.يولد جميع الناس أحرارا متساوين في الكرامة والحقوق. وقد وهبوا عقلا وضميرا وعليهم أن يعامل بعضهم بعضا بروح الإخاء‎
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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Brotherhood: Neonazisti gay al Festival del Cinema di Roma

Titolo originale `Broderskab`, la pellicola di Nicolo Donato che parla di un amore gay cresciuto tra le fila dei neonazisti. Un film che fara` discutere e parlare, un colpo di genio degli organizzatori.

Roma - Il festival internazionale del film di Roma (15-23 ottobre), la cui direzione artistica quest'anno è affidata ad una cinefila di qualità come Piera Detassis, ci regalerà la prima visione di "Brotherhood" (titolo originale “Broderskab” vai alla scheda del film >>>).

La trama parla di una storia d'amore tra due uomini, nulla di particolare se non si tiene conto del contesto. Lars, dopo aver lasciato l'esercito, decide di entrare in un gruppo neonazista. La principale attività sono raid punitivi contro musulmani e omosessuali; Lars per poter diventare un vero ariano viene affiancato dal proprio mentore Jimmy. Ma ecco l'imprevisto: tra i due scatta una passione, tra carne e sentimenti, fatta di rapporti nascosti e militanza politica.

Neonazisti gay, un tema scottante e impensabile, sopratutto nei paesi mediterranei. Nel Nord Europa e nel Nord America, però, esiste il movimento “Gay Arian Skinheads” (GASH). La pellicola non parla di questo tipo di realtà, ma l'esistenza di un movimento simile pone domande su una realtà spesso taciuta, quando non autorepressa. Gli omosessuali tra le file dei neonazisti e neofascisti non mancano, eppure non se ne deve parlare.

In basso a destra il simbolo del GANS (Gay Aryan National-Socialists)

Il GASH ha un proprio manifesto, che recita: “We fight against jews and streight guys, Hitler was homo sexual! Comrad! All problems you have caused by black and jew! And women too!”

Opera di Attila Richard Lukacs

Gli skinheads gay hanno ispirato molti artisti, da Bruce LaBruce con “No Skin off My Ass” al pittore Attila Richard Lukacs (autore del dipinto qui sopra).

brotherhood broderskab

Brotherhood è il primo lungometraggio del regista danese Nicolo Donato, classe '74. I suoi Lars e Jimmy si trovano in una situazione spinosa: devono scegliere se tenere fede alla fratellanza sotto la bandiera del nazionalsocialismo o coltivare il proprio amore. Come andrà a finire? Il film sarà proiettato in anteprima assoluta al Roma Film Festival.

fonti: River-Blog;

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

662.000 SMS verschickt - 12.000 Seiten Rechnung -

Ein iPhone-Besitzer aus den USA hat einen neuen Weltrekord im SMS-Schreiben aufgestellt. Er verschickte innerhalb eines Monats über 662.000 Nachrichten. Die Rechnung wurde in mehreren Kartons geliefert und umfasst über 12.000 Seiten.

In einem Video liefert er die entsprechenden Beweise. So filmt er die Rechnungszusammenfassung, in der die Anzahl der verschickten SMS angegeben ist. Auch die hohen Rechnungsstapel und die Kartons sind zu sehen. Der iPhone-Besitzer gibt an, den Weltrekord bewusst aufgestellt zu haben.

662.000 SMS in einem Monat verschickt

Überschlägt man diese enormen Zahlen, so stellt man fest, dass er 22.000 Nachrichten pro Tag verschicken musste. Pro Stunde sind das 990 Stück - pro Minute noch immer 15. Und das 24 Stunden am Tag. Wenn er sie auf reguläre Weise verschickt hat, muss er also alle vier Sekunden auf den Senden-Button gedrückt haben.

Er könnte den Vorgang aber auch automatisiert haben. Hat er 100 Leute in seinem Adressbuch und verschickt eine Nachricht an alle Kontakte, so hätte er nur alle 6 Minuten auf den Senden-Button klicken müssen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ahmadinejad’s Security Cabinet

Sadegh Mahsouli

Photo: Sadegh Mahsouli (standing) says he is worth $160 million.
He was a penniless IRGC officer at the end of the Iran-Iraq war.


[TEHRAN BUREAU] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced the list of people who will fill key cabinet positions, including those who will deal with security issues.

The author had already identified four candidates likely to be the next Minister of Intelligence (MI). One of the two top candidates, Heidar Moslehi, was announced as Ahmadinejad’s choice to head Intelligence. Moslehi is a mid-rank cleric who is currently the head of the Organization for Islamic Endowments (vaghf) and Charities, which runs a vast network of mosques, endowed Islamic charities, and other endowed organizations. When Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, he appointed Moslehi as his adviser for clerical affairs. At that time Moslehi was the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in the Basij militia. But, his appointment was protested by many because he was involved with the Basij and, thus, he resigned after three months. Ayatollah Khamenei then appointed Moslehi to his present post.

If approved by the Majles (parliament), Moslehi will probably enhance dramatically the influence of the military in the security and intelligence apparatus because of his ties to the Basij. As previously reported by the author, the increasing influence of the military, particularly the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been a prime reason for the resignation of many senior figures in the MI.

When former Intelligence Minister Gholamgoseein Mohseni Ejehei and two of his deputies submitted a report to Ayatollah Khamenei, in which they rejected the claim by the IRGC and Ahmadinejad that linked the demonstrations after the rigged presidential election of June 12 to a plan for a “velvet revolution,” Ahmadinejad reportedly said during a gathering of the senior staff of the MI, that, “I am not happy with the Ministry of Intelligence.” He now has his own man at the Ministry.

The current Minister of Defense (MD), Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, will take over the Interior Ministry. There was already a clue that Najjar would leave his position at Defense and be moved to a new cabinet position: in the Majlis ceremony two weeks ago when Ahmadinejad took the oath of the office, Mohammad-Najjar, a Brigadier General, had appeared in civilian clothes.

Mohammad-Najjar was born in Tehran in 1956. He was active in the 1979 Revolution and joined the IRGC at its inception, three months after the Revolution’s victory in February 1979. There was some unrest in the Kurdistan province at that time, and Mohammad-Najjar actively participated in quelling that unrest (which had resulted in extensive bloodshed). He was then an IRGC staff officer responsible for the Sistan and Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran on the border with Pakistan. After Iran’s armed forces successfully pushed Iraqi forces from most of Iran in the spring of 1982, Ayatollah Khomeini approved the establishment of a Middle East Directorate, and Mohammad-Najjar, who speaks Arabic fluently, was appointed as its first director. The IRGC dispatched an expeditionary force to Lebanon in the summer of 1982 (after Israel had invaded Lebanon), which was stationed in the Biqa Valley in the eastern part of the country, where it trained the future fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah, which was officially founded in February 1985.

