Iran Links Worth Reading

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 24, 2009

Just because the demonstrations on the street are no longer occurring does not mean that Iran is no longer in a state of political ferment. Indeed, the continuation of political ferment means that there are a number of news stories on Iran worth reading. Here are just two.

1. Some might say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not vet his ministerial candidates. I say that he does vet them, but that his vetting process seeks qualities in ministerial candidates that you and I would find reprehensible. To wit:

A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been nominated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, to head the country’s defence ministry, despite being listed on Interpol’s wanted register for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre in Argentina.

Argentinian prosecutors joined Jewish groups last night in condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s decision to propose Ahmad Vahidi for the senior cabinet post.

Vahidi has been on an Interpol “red notice” since November 2007, in connection with the car bomb attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured 150 – the worst attack on a Jewish target outside Israel since the second world war.

To say the least, words fail me.

2. Laura Secor is well worth reading on the show trials in Iran. A taste:

Show trials have been staged before, most notably in Moscow in the nineteen-thirties. Typically, such rituals purge élites and scare the populace. They are the prelude to submission. Iran’s show trials, so far, have failed to accrue this fearsome power. In part, this is because the accused are connected to a mass movement: Iranians whose democratic aspirations have evolved organically within the culture of the Islamic Republic. It is one thing to persuade citizens that a narrow band of apparatchiks are enemies of the state. It is quite another to claim that a political agenda with broad support—for popular sovereignty, human rights, due process, freedom of speech—has been covertly planted by foreigners.

The indictments prepared by the public prosecutor are almost surreally obtuse. Before the election, one indictment claims, Western governments, foundations, and individuals joined forces with corrupt Iranians in an attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic and institute a regime compliant with American designs. The nefarious plotters engaged in “exposing cases of violations of human rights,” training reporters in “gathering information,” and “presenting full information on the 2009 electoral candidates.” Apparently, the Iranian citizen is meant to consider it self-evident that the country’s national interest depends on concealing human-rights abuses, censoring the news, and obfuscating the electoral process.

Forced confessions have been part of Iran’s penal system since the mid-nineteen-seventies. But it was the Islamic Republic that turned the auditorium of Evin Prison, in Tehran, into a macabre theatre. In 1982, after a fierce fight between the extremist theocrats in the government and the radical Muslim guerrillas outside it, the revolutionary regime began broadcasting confessions from Evin. The prisoners—mainly secular leftists and Muslim guerrillas—recanted their views and apologized for betraying Islam. Ervand Abrahamian, the author of “Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran,” quotes a witness who said of the night a major leftist recanted, “Something snapped inside all of us. We never expected someone of his reputation to get down on his knees. Some commented it was as revolting as watching a human being cannibalize himself.”

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that back in June, it was considered fashionable to have the Obama Administration publicly turn a blind eye to these abuses, and refrain from merely calling on the Islamic regime to (a) respect political rights, (b) respect the integrity of votes cast for the presidency, and (c) not have its thugs go out and bash protesters in the head.

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