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Story Publication logo May 4, 2010

Iran: Looking Forward, Walking Backward



Urja Mittal, special to the Pulitzer Center

Mittal is a Pulitzer Center intern at a Washington, DC-area high school.

The government of Iran is losing legitimacy - and all notions of democracy - fast. Two weeks ago, on April 19, Iran suspended two opposition parties, key members of the Green Movement that in June 2009, took on a campaign to dispute the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And now, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, whose existence dates back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Revolution have become the victims of the government's order to cease their activities. Iran has made it clear: no representation needed in this "democracy."

As of April 19, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the leaders of the opposition Green Movement, has been reported to be held under restrictive conditions, and his followers say they can no longer contact him. Furthermore, the leaders of the two suspended opposition parties have been imprisoned for planning demonstrations. Civil rights have become but a second consideration in Iran.

The regime's excessive reaction to the opposition is shocking in its severity. Nevertheless, it is a continuation of the downward trend in the country's politics that started with last June's elections. The real disappointment comes with the remaining nations in the world, who have failed to recognize the plight of the Iranian citizens stripped of their basic rights. Not only does this deserve acknowledgement, but it also forms a legitimate basis for further sanctions against the Iranian government and the officials who do its dirty work.

The arrests of Green liberals and politicians, along with the crushing of the protests earlier this year, has been the job of Iran's Basij militia. Created by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 as an additional national militia, the Basij militia has become a domestic security force, a paramilitary police with the key task of enforcing Islamic-Iranian law. Today, the Basij has become the authoritarian regime's personal army. It is another red flag, yet another sign of Iran's shift away from democratization.

A few months ago, Iran made the effort of wearing the mask of a republic. After the April arrests, even that guise has been discarded.

Ahmadinejad's administration did not hold back in the streets earlier and clearly does not plan to provide any political leeway for later. The government's fear of protests, which might turn the tide against Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei once more, has sparked these recent actions and will likely inflame future injustices. Now, it is up to the Iranian people to use this breach of civil liberties as fuel for their movement. The government and people cannot, and will not, stabilize until they are one.

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