Iranian dissidents have chosen Monday as their day of protest against a repressive regime that controls the Islamic Republic. While I’m not as familiar today with events as I was four years ago, this was the state of the Iranian republic the last time I looked.
For those who don’t want to be upset, I’d suggest passing over this article. However it’s necessary, I think, for people to know what faces the citizens of Iran who have the bravery Monday morning to take to the streets.
Like Egypt and Communist China of some years back, Iran has several repressive arms of government.
Resembling a cross between Egyptian plainclothes policemen and Chinese neighborhood committees are the Basij (Baseej-e Mostaza’afin or Oppressed Mobilization), volunteers in everything from earthquake emergency management to attacking opposition demonstrators and newspaper offices.
A group of poorly-educated but enthusiastic loyalists of the Islamic Revolution, the Basij beat members of the local population and loot the households of those who step out of line. They enforce the dress code for women and generally spy on the population.
Also enforcing the will of the regime are the Hezbollahi (the Party of God), which Wikipedia calls “‘strong-arm thugs’ who attacked demonstrators and offices of newspapers critical of Khomeini.”
The nearest thing to the Egyptian secret police are the Revolutionary committes or Komiteh, the local police who arrest dissident citizens and take them to the oppressive prisons, chief among which is Tehran’s Evin Prison. According to Wikipedia;
“Thousands of komiteh or Revolutionary Committees served as ‘the eyes and ears’ of the new regime, and are credited by critics
with ‘many arbitrary arrests, executions and confiscations of property’.” (1)
The army’s religious loyalists form the Revolutionary Guards, or Pasdaran-e Enqelab, the equivalent of Iraq’s Republican Guards and Egypt’s army troops loyal to Mubarak. The Pasdaran, like the Egyptian army, have their own businesses and are corrupt servants of the regime.
The feared combination of Basij, Hezbollahi, Komiteh, Pasdaran and prisons forms the repressiive machinery the mullahs use to cow the population through blacklists, beatings, incarceration and torture, much the same as Mubarak did. Although the regime may attempt to persuade them that Mubarak was somehow different gtom the Islamic Republic, few of its citizens, I think, believe it.
The Iranian regime used to stone women for adultery, imprison men and women found in public together while not married, publicly hang people as warnings against opposing the state, and turn plainclothes police on demonstrators, often disappearing students who sought the regime’s overthrow. Sizeable diasporas exist of Iranians who keep the world informed of the regime’s excesses and agitate for the regime’s fall from the safety of the West.
Ahmadinejad, elected probably through vote-rigging and repression, uses a combination of appeals to Persian nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism, to enforce loyalty to the Iranian regime. The people suffer from unemployment and the absence of civil rights. Like Egyptians, they hunger not so much for Islamic unity or Persian pride, but for a decent life and basic freedoms.
Although I no longer accept its neutrality as readily as I once did, the Department of State’s 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, or DOS Report, for Iran summarizes human-rights abuses in the Islamic Republic:
“The government’s poor human rights record degenerated during the year, particularly after the disputed June presidential elections. The government severely limited citizens’ right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections.
“The government executed numerous persons for criminal convictions as juveniles and after unfair trials. Security forces were implicated in custodial deaths and the killings of election protesters and committed other acts of politically motivated violence, including torture, beatings, and rape. The government administered severe officially sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning, amputation, and flogging. Vigilante groups with ties to the government committed acts of violence.
“Prison conditions remained poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, often holding them incommunicado. Authorities held political prisoners and intensified a crackdown against women’s rights reformers, ethnic minority rights activists, student activists, and religious minorities. There was a lack of judicial independence and of fair public trials.
“The government severely restricted the right to privacy and civil liberties, including freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, association, and movement; it placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion. Official corruption and a lack of government transparency persisted.
“Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; trafficking in persons; and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems. The government severely restricted workers’ rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, and arrested numerous union organizers.
“Child labor remained a serious problem. On November 20, for the seventh consecutive year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on Iran expressing concern about the country’s ‘serious, ongoing, and recurring human rights violations.'” (2)
So this is the repressive machine that the people of Iran fear being used against them as they contemplate how to achieve the overthrow of the repressive regime in Tehran. Their opposition has nothing to do with religious issues or international animosities but is fuelled by opposition to cruelty, corruption, and oppression. To be successful, the population will need to surmount the massive fear that’s been implanted in them from years of repression, imprisonment, and torture. In my opinion, the threat that faces Iranians is probably much higher and more organized than that which faced Egyptians.
(1) At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Revolution.
(2) At http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/nea/136068.htm