Home
share

Repression and Fear Rule in Iran's Mullahcracy

Clare Cavoli Lopez ’76 is a private consultant in the Washington, D.C. area and speaks and writes widely on issues related to Iran and the Middle East. As the Executive Director of the Iran Policy Committee, a Washington, D.C. think tank, Ms. Lopez is an occasional guest lecturer at Georgetown University and Notre Dame College, and a member of the Board of Advisors for Notre Dame College’s Intelligence Research and Analysis program.

The following article is based on her acceptance speech for the Notre Dame College Alumni Association’s Alumni of the Year Award. Upon receiving the award, Ms. Lopez dedicated it to the women of Iran.

In August 2006, veteran CBS journalist, Mike Wallace, interviewed Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on “60 Minutes.” Unfortunately for the cause of freedom and human rights, Wallace seemed star-struck in the presence of the terrorist leader, and passed up a prime opportunity to grill Ahmadinejad on a host of issues, not the least of which is how Iran treats its own citizens. Clearly, the program was not a high point for broadcast journalism.

Ahmadinejad’s claim at the outset of the interview: “The time of the bomb is in the past. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue, and cultural exchanges,” should have offered Wallace the perfect opening for serious follow-on queries. He could have begun by asking Ahmadinejad how Iran’s barbaric punishments of execution by stoning, amputation of hands and feet, gouging out of eyes, and public lashing exemplified those lofty ideals. Iran’s Islamic law permits boys above the age of 15 and girls above the age of nine to be subject to capital punishment. Young people, especially members of the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, regularly are hung from construction cranes in public squares. Torture in Iran’s jails is commonplace and is used against women, the elderly, and even children, sometimes in front of parents from whom a confession is sought. Virgins are methodically raped in prison before execution to ensure that they will not gain entry to Paradise.

Islamic law, or Sharia, is an ancient legal system based on the Quran (Islam’s revealed scripture) and the Sunna, collected accounts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Over the centuries, interpretation and local custom also have contributed to the widely varying ways in which Sharia has been applied in different Muslim communities. Because Islam makes no distinction between religious matters related to practice of the faith and civil matters related to the regulation of everyday life, Sharia encompasses both. Many Muslim countries today, however, maintain parallel legal systems, with secular constitutions and laws to cover most civil and criminal matters, and separate religious courts for matters specifically related to Islam. Not so in Iran.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini and a collection of grim Shi’ite clerics to power in Iran also ushered in a new Dark Ages and clamped a rule of fear on the country. Sharia was forcibly imposed on a population that, during the Pahlavi dynasty, had made great progress towards development of a modern, secular society. A deeply misogynist mindset among Iran’s ruling clerics, that hates and fears female sexuality, decreed that women represent all corruption in human society, and so must be harshly controlled. Thus, men are legally granted all decision-making power within the family, including control of the education, employment, and movement of women, and custody of children.

Iranian interpretation of Islamic law lowered the age of marriage for girls from 18 to nine. A little girl can be married off to a man three or more times her age. Polygamy is legal and so is temporary marriage (muta’a), under which a man can rent a woman for as short or long a period of time as he wishes. Veiling, a social custom that had begun to fade away under the Shahs, was imposed on women as an instrument of state control. Vigilante squads began to roam the streets, armed with clubs and chains, with license to accost and beat any woman or girl whose hair was not completely covered by her veil; worse yet, they threw acid in the faces of women wearing makeup and used razor blades to scrape off lipstick.

The allure of Iran’s revolutionary fervor is long gone, any zeal for its radical ideology extinguished. Police state repression is the only force that keeps Tehran’s regime in power. Any indication of opposition is ruthlessly crushed. Still, brave Iranian political dissidents speak out; hundreds have been jailed and executed and thousands more take to the streets to demonstrate.

 
Mansour Ossanloo is the leader of a Tehran bus company trade union; a year ago, security forces raided one of their meetings and cut off a piece of Mr. Ossanloo’s tongue. He’s been in jail ever since. Ahmad Batebi became the face of Iranian dissent when the Economist featured his photo on its cover, holding up a friend’s bloody shirt during the brutally suppressed 1999 student uprising at Tehran University. For that, Batebi was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison; after serving six years, he was let out on furlough, but then rearrested on July 29. No one knows where he is, but many are worried because the regime recently tortured to death another young student leader named Akbar Mohammadi. Also, in July 2006, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a powerful member of Iran’s Guardian Council, warned in a Friday sermon that if the U.N. Security Council votes to sanction Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, Iran will execute en masse all political prisoners.

Nuclear weapons and support for terrorist organizations are not the only dangers posed by Tehran’s Islamo-fascist regime. Institutionalized gender discrimination, repression of restive ethnic minorities, live fire from helicopter gunships against peaceful demonstrators, Internet and broadcast jamming, and jailing of journalists, human rights workers, bloggers, and students are creating an explosive discontent in Iran that threatens the entire region with instability. Iran’s democratic opposition deserves recognition and support from the international community, so they may succeed in bringing freedom and reform to the Iranian people.

To learn more about the Iran Policy Committee, visit www.iranpolicy.org.