February 20, 2004

It's "Election" Day in Iran

Several updates already. Please scroll below!


More than one source describe how empty Tehran streets are compared to normal, on this day the regime has advertised as the day the nation will come out to vote for their appointed parliament. The pictures above confirm that. One foreign reporter has also reported that an informal protest has been planned for the hour when the voting stations are officially closed. People will come out only then and honk their car's horns to demonstrate their disapproval of the entire process.

Over the last two days, there has been many reports of truckloads of fake Iranian ID booklets being intercepted by various local police around the country, suggesting an attempt to inflate the number of total votes and issuing multiple ballots to trusted friends. The revolutionary guard is also on full alert, to defuse any possible protest effort.

The charade of elections this regime orchestrates occasionally has reached a particular low-point this time and their frustration has never been more evident.

Hoder is going to stay up all night to monitor and edit Iran Filter. Check it out for the latest news as well as translation of Persian blogs. I'll update if there are new developments in the morning.

UPDATE - There were no major incidents. The voter turn-out has been light with estimates ranging from 15 to 30 percent of eligible voters participating. With no foreign independent observers, there is no way to say for certain. Almost every journalist has reported on the large presence of armed forces at most cities, perhaps expecting some disturbance. Polls closed as much as 2 hours later than originally planned, supposedly to maximize the number of votes and also maybe to nullify plans of holding demonstrations afterwards. There was also various reports of cheating, in one case having the culprits caught transporting voters by bus to various polling stations to vote again and again. The radio station funded by U.S. government, Radio Farda (or Tomorrow) seems to have the largest team and most comprehensive coverage of election reports in Persian. One of the best sources of news is still Iran Filter with various volunteers translating what the bloggers are writing as their own first-hand observations.

My take; Who Cares? Illegal and illegitimate selection of one band of friends over another band to keep the world and your nation pre-occupied with whether its best to select hard-line conservative religious radicals over fundamentalist Islamic extremists does not interest me at all.

CLARIFICATION - I don't care which side "wins" or how they gesture towards one another. I DO however care very deeply about how Iranians have now seen first hand that there are no "reformers" within the limited choices available in Iran and have showed it by boycotting the supposed "election" all together.

UPDATE II - With the last of somewhat more liberal press shut down for the election, Iranians are using the Internet more and more to get their news. Gooya, perhaps the most widely portal and news site in Farsi reported over 80,000 visitors yesterday. People are also using new tools like camera phones to send pictures of empty polling stations, this one is a local mosque in Tehran. Ayatollah Jannati, head of the Guardian Council led the Friday prayers in Tehran and resorted to even threatening people into voting. He proclaimed that whoever even whispers of not voting is a traitor to the country and Islamic regime. He went on with the other usual regime mantras like Rushdie fatwa being irrevocable and the concept of "religious democracy" that has made elections in Iran more successful than any other nation on earth. blah, blah, blah...

On a rather complimentary note; Yas-e-No newspaper (with red BANNED across its page) had what is perhaps the most clever cover to never be published. I'll try to translate and explain it, hoping it is communicated properly; the big headline reads "Freedom Game With No Spectators". The accompanying picture is of empty stands at the previous day's soccer game between Iran and Qatar, where Iran was penalized by the Asian soccer federation for a previous incident and no spectators were allowed in. The game was held in Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) stadium, thus the "Freedom Game" reference in the headline. With an election looming within 24 hours that not many were allowed to participate to run in and not many actually cared to take part in, the cover was just a very witty way of using something with double meanings to stress a point otherwise not possible.

Hundreds of years of dealing with one dictator or another, nobody is better in using every little opening to express a dissenting point of view than Iranians.

Posted by Pedram at February 20, 2004 01:39 AM

why were they filtering out the reform candidates by disqualifying them?

Posted by: lenore at February 20, 2004 02:15 AM

The following came to my mind just now. Maybe it seems too pessimistic, but nevertheless I think it's worth thinking about ... The people in Iran would not have voted anyway. This is regardless of whether the reformists were disqualified. They were too dissapointed with the reformists. This was also evident from the low turn out in the city council elections. But look at what's happening now: The reformists were disqualified, so they told people not to go to vote, and all of a sudden it seems like the people are doing this for the sake of the reform parties, and not because of their dissapointment regarding the reforms. This seems to give the reform movement a chance to make every thing look the way they would like it to be, and reserve the chance for them to come back to relieve the stress and save the isamic republic from a new revolution, maybe in a few years. It's the best that could happen to the hardliners, and the best that could happen to the reformists as well. The only real losers in this game are the Iranian people. They betrayed us.

