Iranian dissidents to US: thanks, but no thanks
A Feb. 18 National Public Radio story on the crackdown on human rights activists in Iran makes the point that the US "regime change" campaign has prompted Tehran to turn up the heat on internal dissent—and makes it easier to tar activists as American agents. Iran's foremost rights activist Shirin Ebadi is quoted saying the recent closure of her office by the authorities came in response to "a resolution passed against Iran in the United Nations."
The U.N. censure of Iran was based in part on a report Ebadi provided about the violation of human rights here. In early January, scores of young men gathered outside Ebadi's home in Tehran and began chanting slogans, accusing her of working for America. They spray-painted the outside of her apartment building and broke a sign.
"I called the police," she says. "They came here and they did not stop them or they did not tell them to go. And in front of their eyes they did that."
Ebadi is just the most well-known human rights target. The pressure extends to the women's rights movement and the student movement. And against political reformers, such as Ibrahim Yazdi, head of the Freedom Movement of Iran, which is prohibited from running candidates in elections.
"In [the] Ahmadinejad administration, the pressure on all the dissidents and the opposition has intensified," he says. "Not only against Freedom Movement of Iran, not only against Shirin Ebadi and her colleagues. Whenever the government feels weak inside, then it feels threatened by any move. Therefore, they cannot tolerate even a small gathering."
Some explicitly said the US is to blame for the crackdown.
Activities like these have not always prompted the heavy arm of the state. But in recent years, it seems, Iran's leaders have become more uneasy about what they believe are U.S. efforts to spark a soft revolution in Iran.
Mohammed Marandi, a professor of American studies at Tehran University, blames the U.S. for the current crackdown.
"Basically, ever since the United States has officially started funding organizations and groups in Iran, it has created an atmosphere of suspicion," he says. "When the American government says that we are going to spend almost $100 million a year for regime change, people in Iran become more suspicious of people who come from the United States, academics who come from the United States."
Shirin Ebadi hasn't gone this far—but she has disavowed Washington's use of the rhetoric of "human rights" to advance an interventionist agenda, as have other civil opposition groups in Iran. (So, by the way, have Cuban dissidents.)
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