Friday, January 29, 2010

Video roundup - Friday, 29 January 2010

  • Al Jazeera presents an excellent report in English on Arash Rahmanipour, the young man hanged by the Islamic Republic Thursday morning along with Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani.

  • CNN's Reza Sayah also reported on the executions:

  • After weeks of being shut down, the Ghoba mosque in Shiraz was re-opened ten days ago. Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, a member of the Assembly of Experts who has voiced strong criticism of the regime, preaches at Ghoba mosque. The house of worship has continued to be a target of regime goons who have staged sit-ins and demonstrations, culminating in a particularly disruptive gathering on Wednesday night. A site set up by followers of Ayatollah Dastgheib posted a report yesterday which began, 'Last night was one of the most singular evenings at Ghoba mosque. Until yesterday and after more than ten days since Ghoba mosque in the city of Shiraz was re-opened, known individuals (who were not particularly young) linked to several armed and government groups would come to the mosque under the name of 'Young Supporters of the Leader' and would seriously disrupt operations by staying in the dormitories and chanting slogans. (For example, this group created difficulties for the studies of theological students by gathering and chanting slogans). They would provoke friction. But last night, the individuals linked to some armed bodies mustered all their forces to create what they called a grass-roots base of resistance by the name of 'the sea of the Leader' through their vigorous presence.'A few uniformed individuals can actually be seen among the troublemakers who chant, 'Death to those who oppose the velayateh faghih! (NB Principle of the guardianship of the jurisprudent, through which Khamenei derives his power)'

  • In the lead-up to the protests planned for February 11 (NB anniversary of the 1979 revolution), this video offers comparisons between images of 1979 and 2009:

  • Orchestral rendition of patriotic song 'Ey Iran!' sung by Roya Sabet in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Karroubi softens stance? Desperate regime clutches at straws

My apologies for such a short post on a topic which has sent shockwaves through the press, but I believe that the following video goes a long way towards mitigating the importance of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi's alleged turnabout concerning the legitimacy of the presidential election and recognition of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president.

Yesterday, the semi-official Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, rushed to release the following report:

Mehdi Karroubi in an interview with Fars: 
I recognize the president elected by the Iranian people
Fars News Agency: Concerning the legality of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency, Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi said, I recognize the president

In an interview with Fars News Agency, in response to the question, Do you recognize the legal president elected by the Iranian people?, declared: I still maintain that the problems I raised apply, but with regard to your question, I must say that yes, I recognize the president.'

It is worth mentioning that Fars's supposed interview is the hasty exchange seen in the following footage which was taken at the conference of the Mardom Salari (People's Sovereignty) Party, headed by reformist Majlis representative Mostafa Kavakebian. Karroubi had just made a speech and was leaving the hall, followed by a coterie of journalists. None of the other reporters filed an article on Karroubi's alleged turnabout.

The video was released by the Bashgaheh Khabarnegaran (Journalists' Club) which is run by the political division of the Islamic Republic's radio-television. The regime therefore felt it important to distribute this video clip to support Fars's claim. To say that it is a weak endorsement is an understatement.

The Fars journalist sticks a microphone in Karroubi's face and asks, 'Do you recognize the popularly-elected president?'

Karroubi looks at the man, chuckles, and kisses him on the forehead. Then he walks away.

A column comes between Karroubi and the cameraman. At this point the ensuing conversation is inaudible. However, Karroubi can be heard uttering the word 'president.' He then turns to leave once again and the Fars journalist asks again, But do you recognize him?' Karroubi nods and continues on his way.

If Karroubi had clearly voiced his opinion on the subject during the inaudible part of the exchange, the Fars journalist would not have had to repeat the key question. In response, he got a nod.

A nod is not insignificant, but given the context, was it important enough to justify the ensuing uproar from Tehran to Berlin to Washington? You be the judge.

Close-up: Pro-regime satirical video ends with Mousavi's execution

Much of the information coming out of Iran is in the form of footage uploaded to the Internet without the benefit of any description or explanation. Each installment in the Close-up series will provide an in-depth analysis of a single video or a series of videos covering one event.

A satirical video clip released by a pro-regime blog portrays opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi as a would-be dictator supported by the West and leading fanatical mosque-burning protesters. The film ends with Mousavi's trial and execution.

Bachehayeh Ghalam (Children of the Pen), a blog which delivers a mix of fact, conspiracy theories, and disinformation in support of the legitimacy of the regime and against imperialism, posted the video entitled 'The Great Dictator' this week (film and translation at the end of this report). The site appears close to the 'pragmatic conservative faction' led by the likes of Ahmadinejad rival and Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and Majlis research center head Ahmad Tavakoli. As such, the fictional trial and execution of Mousavi appears to conform to the hardening stance of the pragmatic conservatives.

One of the latest posts on the site explains that the earthquake in Haiti was triggered by the United States using a HAARP weapon (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program). Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad ally and idol of some young Iranian radicals, made the same announcement last week, claiming that the Haiti earthquake was just a drill and that the ultimate target of the weapons system would be Iran:

Bachehayeh Ghalam is run by a young Iranian man who is also involved in a drive to boycott 'Zionist products.' He is linked to Majlis research center head Ahmad Tavakoli's news site, Alef. I am not divulging this person's identity because as far as I can ascertain he has exercised his right to free speech without directly calling for violence.

The well-produced clip pays more than nominal homage to Chaplin and is made to look like an old silent movie. It paints the opposition as a tool of foreign media and governments, and suggests that protesters are rioters and pushy women with no real links to Islamic values:

Video highlights:

0:00 - 0:28
Panel: 'The Great Dictator'
Footage of Mousavi on the night of the presidential election, June 12, 2009.
Panel: 'Ladies and gentlemen! The election is currently taking place...'
Panel: '...but I am the definite winner with a high proportion of the votes.'

0:29 - 0:45
Footage of BBC Persian newscast.
Panel: 'Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become president with 24 million votes.'
Footage of jubilation in the streets with the sound of cheering in the background.

0:46 - 0:58
The music becomes morose as we see footage of a round table on BBC Persian which includes Sadegh Saba, the new head of the service, and Ahmad Salamatian, former Islamic Republic foreign minister (1979) and post-revolution Majlis representative from Isfahan who has been a dissident based in Paris for over 25 years.
Panel: 'We are worried and there was definitely fraud...'
The regime has accused the foreign media of provoking the post-election unrest.

0:59 - 1:33
Mousavi with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, at his side. Rahnavard, a successful and influential intellectual, is another favorite target of the regime.
Panel: 'Iran will erupt in flames.'
Protesters, fires in the street, motorcycles ablaze...
Melancholy music as scenes of devastation are shown.

1:34 - 1:53
Barack Obama being interviewed on CBS.
Panel: 'We will support the people of Iran.'
Women demonstrate. The fact that they are wearing relatively skimpy outfits and no headscarves is a less-than-subtle way of suggesting they are loose and foreign-based.
Panel: 'Give back our vote.'