Posted by: tanha at February 20, 2004 04:12 AM

Tnx for ur jobb and ur text. U r great.

Posted by: عاليجناب منتقد at February 20, 2004 04:15 AM

hello this is my blog suring and reporting

Posted by: iranian at February 20, 2004 04:42 AM

It's a good point, tanha, but does it really matter if the reformists come out and take credit? What matters is that the Iranian people are showing BOTH the reformers and the clerics that they do not hold the support of the people. Since a revolt would be bloody - do the next best thing - remind them that a true revolt is an option that they just might not win.

If the reformers are throwing you bread crumbs - then eat them and demand more. Directing your anger at the reformists is justified - but it is not productive to your long term goals.

Posted by: Becky at February 20, 2004 04:54 AM

Enable you to reach across the world and touch
a child's life.

Posted by: Chris at February 20, 2004 05:16 AM

For those who have no idea of what is going on in Iran - let me give you an analogy.

Imagine what would happen if the Supreme Court refused to allow anyone who is not an evangelical Christian on any ballot. Imagine if the people then refused to vote in such a sham of an election or to accept its results as valid. A revolt would be a real possibility.

Then imagine if those in power said, we will use the military to kill you if you revolt, and meant it. But imagine if the members of the military, like the people, were outraged by this decision. Could the leaders in power count on them to shoot their own people?

This is the crisis that is going on in Iran right now.

Posted by: Becky at February 20, 2004 05:19 AM

The mullahs are getting the royal middle finger from the population. Well done. If you want freedom, you gotta fight for it, just like you did in 1979. Screw dictators.

Posted by: Ricky Vandal at February 20, 2004 05:22 AM

Ah. Now throw into the mix the influence of an Islamic influenced, not run, democratic Iraq. Let's see what hope that can generate in Iran.

Posted by: John Pender at February 20, 2004 05:34 AM

I came here to see the current state of the modern Iranian under 40 'underground' thinking. The thoughts expressed here represent the future generations of socio-political leaders after the current generation have passed on. The moral dillema that the Iranians and other Muslim nations face is how to integrate fundamental Muslim beliefs with a modern international world-view. Obviously the Western world will not simply vanish because terrorist or muslim fundamentalists wish it would. and at the same time, Muslims will not simply allow their beliefs and life-styles to become empty rituals in the face of the spread of Western cultural values.

The point of this blog is 'to not waste your vote'. If an election is rigged or completely censored or dishonest, then the best protest is not voting and letting the lack of voter turn-out speak for itself. If only 20%(for example) of the 'below 40 group' votes, it shows clearly to the world that the younger modern generation has no confidence in the older leadership. This od course, will cause the more conservative elements in the government and mosques to more vigorously enforce rigid controls so as to break the spirit of the 'misguided' youth. But time is on your side. No-one can fight old age. Someday, you that write your thoughts here, will become the leaders of Iran, and if you can stay true to yourself and patient through the next 20 years, then the steering wheel of your country will be handed over to you. If you take to the streets in protest instead, then matters will only become far worse and destablization of Iran is an unhappy possibility.

Good luck. All good things come to those who wait...Wait until their guard is down and your numbers are in the majority. Then the transition will be bloodless and it's honor unstained.

Posted by: Kurt at February 20, 2004 05:36 AM

Refusing to vote and then complaining that you have so say in government is like killing your parents and then complaining that you're an orphan. By refusing to vote, you have willingly given up your chance to have any say at all in the outcome. How can anyone hear your voice when you refuse to speak?

If you want to make a real difference, write in someone else's name on the ballots you cast. Force the government to break the law, THEN start the revolution. Otherwise, you set up a system where no government by popular mandate is possible, because anyone who is losing an election will feel well within his rights to boycott it and then work for violent overthrow of the previous regime, on the grounds that he was being oppressed by not being allowed to win. Why even hold elections, when whoever has the biggest rebel army ends up seizing power whenever the vote goes against them anyhow?

