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Posted by on Jun 16, 2007 in At TMV | 0 comments

A Second Cultural Revolution in Iran

The Washington Post has an article up by Robin Wright about the situation in Iran. Iranian authorities are – as most of you will know – enforcing Islamic law very strictly again these days. Female government officials, for instance, go out on the streets to check whether women wear the kind of clothes they are supposed to wear. If they do not dress ‘Islamic’ enough, the women are told they should change their clothes and, sometimes, women are taken away for a not-so-friendly conversation.

Every possible dissent is oppressed, every possible dissenter arrested. One of the people who were arrested during this crackdown which analysts say is a cultural revolution, is Hossein Mousavian. Mousavian is a former top nuclear negotiator and ambassador to Germany. He is accused of espionage and endangering national security.

The new cultural revolution is meant to either discourage or prevent “reformers from running against the current crop of hard-liners who dominate all branches of government,” during the “parliamentary elections next year and the presidential contest in 2009.” According to Iranian sources, “public signs of discontent […] are also behind the detentions, according to Iranian sources.”

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explains:

The current crackdown is a way to instill fear in the population in order to discourage them from future political agitation as the economic situation begins to deteriorate, you’re going to think twice about taking to the streets to protest the hike in gasoline prices if you know the regime’s paramilitary forces have been on a head-cracking spree the last few weeks.

Bush had decided to invest $75 milliion in Iran: meant to support pro-democracy movements. According to the article, this has also played a role in the decision to crack down dissent this aggressively. Iranian authorities fear that the US is staging a “velvet revolution.” This has led to the detention of many American-Iranians / people with a double passport.

Especially college students and professors are victims of Ahmadinejad’s cultural revolution: “Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated his goal of purging Iranian society of secular thought. This is taking shape as a cultural revolution, particularly on university campuses, where persecution and prosecution of students and faculty are intensifying with each passing day,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Iran analyst for Human Rights Watch.

To find out more about the exact nature of the second Iranian cultural revolution, I suggest you read the entire article at the WaPo. If you are wondering how many people have been arrested: in April, “150,000 individuals had been detained, but few were referred for trial. The rest were asked to sign ‘letters of commitment’ to honor public behavior and dress codes. An additional 17,000 were detained at Iranian airports in May, the airport security chief told Iranian news agencies.”

It is worth keeping an eye on the situation in Iran: I hope that not only the media do this, but human rights organizations as well. The UN should strongly condemn what is happening in Iran. Imagine what would have happened if it was not Iran we are talking about here, but Israel. The world would fall all over Israel, the UN would be condemning the heck out of Israel, sanctions would be proposed, etc.

Human rights are exactly that: human rights. Human rights know no borders. Human rights are not strictly a domestic matter.

The US should also think about whether or not its support for pro-democracy movements is productive or counterproductive. $75 million in support for these movements is nice and all, but if that $75 million leads to the arrest of thousands of pro-democracy activists / students / professors, the US might reconsider. Sometimes, the best way is not to influence the situation directly, but, instead, to put pressure on a (the) government through, for instance, the UN and letting pro-democracy movements do what they do best. Sometimes they are best of left alone.