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June 15, 2009



There's an 8.5 minute YouTube video over at Sully's place - fresh off someone's camera - of people massed around a monumental arch (probably famous, but I don't know its name). They fill the ground from horizon to horizon, chanting and singing. Really, a joyous gathering.

At one point a helicopter flies overhead, and everyone cheers. Wonder if it was a traffic reporter helicopter :)

Hopes, prayers, wishes for peace, justice and freedom to the people of Iran. What a courageous thing.

To add a little more analytical response to this and some of the posts on Iran, particularly those that cite pre-election polls to support the possibility that the election results are valid.

True, we just don't know now. But pre-vote polls with a huge group of undecideds aren't too reliable. By way of example, just last week in Virginia, where I live, a gubnetorial candidate who was way behind in pre-election polls that had lots of undecideds surged to a huge win. Maybe in Iran, like Virginia, the undecideds broke heavily to one candidate.

Also, what is happening in the streets seems hard to reconcile with a landslide reelection of an incumbent popular enough to get over 60% of the vote. The public reaction to this is usually either pro-incumbent celebration or apathy.

Instead, riot police were dispatched immediately to break up demonstrations, and now hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to protest despite grave threats that protests would be ruthlessly and violently crushed.

I know this isn't dispositive, but sometimes the truth is exactly what appears to be obvious.

The video CatsyL mentioned was posted on election day. It's here (on the assumption that YouTube's servers are more robust than the Atlantic's).

There are reports of gunfire at the Tehran demonstration.

Many pictures here, from a Tehran local. (Takes a while to load.)

As one of the commenters noted: “The first one of these shots looks like the
photo of the year.”

Charlie's point is correct as far as it goes, with the rather major difference that there were numerous polls of the Virginia Democratic primary leading up to election day, all of which showed strong upward movement by Creigh Deeds in the last two weeks.

For the Iranian election, there was exactly one independent poll that has been reported, and its results are compatible with a wide range of election outcomes.

The numbers announced for Ahmedinejad are implausible in their uniformity across provinces and in the margin of victory. The ballot-transit and counting process was completely opaque, which has not been the case in the last several presidential elections.

Crowd estimate from twitter (via Huffpo):

confounded: BBC reporter Lyne said "this is not thousands or 10s of thousands, we are looking at 1 to 2 million people" #iranelection absolutely true.ate

Having been a participant at more than one demonstration of over 100,000 that was reported as "tens of thousands", viewing the footage linked by hilzoy convinces me that this one is definitely in "hundreds of thousands" territory.

Millions, probably not. That really could only happen if there is free movement into Tehran from other cities and the countryside.

Are there reports of the police/army stopping vehicles coming into Tehran? That would be routine if they're working to keep the demo to controllable size.

Hilzoy: reports by whom, passed along where?






Other tweets claiming Basiji police have been killed by protesters.

Although I’m thinking that twitter is just now the fastest way to spread rumors… Still, things stand to get very ugly very quickly here.

OCS: Yes, I am taking twitter stuff with large grains of salt. That said, it's on MSM now.

Dear Hilzoy: Just a few comments.

Sadly, these demonstrations won't mean much if the men with the guns don't care beans about them. To the regime in Iran, sovereignty does not derive from the people, but from God. I doubt the Shia mullahs and the Supreme Leader will be moved.

Don't forget to read the articles and commentary about Iran at NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE.


Sadly, these demonstrations won't mean much if the men with the guns don't care beans about them.

if they remember what put them in power, they'll care.

Um, Sean, based on their track record I am very strongly disinclined towards expecting good work from the NRO or believing claims made there. If you have seen something particularly interesting there, you might consider highlighting it, rather than having a weird non-hyperlinked invocation of their name. But a blanket endorsement? Not so much.

Don't forget to read the articles and commentary about Iran at NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE.

not a chance.

Sean M. Brooks has the exact same IP address as the troll.

Warren and cleek. Your loss.


Re Slarti @ 2:28: Sean M. Brooks and janiced (from a few days ago): wide-eyed innocence as a performance art.

Does anyone else find it bizarre that in the pictures from Tehran riot police flak vests and shields say 'POLICE' in English? Do we have the same impact on the market for security gear worldwide that Texas has on the school textbook market?

Yes, Nell: I noticed that too. Presumably, riot police are going to be recognized as riot police anywhere, whether their inscriptions are in Farsi, English, Chinese or whatever. The "language" of batons beating heads is pretty universal. However, I'd guess IF even that IS "English", their gear is probably of British (French?) origin: IIRC, there hasn't been a lot of US-Iranian trade of late.

