Iran's mass arrests: Broadest since 1979 Islamic revolution
Eight Iranian employees of the British embassy in Tehran were arrested Sunday and stood accused of inciting unrest over the June 12 presidential election, reports the government-linked Fars news agency.
Intimidation of regime opponents with arbitrary detention or house arrest is nothing new in Iran. But the country's current crackdown against citizens angry at the apparent rigging of the June 12 presidential election in favor of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is its broadest since the aftermath of the Islamic revolution in 1979.Skip to next paragraph
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Despite the effectiveness of beating and shooting protesters upset with the results of the June 12 presidential election – the streets of major Iranian cities were quiet over the weekend – the pace of arrests has hardly slowed as Mr. Ahmadinejad and his supporters try to consolidate their victory.
On Sunday, the government-linked Fars news agency reported that eight Iranian employees of the British Embassy in Tehran were arrested and stood accused of inciting the unrest over the election. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the arrests "harassment and intimidation" and added, "the idea that the British embassy is somehow behind the demonstrations ... is wholly without foundation."
The embassy workers join roughly 40 reporters and hundreds of student protesters, academics, and political activists held in detention centers around the country.
Basiji militiamen, shock-troops loyal to Iran's most hard-line clerics, have raided and beaten residents in their homes for shouting "God is great" from their rooftops – a form of protest borrowed from lead up to the 1979 revolution.
"It's the scale of the arrests that's so incredible," says Babak Rahimi, an American academic who specializes in Iran at the University of California San Diego, who recently returned from a trip to Iran. He fled his home country in 1982 after his father was executed for political activity. "The last time there was something close to this was the 1999 student uprising – but then it was just the students. Now, we're talking about leading reformist politicians, 40-something journalists, everyone's at risk."
Opposition leaders cut off from supporters
Trita Parsi and Reza Aslan, two academics who focus on Iran, said in a report on Friday for Foreign Policy magazine, that the regime is apparently achieving its short-term goal of choking off the ability of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to communicate with protesters – and perhaps emerge as a stronger leader for change.
"A source close to Mousavi says that the first and second circle of people around Mousavi have all been arrested or put under house arrest," they write. "Mousavi himself has limited ability to communicate with his team and his followers. The lack of leadership is visible on the streets, where demonstrators exhibit unparalleled will and courage, but lack direction and guidance."