8.02.2006

About Iran Regime

In the context of the international struggle for the new Middle East, where freedom, democracy and peace should replace totalitarianism, authoritarianism and violence come from the dictators' interdependent authoritarian system, which fights to survive after the liberation of Iraq in 2003 through the Operation Iraqi Freedom. We need to know more about the key players in the Middle East starting from their domestic affairs and internal structure including the power structure to understand the events and conceive a vision about the region dynamics and, finally, to have a transparent empirical insight into the Middle East affairs and geopolitics.

(See:

Therefore, I am posting quotes about Iran from the Freedom House book, Freedom in the World 2005, selected by Prof. R.J. Rummel:

Iranians cannot change their government democratically. The most powerful figure in the Iranian government is the Supreme Leader…, currently Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei; he is chosen for life by the Assembly of Experts, a clerics-only body whose members are elected to eight-year terms by popular vote from a government-screened list of candidates. The Supreme Leader is commander in chief of the armed forces and appoints the leaders of the judiciary, the heads of state broadcast media, the commander of the IRGC, the Expediency Council, and half the members of the Council of Guardians. Although the president and parliament are responsible for designating cabinet ministers, the Supreme Leader exercises de facto control over appointments to the ministries of Defense, the Interior, and Intelligence.

All candidates for election to the presidency and 290-seat unicameral parliament are vetted for strict allegiance to the ruling theocracy and adherence to Islamic principles by the 12-person Council of Guardians, a body of 6 clergymen appointed by the Supreme Leader and 6 laymen selected by the head of the judiciary chief (the latter are nominally subject to parliamentary approval). The Council of Guardians also has the power to reject legislation approved by parliament (disputes between the two are arbitrated by the Expediency Council, another non-elected conservative-dominated body, currently headed by former president Au Akbar Rafsanjani)….

Freedom of expression is limited. The government directly controls all television and radio broadcasting and, since 2003, has reportedly had some success in jamming broadcasts by dissident overseas satellite stations. The Press Court has extensive procedural and jurisdictional power in prosecuting journalists, editors, and publishers for such vaguely worded offenses as "insulting Islam" and "damaging the foundations of the Islamic Republic." In recent years, the authorities have issued ad hoc gag orders banning media coverage of specific topics and events. Since 1997, more than 100 publications have been shut down by the judiciary and hundreds of journalists and civil society activists have been arrested, held incommunicado for extended periods of time, and convicted in closed-door trials….

…[T]he government systematically censors Internet content. Since 2003, the government has forced Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to a list of "immoral sites and political sites that insult the country's political and religious leaders." … In September [2005], the authorities launched a massive crackdown on free expression, arresting at least 25 journalists, civil society activists, and computer technicians involved in Internet publishing, on charges ranging from defamation to "acts against national security." According to Human Rights Watch, many were coerced by interrogators to sign written confessions saying they had taken part in an "evil project" directed by "foreigners and counter-revolutionaries."

Religious freedom is limited in Iran, which is largely Shia Muslim with a small Sunni Muslim minority. Shia clerics who dissent from the ruling establishment are frequently harassed…. The constitution recognizes Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians as religious minorities and generally allows them to worship without interference so long as they do not proselytize. However, they are barred from election to representative bodies (though a set number of parliamentary seats are reserved for them), cannot hold senior government or military positions, and face restrictions in employment, education, and property ownership. Some 300,000 Baha'is, Iran's largest non-Muslim minority, enjoy virtually no rights under the law and are banned from practicing their faith. Hundreds of Baha'is have been executed since 1979….

Academic freedom in Iran is limited. Scholars are frequently detained for expressing political views, and students involved in organizing protests often face suspension or expulsion by university disciplinary committees….

The constitution permits the establishment of political parties, professional syndicates, and other civic organizations, provided they do not violate the principles of "freedom, sovereignty and national unity" or question the Islamic basis of the republic. In 2002, the 44-year-old Iran Freedom Movement was banned on such grounds and 33 of its leading members imprisoned. In 2004, at least four prominent human rights activists were prevented by the authorities from traveling abroad.

The 1979 constitution prohibits public demonstrations that "violate the principles of Islam," a vague provision used to justify the heavy-handed dispersal of assemblies and marches. Hard-line vigilante organizations unofficially sanctioned by the conservative establishment, most notably the Basij and Ansar-i Hezbollah, play a major role in dispersing public demonstrations.

Iranian law does not allow independent labor unions to exist, though workers' councils are represented in the government-sanctioned Workers' House, the country's only legal labor federation. While strikes and work stoppages are not uncommon, the authorities often ban or disperse demonstrations that criticize national economic policies. In January, security forces in the village of Khatunabad in southeastern Kerman province attacked striking copper factory workers, killing at least four people and injuring many others….

The judiciary is not independent. The Supreme Leader directly appoints the head of the judiciary, who in turn appoints senior judges. Civil courts provide some procedural safeguards, though judges often serve simultaneously as prosecutors during trials. Political and other sensitive cases are tried before Revolutionary Courts, where detainees are denied access to legal counsel and due process is ignored. Clerics who criticize the conservative establishment can be arrested and tried before the Special Court for the Clergy. The penal code is based on Sharia and provides for flogging, stoning, amputation, and death for a range of social and political offenses. In February, Mohsen Mofidi died in a Tehran hospital shortly after receiving 80 lashes on charges including possession of a medicine containing alcohol, possession of a satellite dish, and aiding his sisters' "corruption." In July, an Iranian court acquitted a government intelligence agent on charges of beating Canadian-Iranian freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi to death in July 2003 after she was detained while taking photos of Evin prison. The court refused to call to the witness stand six senior judicial officials present during Kazemi's interrogation.

Iranian security forces subjected hundreds of citizens to arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention in 2004. Suspected dissidents are often held in unofficial, illegal detention centers, and allegations of torture are commonplace. Although legislation banning the use of torture in interrogations was approved by parliament and the Council of Guardians in May, allegations of torture persisted throughout the year. In August, according to local human rights groups, a prisoner who had been left hanging by his wrists had to have his hands amputated.

There are few laws that discriminate against ethnic minorities, who are permitted to establish community centers and certain cultural, social, sports, and charitable associations. However, Kurdish demands for more autonomy and a greater voice in the appointment of a regional governor have not been met, and some Kurdish opposition groups are brutally suppressed. The opposition Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) alleged that two of its members were executed in December 2003. In June 2004, security forces reportedly arrested 80 ethnic Azeris for allegedly "spreading secessionist propaganda."

Although women enjoy the same political rights as men and currently hold several seats in parliament and even one of Iran's vice presidencies, they face discrimination in legal and social matters. A woman cannot obtain a passport without the permission of a male relative or her husband, and women do not enjoy equal rights under Sharia (Islamic law) statutes governing divorce, inheritance, and child custody. A woman's testimony in court is given only half the weight of a man's. Women must conform to strict dress codes and are segregated from men in most public places. In August, a 16-year-old girl was executed after being sentenced to death for "acts incompatible with chastity."

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