The Case of the ‘Fatwa’ to Rig Iran’s Election


The propaganda campaign to paint the victory of the incumbent candidate in Iran’s June presidential election as having been a stolen one began early. Even before the election, the seed was being planted that the election would be stolen to give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a win. This narrative played nicely into the hands of the reformist opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who cried foul following the favorable results for the incumbent. But what evidence is there to support this narrative?

In one prominent example, on June 7, five days before Iran’s presidential election, the website Tehran Bureau reported:

In an open letter, a group of employees of Iran’s Interior Ministry (which supervises the elections) warned the nation that a hard-line ayatollah, who supports President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has issued a Fatwa authorizing changing votes in the incumbent’s favor.

According to Tehran Bureau, the letter stated:

After several polls taken by the government in May that indicated a rapid loss of support for the President, an ayatollah, who used to speak about political philosophy in Tehran’s public Friday prayers, held a confidential meeting with the elections’ supervisors. Quoting the Bagharah Soureh, verse 249, of the holy Quran, to justify vote fraud, he stated that,

“If someone is elected the president and hurts the Islamic values that have been spread [by Mr. Ahmadinejad] to Lebanon, Palestine, Venezuela, and other places, it is against Islam to vote for that person. We should not vote for that person, and also warn people about that person. It is your religious duty as the supervisors of the elections to do so.”

According to Tehran Bureau’s translation, the letter said,

“After the meeting the elections supervisors, who had become happy and energetic for having obtained the religious fatwa to use any trick for changing the votes, began immediately to develop plans for it.”

Tehran Bureau adds that despite this alleged plot,

The letter ends by saying that a huge turnout by the people will nullify these unlawful attempts to rig the elections, and will save the nation from another four years of Mr. Ahmadinejad governance.

No author attribution is given for this article at Tehran Bureau. The site provided the text of the letter in Persian. But they offer nothing in the way of verification of its authenticity, and the letter itself is preceded by a brief introductory note. Similarly, no author for this introduction is given.

Did someone at Tehran Bureau write the introduction in Farsi? Or did they merely pass along the introductory note along with the text of the letter from another source? Why is the author’s name not given? Why is no source given? They offer not even the slightest hint of how they came by this letter. They say this is an “open letter”, so what, then, would be the problem with naming the source? Did these employees of the Interior Ministry who allegedly wrote the letter post it on a website somewhere? Did they publish it in a newspaper? Did they e-mail it directly to Tehran Bureau? Or did it perhaps originate from an opposition group, such as, perhaps, the campaign office of Mir Hossein Mousavi?

What’s more, if an ayatollah issued a “fatwa”, an opinion on matters relating to Islamic law, ordering the election to be rigged to result in a win for Ahmadinejad, why haven’t we heard about this elsewhere? While the claim has been widely circulated in alternative media and on blogs, the mainstream media has been silent on this one.

So who issued this “fatwa”? The letter as presented by Tehran Bureau simply says that it was “an ayatollah, who used to speak about political philosophy in Tehran’s public Friday prayers”. Tehran Bureau inserts its own speculation as to who this “ayatollah” is:

The reference to the “political philosophy preaching” person is clearly pointing to Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who used to do the preaching in Tehran’s Friday prayers. He is a reactionary cleric and the spiritual leader of the President and the hard-liners in the Basij militia and the armed forces.

From this report, the claim that Ayatollah Yazdi issued a fatwa commanding that the election be rigged to give Ahmadinejad a win would be circulated around the internet, asserted as fact, despite the total lack of verification or corroboration.

Tehran Bureau

Who is Tehran Bureau? Originally, it was a blog hosted by Tehran Bureau was announced in a press release on February 26 – little more four months prior to the election. The press release stated:

Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, M.S. ’05, M.A. ’06, has launched Tehran Bureau, an online news magazine. The blog-style site aims to separate fact from misinformation about Iran by having specialized, bilingual journalists from around the world report on the country.

There’s a little more about others involved:

At present, Niknejad divides her time between New York City and Boston. Fariba Pajooh is the chief correspondent in Tehran, while Jason Rezaian will cover the Iranian presidential campaign from the capital city. Leila Darabi ’06 will contribute reporting from New York City. Other reporters are based in Isfahan in Iran, Dubai, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Florence and Berlin. Thor Neureiter will develop video for the Web site. Most of Tehran Bureau’s staff is bilingual.

And a little more about Niknejad:

Niknejad, who was born in Iran and lived there until age 17, is a lawyer-turned-journalist. As an M.S. student at the Journalism School, she specialized in newspaper reporting. The following year, Niknejad earned an M.A. in journalism with a focus on politics.

She has reported for the Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, California Lawyer and PBS/Frontline. Most recently, she was a staff reporter for the new English-language newspaper The National in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Niknejad is a syndicated columnist with Agence Global and a freelance producer and consultant on Iran to ABC News.

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Jeremy R. Hammond

Jeremy R. Hammond is an award-winning political analyst, editor and publisher of Foreign Policy Journal, and author. His new book is Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Read the first chapter FREE at! 

