June 16, 2007


Iran Curtails Freedom In Throwback to 1979: Repression Seen as Cultural Revolution (Robin Wright, 6/16/07, Washington Post)

The widespread purges and arrests are expected to have an impact on parliamentary elections next year and the presidential contest in 2009, either discouraging or preventing reformers from running against the current crop of hard-liners who dominate all branches of government, Iranian and U.S. analysts say. The elections are one of several motives behind the crackdowns, they add.

Public signs of discontent -- such as students booing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a campus last December, teacher protests in March over low wages and workers demonstrating on May Day -- are also behind the detentions, according to Iranian sources.

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

Despite promises to use Iran's oil revenue to aid the poor, Ahmadinejad's economic policies have backfired, triggering 20 percent inflation over the past year, increased poverty and a 25 percent rise in the price of gas last month. More than 50 of the country's leading economists wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad this week warning that he is ignoring basic economics and endangering the country's future.

Universities have been particularly hard hit by faculty purges and student detentions since late last year, according to Iranian analysts and international human rights groups. Professors still on campus have been warned by Iran's intelligence ministry about developing relationships with their foreign counterparts, who may try to recruit them as spies.

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

In recent weeks, the government has also tried to dissolve student unions and replace them with allies from the Basij -- a young, volunteer paramilitary body, human rights groups say. Between April 30 and June 6, eight student leaders involved in the elections at Amirkabir University -- where Ahmadinejad was reportedly jeered as students set his pictures on fire -- have been jailed in Evin Prison.

...is not long for power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2007 10:22 AM

This ought to go in the section: "Does anybody
edit Robin Wright". Little details to consider;
Mahmoud, was a warden at Evin prison, in the
late 80s, and AKU is so well known as a nuclear
research site that it was part of a Robert Littell

Posted by: narciso at June 16, 2007 5:18 PM

Ahmadinejad has been the MAN for less than 2 years - will the Iranian people rise up against the Grand Ayatollah, too? After all, he's had a long time to fix things since Khomeini died.

Posted by: ratbert at June 16, 2007 8:24 PM

Being a democratic republic precludes easy fixes, but he's handled the difficult fixes poorly.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2007 10:20 PM