A nationwide crackdown on voter protests by Iranian authorities has resulted in the deaths of at least ten people, according to Iranian government sources. Hospital officials put the death toll at 19, but reports from CNN and other news agencies indicate that as many as 150 may have died since a strong, public backlash erupted last week over the country’s June 12th presidential election results.
The daughter of former Iranian President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has reportedly been arrested by police for allegedly fomenting violence. Four other family members of the prominent cleric have also been detained. (UPDATE: June 22, 2009, 12:49 AM EDT – Rafsanjani’s Daughter Released) There has so far been no formal statement on this matter from Rafsanjani who has been conspicuously silent since just after the disputed election results confirmed the return to office of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the time of this posting, Rafsanjani’s website (like many others across the nation) has been taken offline. (UPDATE: June 22, 2009, 2:15 AM EDT – Website back on-line.)
Rafsanjani is the Chairman of the powerful Expediency Council as well as the pivotal Assembly of Experts; the latter of which has the power to dismiss the Supreme Ruler, an office presently held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This could set the stage for a possible showdown between the country’s two most dominant clerics.
Ayatollah Rafsanjani (one of the richest and most influential men in Iran) would have been a contender for the presidency, but he turned 75 years old before election day and was therefore ineligible.
Challenger Forced Underground?
Chief election challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for a nationwide general strike in the event of his arrest by authorities, stating that he is prepared for martyrdom. Neither Mr. Mousavi nor Mr. Karroubi nor Mr. Rezai (all candidates who have challenged the official results) showed up at Saturday’s Council of Guardians meeting initiated to consider the more than 600 objections lodged over the contested poll results. There was apparently some concern among the candidates that they would be arrested immediately upon arrival at the hearing.
A Severe Shortage of Real Choices
Mr. Mousavi, a former Prime Minister of the Iranian government during the 1980s, is currently seen as a ‘moderate’ though he did support forceful suppression of popular change during his term in office. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, though presently opposing the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, has frequently been less than moderate in his own positions; in 2001 and again in 2003, he appeared to advocate an Iranian nuclear strike against the State of Israel, which is generally viewed as an “agent of Satan” by Iran’s ruling theocratic elite. Mr. Rezai, too, is a staunch conservative and the former Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mr. Karroubi is seen by some in Iran to be a reformist, but he bears a strong allegiance to the current Supreme Ruler Khamenei and was appointed by the Grand Ayatollah to his current position.
During each of the past several elections, thousands of potential candidates have been rejected by the government and declared ineligible to run.
A Dearth of Perspectives — But News Leaks Out
Most foreign news media personnel have been expelled from the country, but citizens are using the Internet (despite concerted attempts to block such network traffic) to sneak out images—and even video—of breaking events as they transpire.
Massive street demonstration captured on cellphone video-cam:
Should the revolutionary Islamic regime perceive a high level of threat against its authority (especially if protests engulf the southwest of the country) then it is possible that we may see the sort of response predicted by VizReport in its March 1, 2006, coverage of the evolving situation in Iran.