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  • Iranian

    US/Israel mostly benefit from Ahmadinejad policies. Israel has managed to distract global attention from its atrocities toward Iran who is posed like an international threat and its current rulers just promote that image.

    US/Israel could hardly achieve such comfortable position, should a democratically elected government was in Iran. They are selling weapons to Arabs, commanding their policies, only because of Iran! Whatelse could have been in their wish list?

    It seems that you are just supporting whoever shouts anti-US slogans! Either you are so naive to believe in what you see, or you are also part of the team.

    You must live in Iran with Iranians, before being able to write about us, unless….

  • Anonymous

    Yes, i believe Ahmadinejad won by his own ability. The son of late Shah, Reza Pahlavi wants to be a new candidate puppet like his father and grand father.

    These neoconservatives like Timmerman are criminals. I have noticed their enormous amount of distortions and lies about almost everything. They won’t succeed, because Iranians won’t allow it. They are not stupid.

    If one is stupid, then one believes lies and distortions. Only intelligent and wise people ask for evidence for an stolen election. Such an evidence does not exist! What exists is lies, distorions, propaganda planted by CIA, neocon or Straussians who want to manipulate masses for the elite.

  • Peter Palloy

    While some of the Iranian diaspora work underground, others such as Haleh Esfandiari work out in the open at the Wilson Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.
    She was a fellow of the NED in 1995 and the Wilson Center gets a third of its funding ($9 million) from Congress and the rest from big oil, big banks, big business and Soros’ OSI – well known for his involvement in color revolutions.
    Is Haleh Esfandiari a CIA asset ?

  • Delavaran

    “….If a democratically elected government was in Iran….”
    This is such a stupid statement: Are you trying to imply that israel is demonizing and trying to Persuade US to bomb and nuke Iran because it does not have a “democratic” government like Jordan or Mubarak’s Egypt ? Go find yourself an even more naive or stupid audience like yourself.

  • Iranian


    Perhaps you have misunderstood my point. US/Israel LOVE undemocratic governments like those you named AND Iran (under current rulers). Just look at the outcome Iranian government activities bring for US/Israel. Maybe unknowingly, maybe not! But it is a fact that as long as you benefit from something you don’t do anything seriously to change it, even if these governments “unknowingly” act in their favor. I am not implying that Ahmadinejad is an agent of US/Israel, but it does not make a difference as long as his activities benefits them! He might not have acted much differently even if he was an agent. He is destroying Iran’s economy and infra-structure, who could have “really” challenged US/Israel interests in region. Without a prosperous and successful Iran, what we can do, but to shout “down to US/Israel” at our own streets!!! And if Iran is eventually attacked, whose policies have given public legitimacy to such an attack, which can eliminate Iran from political equations for decades to come!? Ahmadinejad is either an honest stupid, or a deliberate traitor, but I believe it does not make a difference for the US/Israel…… they love him!

    The unfriendly gestures in media by US/Israelis toward Iran is required to convince public that we are really enemies! This is a must in order to show goes on! Just focus on eventual results… (in past and in future)

  • liz

    Thanks for all the work! This was very useful. We are being manipulated by our crass media and public diplomacy (aka propaganda) specialists, just like in the buildup to the war in Iraq. We need people like you to exercise independent, critical thinking.

  • Than you for writing this.
    As an amateur propaganda enthusiast I am struck by how clumsy and self-defeating a lot of modern propaganda (from what should be the world’s foremost experts) is nowadays.
    The old futurist gripe goes that I though we’d have jet packs by now and Philip K Dick fans might note the absence of psychotropic pharmaceutical propaganda anyone can swallow, but here we have established overt enemies of a government shilling for a one-sided self-glorification with only themselves as a source.
    If Kelly Niknejad is reading, I’d like to assure her that I have the stamina and other properties of a horse and the bank account of a horse breeder, and that I can be absolutely trusted as an authority on these true facts that are not lies.

  • LeslieM

    whois lookup for

  • Try reading my answer, Mr. Hammond. There might be hope for you yet.

  • DeWayne

    President Obama who appears to have picked up the reigns of past puppets of US-Empire elite also appears to be continuing the Iran “Evil Axis” from past cabals.

    President Ahmadinejad and Shia-Cleric Overseer continually asking for change and peace talks with the US-Gov is not what the “Constabulary” crowd want, Mir Hussein Mousavi terrorist agenda (as Iran head of Foreign Ministry) is more the “Axis Enemy” needed to keep the Empire ‘perpetual war economy’ going.

  • It’s going to be a while before we see any CMS cloud offering from the likes of Oracle. Acquia have lately established Drupal Gardens which is a cloud dependent service which feels very promising. There are a host of reasons why we are not traveling onto the cloud more promptly, the principal reason is organizational change where budgets and contracts are determine and granted years for 3, 4 even 5 years. Come renewal time some clients are asking CMS in the cloud but then have to consider other subjects such as integration with CRM & some other back office systems. I guess it will materialize eventually.

  • Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

    Absolutely superb!

  • Farzaneh Joshaghani

    Bravo ! Hats off !