made up of senior clerics who can elect and dismiss the supreme leader. The second is the Expediency Council, a body that arbitrates disputes between parliament and the unelected Guardian Council, which can block legislation.

Members of the assembly are reportedly considering forming a collective ruling body and scrapping the model of Ayatollah Khomeini as a way out of the civil crisis that has engulfed Tehran in a series of protests,

The discussions have taken place in a series of secret meetings convened in the holy city of Qom and included Jawad al-Shahristani, the supreme representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the foremost Shiite leader in Iraq.

An option being considered is the resignation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president following condemnation by the United States and other European nations for violence and human rights violations against unarmed protestors.

Frankly–and I will repeat this until I am blue in the face–the whole sorry, stinking regime has to go. But it would be a tremendous victory for the reform movement if they were able to oust both Khamene’i and Ahmadinejad. I am not sure how much credence to give these reports, but if both men are removed, it would be a clear demonstration of reformist strength. And perhaps, the removal would help bring the entire governing edifice down, so that it can be replaced with a superior, and more humane system–one that actually cares about Iran’s standing in the world and seeks to be worthy of Iranians themselves.

2. The regime, of course, is doing everything it can to get replaced:

Iran’s top electoral body said Tuesday it found “no major fraud” and will not annul the results of the presidential election, closing the door to a do-over sought by angry opposition supporters alleging systematic vote-rigging.

Iranian government officials have repeatedly suggested that a revote is extremely unlikely. However, Tuesday’s announcement by Iran’s top electoral body, the Guardian Council, was the clearest yet in ruling out a new election.

The announcement on Iran’s state-run English language Press TV is another sign the regime is determined to crush the post-election protests – the strongest challenge to its leadership in 30 years – rather than compromise.

Government warnings to the protesters have intensified.

So much for reasonableness and compromise. And the hardliners in the regime actually have the nerve to wonder why it is that their own people believe they should go.

3. Neda continues to be remembered. And of course, Neda’s story is not the only human tragedy:

The family, clad in black, stood at the curb of the road sobbing. A middle-aged mother slapped her cheeks, letting out piercing wails. The father, a frail man who worked as a doorman at a clinic in central Tehran, wept quietly with his head bowed.

Minutes before, an ambulance had arrived from Tehran’s morgue carrying the body of their only son, 19-year-old Kaveh Alipour.

On Saturday, amid the most violent clashes between security forces and protesters, Mr. Alipour was shot in the head as he stood at an intersection in downtown Tehran. He was returning from acting class and a week shy of becoming a groom, his family said.

[. . .]

Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

Mr. Alipour told officials that his entire possessions wouldn’t amount to $3,000, arguing they should waive the fee because he is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war. According to relatives, morgue officials finally agreed, but demanded that the family do no funeral or burial in Tehran. Kaveh Alipour’s body was quietly transported to the city of Rasht, where there is family.

This is what the regime is doing to the future of Iran. May they reap the whirlwind for it.

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