30 December 2009

The Economist examines Iran's crackdown

The Economist has a detailed look at the Mullahs' crackdown in Iran.

What more can Iran’s ruthless rulers do to squash their opponents? Since nationwide protests broke out last June over the disputed results of presidential elections, the official winner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has pulled few punches. His security apparatus has beaten and arrested thousands, tried scores of dissidents in kangaroo courts, hounded others into exile, throttled the press and jammed the airwaves. But the massive and violent demonstrations that engulfed the capital, Tehran, and other cities on December 26th and 27th suggested that repression only deepens and broadens the opposition.

Footage of the protests, shot by phones and spread via the internet, revealed scenes of mayhem unprecedented since the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah. Mobs of youths, including many women, attacked and in some cases overcame squads of riot police. The rioters, mostly unmasked in contrast to previous protests, apparently chanted as many slogans against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as against Mr Ahmadinejad. They set police vehicles on fire and torched at least one police station. Plainclothes government thugs fought back, bludgeoning isolated protesters and apparently shooting several at close range.
At least eight people died in Tehran alone, including a nephew of Mir Hosein Mousavi, a former prime minister who is widely thought to have truly won the June election and who has become an opposition figurehead. Some opposition sources say the nephew was “executed” as a warning to Mr Mousavi. Kayhan, a newspaper that is a mouthpiece for regime hardliners, countered with the charge that Mr Mousavi had himself orchestrated his nephew’s shooting.

The violence was particularly shocking because the protests coincided with Ashura, a solemn day in the Shia calendar that commemorates the martyrdom of Hosein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Reflecting Iran’s stark polarisation, government supporters and opponents accused each other of desecrating Hosein’s memory. Reflecting a fear of generating new “martyrs” to fuel further protests, security forces took over Tehran’s cemeteries and nabbed the bodies of those killed, preventing their immediate burial in accordance with Muslim rites.

State news agencies say police arrested more than 1,000 protesters during the riots. Dozens more campaigners have been jailed in a dramatic widening of the purge against reformists that began in June. They include such luminaries as the 78-year-old Ebrahim Yazdi, the Islamic Republic’s first foreign minister and now head of a banned liberal party, as well as numerous close relations of prominent dissidents, including a sister of Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel laureate and human-rights lawyer. This tactic has often been used in Iran to frighten prominent people, without stoking more public anger by detaining them directly. So far the authorities have refrained from arresting such figures as Mr Mousavi himself, but a new wave of arrests has swept up many of their close associates.

By: Brant


Anonymous said...

You should limit the quote to a few sentences. That's half the article. Don't go Punky on us.

Brant said...

We try to get the meat of the article without overdoing. Sometimes we overdo it in the pursuit of the meat. It's the danger of being a carnivore. We'll see what we can do about it. Thanks for the comment.