October 17, 2007

Iran: Dissent Crackdown Deepens

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government is in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown on civilians, criminals and dissenters.

Experts suggest that the government is afraid a recent economic downturn will breed unrest across the country, and has resolved to “govern by fear.”

At least 60 criminals convicted of murder, rape, drug trafficking or abduction have been convicted and hung since May, including 21 people on one day alone, reports the World Press Review.

International human rights campaigners believe the trials are rigged, while the executions are carefully filmed and uploaded to the Web for all Iranians to see — some suggest as cautionary tales engineered by the state.

Iranian police have also detaining about 122,000 people since April, most of them women, for flouting the Islamic dress code, according to All Headline News.

Another 7,000 people were obliged to take workshops on respecting the rules instituted by Ahmadinejad’s government, which include restrictions on Western-style haircuts and clothing, as well as on alcohol and social gatherings between unrelated people of both sexes.

Dissenters are still outwardly tolerated in Iran — a group of 100 university students recently held a protest during a lecture by Ahmadinejad, calling him a “dictator” — but their power is nonexistent.

The Independent reports that reformist students are now forced to conduct their meetings in secret, while “hardline” militant student Ahmadinejad supporters have greater numbers and a stronger voice than ever before.

American efforts to counter this crackdown have not been effective, reports Agence France-Presse.

Last week, a coalition of 26 Iranian-American groups, led by the National Iranian American Council, asked the U.S. government to discontinue its funding program for pro-democracy groups in Iran.

Rather than fuel effective dissent against Ahmadinejad, the $75 million program has instead “made all Iranian NGOs targets and put them at great risk,” said a coalition leader, by giving the Iranian government an excuse to arrest would-be dissenters.

Sources:

“Public executions signal new wave of suppression”
WorldPress.org, October 9, 2007

“Groups call for cut in U.S. Iran democracy funding”
Agence France-Presse, October 11, 2007

“Iran police warn 122,000 people about ‘un-Islamic’ dress”
AHN (U.S.), October 11, 2007

“Iranian students clash with police during protest against Ahmadinejad”
Independent (U.K), October 9, 2007

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