Thursday 19 October 2017

Iran opposition is crushed in government crackdown

Damien McElroy in Tehran

IRAN has begun a final push to crush the remaining opposition movement with a campaign of repression.

The country's last two legally registered political parties were disbanded this week after their leaders were put in prison. The government also banned a reformist newspaper and arrested a number of high- profile liberals.

Activists say that almost all prominent opposition supporters have suffered since the presidential election last June which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to power. Opponents have been subject to increased harassment in recent weeks with new restrictions on their movements, monitoring and disruption of telephone calls and warnings of future punishment.

One activist said: "This is not a normal country. I cannot express my views or carry out my activities in any way any more." She added: "There is no more mobile contact between us in the opposition. We can only meet by shaking off the people who tail us. The risks are high and getting worse."

Mirhossein Mousavi, Iran's opposition leader, is being held under restrictive conditions, according to associates. Activists close to the former Iranian prime minister said that they can no longer communicate with him regularly. The leader of Iran's Green movement rarely leaves his home and has not been seen in public for two months.

Neither he nor his politically active wife Zahra Rahnavard have access to a telephone and their attempts at email have been limited.

Outlawed

The two political parties were outlawed after their leaders were imprisoned for helping to plan demonstrations. Mohsen Mirdamadi, the leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, and Mostafa Tajzadeh Mujaheddin, of the Islamic Revolution Organisation, were sentenced to six years in prison on Monday.

The power of the Basij militia, which was used to trick demonstrators who took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands in the aftermath of the June election, frightens many Iranians. Even government officials said the militia was more powerful than the state.

An activist said: "There are people on the streets who have control, people who are not exactly police. If they arrest you there is probably nothing we can do. We can give you certificates, make phone calls, but at the end of the day you are in their power."

The wife of one reformist journalist in detention described the consequences of the harassment on her family. She said: "My husband is in prison, I am in hospital with hypertension. Our whole family life has been disrupted beyond recognition. We are ruined."

'Bahar', the reformist newspaper, has been banned for "publishing false material, spreading doubt on key issues such as the elections, questioning the decisions of regime officials and spreading lies about ministries".

It emerged yesterday that Mohammad Khatami, a former president, is one of 150 leading members of the opposition who has been banned from travelling abroad. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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