Monday, August 28, 2006

Domestic Policy in Iran: Intellectuals and Civil Society under Fire

Bahman Nirumand. Is pointing out that the more international pressure put on Iran the easier it is for the government to stir up citizens' suspicions of both internal and external enemies. The victims are intellectuals, artists, and journalists. The Iranian Writers' Association on August 16 put out a notice saying that "Censorship of literature and the press, filtering of websites, the confiscation of satellite dishes and censorship of film and theatre are mounting day by day." All politically “critical content is censured, but also anything that even hints at renewal, openness and diversity, at enlightenment and modernization.” Intellectuals are being ”publicly denounced and tortured into making false confessions.” In the past Iranian TV has portrayed popular artists, writers and intellectuals as traitors, Western puppets and corrupters whose primarily goal was to undermine Islam and the national culture. Torture has become more common: one of the “many demonstrators arrested during the student uprisings in Tehran in the summer of 1999” was recently tortured to death. The intent, of course, is to spread fear and to intimidate and silence critics and cultural practitioners. Journalists are of course intimidated: “One in five journalists has been imprisoned at least once. On average, journalists don't work longer than seven months for a newspaper, either because the newspaper ends up being banned or because the justice system or secret service recommends that the journalist be fired.” Even the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, presided over by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, was declared illegal and officially banned in early August, 2006. The government strategy to spread fear, incite hatred and stir the public's hostility can only be effective if the country is in a permanent state of crisis.

By Bahman Nirumand
August 25, 2006 (Qantara de)

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