Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hey Dictator! Watch Me Confess!

An incognito confession from Germany

A new website is using video satire contributed by participants around the world as a tool to embarrass the Iranian government.

The all-volunteer project "Watch Me Confess!" aims to show the world "how ridiculous the false confessions propaganda really is," the website explains.

The concept plays off recent high-profile confessions from some of Iran's leading reformists, such as former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, now facing trial along with more than 100 other defendants. Abtahi reportedly testified that opposition leaders conspired in advance to misrepresent the June vote and prompt people to protest.

Many believe Abtahi's and others' public confessions were forced. In an August 4 editorial, “The Washington Post” compares the trial of Iranian reformists to the Soviet Union’s show trials of the Stalin era.

Using humor to lay bare the absurdity of the case, “Watch Me Confess!” invites viewers to send their own recorded confessions to the Iranian state media, and publicize them via Twitter, Facebook, and other "green movement" hotspots.

In one sample confession, a young Israeli woman tells viewers: "I am a Jew, I live in Israel.... I marched millions of Iranian people on the streets just to make the Supreme Leader feel uncomfortable.... Don't give Abtahi the credit for my great work!"

The new website also owes something to a wildly popular video by humorist Ebrahim Nabavi, who plays Abtahi as he gives a forced confession. The video, recorded before the trial, turned out to be a prescient piece of satire. (An English translation is available here.)

Nabavi, playing Abtahi, tells his viewers what's really going on with all the upheaval in Iran. "On one occasion, while walking in the street, we saw everything was green: cars had green flags and girls wore green shawls, and everyone had a green bracelet. I told Mr. Karrubi, 'Gee! Someone has already started the velvet revolution before us.' So we gave up the idea.”

After a slew of sound effects suggesting a beating, Nabavi/Abtahi revises his story: “We started our cooperation with Musavi’s gang. Every single night we would hold a rally in the streets. I even imported green velvet from England and Israel. We were in heaven. CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour supported us with billions of dollars and now we have started our own green velvet trade."

He ends humbly: "I confess that during one of my trips to Beirut I wore short pants and as Mr. Interrogator reminded me, this was an act against national security. He is right. I want to say in fact that in fact what I wore was not short pants but loose pants. Anyway, I am sorry for committing this crime. Once in Koln I wore a cap and in Damascus I dared to wear a chapeau. I hope our great nation and our government will forgive me."

-- Kristin Deasy and Golnaz Esfandiari

What A Difference Four Years Can Make

The supreme leader's endorsement of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president, 2009 (top) and 2005, with former Presidents Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami in attendance.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, today formally endorsed Mahmud Ahmadinejad for a second term as president in a ceremony that was snubbed by prominent critics of the disputed election, including former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

After Khamenei gave his official seal of approval, Ahmadinejad made an unusual move: he kissed him on the shoulder.

Four years ago during the same ceremony Ahmadinejad kissed Khamenei's hand in a show of absolute loyalty.

A Tehran-based journalist said on Facebook that because of the strong backing Ahmadinejad has received from Khamenei, he should have kissed his feet.

In today's ceremony, the exchange between the two men seemed awkward (see video here).

The ceremony cleared the way for Ahmadinejad to take the oath of office on August 5 in parliament, where some of the pro-reform lawmakers have echoed the claims of fraud in the June 12 election.

Some members of the opposition are already getting ready to protest on August 5 and express their discontent over Ahmadinejad's reelection.

Iranians have posted on Facebook and blogs a picture (see top) of today's ceremony next to one from four years ago to highlight the differences, including the mood.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Tags:Iran, election

Sohrab Arabi's Family In Mourning

Here's youtube video of the mother of the late Sohrab Arabi, a 19-year-old among those killed during the postelection crackdown, speaking at Tehran's Behesht Zahra Cemetery to mark the 40th day since the death of Neda Agha Soltan and a number of other Iranians who were killed during protests in Tehran on June 20.

One of the things she says is that "our children are alive, everybody in the world knows their names."

It's important to stay mindful that these are  who have been killed or remain missing.

