A joke has been circulating widely in Iran these past few years: One day, a fox sees a friend running fast through the forest. “Why are you running?” asks the fox. “They are killing foxes who have three testicles,” the friend replies. “So, why are you running?” the bewildered friend asks again. “After all,” he adds, “all the males in our skulk have only two testicles.” As he quickens his pace, the fleeing fox says, “Yes, but they kill you first, and then count your balls.”
When a regime is paranoid and when it tries to interfere in every aspect of private and public life, its citizens will run like the fox. In Iran, every unexpected ring of the phone, every unexpected nocturnal knock on the door produces a racing heart and a sense of imminent danger. The scars of living under a paranoid regime last a lifetime. Today, even after I have resided in California for almost a quarter of a century, a ring of the phone can still provoke fear and trembling.
Earlier this month, I received a phone call. One hundred leaders of the Iranian opposition had been placed on trial and this was the first night of the grotesque spectacle. “You are mentioned in the indictment,” the caller told me. Even though it was a good friend relaying this information, I felt a familiar rush of foreboding.
In style and substance, the trial of the hundred emulates the infamous Soviet show trials of the 1930s. Like their Bolshevik mentors, the mullahs are at least as keen on destroying those who share their ideology as those who oppose it altogether. Stalin, for his part, killed far more leftist writers than those of a Tsarist persuasion. Pasternak was always safer than Babel or Bulgakov. In the Tehran trial, we witness leaders (former government ministers, a vicepresident even) who served the Islamic republic for 30 years paraded in front of the cameras, broken in spirit, wan in countenance and wearing, for maximum humiliation, pajamas. For them, the indictment is the ultimate betrayal by a regime they had long served, and by an ideology they had long shared.
The first warning that I would be assigned some role in the regime’s paranoid scenario came a few months ago. An editorial in Keyhan — Ayatollah Khamenei’s mouthpiece — described the lawyer Shirin Ebadi, the scholar Abdolkarim Soroush and myself as partners in an “American plan” to overthrow the regime. At about the same time, a number of so-called intellectuals and journalists began to accuse the three of us of the same alleged crime. Sometimes the language shifted: In the sterile jargon of the left, we were described as “comprador intellectuals” who pave the way for “imperialism.”
But these were fulminations. And the indictment is meant to provide the definitive portrait of the “outside” influences that have incited demonstrations in the streets. “The velvet revolution has three arms, intellectual, media and executive, and each of these have relations to a number of American foundations.” Of these foundations, “the most important is an institution called Hooffer, at Stanford, created during the Cold War. In this institute, there is a project called Iran Democracy project, and three intelligence officers direct it: Abbas Milani, Larry Diamond and Mike McFour.” Despite the chills the indictment sends down my spine, I chuckled when reading this. Hooffer is, of course, the Hoover Institution, not Stanford’s school of tap dance. Mike McFour is the esteemed academic Michael McFaul.
The indictment goes on to describe my past by declaring that “Abbas Milani was imprisoned under Mohammed Reza period for working with a leftist group. He later became a fervent royalist, so much so that after the revolution, he lived in Iran for a couple of years, and then left for America, where he published a number of books praising the accomplishments of the Pahlavi regime.” In actuality, I lived in Iran for the seven years following the revolution, as well as the four preceding it. During much of my time in prison, I was in the company of future Islamic luminaries — men like Montazeri, Taleghani, Rafsanjani and Mahdavi-Kani. I suspect in the soon-to-be-prepared indictment against Rafsanjani, this coincidence of life will absurdly date the beginning of our “conspiracy.”
Surely my friends at Hooffer will be jealous that I’m assigned such an outsized role in the indictment: “[G]radually he became one of the most important leaders of the opposition, and his one big difference with other leaders is that he has close relations with reformists inside Iran.” The indictment ends by suggesting that, “For the CIA, Abbas Milani is even more important than [the deposed Shah’s son] Reza Pahlavi, because he is in close contact with the reformists, and has defrayed the entire cost of [the reformist cleric Akbar] Ganji’s stay abroad.” For the record, I have had no contacts with the CIA. I do know that Ganji survives in the United States only by hard work — not by handouts and certainly none that I have given him. If the authors of this baseless indictment lived in the America, one could easily fight them in the court of law. Sadly they live in a country where they govern absolutely and with violence.
Indeed, it is only a matter of time before they apply their most ruthless methods to the likes of Moussavi, Khatami, Karubi and even Rafsanjani. These barbaric trials, these shameless and cruel spectacles, are merely a prologue.
I know I am reasonably safe here in California, but I also know that the regime has assassinated more than 100 of its opponents — from activists and journalists to scholars and artists — in Europe. Mostly I feel a pang of shame — the shame common to the survivor spared the consequences of a great calamity, the fate of those 100 brave but shackled, dignified but tortured prisoners.
Abbas Milani is the Hamid and Christina Moghadam director of Iranian Studies at Stanford, where he is the co-director of the Iran Democracy Project. His latest book is Eminent Persian: The Men and Women who Made Modern Iran, 1941-1979 (Syracuse University Press).
Hajji Corleone, Sonny Seyyed and the Rapists who got away
By HANA H. in Tehran | 21 August
[TEHRAN BUREAU] Comment When Mehdi Karroubi went public with information that protesters had been raped in detention, officials were shocked into speechlessness. How could one of the insiders betray the brotherhood and expose the closely-guarded secrets of the Iranian illuminati?
Years of convincingly deceiving the nation of their benevolence and compassion vanished within a week and the Islamic Republic, the self-proclaimed guardian of religious values and the upholder of the true Islam was stripped bare before the eyes of the entire world. The holier than thou were charged and found guilty of fraud.
Once upon a time, the children of Iran’s revolution were placed in a safe bubble where only angels, saints and the pious existed. I for one at least come from the bubble-wrapped generation.
The bubble-wrapped generation learned from television shows that Jesus-looking young men and Mary-like young women serve as the country’s security and civil officers, foiling one enemy plot after the other, convincing offenders and terrorists with their charismatic charm to confess to their crimes, and shaming the bad guys with their aura of piety into guilt and repentance.
The bubble-wrapped generation was then offered alternative images with Western movies reeking of decadence, in which cops and secret agents never hesitated to beat the suspect to a pulp to extract a confession.
Horror stories about Abu Ghraib and Gitmo made everyone shiver to the bone and feel blessed that there to protect us were the unnamed soldiers of the Hidden Imam — God-fearing individuals who have chosen to remain anonymous lest their deeds, which are all an act of worship, be carried out with insincerity.
Alas, the bubble was burst and Iranians realized that there is an Abu Ghraib close to the Iranian capital in Kahrizak.
In the year 2009, the Islamic Republic has reached a point in which the hideous crime of rape has repeatedly taken place and had it not been for the efforts of a little old cleric, regardless of his past actions and initial intentions, it would have been covered up solely to protect the people’s bubble.
In the Middle East, a rape victim is viewed as a leper and society either denies their existence or boycotts them.
The disbelief in realizing that the very people who ruthlessly enforced religious law on Iran and prevented young Iranians from higher education if they failed to correctly answer Sharia questions put to them, had not only broken the laws of the divine but also that of man. The children of Iran have been violated, and the representatives of god have condoned it, and not surprisingly now deny their existence.
The law enforcement officers who we had seen on TV and learned in school about their selfless acts and religious zeal were the ‘bad guys’ shown to us in the alternative imagery. They had tortured, raped and killed.
The Islamic Republic came into existence in 1979 to show the world the glorious deeds a country run by clerics upholding religious values is capable of and to show that righteous leadership can change the world for the better.
However, when institutionalized religion becomes organized religion, the result is a country governed mafia-style. There is always a Hajji (the Don), a Seyyed (the henchman) and the Brothers (the assassins).
One Hajji appoints the propaganda agents (state TV), the Brothers (armed forces), the Seyyed (chief executive) and the lesser Dons (the 12 Guardians). The heads of the families (Experts) are elected by the subjects but appointed with the approval of the lesser Dons.
Sadly it must be said that the issue here is not our youth being violated, it is that Iran has been date-raped and gang raped by the Hajjis, Seyyeds and Brothers for the past 30 years and we are now waking up to the cold hard truth.
Iranian boy who defied Tehran hardliners tells of prison rape ordeal
The Times (UK) | August 22, 2009
Reza’s ordeal began in mid-July when he was arrested with about 40 other teenagers during an opposition demonstration in a large provincial city. Most were too young even to have voted. They were taken to what he believes was a Basiji militia base where they were blindfolded, stripped to their underwear, whipped with cables and then locked in a steel shipping container. That first night Reza was singled out by three men in plain clothes who had masqueraded as prisoners. As the other boys watched, they pushed him to the ground. One held his head down, another sat on his back and the third urinated on him before raping him.
