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.
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He got out of his car and shouted, "You're agents, you've been tasked with threatening me, beating me, killing me," according to the Associated Press. He was allowed to leave hours later.Skip to next paragraph
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Iranian authorities widen their net
Forouhar was not in the country during the June protests, which saw hundreds of thousands of antigovernment protesters take to the streets asking "Where is my vote?" after Mr. Ahmadinejad claimed reelection amid accusations of fraud. But Iranian intelligence and security services have extended their fight far beyond the streets of Iran in their bid to silence all opposition.
In Istanbul, Turkey, where a number of Iranian postelection activists who say they were raped in prison have fled, while seeking asylum in Europe and the United States, Iran's agents have been caught harassing the victims, and filming diplomats and journalists. Iranian operatives are also reported to be actively engaged in a far-reaching intimidation campaign across Europe and the US.
Intelligence ministry owned up to 1998 murders
Parastou Forouhar has kept alive the memory not only of her parents' murder in the fall of 1998, but a string of subsequent killings that were politically motivated. In laying out the legal challenges of revealing the truth, she described on her website how, over the years, anniversary gatherings of hundreds in solidarity with her family have been subject to a "massive attack of hired gangs of thugs." "The big wave of protest shows that the political murders of autumn 1998 have not been forgotten, and their clearing up has become a basic goal of the resistance."
The "chain murders" of 1998 shocked Iranians in their brutality. Dariush was stabbed 11 times and his wife 24 times, and both dismembered. The viciousness of those and the other killings prompted an official investigation, which eventually uncovered the culprits to be intelligence agents who said the "revolutionary executions [were] a warning" to other dissidents.
Equally shocking in 1999 was the eventual mea culpa, in which the Ministry of Intelligence finally admitted responsibility, noting that "a few of our colleagues – irresponsible, devious, and obstinate persons – were among those arrested."
Key intelligence figures from '98 era back in power
Khatami managed to "cleanse" the Ministry of Intelligence of those hard-line elements – an achievement seen by many as one of the high points of his 1997-2005 presidency.
But those hard-line elements did not go away, instead joining a growing parallel intelligence apparatus that included cells of hard-liners throughout the Islamic system, in the police, judiciary, Revolutionary Guard, and even the office of the supreme leader. In a detailed report about that apparatus earlier this year, the US-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center said that "many of the security personnel that were purged from the [Intelligence Ministry] were ultimately absorbed into" the parallel apparatus. (Download the PDF version of the report here.)
Several of those same key actors have since been resurrected by Ahmadinejad and given important security posts – from which they have orchestrated one of the most in-depth political crackdowns on dissent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.