Amid student protests, Iran widens net against opposition
As students in Iran launched fresh protests, authorities vowed an end to 'leniency' – a point underscored by the arrest of activist Parastou Forouhar, whose dissident parents were killed by government agents in 1998.
Authorities in Iran have blocked a high-profile activist – the daughter of a couple murdered by government agents more than a decade ago – from leaving the country. It's another example of how Iran's security forces are widening their net – and definition – of potential opponents as they try to stamp out months of dissent.Skip to next paragraph
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"So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied," Iran's chief prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, said on Tuesday. Tehran prosecutors should take stronger action, he instructed, against those "who violate public order and damage public properties."
The warning came as pro-regime militants attacked protesting students for a second day at Tehran University on Tuesday, one day after nationwide clashes by tens of thousands of students – the biggest in months against a disputed election last June – resulted in 204 arrests.
One example of the broadening crackdown is the treatment of Iranian activist Parastou Forouhar. She was prevented by authorities from returning home to Germany after an annual visit to mark the anniversary of the November 1998 killings of her dissident parents, Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar.
For years, Ms. Forouhar has pushed Iranian authorities to learn the truth behind the deaths of her parents and three other dissident intellectuals, in what came to be known as the "chain murders," carried out by a death squad with high connections from inside Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. (Read Forouhar's account of the killings and subsequent efforts to shed light on them here.)
Each anniversary has prompted a stand-off outside the family home between security forces or hard-line vigilantes against hundreds who commemorate one of the most gruesome episodes of the era of former President Mohammad Khatami. But never before has Forouhar, an artist who has focused on human rights issues and torture, been prevented from leaving the country.
Forouhar's passport confiscated
This time, however, Iranian sources close to her say her passport was taken at the airport as she was departing this past Saturday. She was told that there was an outstanding Revolutionary Court case against her.
Iran's Revolutionary Courts often try cases of alleged treason, threats to national security, and insults to Islam or other "sanctities," such as Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Invariably hard-line, the courts have frequently been used in political cases to imprison reformists since the late 1990s.
Forouhar's case emerges as Iranians weigh the aftermath of protests across the country on Monday, and the arrests for "violating public order." Chanting "Death to the dictator" and burning pictures of Ayatollah Khamenei as they clashed with riot police and pro-regime vigilantes, the student-led demonstrations were the latest round of street protests since the disputed elections last June.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, the presidential candidate who says that widespread fraud deprived him of victory over archconservative rival Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was reportedly prevented on Tuesday from leaving his office by 30 plainclothes men on motorcycles – some of them wearing masks.