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at February 20, 2004 05:37 AM

Thanks to Becky for the insightful comments. I would like to mention the following:

- As far as I can see, the reform movement has been heading for the grave in the last years. Imagine a president who has the support of more than 70% of the voters, that's over 20 million in a country where approximately 35-40 million are eligible to vote, and he simply does nothing! The anger of the people is justified, and it does serve the purpose, I think. This is simply because these reformers do not want real reforms. They have shown that they never intended to fully democratize Iran. Do you know how many of these are outspoken enemies of democracy? Just an example: Mr. Mohtashami, one of the most important reformists in the parliament for the last four years, has been actively leading terrorist activities in Israel since the 80's. And he's proud of it. It's not something he would try to hide. Every year he and many like him (many of whom are reformists) organize a conference on "intifadha" in tehran, in which all those leaders of terrorism from hamas, hizbollah, ... take part. There is no representative from the modest palestinians. No talk about a peaceful solution. That's simply not how they think. I'm not a fan of Israel, but I think somebody with such a long track of leadership in terorism is not actually what the people would want. Iranians are realizing this just now.

- A revolt seems to be a possibility, although I don't think it will happen. It needs a form of organization which the Iranian opposition (inside or outside of Iran) has long failed to develop. But even if that happens, you should keep in mind that there is not a single military in Iran. The official army would probably not kill the people, but the revolutionary guards (Sepah-e-pasdaran) certainly would. Simply, they do not think of themselves as Iranians, but as muslims, and they have to save Islam, not Iran, at whatever cost. Did you know some of them are not even Iranains? palestinians have always loved to help the islamic republic in return for the support it has offered them against Israel. So in that case, and with no true leader (the son of the late shah being the only man possible, but he certainly has shown to have no leadership talent) the regime in tehran would win in case of a revolt.

- A revolt may not happen at all, because if the regime is lucky enough, the people might forget about the true reason for their not going to the ballots. These disqualifyings were meant to bring the people and the reformers together again, sothat the reformers may be brought to power in a few years if a revolt seems near. This could be in favor of people like mohtashami, or even khatami, who have many times declared that the survival of the Islamic Republic, not democratization, is their most important goal.
A series of hardline/reform administrations within the next 10-20 years may very well work to save the system in general. It is certain that the reformists ARE trying to turn the election into their victory, pretending that the people do not take part because they're supporting the reformers. That would save them from completely being wiped out from the political scene.

As I said before, I'm aware that this may be the most pessimistic view one could take with respect to the events in Iran, but anyway it seems to me to be the most logical one.

Posted by: tanha at February 20, 2004 06:16 AM

Hi pedram

My website is down and I Wrote my weblog about this poll here:


Posted by: زهرا at February 20, 2004 06:20 AM

Wow! Another weblog to get information about Iran. I gotta go because it's almost Shabbat (in Israel); but I'll be back tomorrow night to find out what happened in today's 'elections.' Long live the Iranian people! Free Iran!!

Posted by: Chaya Eitan at February 20, 2004 06:55 AM

Not a bloody revolution. How about the 'Saffron Revolution'? I'm just wild about saffron.

Posted by: A.H. at February 20, 2004 07:57 AM

No bloody revolution ... ok, but, what real alternative can you present?

Posted by: at February 20, 2004 08:03 AM

There are no reformers or conservative in Iran as is known in the west, what we have there are competing intersts mixed with fragmants of right or left ideas. The political situation in Iran can be in some very general way compared to democrats and republicans in US. The diffrence is between coke and pepsi not substance. We have in Iran what I guess is about 60 to 70 percent of population that are non responsive to social and political events and only respond to slogans that makes right and left meaningless. What we out in the LaLa land talk about in most cases is only about that 20 to 30 percent. Meanwhile the arbitrator of rule of law can manipulate the rest. But the trend is changing in positive direction and I see great thing to come..........

Posted by: Ali at February 20, 2004 09:31 AM

Two points:
1. Pedram, I know people didn't go to vote but these pictures here do not prove anything. In most cases people go to vote by walking, since you can find a voting place anywhere in Tehran in a walking distance. Tehran streets are empty on Friday mornings anyway. So, I agree with you on what you say about the election but the pictures are not a proof for that. Let's see what the journalists reports are.

