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A second coup?

A second coup?
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
28 Dec 2009 22:254

[ comment ] Former president Mohammad Khatami called the June 12 election a "velvet coup" against the people of Iran. Now as the Green Movement gains momentum, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seems poised to stage a second such coup.

As predicted, the Green Movement came out in force on December 27, the day of Ashura. Even before the day had ended, the IRGC, its intelligence unit and the Ministry of Intelligence had rounded up political figures, journalists, university activists and others. The police announced the arrest of 1100 people in Tehran on Sunday alone.

In an apparent warning to the Reformist leaders, those arrested included their children and key aides:

Haleh Sahabi, a daughter of Ezatollah Sahabi, leader of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition; she had also been arrested after the rigged June 12 presidential election;

Mohammad Taheri, a son of Ayatollah Seyyed Jalaloddin Taheri, a progressive cleric and close friend of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri;

Mohammad Moein, a son of Dr. Mostafa Moein, former Minister of Science and Research in the administration of Mohammad Khatami, a former Majles deputy, and a reformist candidate in the 2005 presidential election;

Habibollah Nouri, a brother of Abdollah Nouri, Khatami's Interior Minister and an outspoken reformist. In addition, his son Reza and nephew Mehdi have also been arrested, all in Isfahan, where it is estimated that up to 500 people were arrested yesterday.

Leila Tavassoli, a daughter of Mohammad Tavassoli, a leading figure of the Freedom Movement, a reformist group, and Tehran's first Mayor after the 1979 Revolution. Tavassoli is a niece of Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, the leader of the Freedom Movement.

In addition to these arrests, Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, Seyyed Ali Mousavi Habibi, was shot dead on Ashura. Reports indicate that he had been threatened for several days prior to this religious holiday. His body was snatched by a security agent from Ibn Sina hospital and transferred to an unknown location.

Among the journalists arrested were:

Mostafa Izadi, who worked for the reformist daily Etemad [trust]. He was the founder and managing editor of Ava [sound], a reformist publication from 1997-2000. It was closed by the hardliners for "propagating [Grand Ayatollah] Montazeri's thinking." He has also published a book about Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Dr. Alireza Beheshti, the managing editor of Kalame [word], Mousavi's official site. He is a son of Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Beheshti, a close aide of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the first judiciary chief after the 1979 Revolution killed in a bomb blast in June 1981.

Emad Baghi, the distinguished investigative journalist and head of the Society for the Defense of the Rights of the Imprisoned. He has already been jailed twice in the past. When he was arrested at his home today, he told his family that, "he would be strong in jail, and resist pressure [by hardliners]." The security agent arresting him reportedly responded that "He [Baghi] will not live that long to resist."

The university activists arrested include,

Dr. Mohammad Sadegh Rabbani, a retired chemistry professor at the University of Tehran, who was active in human rights issues;

Hashmatollah Tabarzadi, a university activist who has spent an aggregate of seven years in jail;

Mehdi Arabshahi, Secretary General of Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat [Office for Consolidation of Unity (OCU)], Iran's most important organization for university students;

Rashid Esmaili, a member of the central committee of the OCU;

Reza Nikookar and Mehdi Ebrahimi, two university activists at Sari University [in northern Iran], and

Twenty five university activists at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad [in northeastern Iran]; it is not even clear where they have been taken.

These are in addition to Majid Tavakoli and Milad Asadi, two well-known university activists who were arrested after large demonstrations on 16 Azar (December 7), Iran's Student Day. In addition, Salman Sima, Mehrdad Bozorg, and Kouhzad Esmaili, members of Advar-e Tahkim [an organization representing the graduates of the OCU] had been arrested a short time earlier. The president of Advar, journalist Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi, and Abdollahh Momeni, a former president of the organization, have been languishing in jail for months.

Of those arrested, the following represent the second layer of leadership of the Green Movement (they are close aides and senior advisers to Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami):

Morteza Haji, former minister of education in the second Khatami administration, and head of BARAN, the NGO that Khatami established for promoting dialogue;

Reza Rasouli, deputy to Haji;

Ghorban Behzadinejad, Mousavi's campaign manager;

Mohammad Bagherian, a senior aide to Mousavi;

Ali Forouzandeh, Mousavi's Chief of Staff;

Dr. Ebrahimi Yazdi, leader of the reformist Freedom Movement, who was also arrested for three days after the June election as well;

Abolfazl Ghadyani, a member of the central committee of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (one of the most important reformist groups), who was also active against Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi before the 1979 Revolution;

Seyyed Abolfazl Mousavian, Secretary General of the Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qom, a reformist clerical organization.

Reports indicate that security agents had gone to the home of Mohsen Armin, the spokesman for the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization, to arrest him, but he was not home. So his arrest appears to be imminent.

Even family members of those who lost their lives to political violence have not been immune from arrest. Zohreh Tonekaboni, Mahin Fahmini and her son Omid Montazeri have been arrested. Both women have been active in the Mothers for Peace group, an NGO for mothers who have lost children as a result of political violence or war. Fahmini's husband Hamid Montazeri was executed in the summer of 1988.

At the same time, the regime's propaganda machine has been laying the foundation for a harsher and more violent crackdown on the Green Movement. The Guardian Council [a constitutional body that supervises elections and vets candidates for most elections] issued a harshly-worded statement demanding harsh punishment for those who 'insulted Islam and [made a mockery of] Ashura day," and in particular the "leaders of the sedition," a reference to the Green Movement. This, in itself, represents a gross violation of the laws that govern the work of the Council, which is supposed to be totally neutral.

Right-wing Web sites and publications are replete with stories about "insults against Islam and Ashura." One even claimed that "the holy Qoran had been burnt" on the day of Ashura.

Hard-line Majles deputies had a meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, December 27. An unidentified source called for the arrests of the "leaders of the sedition," a reference to the trio: Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami.

These events suggest that the hardliners wanted a bloody confrontation with the demonstrators on Ashura to justify a subsequent crackdown. As Mehdi Karroubi said in a strong statement that he issued last night, "Even the Shah respected Ashura and did not attack the demonstrators," a reference to Ashura in 1963 and 1978, when large demonstrations against his government were allowed to take place.

Ayatollah Mohammad Dastgheib, an ardent supporter of the Green Movement and a strong critic of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the clerics to break their silence and protest the actions of the hardliners on its own people.

The coming days are going to be critical. The hardliners are tightening their rein over the leaders of the Green Movement. Earlier reports had indicated that the regime had postponed arresting the leadership of the movement. But the huge turnout for the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and subsequent demonstrations, as well as the events of Tasua and Ashura, demonstrated once again that the Green Movement has not been contained. In fact, despite a brutal six-month crackdown, it has grown and spread to many other parts of the country.

For the Movement to continue to grow, I believe people should not resort to violence. Bloody confrontation with security forces will have two very negative consequences for the Movement. First, it gives the hardliners justification to use violence on even a larger scale. If the fate of the current standoff between the people and the hardliners is to be decided by violence and violence only, the hardliners will defeat the Movement, since they have the instruments of coercion at their disposal.

Second, it may prevent members of the Ministry of Intelligence, and the Basij militia from breaking ranks and joining the protesters. The Green Movement will succeed when even the rank and file of the IRGC, Basij militia and intelligence agencies recognize that the rule of the hardliners is no longer tenable.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau
Tags: iran
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