1:54 - 2:06
BBC Persian newscast.
Panel: 'Mrs. Rahnavard, what is the proof of fraud?'
Panel with laughter in the background: 'Because Mr. Mousavi is a Turk and married to a woman from Lorestan [Province].' Mousavi is from Azerbaijan Province, hence the reference to being Turkish. Rahnavard is from Lorestan Province. The opposition questioned Mousavi's low turnout in his 'home state.'

2:07 - 2:21
Footage of Mousavi's press conference.
Panel: 'I will hold firm until the end.'
Fire and destruction in the streets...

2:22 - 2:30
The show trials, including a closeup of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, close adviser to Khatami and senior member of the Association of Combatant Clerics. Abtahi, one of the most popular political bloggers in Iran, was arrested shortly after the election and is believed to have been coerced into giving a televised confession.
Panel: 'The fraud was an excuse. Everything was planned.'

2:31 - 2:37
Street protests.
Panel: 'Independence. Freedom. Iranian Republic.'
The original revolutionary slogan was 'Independence, freedom, Islamic Republic.' The new counter-slogan voiced during the post-election protests has particularly stung the regime and its supporters.

2:38 - 2:46
'Decent Iranians' being interviewed.
Panel: 'These people must be confronted with determination.'

2:47 - end
Footage of the show trials, presided by Judge Abolghassem Salavati.
Forrest-Gump-like special effect of Mousavi in prison garb and on trial.
Judge Salavati reads the verdict.
Panel: 'Mr. Mousavi will be severely punished.'
Footage of Saddam, his face pixelated, being hanged.
Panel: 'The End'

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Will Tehran newspaper be banned again, this time for sexy logo?

In the midst of the Islamic Guidance Ministry's recent crackdown on the press, a hard-line weekly has attacked a national daily for its racy new logo.

Partoyeh Sokhan magazine, whose last front page headline was 'We will support the Supreme Leader until our last drop of blood,' published an article decrying what it saw as a dancing woman in Tehran Emrooz (NB Tehran Today) newspaper's redesigned logo.

'The letters of the word Emrooz in Tehran Emrooz's logo have been changed in such a manner that they resemble a dancing woman,' the investigative weekly revealed. The magazine referred to the end of the letter R, which now resembles 'a female leg in the act of dancing,' and the ends of the letter O and Z, which have been modified to look like arms (NB The paper does not indicate whether the arms belong to a woman or a man.). The weekly wrote that other elements in the logo were questionable, but that they were 'not fit to be published.'

Tehran Emrooz daily is close to Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, conservative mayor of Tehran and Ahmadinejad rival. The newspaper was banned in June 2008 for having published a special section on the third anniversary of Ahmadinejad's presidency which was deemed too insulting. The paper was only reopened in January of last year.

'We ask officials of the Islamic Guidance Ministry to address a warning to Tehran Emrouz and demand that it change its logo,' wrote Partoyeh Sokhan, which is not a satirical publication. '[The Ministry] is urged to exercise even greater attention so that other parties do not deliberately or unwittingly take similar steps.' No doubt the Islamic Guidance Ministry will soon be forming a special Rorschach brigade.

Ebrahim Nabavi, journalist and satirist, told the Voice of America, 'Because many occupations do not exist in Iran, people get pulled into other fields. For example, I believe that the person who wrote this commentary has a lot of talent for making pornographic films. Instead of writing stuff like this in Partoyeh Sokhan, he should go to California. [...] You don't even see such imagination in Boccaccio. These are rare talents. To take a letter A or a pen and to see six dancing women. [...] In other places, they get Gabriel Garcia Marquez, we have Mesbah Yazdi. (NB hard-line ayatollah and Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor).'

Readers are invited to participate in the homylafayette competition: 'What do you see in Partoyeh Sokhan's logo?' Please enter your comments below...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Case closed: Suspicious deaths of IRGC front company head and his wife not murder, says investigating magistrate

Mohammad Hossein Shamlou, investigating magistrate at the 1st branch of Tehran's criminal affairs division, declared today that the mysterious deaths of a director of a holding company close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and his wife were accidental and caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Shahin Soleimanipour's lifeless body was found in her home in Tehran's exclusive Ozgol neighborhood on December 10, 2009. Her husband Majid was discovered unconscious and transferred to Shahid Chamran Hospital where he was declared dead.

View Ozgol district, Tehran in a larger map

The case would not have gained any more prominence than a short mention in the inside pages of newspapers, except for two facts. The deaths occurred at a time of heightened tension in a country known for mysterious and convenient disappearances. And, more intriguingly, Majid Soleimanipour was the managing director and member of the board of directors of the Tosse'eh Etemad Mobin company.

The consortium that Soleimanipour managed appears to have been a front company of the IRGC and had on September 27 bought a controlling stake in the Telecommunication Company of Iran for $8 billion in a purchase that was both rigged and the largest transaction in the history of the Tehran stock exchange. The operation provoked concern about the IRGC's increased ability to monitor telephone and Internet communications. Since the sale of the telecom stock was ostensibly carried out in line with the government's privatization drive, the Majlis launched a subsequent investigation in order to determine whether the company had simply been traded from one state body to another.

The consortium is made up of three companies: Tosse'eh Etemad, Shahriar Mahestan, and Iran Mobin Electronics Development Company, according to Masoumeh Taherkhani writing in Donyayeh Eghtesad. Tosse'eh Etemad and Shahriar Mahestan investment companies are directly run by the IRGC's social affairs mutual fund. Mobin Electronics belongs to the Setadeh Ejraieh Farman Emam (The Staff for the Enforcement of the Imam's Decree), a labyrinthine foundation directly under the authority of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office. (for a previous article on the telecom purchase, click here)

Davoud Zareian, Telecommunications Company of Iran spokesman, said that Soleimanipour had been working until 10 PM Wednesday evening and that the couple's dead bodies had been discovered in their bedroom. His comments were contradicted by the judiciary's official statement which said that Soleimanpour had been found in another room and that he had still exhibited a weak pulse before being taken to the hospital.

Seyed Massoud Miri, spokesman for the Tosse'eh Etemad Mobin consortium, said that the couple's son had found them on Thursday morning. In response to a question about why the son had not suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, Miri said that the son slept in another room.

Soleimanpour had close links to the IRGC. He was a senior official at Imam Hossein University, which is under the authority of the Revolutionary Guards. According to some reports, he was the acting commander of the institution. He wrote for the Imam Hossein University's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Journal, though it was not possible to confirm the claims of some sources that he was the quarterly's editor several years ago. Soleimanipour was also a senior member of the Iranian Society of Cryptology, set up by the research division of the IRGC. The ISC even issued a statement of condolence following Soleimanipour's death. The Tosse'eh Etemad Mobin consortium's public relations office states that he obtained a doctorate in computer science and information technology from a Canadian university.

