Saturday, June 11, 2005


"Few would recognise Abbas Abdi, 49, as the leader of the students who stormed the American Embassy in Tehran in October 1979. High on the hope of a new Iran after the Shah's deposition, the students from the capital's Amir Kabir university caused an international crisis by holding US staff at the embassy hostage for 444 days. But most revolutions destroy their own vanguard, and Iran's was little different. Mr Abdi was released from jail a month ago. It was his second term in the capital's Evin prison, where he served 2« years, much of it in solitary confinement. His freedom is at the whim of the regime, so his caution comes as little surprise. "I'm free only so long as they don't send me back," Mr Abdi said....

Mohsen Mirdamadi, 50, was one of Mr Abdi's comrades in the embassy seizure, an ad hoc operation designed to prevent a US-backed counter-revolution. He went on to serve as a Revolutionary Guard for two years during the war with Iraq. "We thought we had established a democratic system with freedom of speech," he said. "No one felt that we would move towards a new dictatorship. But now our freedom is sacrificed. Many of those students are still my closest friends and think like me. The hardliners of today weren't even at the forefront as we were."

So what have the revolution's expectations translated into, 26 years on? A country with the second-largest natural gas reserves outside Russia and 7 per cent of the world's oil, Iran suffers chronic unemployment, economic malaise and corruption. While the Iranian regime's dictatorship is in no way comparable with that of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, civil liberties and human rights suffer at the whim of the leadership's small, entrenched cartel....

The situation is typified by Akbar Ganji, another former Revolutionary Guard turned reformist journalist, who was jailed in 2000 after naming dissidents allegedly murdered during the presidency of Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the present favourite election candidate. Mr Ganji was temporarily released from jail last week but has disappeared."

From The Times


No comments: