12/27/09 - 12:52pm
by Chas Danner

Iran, Ashura, in a Nutshell

09/18/09 - 4:40pm
by Chas Danner

Rooftop Project – back in action

I’ve been bogged down with the kinds of profound life changes that (hopefully decent) literature is based on, therefore TRP has been out of date for a while – but happy to report that Iran is still going strong regardless of my updating or not, and I found a bunch of rooftop videos to get up from the last month – some which people haven’t seen yet as far as I can tell – and while I am still missing tonight’s video (and I’m sure there will be dozens after such large and indicative protests today) – it is as up to date as I could get it – please let me know if you’ve seen any I’ve missed.

Stay Green Iran..


09/18/09 - 12:40pm
by Chas Danner

Still Simmering

Ecstatic to see today’s protests in Iran. Proud as hell.

08/14/09 - 1:24pm
by Chas Danner

Great Idea

People recording their own mock-confessions to ridicule the “confessions” from protesters Iranian State TV likes to broadcast.

See more here:

08/1/09 - 8:10pm
by Chas Danner

Subtle Support

A while back I made a little fun of the idea of the Iranian Government still trying to encourage tourists to visit Iran during the post-election turmoil. The site I linked to was Irpedia, from the “Tourism Industry Association of Iran”

At some point since then – some changes to their site:

and as the page title:

and in the footer:

I’m not 100% sure that this site is a government run enterprise, but either way they seem to have made some pro-opposition design modifications and I think it’s a wonderful example of how deep the protest psyche has spread, even when it expresses itself in miniature…  Stay green Irpedia.

hat tip: commenter Mêhran

07/24/09 - 6:51am
by Chas Danner

State of the Allah-o Akbars

Via Lara Setrakian who contributes a lot of reporting from sources inside Iran, a letter that references the current state of the Allah-o Akbars there now more than month after the election.

There are still shouts of Allah-o-Akbar at 10:15 every night, which last until 10:30, but they have significantly decreased. I do it with my cousins every now and then. This is how it goes: we go to the roof once we hear one or two yells at around 10:15. Then we sit by a wall so that no one can see us and we yell. Allah-o-Akbar starts off the yelling. And it’s cool because you can hear it from all around, but you can’t see anyone since there is a rumor that snipers go on top of rooftops to shoot anyone they see doing it. Then someone starts it off and the yelling switches to “Marg bar dictator” (Death to the dictator). Then again someone else changes it to “Ya Hossein,” with another person responding “Mirhossein” (This is obviously the name of Mousavi).

The past two nights have seen no new videos of the chanting, and even when the videos appear we still don’t know how widespread the chants are across Iran. Hopefully more video will continue to surface, and from multiple sources, but there is no question that it is indeed probably dangerous to continue to chant… Follow along @ The Rooftop Project

Hat Tip: Dudi

07/24/09 - 6:00am
by Chas Danner

the Power of Mom

8:30am update: Transcript added below the jump

Parvin Fahimi, the mother of Sohrab Aarabi, was reportedly told by the Iranian authorities not to make a scene at her 19 year old son’s funeral a few weeks ago. Plainclothes officers then attended to hear her ignore the warning and rage against the death of her son in a gut wrenching speech that ended with “No one can stop me! No One!” Since then no one has, and she seems to be daring them to try. Parvin FahimiWithin days of the funeral she was visited by Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard (another powerful woman in her own right) and footage of their meeting was made widely available across the internet. She also spoke with BBC Persian that week, a satellite network who’s broadcast the Iranian authorities routinely try to scramble.

Yesterday Parvin resurfaced to meet with the Tehran City Council and spoke at length about her ordeal, asking why her son was killed and who killed him (Videos: Part One & Part Two – transcript below). Her outspoken criticism of the circumstances of her son’s death may be setting her up for a dangerous confrontation with the regime, but with the attention she has drawn it might be very difficult for them to try silencing her without risking an even greater public relations disaster. It is reasonable to assume that if she were to be arrested she would instantly become one of the most famous prisoners in the country, and critical international attention would quickly focus on her captors, probably even resulting in a solid media hit.

Americans will remember a few years ago when another mom, Cindy Sheehan, spent her every waking moment stalking President Bush (W) over the death of her son in the Iraq War. She became the effective face of the anti-war movement for much of the country. While it remains to be seen how the grief-powered courage of Parvin Fahimi will play out, she should be watched closely by the international media, and if they’re smart the opposition inside Iran will work to raise her profile as high as they can. One mom might not be able to bring down a government, but this one seems like she might be willing to try. Mothers of murdered children simply have nothing left to lose.

***Fahimi was also already a member of an activist group called Mothers for Peace, a group of Iranian mothers who have spoken out in the past about the danger of Iran’s nuclear ambitions***

THERE'S MORE…..click.here…………

07/21/09 - 5:34am
by Chas Danner

PEN Discussion

Went to this wonderful panel last week here in NYC – and now PEN has put it up on YouTube which means everyone can see it. I mainly went to get a look at Roger Cohen in person as I have very much admired his work on Iran over the past month, but I was also very happy to hear the thoughts of Karim and Haleh as well. In particular look at how tiny Haleh is and then think about the fact that she, in her late sixties, spent 105 days in solitary confinement in Iran a few years ago.

07/17/09 - 9:43am
by Chas Danner

YouTube Chaos and Etiquette

Random vent: It’s fantastic to see everybody out in the street again today in Tehran. It’s also great to see to everybody then coming home with their 12-30 second cell phone videos, cranking up their anti-filter software, and uploading to YouTube. And it’s wonderful to see so many people on Twitter and Facebook and especially YouTube paying close attention.


When you are looking for new video like I often do on a day like today (and I’ve actually gotten exceptionally good at looking for new video) the unnecessary noise gets problematic when everybody with a YouTube channel and a downloader of some kind feels the need to rip and repost every single video they find on the site, like their 121 subscribers depend on them for all the footage they can find. Now this is not to discount the hard work that many Iran specific YouTube users put in compiling and reposting, etc. But I wish people would follow a guideline of *any* kind – for instance always copying over the source link from where you got the file, also copying over every detail included with the original video, and finally – just perhaps – maybe not ripping and reposting something that is already on YouTube with an accurate description, unless you have added to it somehow. There are now tons of videos up with no description, no context, and this makes it much much harder to tell the overall story when for all you know the video is two years old, and somebody got a little ambitious with a random link they found.

Now today I put up a compilation of seven videos in which I did not source each one in the description, so I’m a hypocrite – but I do feel like I added something to them by making it easier for one person to see seven videos of the same day and event, instead of weeding through the dozen duplicates of each of those seven videos to try and find out what happened. Or to save another blog some real estate when they want to post video from today.

People I think get a little too amped up “collecting” without context, without foresight, without an overall citizen-journalist sense of trying to present in a cohesive narrative. Cutting down the clutter makes my life and the lives of the other people trying to cover this story a lot easier too. And finally, what is also lost is that it’s easier for a video to go viral if there is only one copy of it and it rack up stats, favorites, and comments and can then climb the charts – even with news like Iran.

07/16/09 - 10:09am
by Chas Danner

Poem for The Rooftops Suite

A fourth poem has been added to the suite! It was recorded the night of June 21st and has only recently emerged. I once again had the help of some wonderful Iranian’s to help me translate, after which I titled it: “Let Us Not Forget”  And even though it has been a few weeks since it was recorded it’s still very compelling and quite relevant to what we’ve seen this week. (Read this for some more background on the other poem videos) So without further ado – I’m excited to announce that here are all four Poems for the Rooftops of Iran together for the first time – and there may even be a fifth (and definitely final this time)

Click here to jump right to the new one, or head down and browse all four in chronological order…

THERE'S MORE…..click.here…………

07/16/09 - 2:55am
by Chas Danner

The Sohrab Effect

Perhaps there are no protests in the streets during the day, or at least none that we are able to see. But where Sohrab lived people were apparently in the streets last night singing and chanting.

There are multiple reports that there as many as a hundred or more bodies still in the morgues of Tehran, which means hundreds of family members still don’t know if their loved one is alive or dead, their pressurized worry and confusion undoubtedly now close to breach. When the bodies are identified there could be hundreds of small funerals, hundreds of unforgettable speeches by livid and distraught mothers, hundreds of neighborhood blocks where candles are lit and chanting comes down from the rooftops to the street.

What started with Neda at her moment of death will now continue one by one with each hidden-away corpse, each family in a government office with a stack of gruesome photographs, each unstoppable mother in grief, each living snapshot of each dead child on a poster, a blog, a foreign newspaper…. one by one the logs of revolution are buried under the nervous eyes of plainclothes officers, yet still they are set ablaze. There is a reason genocidal killers use mass graves; it is how you remove the emotional ammunition provided by the mourning of individuals. In a place like Iran, even by word of mouth, even without the funerals themselves… each death has its consequence. Imagine hundreds of these videos exploding onto YouTube in the coming weeks….

How can they stop them all?