Given the sensitive nature of the case, senior officials quickly became involved. A day after the bodies were discovered, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told the Islamic Republic News Agency that no signs of violence had been observed on the victims and that they had passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning. Jafari Dolatabadi said that the room containing the house's heating unit had been sealed off. 'The next of kin have not mentioned murder,' the prosecutor added helpfully, saying that the matter would be investigated.

Mohammad Hossein Shamlou, investigating magistrate of the 1st branch of the Tehran criminal affairs division, was tasked with the investigation. Today Shamlou offered his findings to Fars News in a terse statement, which given the importance of the case appears both overly succinct and cavalier. 'The gas company's experts have determined that the cause of death of the late Soleimani (sic), purchaser of the telecom's stocks, was a gas leak in the evacuation pipes of the furnace room,' Shamlou said, not explaining what part of legal procedures in the Islamic Republic allows gas company experts to determine the cause of death.

'The gas company claims that the evacuation pipes are cracked in many places,' Shamlou told Fars News, apparently not having seen the cracks himself and taking the gas company's word for it.

Shamlou's powers of deduction also allowed him to conclude, 'The person responsible for the furnace room, the house's builder, and the overseeing engineer are at fault.'

Case closed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nepotism in the paradise of the oppressed

Favoritsm in the Islamic Republic is reaching such proportions that even pro-regime news outlets are beginning to notice.

Jahan News recently posted an article entitled 'The noteworthy presence of one family in the Saipa automobile company,' referring to the growing number of Ahmadinejad chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashai's relatives in key positions at Saipa Corp.

'Despite the president's repeated admonishments and the positions he has taken concerning the aghazadeha (NB A term which literally means 'gentlemen's sons' and can be loosely translated as 'daddy's boys.' It refers to the children of regime figures who get rich through their connections.),' the article began, 'the appointments of several relatives of a government figure have come under question by the people, especially supporters of Dr. Ahmadinejad.'

Mashai, a close ally of the president, has been a favorite target of anti-Ahmadinejad Principlists (NB osoulgara), conservatives who seek a return to what they see as the founding principles of the Islamic Revolution. After stiff opposition to Mashai's possible appointment as First Vice President, some Principlists were enraged by Ahmadinajd's decision to name Mashai as his chief of staff. Ahmadinejad recently exhibited a similar devil-may-care determination, some would call it disdainful arrogance, when he appointed former Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to a government position after a Majlis report found Mortazavi responsible for the deaths of protesters at the Kahrizak detention center.

Mashai is particularly close to Ahmadinejad and his daughter is married to one of the president's sons, Mehdi, a civil engineer. Photos of the wedding were leaked last year in order to highlight the simple lifestyles of the president and Rahim Mashai. The only food that was served reportedly consisted of one banana, apple, and orange per guest. The women were in Rahim Mashai's residence, while the male guests were entertained in a neighbor's house.

Jahan news reported, 'Reza Rahim Mashai (NB Esfandiar's son) has been named managing director of Saipa's investment arm and [Mashai's nephew] has been appointed to Saipa's business development office.'

'Arash Kousha, Mashai's other nephew, was previously named the manager of Saipa soccer club,' Jahan News added.

Arash Kousha's appointment two months ago had already provoked an outcry, especially since he had previously filled a cushy position, with no connection to sports, as director of environmental tourism at the Cultural Heritage Organization when Mashai had run that state body. In the following state television interview on a sports program called '90' (NB the number of minutes in a soccer match), Kousha employed all sorts of equivocation in responding to the pointed questions of the young and able host Adel Ferdowsipour (a translation follows the video):

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
Where did you work previously, Mr. Kousha?

Arash Kousha:
I was at the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization.

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
You have some sports background too?

Arash Kousha:
Yes, I worked at Tehran City Hall's cultural and sports organization which handled some sports teams. (NB Esfandiar Rahim Mashai also headed this body at the time, when Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran.)

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
By the way, I read somewhere today that you have some relation to Mr. Rahim Mashai... Is he your uncle?

Arash Kousha:
I might be related to many people...

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
Yes, but is this claim true?

Arash Kousha:
In any case, there is some connection.

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
A connection... Is he your uncle or not?

Arash Kousha:
No, he's not my uncle.

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:

Arash Kousha:
He's not my uncle.

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
Is he related?

Arash Kousha:
Yes, there is some relation.

Host Adel Ferdowsipour:
All right. Thank you very much.

To be fair, Mashai's largesse has not been restricted to his family and relatives. As the newly-appointed head of the government's cultural committee which makes him the country's top cultural authority, a position which he holds alongside that of presidential chief of staff, he authorized a 200-million-touman (NB about $200,000) subsidy to movie actress Hadiyeh Tehrani so she could organize an exhibit of her photography at the Artists' House (NB Khaneyeh Honarmandan).

Mashai reportedly bought the most expensive photograph at the exhibit for 3.7 million toumans (about $3,700). The subsidy and subsequent purchase have stirred some resentment among Principlists, who wrote disparaging articles and posted the following caricature on their news outlets.

Hadiyeh means gift in Farsi.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iranian diplomat in Norway confirms he resigned to protest regime's actions

For two weeks the Iranian government and official media outlets have claimed that news of the resignation of an Iranian diplomat in Norway in protest to the Islamic regime's crackdown is a lie.

But this evening, Mohammad Reza Heidari, Iran's former consul in Oslo, gave an interview to Norway's NRK channel (video and translation at the end of this report) and set the record straight: He has indeed resigned in protest and it appears that it was the Islamic regime that has engaged in spreading falsehoods. Other reports signal broad dissatisfaction among Iran's diplomatic corps and the resignation and defection of at least 27 diplomats.

News of Heidari's resignation began surfacing on January 5 and was initially based on the claims of the Norweian-Iranian Support Committee, an opposition group. At the time, NRK stated that it had spoken to Heidari and that he had defected. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry declared that it was unaware of the situation.

The Islamic regime riposted by saying that the news was disinformation spread by enemies of the state. Various explanations were engineered by the Islamic Republic: that Heidari's term had simply ended, that he was on vacation... Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the following, as recently as two days ago, minimizing Heidari's role at the embassy, providing a lesson in diplomatic relations and offering a veiled warning to Heidari:

The Foreign Ministry spokesman added the following about the individual who has been described as Iran's head consul in Norway and has been said to have requested political asylum...

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast:
We have an embassy in Norway. In places where we have embassies, we cannot have consulates. So these things that are mentioned in the news -- sometimes they speak of the Islamic Republic's ambassador or the chief consul -- well, this is incorrect information. Mr. Heidari is a consular employee and his mission has come to an end. He has a problem with his child's academic life. He would like to stay there a bit longer in order to resolve issues concerning his child's university. I think that he is wiser and wilier than to take the wrong path with respect to the fabrications of some people who oppose the revolution and the regime.

The ensuing NRK news report, prepared by Iranian-Norwegian journalist Mina Ghabel, is mostly in Norwegian, but the sections in Farsi have been translated below. The footage shows Zohreh Moini of the Norwegian-Iranian Support Committee coming to Heidari's house to give him a bouquet of flowers. She tells Heidari, 'I congratulate you on your return to the people's freedom-seeking movement.'

