2010: A Year of Torment for Iran

This is a Guest Post by Fariba Amini

In 2010, the United States and Iran shared one thing in common.  Along with China, they  had the highest number of executions in the world.  The difference is that in the U.S. those executed had committed regular crimes whereas In Iran, most executions (189 in the past 9 months) were of political nature.   It is obvious that the regime in Tehran has become increasingly vicious and paranoid, doing everything it can to stay in power.  It is indiscriminately rounding up students, civil right activists, journalists and even their lawyers.

In September, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a woman lawyer and mother of two, who has defended many of Iran’s famous political prisoners, was arrested and incarcerated. She has been in jail since and recently went on a hunger strike.  She is a perfect example of Iranian women’s resilience.

On December 1st, a woman who had been implicated in the murder of her lover’s wife was hung in Evin prison; she had been in prison for 9 years before the new Minister of Justice gave the go ahead.  Shahla Jahed’s dossier had a lot of unanswered questions concerning evidence which is why the former head of Iran’s judiciary had withheld it three times.

On December 10,  Human Rights Day, Thirteen members of the Baluchi minority, a region bordering on Afghanistan and Pakistan, were put to death.

A week ago, the home of a well- known University professor, Dr. Fariborz Raisdana was ransacked, his computer taken and he was arrested for no specific reason.  Later, he was charged with speaking to the media and giving interviews to the BBC.  His whereabouts is unknown.

On December 26, Habibollah Latifi, a law student from Iran’s Kurdish region was scheduled to be executed for “crimes against the State”.  Only an outcry from human rights organizations and a massive international protest by Iranians halted his execution.   A day later, all members of his family were arrested.

The recent unleashing of violence against Iran’s intelligentsia is unprecedented since the early days of the Iranian Revolution.

From time to time, I talk to friends in Iran, among them a journalist.  He is usually chipper but yesterday when I inquired how he was doing, this is what he said:  “I try to keep smiling and do what I have to do but sometimes in the middle of work, I become depressed and cannot think straight.  I have become somewhat tough and don’t let things get to me but there are times when despair takes over.”

There was a time when Iranians were hopeful especially prior to the elections of June 2009.  All of a sudden, within 24 hours, hope was lost in the midst of arrests, torture and murder, including that of Neda Aqa Soltan.

Today, the situation is even worse.  It is difficult to predict anything in Iran even for the next 24 hours.  Ahamdinejad is clinging on to power by way of coercion, suddenly dismissing his Foreign Minister, by putting his own people in place, mainly from the Revolutionary Guards who have substantial financial gain at stake.  In the past few months, the pollution in Tehran has reached new suffocating heights.  Government subsidies have been cut off while in the coming winter months, a good number of Iranians will face economic hardships due to sanctions as well.

It is incomprehensible  how a country with a 3000 -year civilization, the fourth largest oil producing nation in the world, with the highest number of educated people  in the region,  can be run by a clique of uncouth men who seem determine to ruin it.

In September 2005, after coming back from a visit to Iran, I went to the New York Hilton where Ahmadinejad, just elected President, was giving a talk.  I went to his table and told him “You have ruined my country.”  After 25 minutes of dialogue, I came out and told people “you should not underestimate this guy.”  I hate to say it, but I was right on both counts.  He has ruined Iran by keeping himself in the limelight and catering to his cronies.   Despair is in the air.

While this article was being written, on Tuesday, December 28, two other political prisoners were executed. Ali Sameri, 62 year old, a sympathizer of MKO, who had been in and out of prison since 1979, was suddenly taken from Rajai Shahr prison and put to death in Evin. Ali Akbar Siadat was executed for allegedly spying for Israel.