07/15/09 - 12:06am
by Chas Danner

New June 15th

So I have swapped out the June 15th Allah-o Akbar with a new video, one that currently has only 67 views on YouTube and is not only one of the highest resolution videos I’ve seen, but actually shows the silhouettes of the people chanting from neighboring rooftops, which is really cinematic and beautiful.
Here it is:

June 15th was a very interesting night in video for Iran, with footage emerging not just of the Allah-o Akbars but also of Basij violence seemingly in revenge for that day’s massive (and peaceful) protests. I have a number of mostly unseen videos of June 15th, and will be profiling them together soon in a sort of narrative. We might not have new protests to find video from, at least not until Friday – but I think there is still work to be done collating the less seen videos from the first wave of protests, spending some time to understand them better, and then re-releasing them in more coherent forms. Things are going viral consistently enough for this to be worthwhile, and I know for a fact the footage is trickling thru the filters to Iran which is why the work will always be important. It’s what the MSM should be doing. But they won’t. So I guess I will.

hat tip: Marc

07/13/09 - 11:00pm
by Chas Danner


Sohrab AarabiTwo videos to see regarding Sohrab Aarabi’s death. The first is a long movie I made today compiling the 5 videos I have so far seen of his funeral, as well as the prior video of his mother outside Evin Prison inquiring about his whereabouts when she had not yet learned of his death. I added some still images and some textual explanations so that the narrative makes a little more sense. You can watch it here. (download here)

This kind of compilation is something I am going to try to do more of, focusing not on adding music or anything hyper-dramatic but just combining footage together so it takes less effort for the average person to see more footage and understand it better. I will add text where it seems appropriate and do my best to confirm that anything that gets written is accurate.

In addition a video of Sohrab’s candlelit neighborhood that has emerged is here. I included this video in the July 13th entry for the Rooftop Project.

07/12/09 - 4:08pm
by Chas Danner

Meanwhile in Pakistan

Echoes of the kind of operation Al Qaeda was able to put together prior to the attacks of 9/11: a Taliban leader named Baitullah Mehsud has amassed a significant level of power and is proceeding with the destabilization of Pakistan, a domino everyone agrees must not be allowed to fall in the conflict against Islamic Jihad. He currently has a $5 million bounty on his head, and an army at his beck and call:

12,000 local fighters, many belonging to his own Mehsud tribe, and close to 4,000 foreign fighters, predominantly Arabs and Central Asians seasoned in the Afghan jihad of the 1980s. Many of them spent time in al Qaeda training camps and can’t return to their home countries for fear of prosecution… He also has a stable of teenage boys who have been indoctrinated to serve as suicide bombers.

And he has built a security zone around himself in the areas he occupies, often with ambitious assassinations:

the government has met little success because Mehsud has in many cases dismantled the centuries-old tribal structures in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); there is no mechanism left to mobilize against him. This June, another Taliban commander, Qari Zainuddin, challenged Mehsud and was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards. The murder was a stark message to others who might try the same.

The US has been targeting him with drone attacks, but it might only be through cutting off his funding that he can he stopped or slowed – that is of course if anyone could find out where he gets his money – they can’t. He does have a potential weakness in that for someone who never allows his face to be photographed he has a flare for publicity and even invited many journalists to an Osama Bin Laden-like “Kill the Americans” declaration, something which theoretically could have exposed him to capture. However go read The Looming Tower and you’ll learn that no matter how much hubris an adversary seems to have, often our own intelligence community so ties its own hands with bureaucracy and in-fighting (even apparently after the post 9/11 reforms) that we miss opportunities to capture or kill such leaders. Osama Bin Laden survived so much of his own carelessness that it actually reinforced his and his followers notion that their path was just; that they were protected by God. (In fact, the most powerful “God” in this case was the lack of information sharing between the mutually clannish CIA, FBI, and NSA.)

From this article Mehsud frighteningly seems even more dangerous (if less funded) than Bin Laden was in the several years prior to 9/11. It is a must read for those thinking about the dynamics at play in the Middle East. It is also worth relating to the Iran story in realizing that the one enemy American and Iran share is the Taliban. In fact Iran (under then President Khatami, but with Khamenei’s blessing of course) connected the US military with the Northern Alliance in the early days of the war in Afghanistan, providing crucial on-the-ground intelligence on where to bomb the Taliban. And make no mistake, if Ahmadinejad had actionable intelligence on someone like Mehsud – no matter what the status of Iran’s democracy or crackdown, the US would have open ears. That is the nature of the beast.

Commander of the Faithful
by Imtiaz Ali @ Foreign Policy

07/12/09 - 5:04am
by Chas Danner

New Footage from 6/13

Sad to say there have been no new rooftop videos from the last two nights for the Project, but I did find this remarkable video from June 13th, the first recording of Allah-o Akbar chants to be emerge from that night (the day after the election). It has very clear English narration from what sounds like an American visiting family there. It is one of the clearest “short stories” any of these videos has told. Unique and intense new footage.

Special thanks to YouTube user Videosfromiran who helped me find the original video. The other versions on YouTube have audio sync problems so I re-uploaded the corrected version

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