Blood on the Streets of Tehran

Jun 21, 2009 5:59pm

With the “bloodshed” Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamanei warned about on Friday becoming a reality on Saturday — Iranian state television reported at least 13 killed over the weekend, including a young woman called “Neda” whose killing has become iconic — President Obama upped his rhetoric ever so slightly this weekend, issuing a paper statement that called “on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.”


But President Obama continued to keep arm’s length from the protestors themselves, concerned that too tight an embrace of their cause would hurt their credibility and potentially lead to even more bloodshed. The president made clear that his concern focused on the violence, not the legitimacy of the elections. “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected,” the president said, “and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.”


Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi continued to urge his followers to demonstrate, doing so using the language of the 1979 revolution.


“Thirty years ago a revolution under the banner of Islam was victorious; a revolution to revive freedom and human rights; a revolution for honesty,” Mousavi said in a statement Saturday night. “What our people had gained were human rights and freedom, and uncorrupted lives. I am certain that those who experienced this life will never settle for anything less.”


The White House points to such language, as well as the fact that demonstrators are clutching Korans and holding pictures of 1979 revolution icon Ayatollah Khomeini, as examples of the authenticity of the protests they want to avoid besmirching with American involvement. The president has been criticized by Republicans arguing that he is not advocating strong enough for freedom and democracy.


An example of the kind of propaganda the White House might be concerned about was aired on Iranian TV in February 2008 and translated by Memri.org (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan):


Al Jazeera on Sunday reported a new statement from Mousavi saying of those killed over the weekend,”I as one of the mourners invite my dear people to self-restraint. The nation belongs to you…The revolution is your legacy. To protest against lies and fraud is your right. Be hopeful that you will get your right and do not allow others who want to provoke your anger…to prevail.”


“The heart-rending news of the martyrdom of yet another group of protesters to the recent fraud in the elections put our nation in shock and sorrow,” Mousavi wrote, per the Washington Post. “Shooting at the people, militarizing the city, scaring the people, provoking them, and displaying power are all the result of the unlawfulness we’re witnessing today. How surprising it is that the people who instigate all this, accuse others of these very events.”


State television called the protestors “terrorists” with ties to the Islamic Marxist terrorist group Mudjehadin-e khalq.


Various government spokesmen accused the United Kingdom of sending mercenaries into Iran to foment unrest.


Ali Larijani, the speaker in Parliament, told state TV that “We saw hundreds of thousands of people in the streets who rejected the results of the election, but the critics of the election results must draw a line between themselves and the rioters.”


He urged challengers to file their election complaints through the Guardian Council, though he acknowledged that “part of the dispute is related to certain people in the Guardian Council who took positions in the election. In my opinion, it would have been better if certain members of the Guardian Council had not taken positions on candidates.”


Mousavi wrote over the weekend that “the Council has demonstrated, both before and after the elections, that it is not neutral, while the first principle for being an adjudicator is neutrality.”


Larijani assailed Western response to the election, saying “I tell Obama and the leaders of France, Britain, and Germany that you are” too reprehensible to comment on Iran’s affairs, the Tehran Times reports.


Five members of the family of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani were arrested Sunday.


-jpt

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