Mohammad-Najjar returned to Iran in 1985. At that time, the IRGC was under the control of the Ministry of the Guards, and Mohammad-Najjar held various positions in the armament industry that the IRGC was setting up. In 1989, the Ministries of Defense and Guards merged under former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Mohaamad- Najjar was appointed the head of the armament section of the Organization of Defense (Military) Industries (ODI), a position that he held until 2005, when he was appointed the Minister of Defense. During his tenure, the ODI was turned into a relatively efficient organization that has played a key role in Iran’s rapid advancement in the area of developing new missiles, and turning self-sufficient in producing a large part of its conventional ammunition. He has also played a key role in the expansion of military ties between Iran and Russia, having traveled there several times.

Mohammad-Najjar has a B.Sc. degree in mechanical engineering from the Khajeh Nasireddin Toosi in Tehran, and an M.S. in executive management from the Organization of Industrial Management. He is considered a hardliner among the top commanders of the IRGC.

Mohammad-Najjar’s post at the MD will be taken up by Sadegh Mahsouli, the current Minister of Interior. He is known in Iran as the “billionaire minister.” When he was proposed by Ahmadinejad to be his first Minister of Oil in 2005, Mahsouli admitted in response to questions asked during his confirmation proceedings in Majlis that his net worth was about $160 million (or 1.6 billion touman in Iranian currency, hence the nickname), although many believe that his net worth is probably much higher. The Majles rejected his nomination as the Minister of Oil, partly because Mahsouli could not provide a satisfactory answer to the question of how he, a dirt poor IRGC officer in 1988 at the end of Iran-Iraq war, could amass such a large wealth during such a short time.

Ahmadinejad then appointed Mahsouli as his adviser. In November 2008, after Ali Kordan, Ahmadinejad’s second Minister of Interior was impeached by the Majles when it was revealed that not only did he not have a doctoral degree from Oxford University (as he had claimed), but that his most advanced degree was a simple Associates Degree, Ahmadinejad appointed Mahsouli as his Minister of Interior. (Ahmadinejad’s first Interior Minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, was fired). Mahsouli’s appointment was narrowly approved by the Majles. As the supervisor of the election, Mahsouli played a key role in events leading up to June 12.

Mahsouli was born in 1959 in Orumieyeh, located in Western Azerbaijan province. He received a B.Sc. degree in civil engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology in Tehran, where he was a classmate and friend of Ahmadinejad. He joined the IRGC, fought in the Iran-Iraq war, and held high military positions, such as the commander of the 6th Special Forces division, head of the inspection of the IRGC, and deputy MD in charge of planning. He was also the governor of Orumiyeh, and deputy governor-general for the Western Azerbaijan province.

It was during his work in Western Azerbaijan that Mahsouli amassed his initial millions. At that time Ahmadinejad was the governor-general of Ardabil province, which is on Iran’s border with the Republic of Azerbaijan. The two nations were swapping oil: Iran would buy oil from Azerbaijan for local use, and deliver equivalent amounts to its southern seaports for export. Ahmadinejad helped put Mahsouli in charge of oil swaps, which made him close to $10 million and got him started in his business ventures. Later, Mahsouli used his connections to illicitly take control of 17,000 square meters of land in one of Tehran’s best neighborhood, worth millions of dollars.

Saeed Jalili, Iran’s current chief nuclear negotiator and secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, will be appointed the new Foreign Minister (FM). The current FM, Manouchehr Mottaki, a career diplomat, will apparently leave the government.

Jalili was born in 1965 in Mashhad, in northeastern Iran. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Imam Sadegh (Sadeq) University in Tehran. The University was established in 1982 by the powerful conservative clergy, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Society of the Militant Clergy. The conservatives’ goal in establishing this university (and others, such as the Islamic Azad University, and the Payaam-e Nour University) has been educating and training conservative students to fill Iran’s bureaucracy. Jalili’s research was on political thinking according to the holy Quran.

From 2001-2005, Jalili was the director-general of the office of the Supreme Leader, where he worked closely with hardliners in that office. An old friend of Ahmadinejad, Jalili was his first choice for the post of FM in 2005, but after he was opposed by various factions within the conservative camp, Jalili was appointed the deputy FM for European and American affairs. In October 2007, after Ali Larijani, the current Speaker of the Majles, suddenly resigned from his posts as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, Jalili was appointed to both posts. But his inexperience in the nuclear area was so glaring that after his appointment, Larijani accompanied him to Rome for a negotiation session with the European Union.

Jalili has a reputation for being extremely arrogant. He is known to have given long lectures to his European counterparts in nuclear negotiations, repeating himself and his claims without paying much attention to what his counterparts say. He is, of course, a hardliner.

Jalili has played a key role in the June 12 election coup. Together with a few others, such as Hossein Taeb, the Basij militia commander, he was a major player in the “control room” leading the election coup, apparently led by Mojtaba Khamenei, and Major General Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari, the IRGC’s top commander. His key role in that affair is now apparently being rewarded by Ahmadinejad.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Despite the apparent suicide of its prime suspect, the Navy will continue to investigate the death of Seaman August Provost III, the gay sailor shot to death at the base in late June, a Navy spokesman said.

"The investigation into Seaman Provost's death is continuing - that has not changed," said Brian O'Rourke, spokesman for the Navy Region Southwest. "We have Seaman Provost's family's interests at heart. We owe them explanations or answers. We owe them that."

Provost's family and gay rights advocates have said that the sailor's death was a hate crime and have urged the Navy to disclose more details of its investigation.

Navy officials maintain that Provost's death was not a hate crime.

They've said he was instead apparently the victim of a crime spree by Petty Officer Jonathan Campos, 32, of Lancaster, who planned to set fire to one of the landing crafts Provost was guarding at the time of the killing.

Campos, who was taken into custody just days after the killing, was found unresponsive Friday at 12:21 p.m. in his brig cell at Camp Pendleton.

He was pronounced dead at the base hospital an hour later, apparently after ingesting toilet paper, officials have said.

An investigation has been opened into his death, as well, the Navy spokesman said Monday, calling such a move "standard for the circumstances."

Campos, a gas system technician assigned to the same Assault Craft Unit 5 as Provost, was charged last month with murder, solicitation to commit murder, arson, theft, unlawful entry and a host of other crimes in connection with Provost's killing June 30.

While in military custody, Campos tried twice to commit suicide, O'Rourke said Monday.

The spokesman said he did not know how Campos tried to kill himself those times, but that it was a by different method.

Campos had been alone in his cell on a suicide watch at the brig, with guards visually checking on him every five minutes and speaking with him every 30 minutes, the spokesman said. A guard last spoke with Campos at 11:45 a.m., officials said.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Corps base said late Monday that Campos had been "under constant supervision," and that a log shows a guard visually checked him every five minutes. The spokeswoman, Maj. Kristin Lasica-Khaner, noted that Campos was in a cell with 24-hour per day close-circuit video monitoring.

