The Iranian regime's “cyber-jihad” began in June 2009, a perverted response to the massive protests that followed that year's presidential election. The government saw the three million peaceful demonstrators who poured into the streets of Tehran and other cities as a threat, and they determined that “social media” was the culprit. The gruesome murder last month of Sattar Beheshti in a secret prison in Tehran is a stark reminder that the use of the word jihad—holy war—was not a metaphor, but a warning to the opposition.
I arrived in the Egyptian town of Edfu on a Friday in early February. The temple there, a wondrous reminder of the Egyptian pharaohs’ obsession with eternity and architectural monumentalism, was eerily quiet and empty of tourists. But the silence was more than filled by the blaring sound of the Friday sermon, broadcast over loudspeakers at unavoidably high volume.
As the world grants an audience to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, we would be better served to look upon Samiye Tohidlou. Samiye is a child of the Iranian revolution, born in 1979, when the current regime came to power. She comes from a family of educators; her father was a teacher who declared, after the arrest of his daughter, that he had been a staunch supporter of the revolution.
Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival By Maziar Bahari with Aimee Molloy (Random House, 356 pp., $27) Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran - A Journey Behind the Headlines By Scott Peterson (Simon & Schuster, 732 pp., $32) After Khomeini: Iran Under His Successor By Saïd Amir Arjomand (Oxford University Press, 268 pp., $24.95) Political Islam, Iran, And the Enlightenment: Philosophies of Hope and Despair By Ali Mirsepassi (Cambridge University Press, 230 pp., $85) I. For the regime in Iran, opacity in politics, dissimulation in discourse, and the obfuscation
With the second anniversary of Iran’s Green Movement earlier this week, it’s worth keeping track of the cruel litany of bloodshed and oppression that the regime continues to carry out against its own people. Just in the last few days, when democracy advocates in Tehran tried to commemorate the remarkable street protests that followed the fraudulent elections of 2009, the regime once again responded with a massive show of force. Beginning the night before, regime thugs and police took over the streets where the demonstrations were planned to be held.
A long simmering rift between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, has finally boiled over. For the last two weeks, the two leaders have been locked in a public battle over Ahmadinejad’s decision to fire his minister of intelligence, a close ally of Khamenei. And, in spite of indications in the last few days that a compromise has been reached—not to mention Khamenei’s repeated pleas that factional feuds be kept out of the media lest the dispute embolden foes and dishearten friends—acrimonious attacks by both sides have continued apace.
For 42 years, the world did business with Muammar Qaddafi, even as it knew about the brutality he was inflicting on his own people. Too often, there was no outrage in the West about Qaddafi’s crimes. Now, if the same pattern is not to be repeated in Iran, one must ask: Where is the outrage about that country’s endemic brutality and its kleptocratic theocracy?
When protests erupted on the Iranian streets in 2009, President Obama adopted a deliberately cautious tone.
When protests erupted on the Iranian streets in 2009, President Obama adopted a deliberately cautious tone. Mindful of the fact that he was simultaneously trying to convince the regime to abandon its nuclear program—and afraid that his open support would make an indigenous revolt seem like a tool of foreign influence—the president condemned the use of violence against the Green Movement, but stopped short of backing their heartfelt calls for freedom and democracy.
After days of unrest, after declaring martial law in some of the country’s main cities, the authoritarian leader gave a much anticipated television speech. His tone was repentant. He promised change and reform. The people wanted democracy and he promised to bend to their wishes. For a long time, the United States had been advising him to open his political system—but had been seen publicly as his chief supporter. The U.S.