The crackdown over the past two weeks on clerical and politicalopposition activists in major Iranian cities marks a furtherdeterioration of the human rights climate, and could prove to be thefirst steps in a widespread campaign to eliminate all oppositionelements inside Iran.
On Wednesday, June 19, the 21-year old son of Grand AyatollahMohammad Shirazi, Seyed Mehdi Shirazi, was arrested while drivingfrom Qom to Tehran by agents from the Ministry of Information andSecurity (MOIS), Iran's intelligence agency, representatives of thefamily said. Since his arrest, the family in Qom has received noinformation as to his whereabouts.
Also on Wednesday the authorities arrested Ali al-Rumaisi, 40, inQom. A colleague, Sheikh Hussein Dhakeri, was arrested on Thursday.Both were members of Grand Ayatollah Shirazi's staff.
On the morning of Friday, June 21, Grand Ayatollah Shirazi'srepresentative in Tehran, Hojjat-ol eslam Sheikh Azizollah Hassaini,was arrested at his home by armed security agents. At the same time,armed security agents surrounded Grand Ayatollah Shirazi's Tehranhome, leading to fears that further arrests may be imminent.
These latest moves are part of a consistent pattern of harassmentagainst followers of Grand Ayatollah Shirazi and other dissidentreligious leaders by the authorities of the Islamic Republic. OnNovember 11, 1995 the authorities rounded up followers of GrandAyatollah Shirazi in Tehran and Qom, and arrested another son, SeyedMorteza Shirazi, on November 21 (Action Memorandum No 4, 12/7/96).Seyed Morteza Shirazi and 10 others arrested with him have beensystematically beaten and tortured, according to family members whowere allowed to visit three of those arrested in April 1996. TheFoundation has received credible reports that Grand Ayatollah Shiraziwas recently threatened by the authorities that unless he offeredpublic support to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, his sonwould die in prison.
Another senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Yaqoubodin Rastaghari, 70,was arrested in February and taken to an undisclosed destination,according to credible eyewitness reports. Grand Ayatollah Rastagharihas been arrested on several previous occasions, and is the author ofa 60 volume Encyclopedia of the Holy Koran. His whereabouts remainunknown. Family members fear for his life, since he already was inpoor health at the time of his arrest.
The Foundation is also concerned by the continued house arrest ofGrand Ayatollah Sadegh Rouhani, who has been detained without chargessince 1985 despite repeated pleas by family members and internationalorganizations to allow him to emigrate. Last week, a EuropeanParliament delegation led by British EP member Brian Cassidyattempted to visit Grand Ayatollah Rouhani in Qom, but was deniedpermission by the authorities. His son, Javad Rouhani, was arrestedon July 17, 1995 and was held incommunicado until September 1995,when he was sentenced to one year imprisonment for distributingillegal leaflets and having contacts with opposition groups, familymembers said. (Action Memorandum No 1, 9/21/96).
In a Feb. 28, 1996 reply to queries from human rightsorganizations and from UN Special Representative for Iran MauriceCopithorne, the Human Rights Department of Iran's Foreign Ministrylisted the following charges against Seyed Morteza Shirazi:
"establishing an illegal organization with the purpose ofdisturbing public order,"
"collaborating in the illegal transfer of individuals toforeign countries,"
"printing books without relevant authorization,""disseminating lies and rumors,"
"defaming and insulting the leadership and other officialsof the country,"
"making contacts with wanted criminals resident in foreigncountries,"
"unauthorized collection and dispatch of information andreports to foreign countries."
In themselves, these charges constitute a violation of freedomsguaranteed by the International Declaration of Human Rights, and theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a bindinginternational treaty to which Iran is a signatory.
In a statement released in Tehran on June 20, 1996, the YouthOrganization of the Iran Nation's Party, a banned but toleratedopposition group, announced that two of its activists had beenarrested in Kermanshah on June 10 on accusations of "readingopposition books" and transmitting them to others. The two,identified as Reza Bakhtiari and Parviz Youssef Shahi, were engagedin non-violent political activities, the INP said. During a search oftheir houses, the authorities seized hundreds of newspapers andmagazines, as well as a photocopier and a typewriter.
The Foundation is concerned that these arrests are part of alarger crackdown on the religious and political opposition to theregime, who have systematically been denied the right to a fair andopen trial and legal defense, and have frequently been heldincommunicado for long periods and subjected to torture.
The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private,non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland.Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org).FDI materials, including the FDI Newswire, are availablefree-of-charge via the Internet at http://www.iran.org/.