She did not immediately know whether investigators have reviewed video from just before the apparent suicide attempt.

Records from the last five years show no suicides at the Marine Corps base's brig, she added.

Officials with the Navy and the San Diego County medical examiner's office said they had not heard of any prior suicides committed by toilet paper ingestion.

"It's not something I've ever seen or heard of," O'Rourke said.

He said an autopsy is scheduled this week on Campos, although he did not know exactly when.

He said more information about the suicide, including how much paper Campos apparently ingested and an exact cause of death, would be revealed in that examination.

Through statements from Campos and the Navy's investigation, officials learned that Campos stole a .45 caliber Kimber pistol and an Xbox video game system, video games and jewelry from another servicemember's home on or near June 13.

O'Rourke said the pistol was the same one used to kill Provost.

Campos also took Provost's 9 mm Beretta handgun after the shooting, and was charged with wrongful possession of that gun, O'Rourke said.

Also after Provost's killing, investigators learned that Campos had been taking psilocybin mushrooms, a hallucinogenic, from May 1 through June 2, the spokesman said.

O'Rourke said he did not immediately know whether military officials had reprimanded Campos for any crimes on base in the weeks or months leading up to the killing.

He said Campos had been arrested by civilian police June 20 on suspicion of driving under the influence in Imperial Beach

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Israeli Settlers Versus the Palestinians


In a hilltop suburb South of Jerusalem called Efrat, Sharon Katz serves a neat plate of sliced cake inside her five-bedroom house, surrounded by pomegranate, olive and citrus trees that she planted herself. She glances out the window at the hills where, she believes, David and Abraham once walked. "We are living in the biblical heartland," she sighs.

It is a heartland the prophets would not recognize, replete as it is with pizza parlor, jazz nights at the coffee shop, grocery store and yellow electronic gate with machine-gun-wielding guards. Efrat is one of 17 settlements that make up a bloc called Gush Etzion, located not in Israel but in the occupied West Bank. The Katzes (Sharon, husband Israel and five children) consider themselves law-abiding citizens. They publish a small community magazine and take part in civic projects. Sharon raises money for charity by putting on tap-dancing and theater shows. And yet to much of the outside world, the Katzes are participating in an illegal land grab forbidden by the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit an occupying power from settling its own civilians on militarily controlled land. Some Israelis have admitted as much. While Benjamin Netanyahu, then as now Prime Minister, was negotiating with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1998, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon got on Israeli radio and urged Israelis to settle more land fast. "Grab the hilltops, and stake your claim," he said. "Everything we don't grab will go to them." (See pictures of life in the West Bank settlements.)

The Palestinians ("them") hate the settlements as a reminder of occupation, proof that if and when any agreement with Israel is forged, they will never get back the land they call theirs. The settlements have joined other intractable issues — like the desire of Palestinian refugees to return to villages their families left 60 years ago — that have stymied every effort to find peace in the Middle East for a generation. The Obama Administration says negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis can only proceed if Israel agrees to stop settling occupied land. "The settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward," said Barack Obama when he met with Netanyahu in May. But for Israeli politicians on both the left and the right, even agreeing to freeze the settlements — much less dismantling them — is easier said than done. And the Katzes are one of the reasons why. (Read "Despite Jewish Concerns, Obama Keeps Up Pressure on Israel.")

It wasn't always so. After the Six-Day War in 1967, two groups of then rare (now commonplace) religious nationalists settled one small site each in the Galilee and Efrat. At the time, the Israeli government had no intention of settling seized Arab land and sheepishly described the settlements as military bases. Over the years, though, Israeli governments of all political persuasions have supported colonizing the West Bank — providing money, building permits and water and sewage services, as well as constructing special settlers-only roads. The number of settlers has grown fast in the past 15 years, as Israeli troops have pulled out of Arab cities and moved into the countryside, where they protect the Jewish population centers. In 1995, according to Israeli census figures, 138,000 settlers lived in the West Bank and Gaza. Now in the West Bank alone (no settlers remain in Gaza), there are nearly 300,000, mostly nestled together in heavily guarded blocs, living among 2.5 million unwelcoming Arabs. An additional 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which Israel "annexed" in 1967.

A Gathering of the Exiles
Over the years, the Israeli government has paid lip service to the idea of opposing settlements, mainly by evacuating small outposts while supporting the large, suburban-style blocs. In 2005, Israel turned Gaza over to Palestinian control, ceding major settlements for the first time in 30 years. For the settlers, who frequently justify their presence as sanctioned by God, that act was a benchmark provocation and — in the view of religious nationalists — a divine repudiation of Israel's failure to settle yet more land. The government compensated each of the Gaza families with up to $400,000, but the money is of little interest to Sharon Katz and others in Efrat. They intend to stay put.

The Katz family moved to Efrat from Woodmere, N.Y., in 1985, after a family visit to Israel during which Sharon had an epiphany while her children played with some newly arrived Ethiopians. "I looked at my sons in their Izod shirts next to these children from Africa, and I saw black, white, black," she says. "The Bible talks about the ingathering of the exiles, and here were these children all together." The Katzes don't think their town is an obstacle to peace. They can sometimes see Palestinian Arabs on the green flats far below but have no interaction with them. Most people in Efrat take bulletproof buses to Jerusalem, 15 minutes away, via a "bypass road" — one of a vast network Israel has built in the West Bank. The Katzes believe Arabs arrived in the area only in the 1970s. "People tried to build here many times and failed because the conditions were very harsh, rocky, no water," Israel Katz explains. "Jews are very stubborn people. If they want something, they won't stop. Jews started coming here and to talk of a community. That's when Arabs started coming here." (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)

The Netanyahu government, like its predecessors, makes a distinction between what it calls "legal" settlements like the Gush Etzion bloc (pop. 75,000) and "illegal" outposts deeper in the West Bank. Within sight of the Arab city of Nablus, settler Itay Zar, 33, lives in a two-room shanty with his wife and their five children, above a stretch of road at risk from Palestinian snipers. Zar's father, Moshe Zar, is one of the biggest — and therefore most despised by Palestinians — Jewish buyers of Arab land in the West Bank. Zar grew up in the West Bank. His outpost — named Havat Gilad after an elder brother killed by Palestinians — consists of a dozen shabby metal shacks and trailers inhabited by 20 families, with 40 to 50 children among them. A plastic slide and swing set stand on a weedy corner of the arid hilltop. Havat Gilad gets electricity from generators and water from a hilltop tank. The Israeli government evacuated the settlement five years ago but recently agreed to transport its children to school. "We are on a mission," Zar tells TIME. "We didn't come here for fun, although we have fun sometimes. When we came here, this land was deserted. Since the Jews came back, it has started to flourish."

