Posted by: Martin Fox | July 30, 2009

Hey Iran – stop the insanity.

Morality… valuable lessons from Elie Wiesel this week. Elie’s comment that “to see someone suffering and do nothing is immoral struck home with me. The world has remained mostly quiet while thousands are suffering from injustice in Iran. Their crime –  refusing to back down in the face of injustice – pure, tyrannical injustice.

The courage of the protesters is amazing. It is time for the government in Iran to stop punishing their citizens for seeking a core societal right – simple justice. There goes my visa opportunities with Iran, but yes, I said it – “Hey Iran, stop brutalizing your people.”

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership.

31iran3_650Clashes as Iranians Gather to Mourn
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian riot police used tear gas and wooden batons to disperse thousands of opposition supporters in central Tehran on Thursday as they massed to commemorate those killed in the unrest after the disputed June 12 presidential election, witnesses said.

The authorities had denied permission to hold any formal mourning ceremonies, but in what appeared to be the most serious street challenge by the opposition in weeks, the witnesses said, demonstrators gathered around a large prayer venue, the Grand Mosala, as well as in central Vali Asr square, where tens of thousands had gathered in the street demonstration in the days following the election.

Earlier Thursday, police and demonstrators clashed at a cemetery in the city’s southern outskirts where some of those killed in the postelection violence were buried, including Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who was shot and whose bloodied image, circulated widely on the Internet, has become an icon of the post-election crackdown.

The opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, who has asserted that the election was stolen from him in a massive fraud, was among the thousands who arrived at the cemetery, but the police surrounded him and forced him to return to his car before he could offer prayers, news reports said.

Some in the crowd chanted Mr. Moussavi’s name and “death to the dictator!” according to videos posted on the Internet and witness accounts reported by The Associated Press. When another opposition leader, reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, attempted to give a speech, the police moved in, firing tear gas and swinging wooden batons at the mourners, news reports said.

Thursday was a day of symbolic importance, in that it was the 40th day since the deaths of Ms. Agha-Soltan and an uncertain number of other protesters, the time for an important Shiite mourning ritual. Thirty years ago, it was commemorations for dead protesters against the shah that fueled demonstrations that led to the Islamic Revolution.

The treatment of detained protesters, some of whom have died in prison, has become one of the most explosive issues facing the Iranian authorities as they seek to quell challenges to their control. They have ordered the release of many of those held but have charged some with serious crimes and continued making arrests.

Mohammed Khatami, a former president and reformist, and an ally of Mr. Moussavi, made fierce comments on Thursday in a meeting with reformist members of Parliament, his Web site reported.

“Crimes have taken place and people have died,” he said. “Our people, young, women and men have been treated in ways that if it had taken place in foreign prisons everyone was screaming that it should be confronted. Such behavior is harmful for the revolution and society.”

Earlier Thursday, the police arrested two prominent Iranian filmmakers when they tried to lay flowers at Ms. Agha-Soltan’s grave. One was Jafar Panahi, known internationally for his film, “The Circle,” which was critical of the treatment of women under the Islamist government and was banned in Iran. The other was a documentary maker, Mahnaz Mohammadi.

At the late afternoon protests in downtown Tehran, arrests and tear gas failed to sap the crowd’s defiance, a witness said.

“The crowd is still as large as it was weeks ago, and you see people from all classes and ages,” said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety. “When will the rulers see this? They cannot rule by killing and arresting people.”

On Wednesday, the police arrested two prominent reformists, Saeed Shariati and Shayesteh Amiri, opposition Web sites reported. Separately, state-run Press TV reported arrests of people who had helped sent photographs and video of unrest.

On Tuesday, the authorities released 140 detainees, amid accusations over the torture and killing of jailed protesters. Prominent conservatives and senior clerics joined the opposition in denouncing the abuses.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a dissident and one of Iran’s most senior clerics, issued a harsh statement on Wednesday on his Web site, saying the government’s closing of one notorious detention center was not enough. “Was the shah able to resist the protests by jailing, torturing, extracting confessions and lying?” he said, referring to the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the 1979 revolution.

There were some conciliatory gestures from the government on Wednesday, with Iran’s top police official, Brig. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, saying some officers “went to extremes” and caused damage during the post-election protests, Press TV reported. The prosecutor general of Iran, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, said that more detainees would soon be released and that a “serious judicial inquiry” was being conducted into prison deaths after the election, Iranian news agencies reported.

But the authorities have also said that their clemency is limited, and that protesters who crossed the line will be punished. On Wednesday, the authorities said that 20 protesters charged with serious crimes would be put on trial for charges including “attacking military units and universities, sending pictures to enemy media, carrying firearms and explosives, organizing thugs and rioters, and vandalizing public property,” state television reported.

Robert F. Worth reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Nazila Fathi from Toronto. Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris, and Sharon Otterman from New York.


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