Mohammad Reza Heidari:
I was constantly conflicted during the past seven months and asked myself, 'Why should these events take place in my country? What are my people seeking, after all?' On Ashura Day (NB December 27, commemoration of the 7th-Century martyrdom of Imam Hossein, a key figure in Shiism. For several reports and videos on what occurred during protests on Ashura, click here), the blood of my countrymen was shed only because they wanted freedom and what is referred to in the West as democracy. My conscience could not stand those images. I declared that I was resigning so that the people could see that we were with them.
They said that if I denied this news, I would be able to return. I know that my decision is the right one. My conscience is clear. I hope that my friends around the world, who are listening to me and seeing me and know me, will also stand alongside the people and that they will spurn personal interests and think of the nation's interests.

Rahman Saki, spokesman for the Support Committee in Germany, spoke to the Voice of America's Newstalk program, and gave additional information this evening. Saki rejected all of the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry spokesman's allegations, except for the fact that Mr. Heidari is indeed wise. 'Mr. Heidari had not come to the end of his mission in Norway. He had eight months left. Furthermore, Mr. Heidari's son is still in high school and he will not be going to university for some time,' Saki said. 'The Islamic Republic has dispatched a three-man delegation to Norway to meet with Mr. Heidari. They have made all sorts of promises to him, if he retracts his resignation and gives an interview at Tehran airport, saying that he never resigned. Mr. Heidari has refused to meet the delegation, which is still in Norway as we speak.'

In the same program, VOA's journalist in Rome, Ahmad Rafat, reported that he had personally spoken to three Iranian diplomats in Europe who had stated that the country's diplomatic corps was riven with dissatisfaction. 'One diplomat told me that he was preparing to resign [...] and that 27 diplomats in Europe, but also in countries in Asia, had resigned,' Rafat said. These resignations have occurred in recent weeks, particularly after the violence against protesters on Ashura, Rafat reported from Rome. Not all of these individuals have become refugees, but some are thinking of coming to Europe to ask for political asylum.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tehran University professor Massoud Alimohammadi assassinated: fact and fiction

A Tehran University physics professor was killed in a bomb blast in front of his Tehran home this morning, January 12, 2009.

Massoud Alimohammadi was driving away from his home when a device placed inside a parked motorcycle was detonated.

Amateur footage posted to YouTube shows the scene minutes after the blast and before the arrival of the police:

The official story

Official Iranian news sources almost immediately went into overdrive. Borna news, close to the government, referred to Alimohammadi as a 'senior nuclear scientist' in an article posted at 10:48 AM.

Borna's journalist was one of the first at the scene of the crime and its photos provide an idea of the strength of the conflagration which blew out the windows of the building across from Alimohammadi's house:

Journalists could freely photograph and film the scene:

The photos also show the investigators and several dozen people trampling the crime scene:

One of the many people present points to the bloodstains on the ground, next to the magistrate's vehicle:

Images also show a cleaning crew shoveling debris which could have contained evidence:

Fars news, a semi-official news outlet close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reported that the professor had been killed by 'anti-revolutionary elements.' Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast announced that the opposition, the United States, and Israel were behind the attack.

Fars published an interview with an alleged student of the late professor, Seyed Mohammad Kazem Manzourolajdad, who stated that Alimohammadi 'worked with the IRGC from the start of the [Iran-Iraq] War (NB 1980) until 2003,' though it is unclear why a student would have access to such information. Manzourolajdad also allegedly told Fars that Alimohammadi 'stood firm behind the principles of the Islamic system and the velayateh faghih' (NB Principle of the guardianship of the jurisprudent, from which Leader Ali Khamenei derives his power). The Basij militia also co-opted the slain professor in a statement which condemned the 'martyrdom of Massoud Alimohammadi, a Basiji and Jihadist professor.'

In a television report which shows the remnants of Alimohammadi's automobile and the motorcycle, the chief magistrate in charge of criminal affairs, Fakhreddine Jafarzadeh, was more circumspect and only offered that the explosion had taken place on Soheil Street and that the device with a remote detonator had been secreted inside a motorcycle next to the professor's front door:

Mirzapour Street, still universally called by its former name of Soheil Street, is in Tehran's Gheytarieh neighborhood:

View Mirzapour Street - Tehran in a larger map

Jafarzadeh was more loose-lipped in an interview with Fars news, in which he said that 'the Tehran judge on duty had been informed of the explosion at 8:05 AM.' Later in the interview, he said that the explosion had taken place at 7:58 AM, therefore indicating that the judge knew of the blast 7 minutes after it occurred. Health Ministry spokesman Abbas Zareh-nejad declared in the afternoon that two other individuals, whom he did not name, had been injured in the explosion.

Though state media had declared since early morning that anti-regime forces were behind the terrorist attack, it was not until 1:30 PM that the villains were designated by name: the Anjomaneh Padeshahi Iran (NB The Monarchist Association of Iran, also known as the API). According to various news reports, including one by Safir News, an offshoot of IRNA created several months ago with the avowed goal of countering the 'soft revolution' engineered by foreign media, the API had taken responsibility for the assassination on its web site.

The API, along with the MKO, is one of the official bogeymen of the Islamic regime. Several political prisoners have been charged with membership in the organization, which has been blamed for orchestrating some of the post-election unrest. Regime officials have been loudly calling for the execution of its members in recent weeks.

The facts

Alimohammadi obtained his Phd in elementary particle physics from Sharif University in 1992, according to Tehran University. His field is linked to nuclear physics and may have weapons applications, though no information that has surfaced thus far indicates that Alimohammadi engaged in such work.

His personal page on Tehran University's web site has a link to published articles which can be downloaded in PDF format. He appears to have been fairly prolific, publishing two to four articles a year (from 1993 to 2009) on arcane topics such as 'Berry phase for spin-1/2 particles moving in a spacetime with torsion' or 'Large-N limit of the two-dimensional Yang-Mills theory on surfaces with boundaries.' His last published work in 2009 is on 'Remarks on generalized Gauss-Bonnet dark energy.' He does not appear to have been particularly secretive about his work.

In the summer of 2004, Alimohammadi even gave an interview to Gamma, a quarterly Farsi-language physics magazine, which describes its articles as educational and cultural.(Issue 3's table of contents)

In comparison, Shahram Amiri, a nuclear scientist who went missing in Saudi Arabia this summer and is believed to have been involved in Iran's nuclear program, did not publish any works in recent years and did not give interviews. Amiri is thought to have defected to a Western intelligence organization.

