Thursday, June 08, 2006

Crackdown On Intellectuals, Dissidents, And Regime Opponents Intensifies In Iran, Egypt, And Syria

"A recent crackdown on intellectuals, dissidents and regime opponents in several Middle Eastern countries, notably Iran, Syria and Egypt, suggests a backlash is under way against pressure from Washington to democratize and modernize governments in the region.

This is hardly the first time these governments have suppressed domestic opposition; indeed, Syria in 2001 arrested many of its current detainees after a brief period when some criticism of the regime was tolerated. Yet the rising number of arrests underscores a new sense of defiance against the U.S. as the Bush administration has been preoccupied with Iraq, the nuclear standoff with Iran and the administration's all-time-low popularity at home.

"We are definitely seeing a backsliding in the parts of the governments," says Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch deputy director for the Middle East. "They see they are not going to face any unwanted consequences as a result of cracking down on dissidents." ...

In Iran, the arrests began in the weeks after the U.S. announced a $75 million program to support civil-society groups pushing for changes there. The repression has focused on reformers, student activists and intellectuals with ties to the West.

Prominent philosopher and scholar Ramin Jahanbegloo, a Canadian-Iranian who lives in Tehran, has been in solitary confinement since late April without being officially charged or allowed legal representation. Mr. Jahanbegloo, an advocate of nonviolence and a well-known figure in academic circles world-wide, was detained at the Tehran airport as he was leaving for Brussels to attend a conference sponsored by the German Marshall Fund. Mr. Jahanbegloo hasn't been politically active or considered an opposition figure in Iran, and the arrest has elicited calls from hundreds of academics for his unconditional release.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei told reporters in Iran that Mr. Jahanbegloo was arrested because of "relations with foreigners." Several conservative newspapers accused him of collaborating with the Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow Iran's government....

In Egypt, the clampdown has escalated sharply in recent weeks as Mr. Mubarak moved to quash opposition that has called for an end to his 28 years of one-party rule....

But so far, none of the governments show signs of backing down. Indeed, their leaders -- from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Mr. Mubarak, who is regarded as Washington's closest ally in the Arab world -- have publicly accused the U.S. of having double standards for democracy and have rebuked its efforts to export a "Western-style-democracy" to the region."

Farnaz Fassihi and Bill Spindle "Suppression Intensifies in Mideast: In the Face of U.S. Pressure, Regimes Take Harder Line Against Activists, Dissidents" Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2006.

Tehran, Iran

Photo credit: Science and Arts Foundation, London and Tehran. With thanks.

"At the dawn of the new millennium, the Science and Arts Foundation (SAF) aims to provide the youth of the developing world with educational opportunities particularly in information technology and Internet, enjoyed in the industrial world.

SAF was founded by Professor Abbas Edalat on March 1st, 1999 at Imperial College, London. The foundation's executive director in Iran is Yahya Tabesh, Director of the Computer Center at Sharif University of Technology.

SAF is a registered charity in the UK, the US, France, and Sweden." src/projects/iran/tehran/


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