Iran Linkage

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 12, 2009

Let’s run down some of the latest bulletins . . .

1. I can understand, I suppose, how allegations of prison rape in Iranian political jails might cause defenders of the regime to desperately cast about for defenses. But the defenses really appear to be unavailing:

The speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, vehemently denied Wednesday that some male and female protesters arrested in the wake of Iran’s disputed presidential election were sexually abused in prison.

The accusations of prison rape, first broached by the reformist cleric and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, shocked many Iranians and prompted Mr. Larijani to assign a special parliamentary committee last weekend to investigate.

The accusations have deepened divisions among conservatives and distracted attention from the government’s renewed efforts to silence Iran’s still-defiant opposition through a mass trial of reformist figures. Prosecutors have tried to cast the entire opposition movement as a foreign-inspired effort to provoke a “velvet” revolution in Iran.

Mr. Larijani dismissed the rape accusations Wednesday as “sheer lies,” saying the probe had found no evidence to support them. But opposition Web sites were buzzing with new reports of sexual abuse by victims who were too frightened or too ashamed to give their names.

Government officials recently acknowledged for the first time that some detained protesters were tortured. The issue has provoked outrage among many conservatives as well as the opposition, which rejects president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election on June 12 as rigged. On Wednesday, some reformist parliament members spoke out against Iran’s national police chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi-Moqqadam, saying he should be dismissed because of his role in the abuses.

One way or another, some seriously bad things happened in Iranian prisons. No one should be surprised if prison rape ranked as one of the favorite tactics of the regime to shame and humiliate dissenters. And if the allegations are true . . . well . . . consider this:

The allegations first emerged on Saturday, in a letter dated July 29 from Mr. Karroubi to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In his letter, Mr. Karroubi said his information came from officials “who hold sensitive positions in the country,” and spoke of women raped so brutally they suffered serious “genital injuries.”

He added that the reports were so shocking that “if even one of them is true, it would be a tragedy for the Islamic Republic,” and that “it would overshadow the sins of many dictatorships including that of the deposed Shah” of Iran, whose regime fell in the 1979 revolution.

That kind of commentary may well catch on among the rest of the Iranian population. And if it does, the regime has every reason to be terrified.

2. Meanwhile, Clotilde Reiss continues to serve as a scapegoat for the regime. This may yet turn out to be another Roxana Saberi-type of situation, with Reiss getting her freedom after she is duly found guilty of some trumped-up charges; the better to make the regime seem reasonable and merciful. But no one should downplay the concern that attends to the regime’s nasty habit of nabbing foreigners and putting them on trial whenever the regime finds itself to be under the gun, politically.

3. Speaking of detentions . . .

Authorities in Iran say 4,000 people were detained in protests that followed June’s disputed presidential election – many more than previously stated.

A spokesman for the judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, said about 3,700 had been freed within a week, but that those involved in riots were in detention.

An opposition figure has also claimed at least 69 people were killed in the violence following the 12 June poll.

It is more than double the number the government admits died.

Iran is currently trying more than 100 detainees over their alleged involvement in the protests.

The trials – of leading opposition figures, activists, journalists, lawyers, workers at foreign embassies and two people with foreign nationalities – have been criticised by several foreign powers, opposition groups and human rights campaigners.

The Islamic regime in a nutshell: Turning an entire country into a prison house.

4. Nobel Prizewinner Shirin Ebadi has decided to court charges of encouraging imperialism by urging U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit Iran and speak out against the abuses going on there. One problem: Ban decided to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his election “victory.” That sound the Secretary-General hears in the distance is millions of Iranians muttering “thanks for nothing” in Farsi.

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