August 3, 2005
Mullahs intensify crackdown on Iranian dissidentsBy Roya Johnson
Forceful statements made recently by the Bush administration denouncing arrest of Iranians protesting the ruling regime in Tehran and demanding the immediate release of political prisoners including that of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji are a welcome move. More, however, is needed, as a wave of anti—government protests has swept Iran's western provinces as a result of which hundreds of activists have been arrested.
As usual, there are some in the pro—appeasement camp who disagree. They absurdly suggest that vocal support from Washington and other capitals for Iran's dissidents is counterproductive for the democracy movement in Iran. Nothing could be further than the truth.
Contrary to these assertions, a systematic and serious policy of scrutinizing Iran's tyrants for rights violations strategically benefits the democracy movement there. The remarkable increase in rights violations that has followed the recent sham elections makes pursuing such approach even more urgent.
The regime, now under the full control of the most fanatic faction of Iran's radicals, is enjoying the full support of the despicably suppressive Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and is determined to silence the voice of dissent at any price.
Tehran, no doubt, is under mounting domestic and international pressure. And engineering the so—called election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a notorious former commander of the IRGC, as the new president is in fact a defensive move by the clerical regime to neutralize the existential challenges it is faced with.
The ayatollahs view the restive populace in Iran and the democracy movement stirring underneath them as the primary threat to their grip on power. The increased intensity of force used to crush recent anti—regime protests speaks volumes about the direction the mullahs are taking.
In recent weeks, popular protests in northwestern Kurdish cities of Mahabad, Boukan, and Oshnovieh were brutally crushed by the regime's henchmen. Similar protests in Tehran and northeastern city of Mashad were answered with brute force.
On August 1, the news journal Iran Focus reported that
Meanwhile, executions, mostly carried out in public, are on the rise. Earlier in the month, two young Iranians charged with criminal activities were hanged in public by several masked executioners in Mashad several days after an anti—government protest took place there.
Let's not forget that in the mullah's lexicon, opposing the clerical rule is officially considered a crime and political prisoners — majority of them Shiite Muslims — therefore are considered criminals who have waged 'war on the government of God.'
The U.S. Department of State has reported that according to exiles and human rights groups, many of those supposedly executed for criminal offenses are in fact political dissidents.
Ahmadinejad is infamously quoted as saying that 'we did not have a revolution in order to have democracy.' He is not lying. The tyrant mullahs and their suit—wearing foot soldiers such as Ahmadinejad sought to establish a fundamentalist theocracy in Iran and that they did.
The Iranian people, however, did intend 'to have democracy' and that is why they have resisted the ruling tyrants for more than two decades now. That said; the widening gulf between the Iranian government and the people they rule suggests an even more savage crackdown of the democracy movement should be expected in the near term.
The mullahs' relentless campaign of silencing any dissent and all opposition is multifaceted and therefore demands a realistic counter—campaign. The mullahs make use of different techniques to uproot dissent; from physical elimination by firing squads, gallows, and death by torture, to demonizing and character assassination of their opponents. They work to sow seeds of division, doubt and confusion among their opponents in order to paralyze the democracy movement and shift the focus away from their own fragile government.
These techniques, however, are not new. They are common practice in fascist and rogue regimes. Relying on the deceptive nature of the theocracy, having access to state coffers flushed with oil money, and borrowing from the likes of the KGB, the mullahs have mastered the art of demonizing the opposition.
Opponents are invariably are called: thugs, terrorists, thieves, saboteurs, apostates, hypocrites, separatists, anti—revolutionaries, US spies, and outlaws, just to name a few. Regrettably and to the pleasure of the mullahs, this campaign has resulted in a sometimes selective and diffused approach to the regime by the governments Tehran threatens the most.
An effective way to counter such deception is to defend all political prisoners who have defied the clerical regime. Those arrested in the cities of Mahabad, Isfahan, or Mashad are indeed political prisoners and require as much attention as those in Tehran such as Mr. Ganji. Demanding their immediate release would demonstrate to Iranians that the West has adopted a fully inclusive approach to all political dissenters when it comes to their human rights.
In light of the looming increase in suppression of Iranian democrats who seek a secular democratic state, a vigorous, systematic, and non—selective defense of Iran's dissidents will tremendously contribute to strengthening the movement for democracy in Iran. The veil of silence the mullahs have cast over their reign of terror must be lifted.
Roya Johnson is the vice—president of the U.S. Alliance for Democratic Iran