Monday, August 01, 2005

The Beginning of the Summer Heat

While there is only a week left from the inauguration of the new Iranian president and only four days have passed since the Judiciary’s last report on the violations of human rights in Iran, there are plenty of events heralding the advent of policies that were forewarned by political observers and activists. READ MORE

Among them are the following: the assault on the residence of a justice attorney, the groundwork for attacking Nobel Peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi, the arrest of fourteen teenagers in front of Milad hospital where imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji is kept, the arrest of journalist Masoud Bastani who was preparing for an interview with the hospital manager, the closure of a popular play directed by the well-known choreographer and film-director Bahram Beyzayi, and the preparations for a new round of crackdown on women not wearing the their full required garb.

The widest covered event was the judiciary’s assault on the house of Abdol-Fatah Soltani to arrest him. He is the attorney for murdered Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi’s mother. On the last day of the appeal proceedings looking into the death of journalist-photographer Zahra Kazemi, Soltani had asked the court: Who is behind this case that even the Ministry of Intelligence laments that it would clarify and reconstruct the events leading up to the death of the journalist only if the witnesses receive guarantees for their lives? Ever since he uttered such an accusatory question, he has been expected to pay the price. As soon as these retrial hearings began, Tehran Province’s Prosecutor and his supporters in the ultra-conservatist Keyhan newspaper were busy cocking up a plan to harm Shirin Ebadi and Abdol-Fatah Soltani. As soon as news broke out that Tehran’s prosecutor had initiated to arrest Soltani, Abdol Karim Lahijee, a deputy secretary in the International Federation of Human Rights Associations reported the incident to the UN human rights commissioner and requested appropriate measures. The most likely reason for arresting Soltani is to cover-up the events that lead to the death of the Iranian-Canadian journalist and to prevent other attorneys from pursing the case so as to reinstate the innocence of those responsible for the crimes through upholding the earlier court ruling on this. In fact, as Mohammad Khatami’s 2nd presidential term comes its conclusion in just a few days time, the next victims in this case will most likely be lawyers and journalists who have been covering these events and discussing them with foreign media.

The news about the unexpected conclusion of a play directed by Beyzayi that was announced would be staged for another 21 days, was announced by Beyzayi without any explanations. While some had predicted that the play would not be allowed to continue with the new presidency, others had hoped that they would to be wrong. In fact with the attendance of the play by a number of president-elect Ahmadinejad’s officials last week, hopes for its continuation had risen, but Beyzayi’s announcement proved otherwise.

This play was both written and directed by Beyzayi. It is a story of a man and a woman both of whom see the same dream. The storyline is an indirect reference to the government’s serial killings presented in the traditional Ta'azie theatre form. Beyzayi had failed recently to get the release of his films from the government and now with this episode again finds himself in familiar although disheartening territory. One of those involved in the play said disappointingly that he did not believe the staging of this or such a play would be permissible in the coming years, adding that credit for having it goes to outgoing president Khatami.

Political observers point to the assault on Soltani’s residence to warn that the new round of oppressive policies is already underway. The individuals that are said to be behind this assault have been implicated in other recent law suits involving human rights violations, including Zahra Kazemi’s case. The current defendant in Kazemi’s law suit recently made the very same request that Shirin Ebadi and Abdol-Fatah Soltani had asked earlier: the search and identification of the principal perpetrator of the murders.

Last week, political commentators announced that during religious ceremonies commemorating the birthday anniversary of Prophet Mohammad’s daughter Fatemeh, some speakers invited the public to directly intervene to stop the non-observance of women’s Islamic attire that has spread during president Khatami’s presidency. In Golhak, just north of Tehran, a mosque leader asked his audience to give the authorities one week to deal with the issue and provide assistance to Ahmadinejad when he took the presidential office next week. In his sermon, he had no qualms in insulting moderates and inciting the public against them. In related news, it is reported that in Qom and Mashhad, both religious cities with powerful religious schools, preparations are underway to impose the veil on young women who do not observe the current attire standards. Mosque leaders have promised to clear the Islamic society of this shame this summer.