Terror and courage in Iran

Bomb blasts struck Iranian government buildings June 12 in Ahvaz, capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province bordering Iraq, followed within hours by two other bombs in central Tehran, killing nine and injuring over 85. The attacks come days before presidential elections. Iran’s security service blamed the bombings — the deadliest in Iran in more than a decade — on supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

State TV quoted spokesman Ali Agha Mohammadi as saying the perpetrators of the Ahvaz bombings had infiltrated into Iran from Basra in southern Iraq. Others pointed to a more local cause. Ahvaz was the site of the recent protests over the minority rights by local Arabs residents in the region. (India Economic Times, June 14)

That same day, hundreds of women protested outside Tehran university, calling for greater rights and a boycott of this week’s presidential election. They shouted “down with dictatorship!” and “shame on you!” in response to the aggressive tactics of police, who tried to prevent protesters reaching the demonstration.

“I have come to defend my rights because these people have always oppressed us,” said Farangis Rafati, holding up a Kurdish women’s group banner. “All the candidates in the election say the same things. They’re the same people. It makes no difference if we vote because they will have someone elected among themselves.”

The election is to be contested by eight candidates who were approved by a clerical watchdog. Some 89 women candidates, including several well-known conservatives, were barred, apparently because of their gender.

The favourite to win is the former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Dissident groups are split between supporting the reformist candidate, Mostafa Moin, or advocating a boycott. “We believe we can only influence democratization through participation,” said Ebrahim Yazdi, head of the Freedom Movement, who himself faces possible imprisonment. “It’s like Stalingrad – we have to fight inch by inch but we can only win if we participate.” (Assyrian International News Agency, June 13)

The timing of the blasts is suspicious–coming just before the elections, and on the heels of protests–and makes us suspect a US hand. (See WW4 REPORT #90.) Iranian authorities have reportedly rejected the notion that the Iraq-based armed opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq is behind the blasts (NYT, June 13), but we aren’t so sure. Last we heard, in the aftermath of the invasion, US forces had surrounded thier camps in Iraq in an armed stand-off. (See WW4 REPORT #85.) Can anybody tell us if accomodations were reached?

See our last post on unrest in Iran.