“They were telling us they were doing this for God, and who did we think we were that we could demonstrate,” Reza said. The men told the other boys they would receive the same treatment if they did not co-operate when interrogated the next day.
Reza was then taken outside, tied to a metal pole and left there all night. The next morning one of the men returned. He asked whether Reza had learnt his lesson. “I was angry. I spat in his face and began cursing him. He elbowed me in the face a couple of times and slapped me.” Twenty minutes later, he says, the man returned with a bag full of excrement, shoved it in Reza’s face and threatened to make him eat it.
Reza was later taken to an interrogation room where he told his questioner he had been raped. “I made a mistake. He sounded kind, but my eyes were blindfolded. He said he would go look into it and I was hopeful,” Reza said.
Instead, the interrogator ordered Reza to be tied up and raped him again, saying: “This time I’ll do it, so you’ll learn not to tell these tales anywhere else. You deserve what’s coming to you. You guys should be raped until you die.” Read
CAIRO — The man nominated to serve as Iran’s defense minister is wanted by Interpol in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, confronting Iran with yet another challenge to its international reputation after an electoral dispute undermined its legitimacy at home and abroad.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nominated Ahmad Vahidi on Wednesday to serve as defense minister when he submitted his list of 21 nominees to Parliament. Mr. Vahidi was the head of the secret Quds Force, an arm of the Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations overseas.
He was one of five Iranian officials sought by Interpol on Argentine charges of “conceiving, planning, financing and executing” the 1994 attack, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds, said a statement issued by the Anti-Defamation League condemning the nomination.
The hand of Tehran was suspected early in the investigation. However, some criminal justice experts have raised questions recently about Iran’s having had a direct role in the attack, saying it was more likely the work of an Iranian proxy group, Hezbollah, and others in South America.
It was unclear Friday night how Iranian officials might react to the complaints from abroad about Mr. Vahidi, but the issue of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s cabinet choices was already a problem for the president. Leaders in the conservative-dominated Parliament, which must approve all cabinet appointments, have said they expect to reject as many as five nominees as unqualified — another sign of the conflict set off by the disputed presidential election in June.
Mr. Ahmadinejad and his allies have failed to silence the critics or even to present a veneer of political unity since the election, and each week seems to bring a new chapter in the worst political crisis to confront Iran since its revolution in 1979. On Friday, the head of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council called for the arrest of the leaders of the protests that swept the nation after the election.
In a fiery and combative speech at a Friday Prayer ceremony in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati argued that justice demanded the arrest of the leaders, not only the rank and file. He never explicitly named Mir Hussein Moussavi or Mehdi Karroubi, the two presidential candidates who have led the protests. But it was clear whom he meant.
“Implementing justice is not easy when you have to grab the throats of the bigwigs, and they should be confronted first,” Ayatollah Jannati said from the stage in a stadium-size prayer hall at Tehran University. “Otherwise, it is easy to confront petty thieves and nobodies.”
It was not the first time that a high-ranking official had called for the arrest of the two men, who have refused to back down from the charges that Mr. Ahmadinejad and his allies stole the election through fraud and vote rigging. But by not naming names, it was unclear if Ayatollah Jannati was trying to prepare public opinion for the eventual arrests, or if he was holding back to avoid pushing the country deeper into crisis.
“What is true is the unprecedented degree of internal divisions,” said a Western diplomat who worked in Iran for years but asked not to be identified, in accordance with diplomatic protocol. “Yet, because the regime itself has taken stock of the danger, all the different players are refraining from pushing things toward a real crisis.”
In his speech, Ayatollah Jannati, a close ally of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked judicial officials why so many people had been arrested but not those who led them. Since the election, thousands of protesters and opposition figures have been taken into custody. While most have been released, the state has begun three mass trials in which former high-ranking officials, journalists and intellectuals have been paraded into courtrooms in pajamas and accused of helping to promote the overthrow of the government through a velvet revolution.
“The recent riots and disturbances were an injustice against Islam and the revolution and the nation and people’s regime was targeted,” Ayatollah Jannati said. “Some were arrested in these events, but those who were behind this calamity and had led it were not arrested.”
In the days since the contested election and the ensuing government crackdown, Mr. Moussavi has kept a relatively low profile, communicating mostly through his Web site and surrogates. Mr. Karroubi, a cleric who was an early supporter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, has emerged as the most aggressive critic of the system. He made public charges that men and women arrested during the protests were being raped in prisons — charges the state has noy yet fully addressed or silenced.
At the same time, the leadership, including the political and clerical elite, finds itself increasingly divided into competing camps. Parliament is scheduled to consider the cabinet nominations on Sunday. But that matter may prove to be more easily handled than the charges of prison rape.
Addressing the Islamic Society of Engineers this week, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Parliament, eased off his initial insistence that the rape charges were unfounded.
“I announced that they submit evidence if any relevant documents are available,” Mr. Larijani told the engineers society. “If Mr. Karroubi is willing, we will listen to him.”
The post-election trials of opposition activists in Tehran resemble the Soviet purge trials of the 1930s. They are one more sign that Iran is entering a new era, but one that is the exact opposite of the idea that the conflict over stolen elections will weaken the regime or lead to more active dissent.
Up to now, the regime has generally operated—or at least pretended to do so--on what in Iran is called the “Islamic Republican” philosophy which allowed a real margin of freedom. This is a combination of popular sovereignty and Islamism. The people were allowed to vote for candidates deemed to support the revolution. At times, the balloting was more honest; at times less.
The regime exercised control by deciding who could run, not by dictating everything. A second line of control was the Council of Experts, which served as a supreme court to determine whether legislation passed by the elected parliament was acceptable under the regime’s definition of Islamic law and religion.
The system’s advantage was that it gave people a greater sense of freedom and broadened the regime’s base. Different factions co-existed and competed with a fair amount of freedom. Newspapers critical of the regime were shut down but then allowed to reopen under a different name. The relatively “liberal” establishment figure Muhammad Khatami and his reform-minded supporters were even permitted to win elections. They just weren’t allowed to change anything.
But several things made the regime too nervous to continue with this system. The main one was fear of losing not only an honest election but even a “lightly” fixed one. Several years ago, the rules were tightened to favor the regime even more. Yet the last election proved even this didn’t suffice.
Compare this to Soviet history. From the time of the revolution into the 1930s, the USSR was a dictatorship which ruthlessly repressed any opposition to the Communist regime. But there was also a certain amount of freedom for different views within the context of the ruling ideology.
Then, Joseph Stalin emerged as sole dictator, with a monopoly on the legacy of the revolution’s founder Vladimir Lenin, and suppressing any other possible leader or faction. Every aspect of Soviet life was reduced to worshipping Stalin. Institutions were purged; formerly respected leaders put on trial, admitting they were fascist-capitalist agents, and being finished off with a bullet to the head.
To say this is happening in Iran now would be an exaggeration but parallels are striking.
In Iran, the new system’s key element is partnership between Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Perhaps the 70-year-old Khamenei accepts the 52-year-old Ahmadinejad as heir, the man he thinks best able, along with his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps backers, to preserve the regime.
Khamenei’s likely motivation is fear that the revolution is being eroded by what its leaders consider the endless cultural subversion of the outside world. It is also, as history shows, very hard to maintain a high level of revolutionary enthusiasm over a long period of time in any society. And the last election certainly shows that a very large number of Iranians are fed up with the regime.
That’s why the trials theme is that the opposition planned a coup, reflecting the leaders’ single greatest fear. Of course, staging a coup is precisely what the rulers are really themselves are doing.
Yet being thrown out of power is not the regime’s only worry. The other main concern is that external forces might moderate the regime’s policies by bringing to power less radical leaders. This government is determined to remain hard line and ideologically tight. Ahmadinejad is clearly the man for this task and that is why Khamenei is promoting him. And behind Ahmadinejad stand the revolution’s armed elite, its most fanatical upholders: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the thuggish Basij.
This is why no amount of concession or engagement will alter the Iranian government’s strategy and behavior. Iran’s ruling group is becoming more, not less, militant. In Soviet terms, Iran today is in the Stalinist 1930s, not the 1980s under Mikhail Gorbachev.
Being on the verge of getting nuclear weapons makes the regime feel stronger and able to be more aggressive, not the opposite. Those who think a nuclear Iran will be a secure, reasonable Iran are in for a big disappointment.
Gorbachev’s legacy is precisely what the regime fears. At the trials, the prosecution speaks of a “velvet coup” or “color revolution.” This calls to mind what has happened elsewhere: masses inspired by freedom revolted; rulers, easing up their tight fist, contributed to their own downfall. Communism’s collapse has haunted Middle East dictators, persuading them to tighten up further. One anecdote: after Romania’s dictator was executed, graffiti appeared in Syria warning that country’s dictator he was next.