PS: Thanks, OCSteve: those are great pix.

In Turkey, they say 'Polis', which is fun for those of us who read Aristotle. ;)

Though that's not nearly as wonderful as the booths in the Netherlands that say "Telefoon" ...

@Jay C: I wasn't under the illusion that they were U.S. sales to Iran. My question was: how could a city the size of Tehran not be a big enough customer for the supplier to put text on the equipment in Farsi?

An ambulance in another picture has both English and Farsi versions of 'Ambulance' on the front and 'EMS' on the side.

Both riot equipment and ambulances British-made? I'm just surprised, didn't think trade between Iran and UK was so extensive.

Nell: Does anyone else find it bizarre that in the pictures from Tehran riot police flak vests and shields say 'POLICE' in English?

No more so than the Calvin Klein underwear sticking out of the protester’s blue jeans in one of the pix I linked earlier. ;)

As Jay C touched on – Iran has long been France’s largest trading partner in the ME. It’s spelled exactly the same in French: police.

Thanks Nell for your clarification of my post, and I agree with your assessment of the pre-vote polls in Virginia and Iran. I didn't mean to suggest that the polls were of equal reliability, but did think that the high number of undecideds in Iran would help explain an election result differing from poll reports.

Today's news of a shooting death is a terrible development.

{palm smacks forehead}

French. Of course. I didn't process that in reading Jay C's reply.

The ambulance, though? EMS is English acronym.

And, though I realize the Calvin Klein bit was snark: CK stuff, real and knockoff, is sold worldwide to individuals, sold as offered. Governments buy riot gear, in bulk, and would seem to have a little more say on how it's marked.

Good question Nell. Looking at some stills – it’s a Mercedes Benz with EMS on the side and the typical “Ambulance” spelled backwards across the front.

However, Google translate claims that “ambulance” in French is “ambulance” as well. It doesn’t do EMS – “medical” is very similar but “emergency” is “d'urgence”. So I agree that EMS doesn’t seem to make sense even for French.

Check this though. Iranian Ambulance manufacturer in Tehran – still says Ambulance. (Although they are obviously marketing to English speakers there so that makes sense.)

There are more major languages in Iran than just Persian/Farsi. Perhaps Ambulance/EMS is just most recognizable across them all. I think many other languages have incorporated English words for technical/medical terms.

Governments buy riot gear, in bulk, and would seem to have a little more say on how it's marked.

Right, but it wouldn't surprise me if Iran was happy to pay less for non-customized riot gear, and to not bother with the expense of re-decaling ambulances (that might have been acquired second hand). It's pretty clear what you're looking at in either case, so why bother?

Just another little artifact of lower crude oil prices...

"Millions, probably not."

I have a fairly practiced eye at eyeballing crowds, and there's no possible way the video in the post shows anywhere remotely near a million people.

The largest flashes of crowd are near the beginning, and I'd say that what's shown couldn't be more than 380,000, absolute max. Probably more like 150,000-180,000 or so, I think. Conceivably only around 125,000, but probably not less.

How many more people might be in off-camera side-streets, I have no idea, of course. And how much further back the crowd runs, I also have no idea. Maybe that's what the reporter was referring to.

I can only eyeball what's in the picture. But the line of people across seems to average around 35-55 or so. And the line going backwards doesn't visibly seem to be more than 60 or so. So it looks to me, at least, for what it's worth.

CBS is reporting that the crowd “was more than five miles long” but they are saying “hundreds of thousands”.

I’ve read a few places that BBC Persia is claiming between 1.5 and 2 million but haven’t found the cite. (I assume it’s in Farsi…)

Steve Clemons says BBC Persia also reports nine killed after the demo, but no English-language source confirms that.

The Basij were firing on demonstrators who set fires outside their compound (photos on the Boston Globe site support this). The Washington Post story and and other reports say those protestors were trying to storm the compound. Provocateurs? I find it pretty hard to imagine that any group of unarmed people, even people whose religious beliefs place a high role on martyrdom, would try to storm the compound of a repressive, heavily armed militia. Particularly in the context of Mousavi's appeal for calm, and the very calm character of the march.

More sockpuppeting rectified. Same guy posted a few minutes later as "Franz F." on a couple of other threads; all went into the spam-bucket.

NIAC blog says that protesters set the fires and stormed the gates after Basij fired on demonstrators, killing one and wounding several others. There is video.

If protestors really did storm the compound, the BBC Persia report might well be right. I hope not.

The video isn't available for copyright restrictions.

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