Alimohammadi was also a non-resident researcher at the school of physics of the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (NB Pajouheshgah Daneshhayeh Bonyadi, also knows by its acronym IPM, which stands for the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics). Strangely, Alimohammadi was not a researcher at the school of particles and accelerators. Had he been, he may have attended a seminar with Professor John Hauptmann of Iowa State University. Hauptmann gave a talk on 'New ideas for big detectors in high energy physics' at Tehran's Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences on January 6, 2010, according to the institute's site. Would the State Department allow Hauptmann to give a talk there if the researchers were suspected of links to the nuclear program? Possible, but improbable. The instiute is run, by the way, by Mohammad Javad Larijani, regime apologist and brother of the Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani.

Despite the claims of official news outlets, Alimohammadi does not seem to have been a supporter of the current government. He is one of the 420 signatories of a statement in support of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's run for president. The statement, entitled 'The support of 420 professors of Tehran University and the school of medical sciences for Mir Hossein Mousavi,' was posted on the web site of Academic Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi on June 9, 2009, three days before the ill-fated election. (Screen capture of the statement to the right, with Alimohammadi's name highlighted).'The presidential election is one of the most important manifestations of the most fundamental human right, the right to determine one's fate,' the statement reads. 'We, [...]while respecting the other candidates, express our firm support for Mr. Engineer Mousavi.'

A blog which purports to be run by opposition supporters at UCLA stated that Alimohammadi had applied to spend a year researching at a university in Stockholm, Sweden. It is impossible to confirm this allegation at this time.

As for the supposed masterminds behind the plot... The Monarchist Association of Iran (NB Anjomaneh Padeshahi Iran or API) was created by a former actor, dubber, and film director Foroud Fouladvand. The group does not support the Pahlavi dynasty, but is nostalgic about Iran's former empire. Fouladvand disappeared under suspicious circumstances while in Turkey, near the Iran border, in 2007. Amnesty International gives an account here and believes that Fouladvand is being held in secret in a Tehran prison. Ever since, various individuals have claimed the mantle of leader and two competing web sites have been established.

The original API, based in London, says that both web sites, Tondar (NB Thunder) and Takavaraneh Tondar (NB Thunder Runners), are controlled by the Islamic regime's Intelligence Ministry. There is reason to believe these accusations. Tondar, for example, clearly states that Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani is an API member and that his alias is Bardia. Zamani is currently in prison in Iran and on trial for fomenting unrest after the disputed election of June 12.

The Takavaraneh Tondar web site is much more radical. It encourages armed resistance, highlights videos of rioters breaking public property, and even has pages explaining how to build bombs. (A screen capture of the bomb-building page can be seen to the right.) The site seems to be more an agent provocateur than a genuine opposition source of information.

It is Takavaraneh Tondar which issued a statement claiming responsibility for Alimohammadi's assassination. A screen capture of that statement, complete with celebratory fireworks next to a photo of Alimohammadi can be seen below:

State media in Iran quickly latched onto this claim of responsibility, although the original API in London denied the allegations.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance web site hacked following attack on Ahmadinejad's blog

(Updated, 9:30 AM GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010)

The web site of the Islamic Republic's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance was hacked in the late hours of Thursday, January 7, 2010.

The main titles on the home page were replaced with 'Hacked By DevilZ TM ... D3v1l Was Here !'

Friday morning the ministry's home page had been replaced by the following, which stated:

The electronic services of the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry I.R.I. (NB Islamic Republic of Iran)
This site is temporarily not accessible because of maintenance. Please try again later.

This follows a sustained attack on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's personal blog,, which has been blocked for the past two days. A Google search for 'Iranian presidency' returns the following result which states:

Your Ip is blocked
The maximum number of your request has been reached, Please try again later...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mother of young man sentenced to death expresses her anguish

The mother of a man sentenced to death by the Islamic regime's Revolutionary Court gave a poignant interview to the Voice of America's Newstalk program on Tuesday night, January 5, 2010. (Video and translation at the end of this report)

Ahmad Karimi, a young carpenter accused of being a ringleader in the post-election unrest in Iran and a member of the Anjomaneh Padeshahi (Monarchist Association), was sentenced to death on December 28, 2009, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency.

Judge Mohammad Mogheiseh, who presides the 28th branch of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, called Karimi a mohareb, an individual who fights against God, and delivered this verdict even though the young man was arrested before the presidential election of June 12. Karimi had been forced to testify against himself in the infamous show trials of the past months.

Judge Mohammad Mogheiseh, also known as Mogheisieh and Nasserian, was one of the tight circle of prosecutors and judges responsible for the mass executions of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s. He was prosecutor at Gohardasht and Evin prisons at the time and operated under the name Nasserian, according to sources who wish to remain anonymous.

The court informed Khalil Bahramian, Karimi's lawyer, of the death sentence. Bahramian is a prominent human rights lawyer and represented Karimi pro bono. Hamed Rouhinehad, another client of Bahramian, was sentenced to death in the same case in October. In an interview published on November 6, Bahramian said the following concerning his clients:

I have submitted papers to the country's high court [to appeal Rouhinejad's death sentence]. In the meetings I had with [Rouhinejad] in prison, I observed that he suffers from multiple sclerosis and both of his hands are almost paralyzed. After writing for a few minutes both his hands become completely useless and he has to wait for a while before resuming his writing. His right eye is blind. This individual is handicapped and is not able to engage in activities against the country or politics. [...] The verdict that was issued does not conform to the law and I believe that it was guided by politics. They brought them before the court alongside those accused of being involved in the post-election unrest. I believe that Mr. [Saeed] Mortazavi, the prosecutor at the time, acted as he usually does and tried to build a weighty scenario and engineer a trial to create an untrue picture in the minds of the Iranian people. These people had nothing to do with the post-election protests and were arrested before [those events]. I can clearly say that neither Mr. Ali Zamani (NB Another defendant in the case who was sentenced to death), nor my two clients were members or supporters of that organization (NB The Monarchist Association), nor did they even know about that organization. They were just three young men, and a small child, Mr. Zamani's child, who went to Iraq and planned to go abroad from there. Because of a lack of funds and other problems, [Rouhinejad] and Ahmad Karimi returned to Iran in coordination with the Intelligence Ministry and honestly told the authorities everything that had happened. [...] I hope that the high court judges, whose attitude in security cases so far has been to blindly confirm verdicts without reading the files, will not veer from their consciences, their God, and their beliefs and that they will not submit to the political climate. [I hope] that they will not issue a verdict to please a few individuals but for which they will have to answer tomorrow to the Iranian people and almighty God. (For an in-depth description in Farsi of the regime's bogus case against these individuals and others accused of fomenting violence in support of the Monarchist Association, please click here)

A translation follows the video:

Note: Without being disdainful in any way, it is worth mentioning that Mrs. Karimi has an accent from Azerbaijan province and employs a working-class syntax. I only point this out as class and politics are often mentioned in the same breath by some Iran experts who still maintain the fallacy that the Islamic regime has been a defender of the oppressed and that the opponents of the regime are middle-class Tehran residents.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
Mr. Ahmad Karimi is a young Iranian who is in prison. He has been sentenced to death. He was jailed before the [presidential] election. His mother is on the line with us. Greetings. Mrs. Karimi, why was your son arrested?

