How the Iranian regime crushed the reform movement in 2009

Protests continued throughout weeks with reports of clashes between demonstrators and security forces. (AP)
Updated 11 June 2019

How the Iranian regime crushed the reform movement in 2009

  • The 19-month violent period is described as ‘the edge of the abyss’
  • Demands for an independent recount of votes evolved into running battles between protesters and security forces

TEHRAN: A decade has passed since Iran held its most bitterly contested elections ever, the aftermath of which shook the country to its core over allegations of mass electoral fraud.

Massive demonstrations and counter-demonstrations by protesters and state supporters raged across major cities for 19 months, nowhere more so than in the capital Tehran, in what was later described by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “edge of the abyss.”

As the world watched on in amazement, the so-called Green Movement that started out with “silent” demonstrations against ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election as president and demands for an independent recount evolved into running battles between protesters and security forces.

The advent of camera-equipped mobile phones and the spread of the Internet-meant images of the protests fanned out quickly, causing the main focus of the demonstrations to switch from electoral fraud to repression.

The determination of the state to stamp out what it considered to be “sedition” at any cost, including mass trials and death sentences, gradually brought the movement to a standstill.

One of the reformists arrested in the first wave of the crackdown was journalist and activist Ahmad Zeidabadi.

“History will look back at the defeat of the Green Movement as a bitter event that left its supporters extremely and deeply frustrated and disillusioned,” said Zeidabadi, who was detained the day after the election.

Amir Mohebbian, a conservative politician and analyst, said the circumstances had changed in many ways since 2009 when “the state realized that the opposition and America” were behind the riots, and therefore used its “full powers to take control of the situation.”

The 2009 election campaign might well have been one of the most dynamic in the country’s history.

The one-on-one TV debates between candidates changed the mood of the campaign from festive to a bitter face-off, none more so than an explosive encounter between Ahmadinejad and his main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.

On Friday, June 12 when polling stations opened, the turnout — officially at 85 percent — forced voting hours to be extended late into the night.

The first signs that something had gone awry came when Iranians realized the SMS messaging system had been disabled overnight.

Reformists soon claimed telephone lines to their vote tallying centers had been cut and many observers had not been allowed to enter polling stations.

Later on, some of Mousavi’s main campaign centers in Tehran were closed by security forces.

Mousavi held an impromptu press conference late at night and claimed victory, warning that any reports to the contrary would be a sign of fraud.

The final official count showed Ahmadinejad had won with nearly 63 percent of the vote, and within hours sporadic protests began in Tehran and soon spread to other major cities.

As the vote breakdown was published, reformists pointed to irregularities and claims of mass fraud gained traction.

Ahmadinejad’s victory rally on June 14 in which he called protesters “dirt and rubbish” riled many voters.

When Mousavi and the other reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who had officially gained 34 and 1 percent respectively, called for a counter rally in Tehran on June 15 the response by supporters was beyond expectations.

There is no official figure as to how many took part in the demonstration on that Monday but reports from different political factions claimed more than 3 million marched in silence onto Azadi (Freedom) Square.

Holding banners asking “Where is my vote?” they waved green flags, Mousavi’s official campaign color.

Demonstrations continued throughout the week with reports of clashes between protesters and security forces. The authorities demanded that candidates pursue complaints through the Guardian Council, tasked with supervising elections. A recount of 10 percent of ballot boxes was held, confirming Ahmadinejad’s victory, but his challengers contested the council’s neutrality and refused to accept its ruling.

On Saturday, June 20, another massive rally in central Tehran turned violent as protesters and security forces clashed.

Though local and foreign media were now banned from attending the rallies, many powerful pictures and videos emerged.

One depicted the shooting that day of Neda Agha-Soltan, a student in her 20s, whose death was described as “heartbreaking” by then US President Barack Obama.

That Saturday’s protests were among the bloodiest, only matched by the fierce clashes on Dec. 27, 2009.

Though gradually declining in size and frequency, the protests went on until February 2011, the last time Mousavi and Karroubi called for demonstrations before authorities placed them under house arrest, where they now remain.

It was never known how many people lost their lives or were wounded during the protests. The state says dozens were killed, mostly by “seditionists.”

For Ali Shakouri-Rad, one of the last active reformist politicians, Iranians have since moved on and have become “occupied with issues other than elections, such as the economy.”


Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

Updated 8 min 2 sec ago

Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

  • Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa

AMMAN: Jordan has stepped up its diplomatic pressure on Israel, demanding that they do not change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaid Lozi, director-general of Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod to protest Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

According to Petra News, Lozi told the envoy that recent remarks by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Ardan over changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque are unacceptable. Lozi added that the mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addressed a group of EU ambassadors in Amman and “stressed the urgency of effective international steps against Israel’s violations of Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem.”

Safadi told Arab News that the situation in Jerusalem is challenging and must be addressed. He said that he will present a detailed report on Jordan’s position to Parliament on Monday.

The ministry denounced the Israeli authorities’ closure of the mosque’s gates and demanded that Israel respects its obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HIGHLIGHT

• Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that Israeli authorities had been attempting to enforce major changes at the mosque.

“Security forces barged into the mosque yesterday. They went to the Bab Al-Rahmeh Mosque where they confiscated carpets and the closet where shoes are kept.”

Jordan’s diplomatic statements follow comments by Ardan, who said that Israel is disappointed with the current state of affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to Israeli officials, the mosque area is sovereign Israeli territory, despite it being administered by Jordan. Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Qader said that Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa.

“There appears to have been a gradual deterioration of Arab and Islamic support to Jordan. It surprises me that Muslims have been quiet, perhaps they see an advantage if Jordan’s role is diminished? If true, this would be dangerous.”

Qader, a former minister in the Palestinian government and a current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Arab News that Jordan’s position “guarantees continuation of the status quo.”