Iran Update

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 18, 2012

The torture of dissidents continues:

The mother was adamant: she would not accept blood money for the death of her child. She even told off Iran’s powerful security forces, who were offering to pay her the diyeh and warning her family not to file charges against the police. “[She] said, ‘I only want those responsible for his murder to be punished,’” a family friend told The Daily Beast.

After relatives of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti leaked news of his death—allegedly under torture—to the media on November 6, the Iranian government has once again come under international scrutiny for its savage methods of silencing dissidents. Police rounded up the 35-year-old Beheshti at his home on October 30 in Robat Karim, a city close to Tehran. He reportedly died on November 3, and officials only informed the family three days later, on November 6.

While security forces have reportedly been putting immense pressure on the Behesthi family to let the case go, the blogger’s relatives and friends refuse to be silenced. Beheshti’s sister has given interviews about the shocking details of her brother’s death to a number of Iranian expat journalists and foreign media outlets such as Voice of America. A number of Beheshti’s friends have also spoken out, at great peril to themselves. “The [security forces] told Sattar’s sister that if she talks to the media, they will arrest her,” a family member, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast. “Even during the funeral ceremonies, they handcuffed her after her interview with Voice of America, but released her on the family’s insistence.”

The story that Beheshti’s supporters are leaking is grim indeed. According to a source close to the family, Beheshti’s brother-in-law went to view the blogger’s body at the morgue, in order to confirm his identity.  “He observed that Sattar had a dent in his skull and a bloody leg,” says the family friend. “He had no doubt that Sattar Beheshti was severely tortured and possibly died of a heart attack under torture.”

A few days earlier, on November 4—a day after the blogger’s death—security forces had appeared at Beheshti’s home and asked his mother whether he’d ever suffered from a heart condition, or whether he’d been taking any medications. In hindsight, the family thinks, they might have been looking for a way to connect Beheshti’s death to a prior illness. When the authorities learned that Beheshti had been healthy, they delivered his body to his family, but reportedly threatened them with arrest if they spoke to the media.

Beheshti’s friends say he was most likely detained for his dissident work. The blogger sent news about political prisoners to Iranian-opposition websites, known as “green websites.” The authorities were sensitive “to his relations with contacts outside the country,” says one friend, and aimed “to put him under pressure to reveal those contacts.” The editor in chief of an opposition website confirmed that Beheshti had sent them news pieces as a concerned citizen-journalist over the past year.

As does the ongoing domestic policy catastrophe:

Before Somayeh can have the second child she and her husband have been talking about, they must first consider the expense.

“Baby food, clothes, doctors, the hospital – it all costs a lot of money. Which we can’t afford at the moment,” she said, speaking to Reuters by phone from inside Iran.

Like many countries, Iran is concerned that its low population growth rate, estimated at 1 percent by the United Nations in 2011, will foster an aging population with potentially disastrous consequences for its workforce, public health infrastructure and social security network.

The government is trying to reverse the trend. But it faces unique headwinds.

In addition to worries about money and employment they share with millions of young people around the world in an economic downturn, Iranians must contend with high inflation, a plummeting currency and the possibility of war if Israel follows through on threats to strike Iran’s nuclear sites.

But other than all of this, of course, everything is going fine in Iran. What a wonderful government Iranians must have in order to be blessed with so utopian a life.

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