Iran intensifies repression in run-up to parliamentary elections

Amnesty International published a report today documenting acts of repression perpetrated by the Iranian authorities since February 2011, entitled "We are ordered to crush you: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran." According to the human rights organization, Iranian authorities have targeted groups including political activists and their families, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, students, and religious and ...

AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images

Amnesty International published a report today documenting acts of repression perpetrated by the Iranian authorities since February 2011, entitled "We are ordered to crush you: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran." According to the human rights organization, Iranian authorities have targeted groups including political activists and their families, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, students, and religious and ethnic minorities in a wave of arrests aimed at cracking down on freedom of expression and dissent. The group stated that conditions have particularly worsened as the March 2 parliamentary elections approach. Interim deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, Ann Harrison, remarked that in Iran today "Anything from setting up a social group on the Internet, forming or joining an NGO, or expressing your opposition to the status quo can land you in prison." Iranian security forces have added a cyber police unit responsible for monitoring internet cafes and personal computers, which has also drawn concern from Human Rights Watch. Friday's polling is the first since the controversial 2009 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that incited eight months of political unrest and subsequent violent suppression by the Iran regime. Opposition presidential candidates from the disputed 2009 elections, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have been under de facto house arrest since February 2011. 

Syria

After a controversial referendum, the Syrian government said nearly 90 percent of voters approved of a new draft constitution. Authorities reported that more than half of eligible voters came to the polls, despite continued violence, and claimed turnout for the referendum would have been higher if there weren't "armed terrorist groups in some areas." Opposition groups denounced the vote as a sham, and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the referendum was "absolutely cynical," particularly considering the continued assault in Homs and the Hama province. According to activists, Tuesday has seen the worst bombardment by Syrian security forces on the Baba Amr neighborhood in the three-week siege on Homs. Meanwhile, the injured British photographer, Paul Conroy, has been smuggled to safety in Lebanon, however the whereabouts of the French reporter Edith Bouvier, who was also wounded, is unclear. The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting for today to work on a new draft resolution aimed at ending violence and establishing humanitarian access to victims and civilians, after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called the humanitarian situation dire

Amnesty International published a report today documenting acts of repression perpetrated by the Iranian authorities since February 2011, entitled "We are ordered to crush you: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran." According to the human rights organization, Iranian authorities have targeted groups including political activists and their families, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, students, and religious and ethnic minorities in a wave of arrests aimed at cracking down on freedom of expression and dissent. The group stated that conditions have particularly worsened as the March 2 parliamentary elections approach. Interim deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, Ann Harrison, remarked that in Iran today "Anything from setting up a social group on the Internet, forming or joining an NGO, or expressing your opposition to the status quo can land you in prison." Iranian security forces have added a cyber police unit responsible for monitoring internet cafes and personal computers, which has also drawn concern from Human Rights Watch. Friday’s polling is the first since the controversial 2009 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that incited eight months of political unrest and subsequent violent suppression by the Iran regime. Opposition presidential candidates from the disputed 2009 elections, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have been under de facto house arrest since February 2011. 

Syria

After a controversial referendum, the Syrian government said nearly 90 percent of voters approved of a new draft constitution. Authorities reported that more than half of eligible voters came to the polls, despite continued violence, and claimed turnout for the referendum would have been higher if there weren’t "armed terrorist groups in some areas." Opposition groups denounced the vote as a sham, and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the referendum was "absolutely cynical," particularly considering the continued assault in Homs and the Hama province. According to activists, Tuesday has seen the worst bombardment by Syrian security forces on the Baba Amr neighborhood in the three-week siege on Homs. Meanwhile, the injured British photographer, Paul Conroy, has been smuggled to safety in Lebanon, however the whereabouts of the French reporter Edith Bouvier, who was also wounded, is unclear. The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting for today to work on a new draft resolution aimed at ending violence and establishing humanitarian access to victims and civilians, after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called the humanitarian situation dire

Headlines  

  • The Israeli Defense Forces blocked 15 smugglers from entering Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing one person in a gunfight.
  • Efforts continue for the release of two British journalists working for Iran’s Press TV in Libya who have been detained by a militia group of former rebel fighters.
  • Palestinian youth activist Fadi Quran is set to appear in court for the second time since his arrest on Friday in Hebron for allegedly pushing an Israeli soldier.

Arguments & Analysis

‘Into nations and tribes: Yemen and AQAP’ (Brian O’Neill, Sada — Carnegie Endowment)

"Al-Qaeda can offer water, food, medicine, but not in the amounts the U.S. can provide. That is the key to defeating them and to helping Yemen. Right now, the biggest problems the country faces are not transnational terrorists.  They aren’t even necessarily the crippling political problems; the major long-term issues are drought, famine, rampant poverty, and an increasingly young and desperate population. But aid is not the only answer, and this is where direct contact with the tribes comes in. Distribution of aid should not be through Sanaa, but through regional leaders, cutting away the layers of distribution and potential theft."

‘Gay rights and the Arab Spring’ (Brian Whitaker, Al-Bab)

"It’s now more than 10 years since I first started writing about gay issues in the Middle East. In the beginning it was still very much a taboo subject but I think there is more awareness now, at least among the more progressive elements, that gay Arabs do exist – despite the lack of public role models – and that the challenges posed by sexual nonconformity won’t go away. These challenges are fundamental in many ways and go to the heart of the Arab Spring. They raise questions about the relationship between the state and the individual, and above all about the continuance of patriarchal rule. In a patriarchal system, where masculinity is highly valued and gender roles are rigidly defined, any deviation from the sexual "norms" and expected gender roles is not only subversive but is regarded as extremely threatening."

‘Outing Iran’ (David William Turner, Boston Review)

"In 2010 IRQR helped to process 109 cases of queer asylum seekers. Most eventually find homes in Western countries as refugees. Turkey has become the most common stopover for Iranian asylum seekers, in part because Iranians can get to Turkey easily by bus or train and do not need a visa. But most Iranians do not speak the language and are unable to work legally. Discrimination is a problem in Turkey, too, especially outside Istanbul in smaller, more conservative satellite cities."  

–Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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