To reinforce the spiritual mission, Zar erected a yeshiva that houses 35 young men. Their families pay about $250 a month for room, board and religious instruction centered on their role in God's plan to populate the occupied area with Jews. The settlement's spiritual leader, Arie Lipo, 35, sporting a 9-inch ginger beard and an ankle-length white gown, tells TIME he battled Israeli solders during the last evacuation, but he talks softly of a kind of peace. "We build small heavens here," he says. "We are the people of the Bible. If Obama fights what God has done in bringing the people of the Bible here from the four corners of the earth, he will fall. Now the question is, Who is the boss? God? Or Obama?"

In the absence of divine intervention, resolution of the settlement conflict will have to depend on human effort. Itay Zar and Sharon Katz are profoundly unlike each other, but Palestinians revile them equally. To the Arabs, Israeli settlements have sliced and diced up territory that once belonged to them, taking scarce resources like water and requiring special checkpoints that make their daily lives a misery. Down the hillside a few miles from the Katz home, Naim Sarras, 49, a Christian Palestinian farmer, vehemently disputes the claim that Arabs arrived only in the 1970s. He displays a long row of grapevines with thick trunks, and papers from the Ottoman era that he says prove his family has farmed the land for 150 years. He can no longer sell much of his produce because the Israeli government requires him to label it PRODUCT OF ISRAEL and the Palestinian Authority forbids that. But he can't afford to leave the fields fallow — and open to Israeli confiscation. Three Sarras brothers and a cousin tend the fields under the constant surveillance of video cameras at the edge of a nearby settlement. They complain that settlers from the Gush Etzion bloc have come in the night and uprooted or poisoned olive trees. "I am willing to live with Israelis," Sarras says. "But they will not live with us." Shaul Goldstein, mayor of the Gush Etzion regional council, defends his community's dealings with local Arabs. "We have the right to have cameras to protect our communities," says Goldstein, 49, a builder who constructed many of the Etzion homes. He insists he has Palestinian friends and says, "When I saw someone had uprooted trees, we condemned it very, very dramatically. I don't accept any kind of violence."

Plumbing and Powerful Men
For every Itay Zar (there are at least 100 hilltop settlements like his in the West Bank), there are thousands of Sharon Katzes in communities with plumbing and Little League. These suburban settlers make up the established West Bank colonies that Israel does not want to relinquish — in fact, would like to expand. So far, Netanyahu has not directly challenged Obama on the settlements, other than to say he won't stop "natural growth" (that is, houses for expanding families). Since the Israeli army is always skirmishing with radicals like Zar, giving up the occasional outpost is politically feasible, even popular. But challenging powerful men like Goldstein ("He has a lot of friends in America," former President Jimmy Carter told TIME on his way into a meeting with the mayor) and law-abiding citizens like Sharon Katz is another matter. Politically, it is not easy for Netanyahu to face down the settlers. But if he does nothing, Obama will have to confront the Israelis more directly than has any other President since George H.W. Bush, who threatened to refuse granting Israel $10 million in loan guarantees as long as the expansion of settlements continued.

In Israel, settlers from suburban towns to hilltop outposts alike express contempt for Obama. The U.S. gave $2.4 billion in aid to Israel last year, but Israel Katz says the cash does not entitle a U.S. President to "tell us how to live." He adds, "He is butting into another country's interests. I don't think Israel tells Obama what to do."

In the end, even if Obama continues to apply pressure, the solution to the settlement question will have to come from inside Israel. For many Israelis, the settlements are not a matter of ideology — they simply offer a cheap place to live for a growing population. Still others see no need for settlements at all. Two opinion polls in June had very different results. In one, 56% supported Obama's position; in the other, 56% opposed it. As the settlers build, tacitly assisted by the state, activists often campaign against them. "This is about the borders of morality. Do we want to rape 3 million people to obtain a national narrative?" says Dror Etkes, who works for an Israeli human-rights organization, Yesh Din, that challenges settlements in court. "The settlers are a small minority of strong militants. I don't think they will provoke a civil war, but I think disengagement will be the hardest trauma in Israel's history."

Sitting around their kitchen table, with grandchildren's plastic toys scattered on a deck beyond sliding-glass doors, the Katz family doesn't look or sound militant. Indeed, to American ears, their version of the national narrative sounds rather familiar. "I would love it that the little outposts someday have their own playgrounds and Little League," Sharon Katz says. "Israel shouldn't leave any hilltop! How did communities start out in the American West? With one log cabin. When we bought this land, it was a rocky hillside. Look what it looks like today."

— With reporting by Aaron J. Klein and Jamil Hamad/Jerusalem

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Real¹ Pirate² Bay³

¹ The Real — because as we all know that The Pirate Bay has betrayed its principles and sold out.
² The Pirate — because it supports the freedom akin the original pirates who fought against the large corporations and governments in the sea. Some of those original pirates were run-away slaves, who were fighting to preserve their individual freedom.
³ The Bay — because this is a place where you can feel safe from oppression.

And no i'm not talking about something as silly as using a different domain name or switching to a different existing site with the same old "download from us" mentality. We (as the community that respects freedom over money) need to learn from the mistake and disallow this from happening in the future. If you switch to Demonoid, isoHunt, or your other pet project what is to stop them from selling themselves also? Nothing. So here is the way to beat the system: Go anonymous!

There are several anonymous networks currently available on the Internet. Here i will talk about the way to set-up Freenet, a censorship resistant network, designed to run even in the oppressive regimes like China, Britain, Russia, France, Australia, or USA. Please understand that it is not designed as a file-sharing application, but rather as a data and information distribution system that is impossible to stop or track, so you don't come there to get your "warez" you come there for freedom to define yourself what is right or wrong. There are other similar networks out there, maybe i'll add their details here when i'll have time to research them also.