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
What was that?

Host Jamshid Chalangi:
Why was your son arrested?

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
Because, dear sir, a man fooled my son. He told him, Let's go abroad for work. Can you hear me?

Host Jamshid Chalangi:
Yes, we can hear you, dear Mrs. Karimi.

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
A man made a proposal, said, Let's go abroad to work. He left with my son. They went there and weren't able to find work. When his daddy died, [my son] came back to Iran. He came back with Intelligence officials. Then he came here and identified himself to Intelligence. Do you have the sound of my voice, Mr. Haji (NB Someone who has gone on the Hajj pilgrimage)?

Host Jamshid Chalangi:
Yes, we do. Don't worry. Please go on.

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
He identified himself and [they] said, You're free. Go and put your head down and live your life. After six or seven months, they raided the house at midnight, it was before the elections. They raided our house and I felt ill and my child felt ill. They ransacked our house and didn't find anything. They didn't find anything and took my child away. For two months, no one gave me any answers wherever I went. Two months. After two months, my child called and said, Mother, I am all right. I asked, Where are you? He said, I can't tell you. He said, I can't tell you. After hat call, I didn't know where to go. They don't give any response. I go to the prison and they don't tell me anything.

Host Jamshid Chalangi:
You mean you didn't see Ahmad?

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
No, they wouldn't give any visits. For five, six months, they didn't give me any answers. After five, six months, Mr. Bahramian... We got Mr. Bahramian as a lawyer. Mr. Bahramian spoke to them and I went with him and I got one visit. They broke our door. He was my breadwinner.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
How was your child when you saw him? You may observe things with your maternal instincts...

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
He's not bad. He's a bit better. But we're in bad health. I have heart problems, Mr. Haji. I swear to God, I can't stand this. What has my child done? I don't know what he's done. They should give a reason. He's been on trial for two months. After two months of not giving any answers, they took him twice to the examining magistrate. Now they tell me, Your child will be executed. (begins weeping) What should I do? Where should I go, sir? What must I do, Mr. Haji, please God... Wherever I go, no one gives any answers. The Islamic Republic has taken away my bread. He was my breadwinner. My child is innocent.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
So Ahmad was your family's breadwinner?

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
Yes, yes, he's my family's breadwinner. I swear to God, my son-in-law is paying for me now. What should I do? Where can I find money?

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
Have you seen anyone to save your child from execution?

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
We just got a lawyer. He's human rights. I had no money to get a lawyer. I had no money to get a lawyer. I went to the court twice and they don't respond to me. They give no answers wherever I go. Wher must I go? He's my child. They fooled my child. Mr. Haji, honorable sir, they got a confession from my child. They fooled him. They said, Say these things and we'll give you freedom tomorrow or the day after. We'll free you. He said those things and they gave him a death sentence. I swear to God, I didn't know. The kids are saying, Your child has a death sentence. (starts weeping) What am I to do? My child has been executed (sic). What am I to do? Me and my family's breadwinner... Where should I go, what should I do? Is this the Islamic Republic? Is this law? Is this a government? What am I to do? (weeps) My child has been sentenced to death. What has he done for them to give him a death sentence? His daddy's not here to look into this, he has no older brother to look into this.What can I do?

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
What do you ask of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Mr. Ali Khamenei, dear mother?

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
Who's going to take me to Khamenei?

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
He may hear what you're saying here. Or government officials or other officials may hear what you're saying here.

Ahmad Karimi's mother:
I don't know. They won't let me see Mr. Khamanei. The President... the Islamic Republic has taken away my bread, I swear to God. What should I do, where should I go? Why are they executing my child? What has he done? I don't know what he's done. He was arrested before the election. So someone told him, Let's go abroad to work and make money. They left and didn't succeed. His father died and he came back. Intelligence and officials knew he came back. He didn't do anything illegal. He doesn't know about politics. We don't know about politics, I swear to God. He's a carpentry laborer. Is this life? You just destroy someone like this. I swear to God, I have heart problems right now. I have no money to see a doctor. I can't get any money... What should I do, where should I go? He worked as a carpenter and brought money home. What am I to do? Tell me what's going to happen to me, government! The government must release my child. He's innocent.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

CLOSE-UP - Medical center rejects body of protester run over by security forces

Much of the information coming out of Iran is in the form of footage uploaded to the Internet without the benefit of any description or explanation. Each installment in the Close-up series will provide an in-depth analysis of a single video or a series of videos covering one event.

These videos show a female protester just after she was run over by a car and then her body being rejected by a medical center in Tehran on December 27. Her corpse is crammed onto the back seats of a silver car and driven away.

The videos
Video 1: The body is brought out of the medical center on a stretcher:

Video 2: The face of the dead protester is glimpsed as she is placed in the car:

Video 3: The same scene is filmed from an upstairs window across the street:

Video 4: Most probably showing the same protester just after she was run over by a car.

The circumstances

Frame 1 (0:12) from video 1 shows a sign over the building's entrance. It reads, 'Ammar Day-and-Night Medical Center:'

Ammar is an emergency center connected to the Tehran municipality. It is featured among the network of medical centers of the Sherkateh Shahreh Salem Tehran (Healthy City Company of Tehran), overseen by Tehran City Hall. Ammar medical center is marked with a red arrow in the screen capture below:

Ammar medical center is situated at 419, Behboudi Street, Tehran:

View Ammar medical center, Tehran in a larger map

The date of the videos is almost definitely Ashura, December 27, 2009. The Iranian opposition took advantage of the commemoration of the 7th-Century martyrdom of Imam Hossein to stage protest rallies. Footage of the rallies and the violence of the security forces is widely available on YouTube. At the 2:16 mark on video 3, we hear the cameraman say, 'It took 1,400 years for us to see the real Ashura!' At the 2:37 mark, the crowd begins chanting 'Mourning, mourning, today is a day of mourning,' before loudly shouting, 'Death to the dictator!'

In a separate confirmation of this information, the following text appeared on forums and YouTube after video 2 was posted:
On Ashura day, I had to go towards Behboudi Street. It was around 1 PM, if I'm not mistaken. I saw a black Sonata drive quickly up Behboudi from Azadi Street (NB One of the protest sites in Tehran) and heard a woman screaming. I saw it go towards Ammar Yasser medical center. I made my way over there and saw them bringing a woman out of the car. They said that a police van had run over her on Azadi Street. Then the Sonata left. They brought a stretcher out of the medical center and took the body in. It was clear that she was dead because her limbs were broken and she wasn't moving. They said that she was a 37- or 38-year-old woman and that no one was accompanying her. This is the same woman who was among the martyrs of Ashura and who has not been identified yet. I saw her face. I'm even in the images that you posted. They brought the body out five minutes later and said stop a car and take her to the hospital. They said that they couldn't keep her. We said, Don't you have an ambulance? I think they lied and said no. Finally, a silver Samand (NB Automobile made by Iran Khodro), you can see it in the video, accepted to take her. They managed with great difficulty to put the body in the car and take it away. 

