So yesterday was the anniversary of Rouhani’s election, and two days before that was the anniversary of 2009 elections that led to the protests and the house arrest of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the candidates who had “lost” that election, and Zahran Rahnavard, Mousavi’s wife. As someone who lives in Tehran, I can attest the city seemed very tense. There was no opposition activity, but the police was heavily present everywhere, and it seemed they are ready for a crackdown.
Things got quite intense in Rouhani’s speech about the anniversary of his election as well.
According to a report by BBC Persian (link in Persian), people who had attended the ceremony chanted slogans in defense of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, asking for his release, and also more general chants for all political prisoners to be freed. If you go the link, you will see two photos, one a woman with a green wristband holding Rouhani’s picture (green is the color of 2009 protests), and another woman with a green hijab holding a paper with “end the house arrest” written on it.
This was a demand that Rouhani did not respond to himself, as he has chosen to remain silent on this issue since he was elected, although reliable and trustworthy people have said he is pursuing their release in the backstage through negotiations with the regime. But another speaker in the same ceremony (a university professor called Mohammad Hashemi) frankly asked for their release, calling these people azadeh, which is a very loaded word culturally and ideologically, and it refers to the Iranian soldiers who were imprisoned by the Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. And he called these prisons and house arrests “sinful”.
Rouhani himself also took to the stage and once again harshly slammed his conservative critics, saying “What did we say that some people are so angry? We said people should be in charge of their own culture and they should thrive their culture themselves. Culture is not like a pill that you can buy in a pharmacy. It seems some people live in the stone age and think that way.” He also said: “The country, the constitution, the Supreme Leader, national interests, and the future of the country belong to all people, all ethnic groups, all religions. Iran belongs to all Iranians.” (“Iran belongs to all Iranians” is a very common reformist slogan and again a very loaded culturally and ideologically.) He insisted that he’s decisive in this path “whether some like it or not”.
There’s no way this protests was not constructed by the government, and it seem to be his continual effort to pressure the regime on the internal front.
This continues a string of similar fights. The latest conservative backlash comes from the head of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani who had said “To say that we don’t take people to Paradise by force is a liberal and modernist thing to say”, and presumably he dropped the mic and left and saw no reason for more arguments.
This also comes after similar words from Ali Jannati, Rouhani’s minister of culture. Via Al-Monitor:
At a meeting with Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Culture Minister Ali Jannati warned that the government’s initial rejection of new technologies and later acceptance was causing the country to fall behind. At the informal breakfast meeting, Jannati also criticized the blocking of popular social media websites, jamming satellite stations and the lack of tolerance of officials toward opposing views.
“In social media and the virtual world, we still do not know if we are supposed to block Viber and WhatsApp or not,” said Jannati, referring to a quarrel between the administration and the judiciary, which ordered that the websites be blocked.
Jannati said, “There was a time we had problems with video. There was even a time we had issue with the fax machine. When I was governor of Khorasan, [Mohammad] Gharazi was the communications minister. During that time they sent a fax machine for the ministers and governors. And they sent a confidential letter along with it that said, ‘This fax machine should only be in your room, and only you should have access to this.’”
“Apparently we have to confront every new phenomenon and after time has passed, then accept it,” Jannati said. “We always want to have a 20-year distance with the world. Let’s at least move along with the world.”
Turning to Iran’s jamming of satellite signals, Jannati asked, “How much do we use satellites now? Shiites across the world rent a satellite and make statements. There was a time we could not even send one book to Saudi Arabia. We can disseminate our work through satellite and the Internet. But instead of using their facilities, we limit access so that others don’t use it.”
He continued, “Right now, the Americans are busy installing 14 satellites with an altitude of less than 1,000 km. Then you can easily watch satellite stations on your cell phones. Instead of thinking of what the best way is to use these facilities, we think of how to jam these satellites so that others don’t use it. This mentality needs to change.”
“I completely believe in this, and I welcome your help in this field. … In the domain of culture, for there to be movement and creativity, it needs an open environment,” Jannati said. “I have said this numerous times, that we cannot grow culture in a closed environment. We have to develop culture in an open environment with contrasting ideas and an exchange of ideas.”
“We still do not have the tolerance to listen to views that are opposing and different to our own tastes. We have to create this tolerance within ourselves.” In reference to President Hassan Rouhani’s comment that “heaven cannot be forced,” condemned by hard-liners, Jannati added, “Our president speaks one sentence, and they cannot tolerate this one sentence. They ask if you studied in England or Qom.”
This was your update of the current situation going on in Iran. Here is my report of the previous update.