So here is what you do to start sharing with Freenet:
  1. Don't panic — The set-up procedure looks long, but that is because i've written it for newbies, if you are a more advanced user you'll get to the end in no time.
    1. Note: If you get lost, ask for help on the support e-mail list or on #freenet
  2. Download and install Freenet — this step should be pretty simple, but it really depends on your operating system so read what it says on the download page, this page shows the details.
    1. Start the node — the node now starts as a service or a daemon if you use the installer, if you did a headless install you will need to './ start' in the terminal.
    2. Go to FProxy — assuming that you have done a default install of Freenet on the same machine that you are on FProxy, the web interface for Freenet, is accessible at the port 8888 on localhost.
    3. Change the security levels — here you will need to set the security level that you need.
      1. Note: Please read the bold text on that page. When it says that you must have Friends who use Freenet, it means just that, you will be only directly connected to the people you know, you will be able to talk to others only through those people. I suggest you select a lower level security but still look to see if there are other people you know who use Freenet, connecting to Friends makes you significantly more secure and if they will be sharing similar content as you will make your downloads faster.
    4. Change the core settings — here you can change things like the bandwidh limits, the size of the datastore (see the note), and default download directory.
      1. Freenet is not really like any other P2P network, it has caching mechanism, which ensures that the data stays in the network even after the uploader leaves, gets sued or killed. This allows other nodes to continue to route the traffic and makes it that much more difficult to determine who was the original inserter. But that means that every participant of the network needs to give up a small piece of their hard drive to the network. I suggest you don't set it too high right away, 10GiB will do nicely to start with, you can change it later on.
    5. If you have Friends who use Freenet already add your Friends' connections — you simply paste their references in the text field and give them description.
      1. Note: The description you give is only visible by you, think of it as an alias of the Pidgin contact.
      2. Note: Your Friend will have to add you as well as you adding your Friend or the connection will not happen.
    6. If you don't have Friends and you've set the correct security levels check that you have connections to strangers — it may take some time for your node to connect to first people, so give it a moment to learn who's available.
      1. Note: If you are completely paranoid and have Friends you should have set the security high enough to have no connections to strangers, which means that even you ISP won't really know that you are running Freenet. They will know that something strange is going on (lots of weird traffic), but that's about all.
      2. Note: You will have 20 connections in total, so if you have 2 connected Friends your node won't connect to more than 18 strangers.
    7. At this stage you should be able to see some content on Freenet
      1. Check out sites like Freenet Applications FreeSite (site explaining what applications are available to run under Freenet which is mirrored here) or Activelink Index (it has a links to lots of sites, but be careful, it will slow down your browser)
  3. Download and Extract Frost — Frost is akin to a newsgroup and file sharing application on Freenet.
    1. Set the version during first start — when asked which version of Freenet you are using answer 0.7, the other version of Freenet is no longer maintained and is outdated.
    2. Create an alias — you'll be prompted for that during the first start-up.
      1. Note: This should not be the same as your real name and preferably not even as anything you ever used in the non-anonymous context.
      1. Note: You will still be able to post as anonymous without a pseudonym even after you create one.
      2. Note: You will later be able to create multiple pseudonyms, remove the previous ones, and do anything you want with them really.
      3. Note: When Frost says "Sending IP address to NSA" it really is a joke, if you don't believe it you can read the source code. (unfortunately the Frost developer has decided to remove that joke from the future versions of Frost, as too many people were panicking)
    3. Let Frost run — it will know what it's doing.
      1. Note: Make sure that in the menu "News" there is a tick next to "Automatic board update"
      2. Note: There are idiots who decide to DoS specific boards of Frost, when the attack occurs the board is shown in red colour.
      3. Note: If you want to change how many days backwards Frost will try to download go to Options -> Preferences -> News(1)
    4. Read the messages — the panel on the left shows the boards you are currently subscribed to.
      1. Note: Board name will become bold if there are unread messages in it.
      2. Note: Board will have grey background if Frost is checking for new messages or inserting the message that you have written.
      3. Note: You can subscribe to new boards if you know the name and the key (if there is a key), simply right click on the folder in the left panel and select "add new board".
      4. Note: You can also subscribe to boards that other people attach to their messages, if you are looking for something specific, ask and maybe there is a board for that.
    5. Search for files to download — this is done in numerous ways.
      1. Search tab of Frost — it has it's own over-Freenet way to search for files.
        1. Note: Your Frost needed to have run for some time before it can find files to download this way. On the bottom of Frost it says "FLQ" that's File Locator Queue, that shows how many locator files are left to be downloaded, those tell Frost that there are files which can be downloaded.
      2. Ask for what you want on the relevant board — this is probably more common.
        1. Note: If people will insert what you are looking for, they will post a key that starts with "CHK@" you can copy that and download it either through FProxy web interface or through Frost's Download tab, at the end of the day it will be Freenet that's doing the downloading, so it shouldn't really matter which option you chose.
      3. There are other ways too, but these two are the most popular.
    6. Insert something you have — it's good to share (especially if you see somebody explicitely asking for what you have).
      1. You can do that with Frost's "Uploads" tab, by selecting the files you want to insert. You will need to announce the keys somewhere when you are done (or nobody will even know you've inserted that), relevant Frost board is a good choice.
      2. By using FProxy web interface. Once again you will need to announce it somewhere.
      3. By using Frost's "My shared files" tab. This will use Frost's announcement mechanism, it's a good idea to force the inserts to start the first time around if you are sure that others will be interested in content, otherwise Frost will sit on those files and only insert them when at least one person requests the insert.

This should definitely get you started. There are many other fun things you can do with Freenet, you can publish your sites (called freesites or flogs (where freesite is a blog)), there are other download and insert applications (Thaw for example), there are other newsgroup-like tools (FMS or Freetalk for example, but they suck), experimentation is your friend.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No Refuge

writing No Refuge

Written by a University of Tehran graduate, from first-hand accounts

[TEHRAN BUREAU] We all have our memories of late-night cramming. The lights are low everywhere; the world is eerily quiet. At such times, the sound of my own fingers stroking the keyboard seems as loud as a thunderous volcano. Sometimes, after finishing a paragraph or coming to an end of an assigned chapter, I like to stop… and just listen, whether it’s the sound of footsteps or a stranger’s laugh, or a cat or dog whimpering in the distance.

It was on one such night. A 19-year-old boy was sitting in a dormitory room, quietly poring over those same books, the way he did most nights away from home, the way he did every night during exam season. Earlier, at around 10:30 p.m., an officer had come knocking on their doors. The police would only protect them if they kept quiet, he had said. If the students said as much as a word, he warned, they would do nothing to help them.

Unknown to the boy, in the dormitory a block away, at around 11:30 p.m., a group of hard-headed students head up to the rooftop and start chanting anti-government slogans.

Maybe he was too deeply submerged in Ohm’s Law equation to notice; maybe those hard-headed students hadn’t really been all that loud.

But a few hours later, he hears students screaming from the floor below and the shattering noise of breaking glass. He’s heard the story of that fateful night, that particular summer day, almost exactly 11 years ago, when they attacked the dormitories. It had always sounded like an epic tale, or maybe a television drama. And now there he was, suddenly living it.

He runs to hide in the bathroom. Shaking, scared, alone he waits. He waits, and waits, and waits.

And then there is no more waiting. The men are at his door.

He’s dragged out into the hallway. The last thing he remembers before the world goes black is that loud thud — the sound of his friend’s head hitting the ground, his unconscious body laying in blood, blood that is splattered everywhere.

A week later, he is released from prison, after agreeing to sign “a confession.” He is now a fully-certified criminal in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

That friend he remembers last has not been heard from. Many others remain in prison. But more frightening yet, there are many others who have gone missing.