2. I am happy about this reformist defeat. As we say in Persian "Yaa roomi-ye room, yaa zangi-ye zang" Now it is clear that there is no element of democracy in this system, and there is no hope in any way to "reform" it. I wish there was, but unfortunately this system is not capable of any reform.
I don't think a revolution will happens in Iran. For doing a revolution people should be ready to die, and I don't think after the sad experience of 1979 revolution anybody is ready for such a thing... after all how many revolutions a nation can do in a century? we did two -1906 and 1979. I think the system will eventually collapse -the way Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. It will reach a point when it can not handle the economy, the youth, and the changes in technology. All these elements changes Iran and eventually changes Islam as well.

The only hope I have for Iran is an ending for all this mess more like what happened to Fascist Spain in the late 70s: a gradual transition to a democracy with an amnesty for all the people who were not directly involved in crimes. But something tells me that the change in Iran will be a bloodshed. Iranian people are too much angry (and culturally too much violent) to let their brain manage the situation. It would be a mess that might lead to a new dictatorship...
and that is what I am afraid of.

Posted by: The Other at February 20, 2004 10:06 AM

Can you use a write in ballot in Iran?

Posted by: B at February 20, 2004 10:56 AM

it is one of the most inspiring and wonderful things i can thinik of to see loving and concerned human beings, from all over the world, come together and speak freely of their plans for the future. I admire your good humor, fearlessness, and honesty in setting out to change the lives of our brothers and sisters. God bless you, Mr. Moallemian.

Posted by: gabriel Mintz at February 20, 2004 11:34 AM

The government is holding elections on Friday. Wouldn't that be like having American elections on a Sunday?

Posted by: Mike at February 20, 2004 12:09 PM

Q: Can you use a write in ballot in Iran?
A: No.

Q: The government is holding elections on Friday. Wouldn't that be like having American elections on a Sunday?
A: Yes, it is like that. That's the best day for people to vote because everybody is free on that day.

Posted by: The Other at February 20, 2004 12:21 PM

Yes Mike, it would ... but what's the problem?
In Iran elections are always held fridays, and the people don't seem to have a problem with that ... the previous elections with more than 30 million participants were also held on fridays.
So don't worry, that's nothing special.

Posted by: at February 20, 2004 12:24 PM

No big deal about voting on a Sunday - all EU countries except Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands do. It's generally seen as a good way of boosting turnout as fewer people work. Not that it seems to have done much to boost the turnout in Iran today...

Posted by: Young Fogey at February 20, 2004 02:00 PM

Each day you wait is another day in bondage. I believe you should have mass non-violent demonstrations for refrom. I believe the way the system is currently set up it will never reach a democratic Iran or a Free land. I have no understanding of your situation, because I live in America where I feel lucky for the freedom I live. I just don't believe in delaying action to just delay it. I really would go for the non-violent route first, try to get the attention of the international community. I don't wish Blood shed on the side of those who want to be free, but if you live in a place with no freedom, then why live? Maybe the situation isn't to bad, and you have some decent life and bloodshed isn't worth it, I just don't think waiting will solve the problem. I hope Iran becomes the country you believe it can be, and not after your lifetime, but during it. Good luck, and I will keep you in my thoughts.

Posted by: Rich from U.S.A. at February 20, 2004 11:46 PM

interesting posts. Though there is little that we really can do, I can assure you that all Americans feel deeply for you and wish for you what we hold most dear; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Good luck. Despite your frustration, I still think the biggest weapon you have on your side is time. Use it wisely.

Posted by: Becky at February 21, 2004 07:24 AM

As you are witnessing in Iran, power does not come from the ballot. When the day comes that the Guardian Council is taken out and shot, that will be the day you will have the beginning of true reform. In the words of Chairman Mao, power comes from the barrel of a gun.

Posted by: Lindh at February 21, 2004 08:56 AM

to Rich: mass non-violent demonstrations...sounds like an excellent idea...one that has already been tried by Iranians, most famously in "18 Tir" student demonstrations. Police responded with violence and blood was shed soon after.

Posted by: Lily at February 21, 2004 12:11 PM

I agree with lindh

Posted by: xtremetrees at February 22, 2004 05:40 PM