A statement released by the Islamic Republic's police last week confirmed that 8 individuals had died during the protests on Ashura day. The police added that two dead individuals, a 31-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman, had yet to be identified. The official statement claimed that the woman had 'either fallen off a bridge or had an accident.'

Video 4, which was posted days after the others, almost definitely shows the same woman, whose corpse was rejected by the medical center, just after she was run over by a police vehicle.

The following is a translation of the comments on the video:
Man: Take her over there. There's a van.
Woman: (inaudible) I don't know her. (NB Corresponds to the account above which states that the woman was not accompanied by anyone.)
Man: You see what these sons of whores are like?
Man: Cover her. What did they do to her?
Man: He ran over her with two wheels, the bastard!
Man: Let's take her before they come back.
Man: She's crushed and you're bringing water? Bring a car and take her away.
Man: Pick her up.
Woman: Wrap her in her coat and pick her up.
Man: Don't move her. She might have broken bones all over. Miss, I'm a doctor. Don't move her.

A comparison between the face of the dead protester in video 2 (frame 2, below) and the partially covered face of the injured protester in video 4 (frames 3-5, below) is inconclusive, although the hair color and thin eyebrows seem to match. However we catch a fleeting glimpse of the dead woman's striped green shirt in video 2 (frame 6, below)and this also matches the shirt of the injured protester leading this observer to conclude that the two videos almost certainly are of the same woman:

Footage of two police vehicles plowing through protesters and killing at least one person on Vali Asr Square has received broad media attention:

However, the woman shown in videos 1 to 4 was killed kilometers to the west of Vali Asr Square. This seems to indicate that far from being an accident or the work of zealous renegades, running over protesters has become the newest officially sanctioned tactic of security forces.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Makhmalbaf: Secrets of Khamenei's life - part 3 - His wealth

This is part 3 of a 4-part series.
For part 1 - His interests, please click here.
For part 2 - His entourage and Household operations, please click here.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, internationally renowned filmmaker and the Iranian opposition's main spokesman abroad since the disputed presidential election, posted an article, entitled 'The secrets of Khamenei's life,' on his web site on Monday, December 28, 2009. Makhmalbaf has been living in exile in Paris. The original article in Farsi can be read here.

The following is a translation of the third part of the article. My notes are in italics.

Note: The term 'beyteh rahbari' has been translated as the Leader's Household in the broadest sense, which includes Ali Khamenei's personal office and inner circle.

The Secrets of Khamenei's Life - Part 3

Mohsen Makhmalbaf

I compiled this text which is based on information relayed to me by former staff members of the Leader's Household and the Intelligence Ministry who have escaped abroad.

Khamenei's residences
[Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah] Khomeini's residence in Jamaran (NB Neighborhood in northern Tehran) was 200 square meters. Khamenei's main residence on Pasteur Street measures 1,200 square meters. (This 1,200-square-meter residence is the only one that everyone knows about).

Khomeini only lived in a small house in Ghom and the Jamaran prayer complex, but Khamenei uses all of the Shah's palaces (NB Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, deposed in the Islamic Revolution of 1979) which have not been turned into museums, and has even added to them.

Nevertheless, Iranian children still read in their schoolbooks that the Shah's teaspoons were made of gold and that the revolution took place because of his aristocratic manners.

A 5,000-square-meter anti-nuclear protective bunker has been built under Khamenei's Pasteur Street residence, at a depth of 60 meters. The elevator alone cost $5 million. A protective bunker has also been built under the Vakil Abad Palace in Mashhad. But these bunkers cannot prevent a revolution. If a revolution occurs in Iran, Khamenei will escape to Syria, otherwise to Russia.

Khamenei's logistics: The following means are exclusively at the disposal of the Leader's Household:
One Airbus airplane, for his personal travels
Two Boeing 707s, one for the family's travels, the other for bodyguards
Five Falcons, two for his own travels, one for Mojtaba (NB His influential second son), two for the rest of the family
Five helicopters, two for Khamenei's travels, one for Mojtaba, two for the rest of the family
Although helicopters are banned over Tehran, the sound of helicopters can often be heard in northern Tehran.
Six helicopter pads. In Tehran: Mehrabad, Abbas Abad, next to Esteghlal Hotel, Manzariyeh, and one each in Ghom and Lavasan.
17 bullet-proof vehicles, each one at a cost of $400,000
1,200 other vehicles

Those who run the Leader's Household
[The late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali] Montazeri was initially supposed to succeed Khomeini. His denunciation of the mass executions of political prisoners (NB In the late 1980s) gained him Khomeini's disfavor and he was not only dismissed, but also placed under house arrest. Of course, some clerics also played a role in overthrowing Montazeri (NB as deputy leader and heir-apparent) and replacing him with Khamenei.

When Khomeini was dying, some wanted his son Ahmad to replace him. Ahmad did not seek such a role. Khomeini would say, 'Make whoever you want Leader after me, but do not do me the disservice of naming Ahmad Leader. Don't let the people say that Khomeini's son inherited [his position] just like in a monarchy.' Some people wanted to seize the opportunity to sideline Montazeri from power and replace him with Khamenei. Among these people were Reyshahri (NB Former Intelligence Minister, described in greater detail in part 2), Mohammadi Golpayegani, Hejazi (NB Asghar Hejazi, chief of staff), and Taeb (NB Probably Hojjatoleslam Hossein Taeb, described in greater detail in part 2), who at that time was the interrogator of Mehdi Hashemi (NB Brother of Montazeri's son-in-law. Mehdi Hashemi was executed by the regime in 1987 after a complex frame-up. Most observers believe Hashemi was executed because he opposed and divulged regime contacts with the US administration which were part of the Iran-Contra scandal.) Upon Khomeini's death and Khamenei's accession to the Leadership, all of these individuals became the key figures of Khamenei's office. These individuals opposed the proposal to create a leadership council after Khomeini's death, a council that was to have included ayatollahs Golpayegani, Ardebili, and Khamenei.

The main people who run the Leader's Household are Khamenei himself, his son Mojtaba, and then Hejazi, Mohammadi Golpayegani, and Vahid (NB Golpayegani's executive deputy). The first tier of the Household's staff number 500 individuals, the second tier 2,000, and the third tier 10,000. In reality, it is not the government, Majlis, or judiciary which run the country, but rather it is the Leader's Household that controls everything. The Leader's Household has numerous buildings across Iran.

Khamenei's view of the Basij
Khamenei was the head of the Islamic Republic Party (NB Created 1979, disbanded 1987). He believes that the Basij can be his party, a party which is also an army. Critics who speak of a 'barracks party' are referring to this issue. [Khamenei] has built himself a military party with the government and people's money.