Hundreds of miles away, a 17-year-old high school student in a small town in the province of Khuzestan is also released, along with his uncle. They were taking part in a demonstration in the city’s main square when a large group of them (perhaps along with many more) were arrested. The uncle emerges from the ordeal unscathed, physically. But the boy has been repeatedly and severely beaten. He is released one day before his University Entrance Exam.

All week now I have not been able to shake the image of that shy, timid boy out of my head. The typical class nerd, the one who gets A’s even when the entire class fails. I wonder how these kids are going to grow up. My generation was always told that no matter how cruel or merciless the world may be, the school is our refuge. Where will we go now that our schools too have been violated?

And once again, it is the shahrestani (small-town) kids who are paying the price. The ones who’ve had to work the hardest to get where they are. The ones whose parents couldn’t afford a loft in North Tehran. The ones this newly “elected” president claims to represent.

A friend of mine emailed me these lines from the University of Tehran a day before the attacks on the dormitories, which I have translated:

We are on campus, my friend. Tear gas is descending upon us like heavy snowfall. The entire building I am in right now is filled with gas. Two of my friends were wounded 30 minutes ago. There is fire everywhere. I thought I came here to study but there is nothing here but war. I have to tell you this quickly so you’ll share it on Facebook. I tried using a proxy to access Facebook earlier, but it didn’t work. Thanks so much. And by the way, please don’t mention my name because there have been mass arrests everywhere.

It seems ironic that 30 years after the revolution, at a time when many of us, among the exploding youth of Iran, were tired and indifferent to its fruition, are now in the streets fighting for the things this revolution promised. We were born into a war, and lived through a war. Now there is a new war raging. Who thought it would last so long. My friends are on their rooftops again shouting Allah o Akbar – God is Great — like their fathers did 30 years ago. I’ve always believed history repeats itself. But I’ve never felt it quite like the way I do today.

The Widening Divide

6a00d83451c45669e20115703a8e68970c 500wi The Widening Divide

The rift in the clerical establishment

By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 30 June 2009

[TEHRAN BUREAU] As the Iranian government crisis enters its 19th day, fissures among the clerics are gradually becoming deeper and more visible. These differences between hard-liners and leftists go back to 1988, but what has been surprising is the reaction of moderate clerics and the silence of clerical hard-liners.

The importance of the emerging fissures in the ranks of the clerics is not that the leftist clerics are supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi in his confrontation with the hard-liners, but that the fissures are developing even among the ranks of the conservative ayatollahs and influential clerics who were usually supportive of Ayatollah Khamenei — or at least silent in order to present a seemingly united front against the leftist faction, as well as the reformist and democratic groups.

The clerics in Qom and Mashhad recognize that there is much more at stake than a disputed election. They see an existential threat to the entire Islamic Republic as they mull their decision whether to support the official result, protest it or continue to remain silent.

The clerics who support the unification of church and state — those who support the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih [the governance of the Islamic jurist, the Supreme Leader or the Faghih], the backbone of Iran’s power structure — see that by coming down most definitively on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s side, Ayatollah Khamenei may no longer be considered to be above the fray, or even feign impartiality. He has now become just another politician subject to criticism. This is damaging, not only to the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih, but also to the whole concept of Mahdi, the hidden 12th Imam, who is supposed to come back some day to save the world from injustice, corruption and chaos. How can the “deputy” of the hidden Imam be as fallible as the next politician?

In the view of many in the clerical class, Ayatollah Khamenei’s actions have been problematic, especially his response to the huge demonstrations that took place to protest the rigged election:

1) He did not wait for the Guardian Council to officially certify the election results; he very quickly declared them valid.

2) He said the 85% turnout indicated how politically mature the population was and showed how satisfied they were with the political system. (He failed to note that the same politically mature and “satisfied” population staged huge demonstrations protesting the votes and the government that he supports). This hard-line position of his effectively quashed the most famous quote by Ayatollah Khomeini, Mizaan ra’ye mardom ast [the true measure of (acceptance) is people’s vote].

3) He emphasized the rule of law, while neglecting all the violations of the same law by Ahmadinejad’s government and supporters. (All of these have been eloquently described and enumerated by Mousavi in his statements.)

4) He “recommended” that Mousavi pursue his complaints through the Guardian Council [the Constitutional body that vets the candidates and certifies the validity of the elections], while declaring at the same time that the election was valid, hence leaving little room for the Council to change the election results, even if it wanted to by finding enough evidence of fraud to declare the election invalid.

5) He threatened that if people were to demonstrate, any bloodshed and violence would be their own fault — the fault of unarmed demonstrators pitted against heavily armed security forces — and their leaders, Mousavi and Karroubi.

Since the incompetence of the Ahmadinejad administration, at least when it comes to managing the economy and certain aspects of foreign policy, is beyond dispute, by supporting the current president, Ayatollah Khamenei essentially declared his belief in Ahmadinejad-ism. Indeed, in his sermon on July 19, he declared that Ahmadinejad’s views are closer to his own than those of others, and that certain people [meaning Ahmadinejad], in his opinion, are more suited to serve the country.

And, of course, those clerics who are opposed to the concept of Valaayat-e Faghih and believe that the ayatollahs must not intervene in politics (other than being spiritual guides), such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq and his large following in Iran, or those who believe that the Supreme Leader has been granted too much power and must be brought under control, such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, have found Ayatollah Khamenei’s actions to be solid reasons for the validity of their arguments.

Clerical reformers against Ayatollah Khamenei:

Tehran Bureau has already reported on the protests of several senior ayatollahs against the rigged election and its aftermath (read: “Grand Ayatollah Declares Three Days of National Mourning”). Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of two most important marja’ taghlids [source of emulation] in Shiite Islam, strongly attacked the government, rejected the results of the rigged election, and called on people to continue their protests peacefully. This was not the first time Montazeri has criticized Iran’s government.

In 1997, shortly after President Khatami’s landslide victory, Montazeri made a famous speech on Velaayat-e Faghih, in which he courageously criticized Ayatollah Khamenei by saying that the Supreme Leader should not intervene in the affairs of the state and leave them to the president. Likening many of the Friday prayer imams in the Islamic Republic to Aakhoond Darbaari [a pre-Revolution phrase referring to clerics on the Shah’s payroll], he warned people not to confuse them with genuine religious leaders. [Watch the speech on YouTube.]

Ayatollah Sayyed Jalaloddin Taheri, an important reformist cleric who had been appointed the leader of the Friday prayers in the city of Isfahan by Ayatollah Khomeini right after the 1979 Revolution, has declared the election fraudulent, and the next Ahmadinejad term as illegitimate and tantamount to thievery. Taheri resigned as the leader of Friday prayers in Isfahan in 2002, protesting, in a highly publicized letter, what he called the terrible state of the nation. His letter provoked a direct rebuttal from Ayatollah Khamenei himself. Ayatollah Taheri strongly supported Mousavi in the presidential election.