According to the regime’s conspiracy theory—never in a shortage within Iranian debates—foreign money, spies, and think tanks backed locals to overthrow the regime. One might wish this to be true but it isn’t.
The alleged big plan was to claim “falsely” that the election was stolen, mobilize demonstrations, and seize state power. Precisely how this was to be done given the fact that the regime has all the guns and institutional control is not clear.
This conspiracy was supposedly coordinated by Western powers. The arrests of a string of American and European nationals, journalists and researchers, in recent years on espionage charges laid the basis for the regime’s campaign. A key figure at present is Clotilde Reiss, a French citizen whose “espionage” seems to have consisted solely of taking pictures of demonstrations, talking to people about events, and passing the publicly available information to the French embassy.
But whether or not there was Western involvement—the U.S. government and Europe leaned over backwards and denied the oppositionists the kind of verbal support they would have received if from any other dictatorship—the Iranian government was going to claim it existed.
Meanwhile, some defendants in the trial “confessed” in obsequious terms that they lied, plotted, and subverted the glorious Islamic republic. Were they tortured? Threatened with death for themselves or their families?
What all this seems to signify is not just short-term repression to enforce Ahmadinejad’s reelection but a turning point in the regime’s history. Many historians think that Stalin’s terror was motivated by his discovering that a lot of his Communist party colleagues voted for other candidates in the Central Committee elections.
The new era in Iran might well be of vastly heightened internal repression coupled with an ambitious program of expanding Iran’s influence in the region, no less than seeking to be leader of the Gulf area, Middle East, and Muslim world generally. In the face of this trend, the efforts of Western governments or of President Barrack Obama to talk, charm, or sanction Iran into more moderate behavior are hopeless.
This seems to be the start of an era characterized by Western appeasement of Iran, an unprecedented challenge by that regime to the international and regional system, or both.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books: http://www.gloria-center.org/ To see or subscribe to his blog: http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2009/08/tell-me-when-to-start-worr...
[TEHRAN BUREAU] Comment The fourth installment of the Stalinesque show trials of the leaders of the reformist movement was held today in Tehran. In this part of the big show, some of the most important reformist leaders were featured, including Dr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, secretary-general of Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the most important reformist group in Iran; Mohsen Safaei Farahani, Saeed Shariati, Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, Shahabolddin Tabatabaei, and Dr. Saeed Hajjarian, all leading members of the IIPF; Mostafa Tajzadeh, a member of the IIPF and the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (IRMO), another leading reformist group; Behzad Nabavi, a leading member of the IRMO, and Hedayatollah Aghaei, a leading member of the Executives of Reconstruction Party (ERP), a reformist group close to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Also present in court were Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, who used to work for the George Soros Open Society, and three of the journalists arrested, Jalal Karami, Masoud Bastani, and Mohammad Quchani, a leading reformist journalist and editor of many reformist newspapers that have been closed by the hardliners. [Overall, 42 journalists were arrested, but some were later released]. Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, who was a leader of the Mir Hossein Mousavi campaign, and a doctoral student at Oxford University in Britain, was also present in court. The court has apparently ordered the release of Quchani and Jalaeipour before the court session took place, but they were still brought to court for an appearance.
Once again, the prosecutor read a long “indictment” that had been prepared by Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s notorious Prosecutor General and the Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court. Once again, the “indictment” was not a legal document, but a political manifesto of the hardliners, almost all of which had been published over the past few years by the daily newspaper Kayhan, the mouthpiece of the security-intelligence apparatus, and Fars News Agency, which operates more like a propaganda machine.
Once again, the reformist leaders were accused of having links with foreign powers, and in particular Britain and the United States, through a variety of channels, from the Open Society to people who are, or were at some point, supposedly members of western intelligence agencies.
The goals of “the indictment” were clear:
To set the stage for outlawing the three leading reformist groups, namely, the IIPF, IRMO and ERP. In the author’s previous reports on the show trials, this possibility had been set out. With the fourth session, however, such a goal has become abundantly clear.
To attack Rafsanjani indirectly, by accusing his son, Mehdi Hashemi, and his nephew, Ali Hashemi, of having a hand in the demonstrations and being behind the harsh criticisms leveled at Ahmadinejad and his administration.
To humiliate Dr. Hajjarian, who was the target of an assassination attempt by the hardliners in March 2000, which left him semi-paralyzed. Hajjarian is considered the leading reformist strategist and a hero.
The first goal was achieved by reading a long litany of actions committed by the three political parties, and in particular the IIPF, the main target of the prosecutor, that supposedly amounted to “treason.” These actions went back to 1998, when the IIPF was founded by 100 of the leading reformists, including those who were present in court.
The “treason” included criticizing Iran’s stance on its nuclear program vis-à-vis the European Union and the United States; referring to the Islamic Republic as a dual ruling group (i.e., the republican part versus the Islamic side); calling the recent election a fraud; urging better diplomacy with the outside world, etc.
Dr. Mirdamadi was accused of saying to the European officials, in a trip he made as the Chair of the National Security Committee of the 6th Majles, that Iran’s political system has two parts: an elected part and an unelected part. How this well-known fact constitutes treason is not clear. It is even mentioned in and recognized by Iran’s constitution.
More importantly, even if one assumes that the long litany of the “accusations” made by the prosecution do actually constitute treason, why were there no attempts made in the past several years to confront them? Why was no member of the three reformist groups, including those who were present in court, ever accused of committing “treason” before?
It was as if the court suddenly recognized these as “treason” after the reformist leaders protested the sham “election” and the coup staged by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)! It was as if “treason” could be tolerated or ignored, unless they also included calling the election what it really was, a large-scale fraud for retaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president!
Another absurd aspect of the “treason” committed by members of the IIPF is that some of those who have also engaged in such alleged subversion, have not been indicted. Their names will not be mentioned here.
The second goal of the “indictment” was to attack Rafsanjani’s relatives and set the stage for their indictment, which would in turn weaken Rafsanjani and pave the way to eliminate him from the political scene. For example, Ali Hashemi, Rafsanjani’s nephew, was accused of presenting a “fake” poll indicating that Mousavi was far ahead of Ahmadinejad before the election. He is accused of doing this to make people believe there was going to be fraud in the vote count, which would provoke people to demonstrate after the election.
Two journalists, Jalal Karami and Masoud Bastani, were also forced to read statements in which they spoke against Mehdi Hashemi, Rafsanjani’s son. For example, Bastani, who is the editor of the political website, Jomhouriyat [Republicanism], stated that his website, which was under the management of Mehdi Hashemi, had become a site for attacking the Guardian Council [a Constitutional body that vets the candidates for most elections], the Basij militia, the IRGC, the police, Ahmadinejad, and creating doubts about the election, and presenting polls and statistics to provoke people. He also stated that these were all done in coordination with Karami.
The third goal of the “indictment” was to break and humiliate Dr. Hajjarian. He is despised by the hardliners as he was the brain and strategist behind the reform movement. He is particularly despised by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, Ahmadinejad’s former Minister of Intelligence who was just appointed as the new Prosecutor General of Iran, stated a few years ago, “If I were a judge and Hajjarian’s case was on my desk, I would give him a death sentence.”
Nine years ago, his popular newspaper, Sobh-e Emrooz [This Morning], was “temporarily” closed, and remains so. Even now that Dr. Hajjarian is mostly paralyzed, unable to speak coherently or for an extended period, he is feared and despised by the hardliners.
Because Dr. Hajjarian has difficulty speaking since the assassination attempt, his “confession” was read by Saeed Shariati, another member of the IIPF. But, what was read, even if genuine, was in the author’s opinion, a courageous act by Dr. Hajjarian. He basically blamed himself for the “offenses” that the IIPF has supposedly committed. He “confessed” many times that his analysis and thinking, which have been used by the IIPF, were wrong. He also declared that he was resigning from membership in the IIPF. He was basically saying, “Blame me for all of it; leave the IIPF alone.”
Anyone who knows Dr. Hajjarian, or has followed his work for two decades, like the author, is deeply familiar with his views on Iran. He has been active for nearly four decades in the nation’s struggle for a democratic political system, of institutionalizing personal and political freedom, including freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom of thought. A person with such a track record does not, almost overnight, change his views. In today’s court session, he was just making one more sacrifice for his friends and colleagues.
Dr. Hajjarian’s long time attorney is Gholamali Riahi. Tehran’s Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, had also appointed another attorney for Dr. Hajjarian, an unknown attorney named Salahi. The goal was clear: Salahi, the appointed attorney, would present a feeble defense of Dr. Hajjarian, state that he has “repented,” and ask for Islamic kindness and clemency. By also allowing Riahi to be a co-attorney for Dr. Hajjarian, the hardliners wanted to claim that whatever was stated by Salahi about Dr. Hajjarian was also agreed upon by Riahi. That was another facet to the hardliners’ attempt to humiliate Dr. Hajjarian. But, Riahi, an old hand in representing reformists in the hardliners’ court system, understood the game and resigned as Dr. Hajjarian’s attorney, thus at least foiling this part of the hardliners’ plot.