Khamenei's main businesses
Sugar and rice imports, BMW automobiles, production of sugar cubes and sugar under the name of the Imam Reza Shrine authorities (NB An immensely wealthy conglomerate based in Mashhad, involved in businesses from pizza parlors to the rug trade. Resembles the so-called 'bonyads' or foundations in its seemingly religious facade behind which large portions of the Iranian economy are controlled.), investments in Dubai, Germany, Iraq, South Africa, Venezuela, Lebanon, and China.


In order to control his various businesses, Khamenei maintains the same people in key positions for very long periods. For example, Majid Hedayatzadeh who was in charge of selling Iran's oil for 30 years (Hedayatzadeh was replaced last year after Nourizadeh revealed his identity) (NB Majid Hedayatzadeh Razavi ran the Naft Iran Inter-Trade Company, better known as NICO, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. NICO is the only body other than the international division of the Iranian national company that can sell Iranian oil. Hedayatzadeh was injured in the bomb explosion at the Islamic Republic Party HQ in 1981. He was replaced last year by Mohammad Javad Asemipour.) Another individual is Mr. Souri (NB Mohammad Souri), who has been in charge of transporting Iranian oil for the past 30 years. Khamenei named these two individuals to their posts in 1982. [Former President] Hashemi Rafsanjani, [former President Mohammad] Khatami, and even [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad wanted to replace them, but were overruled by Khamenei. These two worked with the Leader's Household in the following manner: Hedayatzadeh would sell the barrels of oil, Souri would have the oil transported, and the commission would be transferred to Khamenei's bank account. In the past 30 years, Iran has sold about $700 billion worth of oil and the commissions from the sales and transport have been paid into Khamenei's account through these two individuals. The third person whom Khamenei brought into the Oil Ministry was his own brother, Hassan Khamenei, who was initially a member of the censorship team at the Islamic Guidance Ministry, but was brought to the Oil Ministry to keep an eye on Khamenei's profits.

Khamenei's palaces
The following pictures obtained through Google show Khamenei's palaces (NB Makhmalbaf's web site does not provide photos of all the palaces. Where possible, I've also used Google Maps in addition to the photos provided by Makhmalbaf in order to allow readers to zoom in and out).
1. The palaces at Lavasanat which are used by Khamenei, Mojtaba, and Mohammadi Golpayegani (NB Photo not provided by Makhmalbaf. The following is a satellite image of the village of Lavasanat, which is just to the east of Latyan Dam mentioned below. I cannot situate the palace.)

View Lavasanat in a larger map

2. Jamshidiyeh Palace, former palace of Ardeshir Zahedi (NB Former Iranian ambassador to the United States in the time of the Shah. Makhmalbaf does not provide a photo. The following is a satellite image of Jamshidieh Park. I cannot situate Jamshidieh Palace.) (where Khamenei goes mountain hiking)

View Jamshidieh in a larger map

3. Feish Ghola Palace, next to the Caspian Sea. (NB Makhmalbaf does not provide a photo)

4. The palaces of Malek Abad in Mashhad with 300,000 square meters of grounds.

View Malek Abad - Mashhad in a larger map

5. Niavaran Palace (NB Khamenei's palace is situated to the east of the Niavaran Palace Complex and Museum, the former residence of the late Mohammad Reza Shah.)

View Khamenei's Niavaran Palace in a larger map

6. The palaces of Latyan Dam, which belonged to the Shah

View Latyan Dam Palace in a larger map

Khamenei's wealth
Khamenei became president in 1981.

In 1982, he put Hedayat (NB Hedayatzadeh, mentioned above) and Souri in charge of selling oil and they were not replaced until 2006.

In 1983, he put Mohsen Rafighdoust in charge of purchasing arms (NB Former Minister of the IRGC in the 1980s and a former head of the Foudation of the Oppressed or Bonyadeh Mostazafan. According to his own accounts, available at the Islamic Revolution Document Center, he assassinated a man in the streets with a bludgeon on June 5, 1963.).

In 1991, he became aware of the value of land and through the Enforcement Staff of the Imam's Decree and the Foundation of the Oppressed (NB Setadeh Ejraie Farmaneh Imam and Bonyadeh Mostazafan respectively are another two examples of official bodies which operate vast business empires. The Mostazafan Foundation is particularly involved in military companies and procurement, and is considered one of the largest commercial entities in Iran. For a look at the long list of companies which the foundation is willing to admit that it controls click here.) he started making a land grab.

From 1984, [his brother] Hassan Khamenei oversaw Hedayat and Souri at the Oil Ministry.

In the Defense Ministry, Mohammadi Golpayegani oversaw Rafighdoust and Heydari.

Mr. Lolachian was put in charge of business connected to land and he subsequently became related to Khamenei. (NB Bazaar merchant Lolachian's daughter is married to Khamenei's son Meysam).

From 1997, he allowed his children to engage in business.

In 2005, he stopped his personal business activities and began getting money directly from the government, the same funds which get lost in the country's budget. During the election, [Etemad Melli Party chief Mehdi] Karroubi asked Ahmadinejad what happened to a certain $1 billion?

The total wealth of Khamenei and his family: $36 billion.

Khamenei's personal wealth: $30 billion.

His family's wealth: $6 billion.

$22 billion of the $36 billion were kept in Iran in the form of currency. During the post-election unrest, it was decided to move a major portion of this money to Syria by way of Turkey. The shipment was exposed and confiscated in Turkey. Khamenei was worried that the money would be blocked in Iran if the regime were to collapse. The Iranian government is striving to retrieve this money from the Turkish government. There is no doubt that this money was confiscated in Turkey. The question is why this money was not transported to Syria by air. Perhaps it was feared that the airplane and its cargo would be identified and destroyed.

The rest of the cash: $3.5 billion, of which $1.5 billion is in diamonds, $1 billion is in gold, and the rest is in dollars.

$10 billion of the $36 billion are in bank accounts:
$1 billion in Russia

$1 billion in Syria
$1 billion in China
$1 billion in Venezuela
$2 billion in South Africa
$2 billion in London
$2 billion in other countries.

Apart from the $22 billion in cash and $10 billion in bank accounts, the rest of the assets are in the form of land and stocks:
$2 billion in stocks in world markets
$1 billion in South Africa
$500 million in Syria
$500 million in Venezuela

Where have Khamenei's $30 billion come from?
$12 billion from commissions on oil sales
$2 billion from land
$6 billion from the arms business
$10 billion from Ahmadinejad in the past 4 years

Khamenei's religious businesses
Khamenei shares and controles all the income and investments of the Imam Reza Shrine authorities in Mashhad, the Massoumeh Shrine authorities in Ghom, the Shahreh Rey Shrine authorities in southern Tehran. Tabasi (NB Ayatollah Abbas Vaez Tabasi, headof the Imam Reza Shrine authorities) and Reyshahri (NB Describes in greater detail in previous parts of this report) are his partners in Mashhad and Shahreh Rey respectively.

This is part 3 of a series.
For part 1 - His interests, please click here.
For part 2 - His entourage and Household operations, please click here.

(Soon: Part 4 - The financial and political activities of his family)