In his statement, Taheri said he was witnessing “how the old enemies of Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] who opposed the establishment of the Islamic Republic are now presenting themselves as the ideologues of the Revolution.”

“Did Imam believe that those who must be neutral in the election publicly support a particular candidate [Ahmadinejad]?” Taheri asked. “Did Imam allow the use of public resources for a particular candidate? Has religion given [the hard-liners] the permission [to do what they have done]? Why is it that the law is only supportive of you [referring to Ayatollah Khamenei's contention that the law must be implemented, and that the public protests are illegal]?”

Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, a senior member of the Association of Militant Clerics (AMC), has urged Mousavi to resist the official election result, so “insulting people and disrespecting the laws would not become the norm in the country.”

The AMC backed Mousavi in the recent election. Ayatollah Zanjani warned the Judiciary that if it cannot address the rightful complaints of the people, they will seek out alternative ways to recover their rights.“God forbid, the final destination of which will be chaos, insecurity and insulting religion,” he said. He went on to declare that, “peaceful gathering and demonstrations are people’s rights, which have been recognized by [article 27 of] the Constitution.” He also accused the government of deviating from Ayatollah Khomeini’s “path and thoughts.”

Ayatollah Sayyed Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, who was Chief Prosecutor under Ayatollah Khomeini, strongly attacked the government for its mishandling of the election. In an interview with a pro-Ahmadinejad Web site, he declared that the Guardian Council was biased and that people have a right to demonstrate.

“Ask me about the law,” Tabrizi said when he was reminded that Ayatollah Khamenei had forbidden further demonstrations. “I have nothing to do with them [the Supreme Leader and his supporters]. The Leader has expressed his own opinion, but I am talking about the law.

“The [1979] Revolution also occurred due to such talks [by the government]. The Shah also called the [demonstrating] people rioters. It was due to such reasons that the Shah’s regime was illegitimate. If it had not talked that way [calling people rioters] and had given the people their rights, it would not have become illegitimate. It does not make any difference who denies the people their rights. Whoever does that is illegitimate.”

He then mocked the fact that the number of votes cast in Ray (a town in the southern part of Tehran) was twice the number of eligible voters there.

Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, another close and senior aid to Ayatollah Khomeini, declared, “force should not be used to quell people’s protests. You [the government] must listen to people and their protests against the election. Let the people express their opinions. The response to [the protests by] the people must be convincing to them.”

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Khomeini, declared that Ahmadinejad was not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, were haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means were also haraam.

Hadi Ghaffari, a mid-rank cleric, strongly criticized Ayatollah Khamenei in a recent speech. His father was also an ayatollah killed by the Shah’s government, and he himself was jailed for many years before the 1979 Revolution. In the early years of the Revolution he was a hard-liner, but gradually changed his position; he has been strongly supportive of the reformists for many years. He was incredibly brazen in his criticisms of Ayatollah Khamenei. An audiotape of his speech was leaked and posted on YouTube, but has apparently been removed.

Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, who was the first Secretary-General of the Guardian Council after the Revolution, met with some members of the Council and expressed regrets for what had happened.

“I have some important things to say, but cannot for now,” he told the Council’s members. Part of the meeting was in secret, but he said in the public part of the meeting that, “We should have acted in a way that these issues would not have come up. We should have moderated our positions and opinions.”

Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani also held a secret meeting with Grand Ayatollah Mousa Shobeiri Zanjani, and reviewed the latest developments; little about their meeting has been publicized.

Clerical supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei:

To be sure, Ayatollah Khamenei still has many supporters among the conservative clergy. When he was appointed the Supreme Leader in June 1989, Ayatollah Khamenei was neither an ayatollah nor a marja’ taghlid [source of emulation]; under the Constitution, the Supreme Leader had to be both. So, not only was the Constitution revised in order to allow Ayatollah Khamenei to become the Supreme Leader, but he also needed the support of the senior clerics to be elevated to those ranks.

Those who supported Ayatollah Khamenei were mostly the conservative and ultra-conservative clerics. Their support of him was instrumental in his transformation from a progressive with an appreciation for the arts and literature, and even playing the taar — a fretted lute with six strings — into the conservative cleric he has become.

The senior clerics who support Ayatollah Khamenei today are those who have held, or currently hold, key positions in the government. They include Ahmad Jannati, Secretary-General of the Guardian Council; Mohammad Yazdi, former Judiciary chief; Khazali, former member of the Guardian Council; Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani, head of the Supreme Court, who ordered the execution of two of his own children in 1981; Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the Judiciary chief; Mohammad Mohammadi Rayshahri, former Minister of Intelligence whose real last name is Mohammadi-Nik; Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, head of the ACC and former Prime Minister; Ebrahimi Amini, leader of Friday prayers of Qom; Mohammad Emami Kashani, Tehran’s temporary leader of Friday prayers; Hossein Nouri Hamadani, a hard-line instructor in Qom’s seminary; and Masih Mohajeri, editor-in-chief of the Islamic Republic, a daily that was founded by Ayatollah Khamenei himself. These are mostly senior figures among the clerics, many of them over 60 years old, with Jannati and Mahdavi Kani being the most influential among them.

There are also mid-rank, middle age clerics, such as Ghorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, the Attorney General and former Intelligence Minister; Mostafa Pourmohammadi, former Interior and Intelligence Minister, who has been implicated in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the summer of 1988; Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, Intelligence Minister; Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, former Speaker of the Majles and head of the Supreme Leader’s Office of Inspection; Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts (no relation to former president Mohammad Khatami); Ali Razini, senior figure in the Judiciary, also implicated in the executions of the summer of 1988; Ebrahim Raeisi, implicated in the summer 1988 executions, and chief deputy to Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, the Judiciary chief; Ruhollah Hosseinian, a Majles deputy and head of Center for Islamic Revolution Documents; Ali Fallahian, a Majles deputy and former Intelligence Minister; and others.

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makaaren Shirazi, who has often supported the conservatives in the past, emphasized that the difficulties should be overcome wisely, rationally, and with attention to the future of the political system.

“The action to be taken must not leave any fire under the surface ash, and must transform pessimism to optimism and competition to friendship and cooperation between all the [political] groups,” Shirazi said.

It is interesting to note that Ayatollah Makaarem Shirazi was one of the earliest opponents of the Velaayat-e Faghih concept. He changed his mind, however, after reportedly being offered significant aid for his seminary. But, given the events in the country and Ahmadinejad’s track record, he has also felt the danger and has been increasingly speaking of the “independence of Qom’s theological schools” from the government.

