The enemy is using its security forces against you, in order to put fear and intimidation in your hearts, and to create chaos...Do not fear them, you are stronger than these people who have been paid for.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi fell in line, saying that same week, "We are going along with the freedom seekers of the world."
If you're not tittering (or maybe shaking your head in disgust), you probably should be. Even the most casual consumer of international news will be all too familiar with scenes of repression like this one. But, in case you're not, or would like a thorough, well-researched, and well-written report detailing Tehran's most recent spate of strangling any inkling of liberal democracy, you're in luck. Last week, Amnesty International released "'We are Ordered to Crush You': Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran," which portrays in example after heart-wrenching example, the repression of "filmmakers, bloggers, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, lawyers, students, journalists, political activists, religious and ethnic minorities."
One such journalist, Ahmad Zeidabadi, was detained in 2009 and is currently serving out a term of six years in prison plus five years of internal exile. According to his wife, Mahdieh Mohammadi, Ahmad was told by his interrogator:
We are ordered to crush you, and if you do not cooperate we can do anything we want with you and if you do not write the interrogation papers, we will force you to eat them.
Far from "going along with the freedom seekers of the world," Amnesty International's report demonstrates that the Iranian government has actually intensified its efforts to repress peaceful dissent in recent years: "Since the 2009 crackdown, the authorities have steadily cranked up repression in law and practice, and tightened their grip on the media."
Here is a minuscule sampling of the report's findings:
- Torture, including "severe beatings; electric shocks; confinement in tiny spaces; hanging upside down by the feet for long periods; and rape or threats of rape of both men and women, including with implements," is "routinely and widely" used. Detainees are also subject to mock executions. And while coerced "confessions" are often admitted into court as evidence, allegations of torture are "routinely ignored."
- While exact numbers are hard to come by, roughly four times as many people were sentenced to death in 2011 than 2010, amounting to hundreds of people. Moreover, at least three offenders under the age of 18 were among those executed last year.
- Opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, having called for solidarity with the protesters in Tunisia in Egypt, are still under house arrest one year later.
- "Dissidents and critics who write in newspapers or on websites, or speak to the media, risk being charged with offences such as 'spreading propaganda against the system,' 'insulting officials,' 'spreading lies with intent to harm state security,' or occasionally the 'offences' of 'corruption on earth' or 'enmity against God' which can carry the death penalty. '"
- "2011 saw proposals by the authorities to implement gender segregation in institutions of higher education, most of which have run mixed gender courses in recent years. In August 2011, it was reported that 20 universities would be restricting certain courses – including sociology, history, literature, mining, arts education and mathematics – to one gender of students only in the coming academic year. These measures, as well as the requirement for women students to study in or near their hometown appear to be reducing the percentage of women entering university (from over 60 per cent in 2007 to fewer than 50 per cent in 2010)."
Each section of the report features multiple bleak vignettes, adding a human face to the press reports and data. Here's one such anecdote in the chapter entitled "Beyond Iran's Borders":
Ebrahim Mehtari took part in the post-election demonstrations in 2009. He was arrested and tortured, including by being subjected to rape. After his release, he fled Iran and has been resettled as a refugee in France. Late in the evening of 24 March 2011, he was attacked by two men, at least one of whom was an Iranian. He was stabbed repeatedly, in his legs, chest and arm. They had managed to put a noose around his neck when a siren sounded, prompting the assailants to flee. He managed to get himself to a hotel where staff called for the police. They, in turn, took him to hospital.
Only days earlier, Ebrahim Mehtari had taken part in an event at the UN’s Human Rights Council, where human rights activists had campaigned in favour of states voting to condemn the poor human rights situation in Iran. He had provided details of the sexual abuse and other forms of torture he endured. He believes the attack was in reprisal for his appearance at the event.
So while Khamenei is warning Egyptians of "security forces" attempting to "put fear and intimidation in your hearts," his regime is filling Amnesty International's reports, year after year, with scores of human rights abuses. The late Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali-Montazeri still has it right after all of these years: Iran is neither Islamic nor a republic.By Nathan Patin, Aslan Media Columnist