An interesting aspect of today’s session was what happened after the session ended. Dr. Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, a member of the central committee of the IIPF and the spokesman for the second term of the Khatami administration, told reporters after the court session that, “I am a reformist and my views are well-known.” In other words, he was saying, “Whatever the prosecutor quoted me saying today does not represent my true views. Mine are those that are already well-known.” Mohsen Safaei Farahani, an economist and a member of the central committee of the IIPF, also said the same thing.
The IIPF issued a harshly-worded statement, declaring that the Stalinist show trials and its 4th session today were only aimed at giving legitimacy to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “landslide election.” It stated that the court was illegal and failed to follow any established legal procedure. It asked, rhetorically, “Who among us does not know the views of dear Saeed [Hajjarian] who was trying to fault himself for everything, whereas every member of the IIPF proudly defends its achievements and goals.”
Is state terror a new development in the Islamic Republic? Apparently not:
The Bloody Red Summer of 1988
Posted: 25 Aug 2009 07:49 AM PDT
By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 25 Aug 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] The 1980s, particularly the period between 1980 and 1988, are the darkest and bloodiest in the history of contemporary Iran. In 1980, the country was still in the grip of the chaos of the 1979 Revolution. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had been toppled, but the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan did not last long either. They resigned on November 5, 1979, the day after Islamic leftist students overran the United States embassy in Tehran.
The reactionary right, which began to emerge at this time, was eager to clamp down on dissent. With their help, political freedom began to wane only a year into the Revolution. As more and more restrictions began to be put in place, internal strife began to increase dramatically as well. As always, the universities were the centers of dissent. Secular leftist students were particularly strong and well organized on campuses. The reactionary right managed to convince the Islamic leftists of the necessity of a crackdown.
To crackdown on dissent, and to purge the secular leftists from the universities, the political establishment began to speak of the necessity of a “cultural revolution.” To formalize it, on Friday April 18, 1980, after Friday prayers, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini strongly attacked the universities in a speech.
We are not afraid of economic sanctions or military intervention [which were feared at that time because of the hostage crisis]. What we are afraid of is Western universities and the training of our youth in the interests of the West or East.
Many interpreted Ayatollah Khomeini’s speech of April 18, 1980, as a signal for attacks on the universities. In the evening of that day, right-wing paramilitary forces called Phalangists, after the Lebanese Phalangist forces that were fighting the leftist forces in the civil war in that country, laid siege to the Teachers Training College of Tehran. The campus looked like a “war zone,” according to a British reporter, and one student was reportedly lynched.
Other campuses around the country did not fare any better. Over the next two days, offices of leftist students at universities in Ahwaz, Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz were ransacked, leaving hundreds injured and at least 20 people dead. The violence then spread to several campuses in Tehran, particularly the University of Tehran, which has always been a hotbed of political dissent.
All the universities were shut down on June 12, 1980, and did not re-open until two years later. Officially, the goal was the “Islamization” of the universities, which was an absurd notion. (How, for example, do you “Islamicize” the natural and medical sciences, or engineering?) It was really just a guise for exercising oppression and repression.
While the country was in disarray, Saddam Hussein decided to invade Iran. He had never been happy with the 1975 Algiers Agreement signed by Iraq and the Shah intended to settle a border dispute. Add to that the threat of a revolution led by Shia clerics next door, especially when the Shiites made up the majority of the population in Iraq. Ayatollah Khomeini and his disciples were also using tough rhetoric to denounce Saddam Hussein.
Hussein also made a great miscalculation: He thought that with Iran’s regular army disorganized and demoralized, and with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) still in its infancy, he could easily invade Iran and occupy a significant portion of it. That, in Hussein’s thinking, would provoke a military coup by the remnants of the imperial army and get rid of the clerical leadership.
Hence, after some border skirmishes, Iraq’s army invaded Iran on September 22, 1980, and began a war that lasted approximately eight years. “This war is a gift from God,” said Ayatollah Khomeini. And from his perspective, it was. On the one hand, the war unified a nation that was getting tired of all the chaos and gave them a patriotic cause to rally around: defending the homeland. On the other, the war gave the extremist right wingers the perfect excuse, to use the threat of ‘national security and territorial integrity of Iran’ to brutally repress the opposition with much bloodshed.
At the same time, the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MKO), the most powerful opposition group, was constantly agitating the political scene. It was not totally their fault. The right-wing, and even some elements of the Islamic left, were opposed to the MKO, and played an important role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and the confrontation between the two camps.
Mohammad Reza Saadati, who was among the top leaders of the MKO [and who had been jailed by the Shah from 1973-1978], had also been arrested by the new regime on the charge of being a spy for the Soviet Union. [To the best of the author’s knowledge, the charge was bogus]. However, his arrest outside the Soviet embassy had provided the right wing with much ammunition and propaganda to attack the MKO. Supporters of the MKO, and even very young, impressionable people who were simply a mouthpiece of the MKO, the Mojahed, and were being harassed all the time. Seventy-one of them were killed between February 1979 and June 1981.
The MKO’s goal was gaining power at any cost, at the earliest time possible. The MKO leaders, Masoud Rajavi and Mousa Khiabani, had even proposed to Ayatollah Khomeini to “deliver to them the government,” as they considered themselves the only group qualified to run the government. But Ayatollah Khomeini rejected the proposal. In fact, before the victory of the Revolution and while still in Paris, Ayatollah Khomeini had reached a consensus with others, including Mehdi Bazargan, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Taleghani, a popular progressive cleric who passed away on September 9, 1979, and others, that no top governmental position should be given to the MKO. Rajavi was also disqualified from running in the first presidential election in February 1980.
By early 1981, Abolhassan Banisadr, who had been elected the Islamic Republic’s first president in February 1980 and had been a close aid of Ayatollah Khomeini during the Revolution, was also on a collision course with the Ayatollah and his circle of clerical aids, and the MKO was supporting him. On June 10, 1981, the Ayatollah sacked Banisadr as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces [according to Iran’s Constitution, the Ayatollah was the commander-in-chief, but he had transferred the authority to Banisadr]. On June 19, the MKO issued a harshly-worded statement, calling Ayatollah Khomeini all kinds of names [the same ayatollah who, up until a few weeks earlier, had been called by the MKO "the Father," "the Leader," etc.], and declaring armed struggle against the government. Over the next two days, huge demonstrations were held by the MKO and the government against each other.
On June 21, 1981, the Majles (parliament) impeached Banisadr; he was fired. By that point, he had already fled and gone into hiding in western Iran. The IRGC executed several of his close aids, including Hossein Navab, Rashid Sadrolhefazi, and Manouchehr Massoudi, an attorney. Their mouthpiece, Enghelab-e Eslami [Islamic Revolution] was also shut down. [Enghelab-e Eslami is still published in exile in France.] Dozens of others were also executed on June 21 and 22, including at least 12 young girls whose identities were not even known to the judiciary. Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani, the prosecutor of the revolutionary court, declared that he did not care about the identities of the young people whose execution he was ordering. Saeed Soltanpour, a poet and a leftist, was arrested during his wedding ceremony and later executed.
June 20, 1981, was also the last time that the author spoke with his younger brother, Ali. Living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attending graduate school, I called Ali, who was home in Tehran. I was worried about my family. Ali had just gotten home when I called. His voice was hoarse and angry. He had supported the Revolution and had actively participated in it, but had turned against the political establishment. I never spoke to him again. It was impossible to find him after that last conversation.
Almost three months later, on September 8, 1981, the author’s brother was arrested, and was executed on September 17. In the morning of the day after his execution, the author’s family received a phone call from the notorious Evin prison, notifying them that Ali had been executed, and that they should go there to take his body and belongings. When my father, an aunt, and a cousin went to Evin, they were told to go to the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery because Ali had already been buried. When they went there, they were told that no one with that name had been buried there.
Hopeful that there could have been a mistake made, they went home. But, in a television news program broadcast at 2:00 p.m. that day, the government announced the names of 180 people who had been executed two nights earlier, among them my brother. So, the entire family rushed to the cemetery, and this time they were told where Ali had been buried. The official policy at that time was not to confirm the burial of any executed person until his or her name had been officially announced. So, the life of a 23-year-old university student and patriot was abruptly ended.
The family was ordered to refrain from mourning the death of Ali publicly, and also told not to put a tombstone on his grave. They did both, and ran into a great deal of trouble for doing so. When they put in the tombstone, it was immediately broken by the Phalangists. The family installed two more, both of which met with the same fate. After the fourth tombstone was installed, the Phalangists stopped breaking it.
Many Muslims follow a tradition of visiting the grave of a loved one every Thursday afternoon for the first year after their death. The author’s family closely observed this tradition. Every week, when they visited the cemetery, they were harassed by the Phalangists, who shouted that they hoped they — the author’s family — would be dead soon too. When on the anniversary of the author’s brother’s death, the family had visited his grave, they were all arrested and taken to a police station nearby, interrogated for hours, and finally released. They refused to guarantee that they would not visit the cemetery again.
But that was not the end of our troubles. The author’s father was forced to retire and stay home, because he was very outspoken against the clerics. He was threatened that if he did not stay home, he would be jailed. The author’s youngest brother, who was 16 at that time, was arrested and jailed for a week. Twice he was blindfolded and taken to a mock execution. It was a miracle that he too was not executed.
The suffering of the author’s family was neither unique, nor the worst. Thousands of families who lost their loved ones in the 1980s went through the same kind of suffering, sometimes under more dire circumstances. There were families who lost several loved ones to executions. Hundreds of thousands of families also lost loved ones to the Iran-Iraq war.
On June 28, 1981, there was a huge explosion in the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party, a clergy-dominated political group founded by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, and others. Nearly 120, by some estimates, including the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti, and scores of other senior government and political figures were killed. The MKO considered Beheshti its archenemy.
To evoke emotions, however, the government announced that Beheshti and 72 — not the correct number — of his comrades had been killed. This was done in order to make a parallel between that and the events of October 10, 680 A.D. in Karbala, in modern day Iraq, when Imam Hossein, the Shias’ third Imam, the grandson of the Prophet and one of the most revered figure in Iran, and 72 of his close supporters and family members were slain in an epic battle.
It is widely believed that the MKO carried out the bombing of the Islamic Republic headquarters, which took the bloody confrontation between the MKO and the government to a completely new level. The MKO began assassinating senior political figures, including many leading ayatollahs. Mohammad Ali Rajai, who had been elected President after Banisadr; Dr. Mohammad Javad Bahonar, the Prime Minister under Rajaei, were assassinated on August 30, 1981. In retaliation, the government would arrest and kill MKO members and supporters, showing no mercy, not even on the very young, and in some instances children. The youngest victim that the author is aware of was a girl named Fatemeh Mesbah, who was said to be 12 when killed. Ayatollah Mohammadi Gilani even ordered the execution of two of his own children.
At Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, the author’s brother’s grave is surrounded by those of other people who were executed around the same time, including very young people between the ages of 14 and 28. Next to the author’s brother’s grave is the resting place of a young medical doctor, who was executed at 28. His only “offense” was treating protesters who had been injured during street demonstrations. A cousin of the author met the same fate. He too was a medical doctor, and about the same age, when he too was executed for the same “offense.” His brother and another cousin had already been killed during the Revolution.
Two other victims of the executions also evoke deep emotions in the author. Laid to rest in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, in the same section of the author’s brother’s grave, are Maryam Golzadeh Ghafouri and her husband Alireza Haj Samadi, both MKO members. Maryam’s father, Ali Golzadeh Ghafouri, taught the author to read and interpret the Holy Quran, when he was young. The author’s father and several friends had started a weekly gathering on Tuesday nights to read the Holy Quran and study its teachings. Typically, 50 people would participate, and the place of the meeting would rotate between the members’ homes. The author also participated in the gatherings, as his father was keen that he learn about the Holy Quran.
Each person in the gathering would read a few verses, or lines, from the Holy Quran. Golzadeh Ghafouri, who was not a clergy, would first correct the way we read, making sure that we pronounced the Arabic words correctly. Then, at the end, he would interpret what we had read. He was a devout Muslim, who was progressive, extremely knowledgeable and very kind, a true gentleman in every sense of the word, and a friend of the author’s father. The author had the highest respect for him. He supported the Revolution, and was a deputy in the first Majles after the Revolution. But after his daughter and son-in-law were executed, he quit the Majles and went into seclusion. He has hardly been seen in public since.
No one was safe, not even those who had played prominent roles in the Revolution. One example was Ayatollah Hassan Lahouti, the first clerical commander of the IRGC, whose two sons were married to Rafsanjani’s daughters. Lahouti went to Evin to see another son, who had been arrested — apparently for being a member of the MKO — and died there. Lahouti, who had been very critical of the clerics, was reportedly killed there.
The MKO tactic of assassinating government officials had been emulated from leftist Latin American guerrilla fighters. For example, when the Tupamaros were unable to take over the government of Uruguay in the 1960s through elections, they began a campaign of assassinations. The goal was to provoke the military to take harsh action, and then use the military’s reaction as an excuse to further provoke the population against the government. The MKO was using the same tactic.
Mohammad Reza Saadati, a top MKO leader, was executed on July 27, 1981. Before his death, he had asked to be released in return for helping put an end to the MKO’s armed struggle; but the hardliners did not care. They wanted blood and revenge. The next day, Banisadr and Rajavi fled Iran. A Boeing 707, flown by an air force pilot, took them first to Turkey and then to Paris, France. That began the process of the MKO going into exile. Eventually, MKO forces settled in Iraq, and worked with Saddam Hussein against Iran. The group, or what remains of it, is now listed as a terrorist organization by the United States State Department.
In February 1982, the MKO suffered a tremendous blow. Mousa Khiabani, the commander of the MKO forces in Iran, his pregnant wife Azar Rezai [whose brothers Ahmad, Reza and Mehdi had been killed under the Shah], and Ashraf Rabiei, Rajavi’s wife, and 18 other MKO members were killed by the IRGC in a shootout. The three had managed to break through the IRGC forces, but their bulletproof Peugeot was hit by an RPG that killed everyone but Rajavi’s 1-year-old son. Rajavi appointed Ali Zarkesh the new commander of the MKO forces in Iran. He was killed in 1988 during the MKO attacks on Iran from Iraq (see below).
The campaign of assassinations by the MKO, and the execution of young members and sympathizers of the MKO, continued for another two years. The right wing used that and the war with Iraq to also go after other political groups, such as the Paykar [confrontation], a Stalinist-Maoist group and offshoot of the MKO; Rah-e Kargar [worker’s path], and a faction of the People’s Fadaaiyan Guerrilla (which had played an important role in the struggle against the Shah), called the minority faction. Gradually, even the members and supporters of the Tudeh Party [the pro-Soviet communist party] and another faction of People’s Fadaaiyan Guerrilla, called the majority faction, who had supported the government were no longer safe either. Thousands of people, mostly the young or very young, were summarily executed.
At the same time, the war with Iraq was raging on. By June 1982, Iranian forces had pushed back Iraq’s forces from almost all of Iran’s occupied territories. When Khorramshahr, Iran’s most important seaport on the Persian Gulf, was liberated, there were celebrations all over Iran. The war should have ended then. Saddam was ready to accept a ceasefire.
But, according to a friend of the author from his college years in Iran, who was in a meeting with Ayatollah Khomeini [who was initially in favor of ending the war], commanders of the IRGC and government officials to discuss what to do about the war, the ideologues in the IRGC convinced the Ayatollah that they could easily overrun Iraq and liberate its Shiite part. They told the Ayatollah that it would not take that long to accomplish the goal. Ali Khamenei, then president, was apparently opposed to the continuation of the war as well.
The Ayatollah gave the IRGC commanders his blessing, but it was another six years before the war finally ended. The war ended only when the government, its resources, and the population were totally spent. Mir Hossein Mousavi, then Prime Minster, had informed Rafsanjani, then the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that his government could no longer sustain the war efforts.
The government’s own statistics indicated that during the war with Iraq, 273,000 soldiers were killed and another 700,000 injured, many with long-term wounds. Of the soldiers killed, 30,000 had died up to and including the time of liberation of Khorramshahr, and the rest in the remaining years of the war. Thus, close to 88% of the soldiers who died in the war did not have to, had Iran ended the war in June 1982.
At the same time that political activists were being killed, young soldiers were also dying in the war. Political freedom and the freedom of the press were nonexistent.
At the same time, two other events were taking place:
One, forced televised “confessions,” similar to what the hardliners have staged over the past month. A wide range of people, from Noureddin Kianouri, secretary-general of the Tudeh Party, to Maryam Shirdel, a simple supporter of the MKO, were paraded in front of the camera to “confess.” Shirdel was forced to say that she had sexual relations with an MKO member, a totally bogus confession.
The second phenomenon was tavvab saazi: forcing prisoners to repent for their “sins” and accepting the reactionary version of Islam that the interrogators and the tavvab saazaan — the interrogators who “converted” the prisoners and put them back on the “right” path to “redemption” — were feeding them with. Some of the prisoners became tavvab, they repented to save their lives; they had not really set aside their beliefs. A small number became tavvab and began serving their masters. The majority refused to “repent.” Hossein Shariatmadari, the dreaded managing editor of Kayhan, the hardliners’ mouthpiece, and Saeed Emami, the notorious gang leader who was responsible for the murder of scores of dissidents and intellectuals from 1988-1998, were two such tavvab saaz.
During this dark period, almost all government, judiciary and military officials either supported the bloody crackdown, or were silent. The most important person, practically the only one with stature, who courageously opposed the bloodshed was Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. He was the deputy to then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and tried his best to prevent the executions, and improve the conditions of those imprisoned. He visited the prisons frequently and ordered improvements. He also sent his representatives, such as Hojjatoleslam Ansari Najafabadi, to the prisons to visit and report to him.
The reports that Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was receiving were horrible. Thus, he began writing letters to Ayatollah Khomeini, his teacher and mentor, protesting the conditions in jails. In one letter in October 1986 that he mentions in his memoirs, he wrote,
Do you know that,
The crimes that are taking place in the jails of Islamic Republic did not even take place in the Shah’s regime?
Many people have died due to torture?
In Shiraz’s jail [in southern Iran] a young woman who was fasting [during the month of Ramadan] was executed for a very minor offense right after she broke her fast [in the evening]?
Some young girls have been forcefully possessed [raped]?
During the interrogation of young women very nasty profanities are used?
Many prisoners have become blind or deaf, due to torture, and nobody has helped [to treat them]?
In many jails they even prevent the prisoners from saying their prayers?
In some jails the prisoners do not see the light of the day for months?
Even after a prisoner is given a jail sentence, he/she is still beaten regularly?
I am sure that [if you talk to others about this letter] they will tell you that these are lies and he [Grand Ayatollah Montazeri] is naïve.
Note the striking similarities between what Grand Ayatollah Montazeri reported to Ayatollah Khomeini in 1986 and the charges that Mehdi Karroubi, a leader of the reformists and the Green Movement, has been making about what takes place in Iranian jails.
There are many culprits in the killings and horrible treatment of detainees. But one in particular is Seyyed Asadollah Lajevardi, who had been jailed by the Shah’s government several times. After the 1979 Revolution he was appointed the Tehran Prosecutor. When in June 1981 the MKO assassinated Mohammad Kachouei, the warden of the Evin prison, Lajevardi was appointed the warden. He even moved his family to Evin.
One of Lajevardi’s main claims was that he was an excellent tavvab saaz, boasting that 95% of his “guests” at Evin prison eventually gave a tape-recorded “confession” and “praised” the Islamic Republic. In reality, he was a brutal, possibly mentally ill man, known aptly as the “Butcher of Evin.” He was responsible for thousands of executions, including those in 1988.
By 1988 Iran was totally exhausted and could not continue the war. On July 20, 1987, the United Nations Security Council had already passed Resolution 598, calling on Iran and Iraq to cease the hostilities. But it took Ayatollah Khomeini one more year to accept the ceasefire — “to drink the poison,” as he put it.
Right after the ceasefire went into effect, the MKO forces attacked Iran from Iraq in an operation they called Amaliyat-e Forough-e Javidaan [Operation Eternal Light], but referred to as Amaliyat-e Mersaad [Operations Trap] by the IRGC. The MKO forces were defeated easily and had heavy losses — at least 1700 according to the MKO, and many more according to other sources.
Evidence indicates that before the ceasefire went into effect and the MKO attacks began, the Islamic Republic was already thinking about eliminating most, if not all, the political prisoners. Ayatollah Khomeini had ordered the formation of a secret commission to look into executing the MKO prisoners, as well as secular leftists, and had secretly authorized their execution. The former were classified as the mohaarebs [those who fight against God], while the secular leftists were considered as mortads [those not believing in God].
First, the MKO prisoners were interviewed in Evin and Gohar Dasht prisons. They were first asked their affiliation. If they responded “the Mojahedin,” that would be the end of the interview. The prisoners would be taken to the gallows after writing their wills. If, however, they responded “the Monafeghin,” the hypocrites, the name that the government had given to the MKO, they would be asked the next six questions: (i) Are you willing to denounce your former colleagues? (ii) Are you willing to denounce them in front of cameras? (iii) Are you willing to help us hunt them down? (iv) Will you name secret sympathizers? (v) Will you identify those whose repentance were fake? (vi) Are you willing to go to the war front and walk on the minefields? If the answer to any of the questions was not affirmative, the prisoner would be hanged.
The secular leftists would be asked even more questions: (i) Are you a Muslim? (ii) Do you believe in God? (iii) Is the Holy Quran the word of God? (iv) Do you believe in heaven and hell? (v) Do you accept Muhammad to be the last of the prophets? (vi) Will you publicly recant historical materialism? (vii) Will you denounce your former beliefs before the cameras? (viii) Do you fast during the fasting month of Ramadan? (ix) Do you pray and read the Holy Quran? (x) Would you rather share a cell with a Muslim or non-Muslim? (xi) Will you sign an affidavit that you believe in God, the Prophet, the Holy Quran and in Judgment Day? (xii) When you were growing up, did your father pray, fast and read the Holy Quran?
The last question was very important. If the prisoner responded “no,” then he could not be held accountable for the fact that he did not believe in Islam, and would escape hanging. But, many prisoners did not know about this.
Thousands of political prisoners were then executed in the summer of 1988. The majority of them were MKO members, but many also belonged to other groups. Many of them were buried in mass graves in the Khavaran cemetery, east of Tehran. Recently, the government tried to convert the cemetery to a park in an apparent effort to erase all signs of the crime.
The exact number of those who were executed is unknown. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri puts the number at up to 3800. Others have made a list of a little over 4500. There are estimates as high as 12,000. All those who were executed had been given jail sentences, and many had actually finished their sentences. Many were college or even high school students. Almost none had committed a serious offense, for the simple fact that they would have been executed right after their arrest, if they had. Roughly 10% of the executed were women.
The executions constitute a crime against humanity. Those who were responsible should be put on trial by the International Criminal Court. Some of them, such as Hojjatoleslams Jafar Nayyeri, Ebrahim Raeisi, and Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Ahmadinejad’s first Interior Minister, still hold important positions within the political system.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri strongly protested the mass killings, and resigned. He was then attacked savagely by the right-wing extremists, but the Ayatollah never backed down, which explains the immense respect that he enjoys today. Mehdi Bazargan and his Freedom Movement colleagues also protested the killings, and were detained, but released later.
The exact motivation for the killings is not known. It has been claimed by various officials of the Islamic Republic, most recently two weeks ago by Hossein Saffar Harandi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance who resigned three weeks ago and is a former IRGC commander, that they were killed in retaliation for the MKO attacks from Iraq.
But, as mentioned earlier, there is evidence that the preparation for the killings had been started even before the ceasefire. For example, Anoushirvan Lotfi, a student in Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran in the 1970s [he and the author were students there at the same time] and a member of People’s Fadaaiyan, had been executed in May 1988, two full months before the ceasefire and the MKO attacks. Indeed, if the MKO attacks were the reason, why were the secular leftist prisoners such as Lotfi, who opposed the MKO attacks, killed?
In addition to Lotfi, whom the author remembers from his day at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran, the author knew at least three other people among the executed. One was a childhood friend. Two others were brothers of his close college friends. One was a brother of the author’s friend who was in the meeting between Ayatollah Khomeini and the IRGC commanders when they discussed whether they should stop the war with Iraq in 1982 [he quit working for the government, after his brother was executed]. The other had spent eight years in jail beyond his sentence, was about to be released, but was executed instead. His family vowed that they would not put a tombstone on his grave until the Islamic Republic is overthrown.
After the events of 1988, Lajevardi retired and went back to his work in Tehran’s Bazaar. He lived in the same neighborhood as the author’s parents, and would pass by their house in Tehran every morning to go to work a couple of years after his retirement. For years, my mother, who never recovered from the loss of my brother, would sit every morning by the window of the kitchen on the first floor of our house, looking outside and waiting for Lajevardi to pass by. As she would see him passing by, she would start reading Quranic verses, saying, “Oh God, if he had any role in my son’s murder, punish him in any way you deem appropriate.”
Lajevardi was assassinated on August 22, 1998, presumably by remnants of the MKO in Iran [the author personally doubts that the culprits were the MKO], a year after the author’s father passed away after suffering from three years of illness. According to his doctors, his illness had largely been caused by the stress and anxiety of losing my brother. So, he did not live long enough to hear about Lajevardi’s death.
The author’s mother lived long enough to hear about Lajevardi’s assassination in 1998. After his assassination, she told the author, “I never wanted to live longer than my children. But now that Ali is gone, I have only one more wish: to live 30 years after Ali, so that I could be put to rest in Ali’s grave when I die.” According to the Islamic teachings, a grave could be opened after 30 years and a newly dead person can be laid to rest in it. She continued, “If that happens, I know that I’ll be resting next to Ali forever.”
She did not get her wish. She passed away in December 2006, 25 years after her son had been executed. She never got over the fact that she was living, but her young son had been killed. The author too has not been able to get over the fact that he did not get to see his brother one last time.
Iran’s Regime Chooses A Terrorist Who Has killed Americans as Defense Minister; Still Want to Engage Them, President Obama?
Posted: 27 Aug 2009 11:52 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin
It is beyond belief: Iran’s government has named a wanted terrorist, Ahmad Vahidi, as its defense minister.
And even that’s not all: Vahidi ran the Qods force in the 1980s and 1990s, making him responsible for liaison between Iran and foreign terrorist groups, you know, the people to whom a nuclear device might be given, exploded somewhere, and then Iran can disclaim responsibility.
And there’s more: he was also involved in the June 25, 2006, car bombing attack on the Khobar Towers which killed 19 American soldiers and a Saudi civilian. More than 400 were wounded.
Even the European Union has him on their “no-talk” list.
Can you imagine all the terrorist operations he ordered and planned that we don’t know about?
So please forgive me if I use capital letters:
A MAN WHO ORDERED AND ORGANIZED TERRORIST ATTACKS AGAINST AMERICANS IS GOING TO BE IRAN’S DEFENSE MINISTER.
This is the man who would have control over Iran’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
And the United States has said…. And the Western reaction is….
I can’t hear you!
Right, that’s precisely the problem, and neither can Tehran.
But let's consider this development for a moment. In all other countries, the defense minister's job is to run the armed forces. He has to decide what weapons to buy, how to use resources, and how to conduct operations of regular soldiers.
In contrast, in Iran, the "military" forces being used are terrorists. Therefore, a background in terrorism is the best credential for defense minister. Terrorism is the projection of military force by Iran, to destroy its foes, expand its influence, spread revolution, and subordinate other countries to its will (and perhaps even rule).
Institutionally, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the extremely radical and highly ideological parallel force to the regular military, is the base of power for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To a large extent, it has become the ruler of Iran, that is with the permission of the leading figure, Spiritual Guide Ali Khamenei. Therefore, being a high-level IRGC operative is the best credential for being defense minister.
On July 18, 1994, the Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was attacked. Eighty-five people were killed, over 240 were wounded.
After an extensive investigation, the Argentinian government concluded in its October 2006 report that this attack was ordered by Iran’s government and carried out by Lebanese Hizballah. Vahidi was one of five Iranian officials mentioned by name as having planned the attack. One of his tasks was to coordinate with Hizballah on the operation. Interpol put him on its wanted list.
(A side note: You can often read in Western media and even European government statements that Hizballah is never involved in terrorist attacks outside Lebanon. Indeed, President Barack Obama’s advisor on terrorism, John Brennan, portrays Hizballah as a moderate group. Remember this the next time you hear that nonsense. There is increasing eagerness in top British circles for engaging Hizballah, too. Soon Hizballah will enter into the Lebanese government and both Europe and probably the U.S. government will have some dealings with that terrorist group.)
One might think that the United States and its European allies would declare that they refuse to meet with any Iranian government official, allow any investment, block any trade, try to stop Iran from participating in any international event as long as it was openly and directly involved in terrorism.
I'm not talking about some type of crackpot or irresponsible response but rather the reaction which calm, responsible, seasoned policymakers and diplomats should make under the circumstances.
Note that since the Obama administration began talking about engagement with Iran, the regime has become more and more extremist. It is true that the U.S. government is increasingly coming to the conclusion that engagement with Iran is a waste of time, but this is a very slow process and the conclusion seems based more on the idea that Iran won't respond than to observing the steady radicalization of an already extremist regime.
Instead, the Western governments should be calculating that things are going to get a lot worse. Ahmadinejad has achieved a much higher level of control than before, the supreme guide is behind him, his IRGC allies are filling dozens of high posts, the election was stolen, the opposition (even within the ruling establishment) repressed, and show trials are being held.
Does this not signify that the regime is becoming bolder, less concerned about the costs, totally indifferent to restraining voices? From the pure standpoint of political analysis, alarm bells should be going off, strategies altered.
Beyond this, where is the shock and outrage? For the Iranian regime knows precisely what it is doing. Iran’s government is “sticking it” to the West, “dissing” America and Europe, and you can find your own word for it. This is a test to how far they can go in terms of open aggression and threats. Such is the challenge not being met.
The Iranian regime might as well run up the skull-and-crossbones flag (the traditional flag of pirates) on the mast, put a parrot on their shoulders, and begin each sentence with, "Arghh!". In fact that’s precisely what they’re doing, in twenty-first century, Islamist terms.
Lest you think this article is strident, not at all. It’s the facts and events which have become so far out, Western media and government reactions so out-of-phase.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.
CAIRO — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at his chief political rivals on Friday, calling on judiciary officials to “decisively” and “mercilessly” prosecute them for challenging the legitimacy of his electoral victory and tarnishing the image of the state.
The president’s remarks, in a speech prior to the nationally broadcast Friday Prayer ceremony in Tehran, underscored the grim reality of a nation whose political factions are deeply divided, hostile and exhibiting no appetite for common ground or compromise.
“I honestly believe the cracks in the leadership are so severe, I don’t think they will be able to heal this,” said Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford and a sharp critic of the Islamic leadership.
Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke in front of thousands of government supporters gathered in a covered arena at Tehran University. The president appeared unafraid to effectively contradict the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Wednesday said that he was not convinced that reform leaders had conspired in advance with foreign forces to orchestrate the post-election unrest. The supreme leader did, however, stick by the government’s claim that the protests were planned.
If Ayatollah Khamenei was hoping to blunt calls for revenge, more arrests and severe punishment, Mr. Ahmadinejad showed no signs of softening.
“We must deal with those who led these events,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “Those who organized, incited and pursued the plans of the enemies must be dealt with decisively.”
Even before the current crisis, Iranian politics had competing power centers. But all such groups had their place within the Islamic republic, even if they had different ideas about government powers and priorities. Political analysts say that what is different now is that President Ahmadinejad is trying to transform his rivals into outsiders, shrinking the circle of those who have a voice and role in the system to a minimum.
“What has been remarkable about the last two months is that the tent of insiders has narrowed to such a small faction,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “The outsiders are the vast majority of the country.”
But political analysts said that might be where the supreme leader and other conservative factions have decided to draw the line.
In one of several signs that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s desire to ramp up the conflict would not come to pass, Kazem Sediqi, a new Friday Prayer leader appointed by the supreme leader, called for “unity and friendship” and to resist “widening differences and adding to our problems.”
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments were clearly aimed at Mir Hussein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — some of the most important and influential figures in the Islamic republic’s 30-year history — whom the president has wanted to jail as enemies of the state.
“Serious confrontation has to be against the leaders and key elements, against those who organized and provoked and carried out the enemy’s plan,” he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.
Mr. Khatami, a former two-term president and reform leader, blasted Mr. Ahmadinejad in a statement issued on his Web site the night before, sharply criticizing the government crackdown and what he called “these so-called trials,” which have been held for the dozens of intellectuals, former officials and journalists arrested since the election conflict began.
“The sacred Friday Prayer podium has been given to those who call for the punishment of prominent figures while they are accused in the eyes of the public of committing treason themselves,” he said.
Even as President Ahmadinejad remained firm in his desire to deal with his crisis of legitimacy through more arrests, it appeared increasingly unlikely that those leaders would be arrested, at least now, given the position of the supreme leader, political analysts said.
Parliament has also moved to challenge the mass trials of former officials, journalists and academics who are accused of conspiring with Western powers to stage the post-election protests.
On June 22, a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal reported that the Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale.
By SAYA OVAISY in Tehran | 30 August 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] You’ve heard the names of the blackest repute: Sepah (IRGC), Basij (militia), Ansar Hezbollah (plainclothes), Mesbah Yazdi. None are the source of our national phobia.
Encounters with the above were rare before the June 12 coup. Ansar shot to infamy for its murderous role in the student uprisings of a decade ago but remained largely subdued on the sidelines. Militarily, the IRGC never meddled in internal affairs; it was an elite corps we heard of on news networks in connection with arming Hamas and conducting defense maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.
IRGC grew to be despised under Ahmadinejad due to the enormous wealth it amassed, but it wasn’t feared because it was invisible to us. The Basij we did see, occasionally surfacing at checkpoints camouflage-clad, and Kalashnikov-toting. But until June, such forces were not out in a public show of brutal force.
The word Etelaat (“Intel”), however, resonates with Iranians as KGB did for the Soviets or Stasi did for East Germany. Well-funded and well-equipped, the Ministry employs a network of “informers” who infiltrate workplaces, spy on the internet, lurk in hotel lobbies and even chat up tourists in taxis. In keeping with its Big Brother status, the ministry was founded in 1984. Under ministers Ali Fallahian and Ayatollah Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi respectively, Etelaat agents reportedly carried out the “Mykonos assassinations” of Kurdish party leaders in Berlin in 1992 and the “serial murders” of Iranian writers and dissidents in 1999.
While shooting an underground documentary in Tehran before the June elections, a European filmmaker could not fathom why potential subjects were so reluctant to take part in his project. Many refused to be on camera in any form; some agreed to body shots only and others consented to audio recording of their voices.All of them had advice for him on how to circumvent tailing by Intelligence agents: don’t mention names and addresses over the phone, change your SIM card every few days, use an anonymous email address, log on to the internet via VPN service to divert your server route, don’t tell anyone about your film unless they are referred to you by a trusted source.
“Iranians are all paranoid!” he would complain to me. “Like schizophrenics who think the CIA is chasing them!”
That was before a Basij officer caught him filming on the street without a permit. He was set free with a well-placed phone call, and although the incident had nothing to do with the Ministry of Intelligence, after that he believed those he once thought to be paranoid schizophrenics. In fact, his anti-intelligence caution grew to exceed ours. He would shush sources on the phone, insist on separate car rides, and took to hopping from hotel to hotel. Before leaving the country, he actually contemplated swallowing the memory stick holding his highly sensitive footage to pass through airport security — although decided otherwise.
This is a small example of the chronic paranoia inspired by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, Vezarat-e Etelaat.
Not too long ago, a recently-arrived Iranian-British journalist was the victim of an Etelaati cab driver. “He asked about where I came from, why I’m in Iran,” she recalls. “I mistook it for friendliness and answered unguardedly.” Half an hour after she was dropped off at her door, Intelligence agents raided her home.
“They took everything,” she said. “My laptop, cameras, cell phone, passport — even my brother’s desktop.”
Many Iranian expatriates avoid visiting their native country for fear of being on Etelaat’s radar — even for a slight as minor as drawing cartoons.
A New York-based cartoonist, who wishes to remain anonymous, had satirized Islamic hijab in his work. When he traveled to Tehran in 2006, he was promptly hauled into an interrogation room at Imam Khomeini airport and barred from leaving the country for the next two years.
“I came back to see my parents and was marooned here,” he says. “I had a job I loved, mortgage payments — an entire life in the US which was left up in the air.”
After the June 2009 elections, it was reported that Nokia-Siemens sold Iran spyware that allows monitoring of all phone calls and internet communication. Paranoia surged. I met people who would go as far as removing their cell phone batteries, because they believed the surveillance system is able to listen in one-way on cellular lines even when the handset is turned off.
A great number of Iranians on Facebook — even those living outside the country — took down their profile photos and changed their user names in order to shield their identities, because it was rumored that Etelaat agents had infiltrated the social networking site and were gathering information on opposition supporters.
The real scope of Intelligence power is probably far less than speculated. But because its bounds of surveillance capacity and range of informers are unclear, many Iranians modify their behavior and act cautiously as if under Etelaat’s omnipresent watch. This Pantopticon effect in turn leads to self-censorship and censoring others, which then re-fuels the paranoia cycle.
Such effects apparently take time to wear off. A friend who recently left Iran said that although he could now speak freely on the phone, he could not shake off the feeling that Etelaat was somehow privy to the conversation. “You grow a persecution complex that’s hard to outgrow,” he said.
Meanwhile, some find ways to satirize the situation. A new slang term among Tehranis for someone who’s a snoop, mole, or gossipmonger: “Nokia.”
CAIRO — In what may be the first admission that a prisoner died from abuse by Iranian prison authorities in the wake of post-election unrest, a semiofficial news service reported Monday that the son of an adviser to a prominent conservative politician had died of “physical stress, conditions of imprisonment, repeated blows and harsh physical treatment.”
The report, by the Mehr News Agency, quoted “informed sources” as saying the medical examiner had determined that Mohsen Ruholamini, 25, died of abuse and neglect after being held in the Kahrizak detention center and then being transferred to Evin prison under “unsuitable conditions.” He was one of hundreds of people arrested as mass protests swept major Iranian cities after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed a landslide victory in June, and one of dozens who died.
“As a result of his poor physical condition, at the end of the journey, and after a delay of 70 minutes in transferring him to hospital, he unfortunately died,” said the report by Mehr, which has close ties to conservatives.
The apparent admission of abuse appears to fit squarely with the recent strategy of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, of trying to calm the political crisis that has not let up, and to restore some of his lost credibility, political analysts said.
As a religious and civil leader, he is supposed to be seen as above the political fray and as the embodiment of justice, qualities that analysts and reform supporters say were badly compromised when he sided with the president during the crisis.
The admission — if it is made official and leads to punishment — could also shore up the supreme leader’s support among senior clerics and pragmatic conservative politicians who are upset about the treatment of prisoners, President Ahmadinejad’s attempts to consolidate power and the ayatollah’s handling of the post-election crisis. Mr. Ruholamini’s case helped galvanize their anger.
Mr. Ruholamini’s father, Abdolhossein, was a senior political adviser to Mohsen Rezai, a defeated presidential candidate and former commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guards.
Authorities told the elder Mr. Ruholamini on Aug. 9 that his son had died of meningitis. But Mr. Ruholamini, who leads a prestigious scientific center in Tehran, later said that he had found his son’s bloodied and bruised body in a morgue.
On Sunday, one day before the report was released by Mehr, Mr. Ruholamini met privately with Ayatollah Khamenei, where he was assured that those responsible would be held accountable, even if they were part of the system, according to Iranian news services.
If the Mehr report is officially confirmed, it could pave the way for the arrest and conviction of government agents — perhaps even relatively high-ranking prison officials, a step that might be necessary to restore confidence among senior clerics and pragmatic conservatives, political analysts said.
“The supreme leader got what he wants — Ahmadinejad is president now — but he will not allow this conflict to deepen and continue,” said Mustafa Alani, director of security and defense studies at the Gulf Research Center in the United Arab Emirates. “He sees the bad side of this crisis and wants to start a new page.”
When the government tried to silence the post-election conflict through arrests, trials and intimidation, the crisis grew more heated amid a steady stream of charges, including that male and female prisoners had been raped and sodomized, that bodies had been buried in secret graves and that bruised and contorted corpses were being turned over to families.
Leaders of the reform movement said that at least 69 people had been killed during the post-election crackdown, while the government reported that 30 had died.
The president and his allies in the police force, prison system and military have consistently denied all charges of abuse, and they repeated those denials this week.
However, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the closing of the Kahrizak prison, where several prisoners died, and authorities ordered an investigation into the deaths there.
But with the political crisis not subsiding, and the credibility of the Islamic republic’s system of governance questioned by the general public and the clerical elite, Parliament has begun two investigations into charges of prisoner abuse, and the supreme leader has shifted course, political analysts said.
In what analysts call an attempt to calm the concerns of his more pragmatic conservative allies and senior clerics, Ayatollah Khamenei recently said he did not believe that the opposition had been conspiring with foreign enemies, undercutting the most serious charges against former officials, journalists and academics that have been leveled by Mr. Ahmadinejad and his government.
And in another sign of efforts to soften the edges of the crackdown directed by the president, the judiciary — headed by a rival of Mr. Ahmadinejad — on Monday released Hamzeh Ghalebi, according to Parleman News, a Web site affiliated with conservative members of Parliament who are critical of the president. Mr. Ghalebi, a prominent member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been very close to Mir Hussein Moussavi, a reform leader and presidential candidate.
Mr. Ghalebi’s health had deteriorated after almost 60 days in solitary confinement, and like others he had been forced to confess, according to a Web site affiliated with Mr. Moussavi.
Another element of Ayatollah Khamenei’s shift in tone was spelled out Wednesday in a meeting with university students, when he vowed that torture and abuse would not go unpunished.
“Be sure that no crime or atrocity will go unpunished, but with issues of that importance the judiciary should rule based on solid evidence,” the supreme leader said, insisting that rumors would not be enough.
But Ayatollah Khamenei was also clear about where he placed the greatest blame for what had convulsed the country since the presidential election, and it was not with the issue of torture or abuse.
“Some people — who tend to turn a blind eye to the oppression of the people, the Islamic establishment and the tarnished reputation of the establishment — seem to portray the Kahrizak issue as the main problem, whereas this on its own is another form of oppression against the nation,” he said.
The bigger problem, he maintained, was the post-election unrest, which he said had tarnished an otherwise valid election — a point millions of Iranians disputed when they took to the streets in protests that were later crushed by the police and armed militias.