“The basis for everything is the law,” declared Grand Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli — uncle of Ali Larijani, the Majles Speaker — in a speech during the Friday prayers in Qom on June 26. “But, the person who is supposed to execute the law declares that, ‘what I do is exactly according to the law,’ and it is him who decides what is lawful. This is problematic,” he said, hence seemingly referring to Ayatollah Khamenei and/or Ahmadinejad. He continued his thinly disguised criticism of the hard-liners by saying, “We must preserve religion, the howzah [the seminaries], and the maja’eeyat [the concept of emulation]. If any difference arises, these must be protected,” he said, warning that the hard-liners risk destroying the entire basis of Iran’s government by cracking down on protesters.

Even Ayatollah Mohyyodin Haeri-Shirazi, an ultra-conservative who is a member of the Assembly of Experts, wrote a highly cryptic and complex letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, as if he was trying to tell him something with coded words.

Perhaps the most important clerical supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei are Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Khoshvaght, and Ayatollah Khamenei’s own son, Mojtaba, a mid-ranking cleric.

The mysterious figure not known to most Iranians is Ayatollah Khoshvaght. Ayatollah Khamenei’s third son, Mostafa, is married to his daughter. He is a member of the Assembly of Experts, and in July 2007 ran for its presidency, which he lost to Rafsanjani. He is the prayer leader of a large mosque in northern Tehran, and is a radical hard-liner. It is believed, but never proven, that Saeed Emami, the notorious figure who was responsible for the infamous Chain Murders in 1998-1999, which resulted in the murder of six Iranian dissidents (and most likely many more murders from 1988-1998), was a follower of Ayatollah Khoshvaght. He is also said to be close to Ansaar-e Hezbollah, a radical group often unleashed to quell demonstrations.

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the spiritual leader of Ahmadinejad, is an ultra-conservative cleric who runs the Haghani Seminary and Imam Khomeini Educational Institute in Qom, which received $7 million in aid from the government in 2008. Ayatollah Khamenei has referred to Yazdi as “our era’s Motahhari” — a reference to Ayatollah Sayyed Morteza Motahhari, a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini and a distinguished Islamic scholar who was assassinated a few months after the February 1979 Revolution — a great compliment, even though Motahhari’s and Yazdi’s thinking are the opposite of each other! Ahmadinejad’s first Vice President (Iran has eight vice presidents), Parviz Davoodi, is a disciple of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, as are the Intelligence Minister, Mohseni Ejehei, and the Cabinet’s “morality teacher,” Agha-Tehrani.

However, even these conservative ayatollahs who are closest to the government have been suspiciously silent since the election. Almost none of them have congratulated Ahmadinejad. Even Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has been unusually silent. (Read more on Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi in “Leaders of Iran’s election coup” and “Assembly of Experts”).

Meanwhile the nation waited to see what Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and powerful politician, would do as many believe that the current crisis is partly a manifestation of the long-time rivalry between him and the Supreme Leader. He appeared to be defending the political establishment and performing a perfunctory bow to the Supreme Leader on June 28, the 28th anniversary of the bombing of the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party that killed many leaders and important figures of the Revolution; but he also criticized those who supervised the election. But, it is widely known that he has visited Qom to warn the clerics that the crisis is much deeper than the disputed election. So, it is perhaps more accurate to say that he is sitting on the fence to see what happens next. (Read more on Rafsanjani: “Rafsanjani’s Next Move” and “Who Will Lead?”)

Given all the developments listed above, one thing is for sure: Iranian politics will never be the same. Since the run up to the election, many lines have been crossed, many taboos broken, and the position of the Supreme Leader has fallen to earth. It is no longer a Godly position, as the hard-liners have always claimed. That, in the long run, can only be a positive development for Iran. Most importantly, the inherent contradiction between the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih and republicanism in Iran’s Constitution (electing the president, the parliament, and the city councils), which has always existed, has finally come to the fore.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Troops arrest Honduran president

Troops detain Honduran president


Troops arrest Honduran president

Troops in Honduras have detained the president ahead of a referendum on plans to change the constitution.

President Manuel Zelaya's secretary said he had been taken to an airbase outside the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Mr Zelaya, elected for a non-renewable four-year term in January 2006, wanted a vote to extend his time in office.

The referendum, due on Sunday, had been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and was also opposed by Congress and members of Mr Zelaya's own party.

Reuters news agency reports that soldiers fired teargas at about 500 supporters of Mr Zelaya who had gathered outside the presidential palace, as air force jets flew over the capital.

'Coup plot'

Early on Sunday, a reporter for the Associated Press news agency said he had seen dozens of troops surround Mr Zelaya's residence.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in the capital Tegucigapla on 27 June 2009
Won the Honduran presidential election for the Liberal Party in November 2005, beating the ruling National Party's candidate
Has moved Honduras away from its traditional ally the US
Enjoys the support of Venezuela's leftist President, Hugo Chavez
A civil engineer and rancher by profession

The arrest comes after President Zelaya defied a court order that he should re-instate the chief of the army, Gen Romeo Vasquez.

The president sacked Gen Vasquez late on Wednesday for refusing to help him organise a referendum.

Mr Zelaya, who under current regulations leaves office next January, also accepted the resignation of the defence minister.

The referendum was to ask the population if they approved of a formal vote next November on whether to rewrite the Honduran constitution.

In an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper published on Sunday, Mr Zelaya said a planned coup against him had been thwarted after the US refused to back it.

"Everything was in place for the coup and if the US embassy had approved it, it would have happened. But they did not," Mr Zeleya said.

"I'm only still here in office thanks to the United States."

The arrest of Mr Zelaya took place an hour before polls were due to open.

Chavez condemnation

Ballot boxes and other voting materials had been distributed by Mr Zelaya's supporters and government employees throughout the Central American country.

Mr Zelaya's ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, reportedly denounced the arrest as a "coup d'etat", urging US President Barack Obama to speak out.

Mr Chavez said "the Yankee empire has a lot to do" with developments in Honduras, according to AFP news agency.

The European Union called on the Honduran military to release the president and restore constitutional order, AFP also reported.

Rumours swirled in the Honduran media about the president's fate.


Rafael Alegria, a union leader and Zelaya ally, told Honduran radio Cadena de Noticias, shots had been fired during the president's arrest.

Meanwhile, Honduran radio station HRN said Mr Zelaya had been sent into exile, and possibly flown on the presidential plane to Venezuela.

On Thursday, the Honduran Congress approved plans to investigate whether the president should be declared unfit to rule.

Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged Honduras' leaders to "act with full respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions".

The president had vowed to transform democracy in Honduras, saying the system currently favours the wealthy elite.

But his opponents accused him of seeking to rule indefinitely.

The political crisis has stoked tensions in Honduras, an impoverished coffee and banana-exporting nation of more than 7 million people.

Are you in Honduras? Have you seen evidence of military movement in your area? Let us know what is happening near you.

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