Reflections on Iran’s post-election violence: A human rights review

Amnesty International recently released a comprehensive report reviewing the numerous human rights abuses by the Iranian regime during the post-election violence last June. The most prominent case of abuse-the death Neda Aghda Soltan-was captured on a camera phone and broadcast worldwide in a matter of minutes, making it a graphic symbol of resistance for the Green Movement. Both the regime and the resistance have claimed Ms. Soltan’s murder as an act of martyrdom, and PBS’ Frontline recently made a worthwhile documentary recounting her life and death.

“The Supreme Leader should order the government to invite in UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on summary and arbitrary executions to help ensure that investigations are both rigorous and independent,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Even before the post-election violence began, the Iranian government was involved in screening the election proceedings to ensure that they gained approval from the Guardian Council-a constitutionally-mandated, 12-member judiciary council that wields considerable political power in the Islamic Republic.

In the last election (the 10th presidential election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution), 475 people registered as candidates, of whom 42 were women. Last May, the Guardian Council approved four men – the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohsen Rezaei, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi. Many of the other men were disqualified for political, religious, or ethnic reasons, and all of the female nominees were excluded.

On June 13, 2009, the Ministry of Interior announced that President Ahmadinejad had won reelection with a definitive 63 percent of the vote. Because this announcement came at a time when many polling stations around the nation were either still open or had yet to tally their votes, supporters of the opposition candidates took to the streets in protest. Following the government’s announcement of the election results, protests have ensued on many occasions, the most recent occurring during the celebration of “Student Day” held on Dec. 7 and 8. In anticipation of the unrest over Student Day, the Iranian government shut down Internet access in many areas of the country (it had learned a lesson from the “Twitter revolution” last summer), and deployed extra military police and Basijj militia.

The Amnesty International report contains 80-plus pages of damning evidence against the current regime. In addition to evidence of police brutality, torture, and rape in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, along with “show trials,” Amnesty states that over 4,000 people have been arrested and 200 are still in jail awaiting trial and sentencing. The death toll is hard to calculate as well. Iranian government figures allege that 36 died in the protests, but the opposition claims the number of the dead is close to 70.

Without a doubt, the “Green Revolution” in Iran over the last six months has revealed to the world the cracks and fissures that exist between the Iranian government and the rest of Iranian society. While not all the protesters are in favor of a secular government, many in the younger generations are questioning the legacy of the Islamic Revolution and asking themselves how much peace and prosperity 30 years of Islamic governance have brought them. From chants of “mag bar ammrika” (death to America) to calls for “mag bar dictator” (death to the dictator)-times have certainly changed in the Islamic Republic.

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