Definitive lists of those dead, detained, or missing are hard to come by, although groups like the International Campaign For Human Rights In Iran are making monumental efforts.

Here's Sohrab Arabi's brother at the same cemetery on July 30, reading out the names of Iranians -- sons, daughters, brothers, sisters -- confirmed dead or presumed to have been killed since June 12.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari/Andy Heil

Iranian Authorities Urge Public To Identify Protesters Online

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the Iranian authorities have paid the country's opposition activists a twisted compliment.

The militia's "Center for Investigation of Organized Crime" website, which calls on the public to help track down protesters, has turned the opposition's grassroots tactics against them.

Sympathetic viewers are asked to scroll through pages of photos and stills from video taken during the recent protests and identify the individuals by name or address.

A grim red circle appears around the faces of the victims -- teenagers to dissident mullahs to activist Iranians living abroad -- and a special stamp indicates those "identified."

The authorities seem to have taken their lead from, an opposition site that also uses a red circle in shots of government forces, particularly those working undercover during recent clashes, so that other activists can identify them.

Despite efforts on Facebook, comments from Andrew Sullivan, and cyberattack instructions, the site has managed to protect itself fairly well from attacks (indeed, it claims 99 percent uptime).

-- Kristin Deasy


Mourners Gather To Honor Neda In Tehran Cemetery

Hundreds of people, including some opposition leaders, gathered in Tehran's Behest Zahra Cemetery to mark the 40th day since the death of Neda Agha Soltan and remember other victims of the postelection unrest at Neda's grave.

Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi was in attendance, though police later forced him to leave and began arresting demonstrators.

In this video, mourners chant: "Don't be afraid, we're all together. Don't be afraid, we're all together"; "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein. Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein. Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein"; and "Death to the dictator":

Another video from the cemetery:

This video (poor quality) offers a glimpse of opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi in attendance:

This video shows riot police confronting young protesters at Vanak Square after the gather in the cemetery:

Tags:protesters, Iran, election

Another Victim Of Postelection Unrest Buried

A grave at Behesht Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran

The body of Amir Javadifar, the latest known victim of the postelection crackdown, was buried on July 27 at Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery.

Javadifar, a 24-year-old student at Ghazvin University, was arrested at a peaceful July 9 street protest in Tehran and taken to a hospital.

His friend told Radio Farda that Javadifar was chased during the protest by a group of Basijis into a dead-end street in the Amirabad district, where they beat him violently before handing him over to security forces.

He was kept in the hospital for a few days under the watch of security officers, and later he was transferred to a detention center.

Javadifar's friend, who wants to remain anonymous for security reasons, told Radio Farda that his family didn't have any news from him until the authorities informed them that their son had died in custody.

The friend, who had seen Javadifar's body, told Radio Farda "there were clear signs of torture on his body, including a broken tooth and extracted toenail."

The security forces have reportedly advised the Javadifar family not to give interviews to the media. They were also told not to tell people the real reason of Javadifar's death.

Javadifar's friend told Radio Farda that he was a gifted songwriter and stage performer and that he was not a political person.

The Javadifar family wanted to bury their son by the grave of Neda Agha Soltan, who was also killed in the postelection crackdown, but they finally buried him near the graves of victims of the recent air crash in Tehran.

-- Rosa Ajiri

Tags:protests, Iran, election

Iranian Actress Arrested

The famous Iranian actress Pegah Ahangrani was detained by security forces on July 26, reportedly in relation to the postelection crisis.

There has yet to be any news of her situation.

Ahangrani was known for her support of the Green protest movement against the election victory of incumbent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Tags:protests, Iran, election

About This Diary

Controversy continues to swirl around Iran's June 12 presidential election. Three candidates, all current or former senior officials, were looking to unseat incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who was deemed the outright winner within hours of the polls closing. RFE/RL correspondents follow the Iranian public's saga through dispatches of their own, as well as by highlighting some of the viewpoints emerging from Iran through Facebook, Twitter, and other online resources (in orange).

RFE/RL In Persian