I received the news that my friend in Iran, a political activist who is strongly opposed to the regime and who was arrested last year, was released on heavy bail. But far from feeling any sense of relief about her release, I am filled with a feeling of dread. I am not attempting to contact her right now because I feel that doing so would only further endanger her, especially since the “charges” against her relate primarily to her contacts with foreigners like me. As a proud Jewish Zionist, I am the most dangerous kind of foreigner to a regime which is openly committed to a toxic combination of Holocaust denial and the destruction of Israel and the Jews.
I know that the “charges” against her are bogus – that the only thing she and other political prisoners are “guilty” of is seeking freedom, dignity, and human rights in the face of a totalitarian Shi’ite Islamist regime which is brutally repressing and murdering its own people and waging war on Israel, the Jews, and the West. The charges are basically a total fiction and farce which have no relation to reality whatsoever.
Also the “trials” are a horrific farce and a mockery of the judicial process. The “appeals” process is also a cruel joke to the political prisoners. And the “sentences” have all the moral validity of a “court ruling” from Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. I know what awaits my friend – a “trial” where she will be dehumanized and falsely accused, an inevitable conviction, and a “sentence” of many years in prison. She awaits many years in prison – to be raped, tortured, beaten, and hopefully not killed. The clerics have already determined her sentence in advance – so actually there is no need for a trial, conviction, or a sentence at all. She will soon be joining Majid Tavakoli, Bahareh Hedayat, Mohammed Nourizad, Jafar Panahi, Majid Dori, Mahdieh Golroo, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, and Nasrin Sotoudeh as a political prisoner. Like these brave souls, my Iranian friend inside Iran will not be released until this regime falls and is replaced by a secular democracy which separates religion and state.
Unfortunately, the immediate prospects for regime change in Iran seem to very dim at best. The second anniversary of the fraudulent “elections” on June 12 and the 2nd anniversary of Neda Agha-Soltan’s murder on June 20th passed with barely a blip of protest in Iran. Last month, 25,000 people expressed their protest against the regime by attending the funeral of the Green activist and soccer star Naser Hejazi and chanting anti-regime slogans including “Ben Ali, Mubarak, Seyyed Ali.” The protestors were referring to the fall of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the Mubarak regime in Egypt. In addition, the five million people who sent text messages mourning the death of Hejazi exceeded the 3.5 million people who protested silently on the streets of Tehran against the regime after the fraudulent “elections” in June, 2009. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/05/fans-protesters-and-basijis-at-hejazis-funderal.html
The public response to the death of Hejazi indicates the depth of popular discontent with the regime in Iran. As Muhammad Sahimi points out correctly, this regime resorts to blatant fraud to win its “elections” because it is so unpopular that it cannot legitimately win any elections. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/06/the-crisis-of-legitimacy-and-the-green-movement.html In addition, this regime seems to have lost ideological legitimacy in the sense that its extremist and aggressive foreign policy does not appear to be popular with the people. The regime can no longer hide behind its war on Israel, the Jews, and the West and use the Jews and the West as scapegoats for its internal economic failures and systematic official corruption.
But unfortunately, the regime’s repression seems to have broken the people’s spirit and sapped their will to resist this regime. In addition to murdering dozens of peaceful protestors in the streets of Iran, this regime has imprisoned hundreds of political prisoners under horrendously brutal conditions of torture and denial of medical care for long sentences of up to 9.5 years in prison. The regime is also known for raping both male and female political prisoners. In the face of this horrendous repression, the people of Iran seem to be unable to translate their discontent into a viable popular movement which can challenge this regime. This regime has lost all moral credibility in the eyes of its own people, but it continues to hang on by brute force.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that the Green Movement, which seems to be the dominant opposition force inside Iran, is led by two clerics, Mousavi and Karroubi, who favor deep structural reform but have never called for a complete regime change. The division between those who support dramatic reforms within the existing system and those who want a complete regime change and secular democracy with a total separation of religion and state is a huge obstacle to regime change.