Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iran's hard-liners see enemies on every side

With the recent detainment of Iranian-born academic Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a growing trend in Iran is making its way to the front page of the news. As Esfandiari made her regular trip to Iran to see her mother in December, everything seemed to be business as usual in Tehran. However, all of the normality of her birth country seemed to change as her Iranian and U.S. passports were taken and she became the subject of interrogations by Iranian intelligence agents. Later, Esfandiari was escorted to Evin prison, notorious for its special wing for political prisoners.

While the story would be grim enough if this was an isolated event, the trend in Iran is to arrest in the name of national security and public order.” In an effort to secure power and influence amidst a struggling economy, Iran’s hard-liners have begun to order the Revolutionary Guard to arrest those who are immodestly dressed.” The Intelligence Ministry has also detained women’s rights activists, labor organizers and many Iranian-Americans, such as Esfandiari. The crackdown started over a year ago after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began talks of a $75 million Iranian democracy program.

"The government knows well that if they allow civil-rights activists to have a public gathering, it can easily become a social movement that can soon get out of hand," says Abbas Abdi, a supporter of reform despite being one of the organizers of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979.

While the crackdown is by no means good news, it is creating a dialogue concerning the tension between a hard-line government and a more moderate young generation with whom the change for progress rests. Splits have occurred between fundamentalist factions who struggle to identify themselves amidst the changing social and cultural demands among the majority of people.

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