Iran’s rulers have long embraced Stalin’s impeccable logic: “The people who cast the votes don't decide an election; the people who count the votes do.”
So a year ago this month, they held an election and blatantly falsified the results. Iranians protested and were brutally suppressed. One victim became known worldwide: Neda Agha-Soltan. At an anti-regime demonstration on June 20, 2009, she was shot in the chest. Soon after, demonstrators pulled a man from his motorcycle, disarmed him, and identified him as a member of the Basij, a militia that specializes in crushing anti-government dissent. He reportedly shouted: “I didn’t want to kill her!”
Amateur videos of the incident quickly found their way onto the Internet. Neda’s face, beautiful even as she lay dying in the dusty street, personified the people’s revolt against the clerical rulers brought to power by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has held on to power over the past 12 months by authorizing the killing, torture, rape and imprisonment of thousands of Iranians. But he and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad learned something from Neda: They have endeavored to keep stories like hers from being documented and publicized. And, for the most part, the “international community” has been more than cooperative.
So kudos to Amnesty International which has just published “From Protest to Prison,” a report on the atrocities that continue to occur inside Iran. “One year on from the disputed presidential election of June 2009,” the report observes, “Iranians who want to criticize the Government or protest against mounting human rights violations face an ever-tightening gag as the authorities and the shadowy intelligence services – shaken to the core by the events which followed – consolidate their grip on the country and intensify the repression already in place for years.”