How to crush a revolution: Lessons from Iran and the Green movement


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The death of Haleh Sahabi, the daughter of a veteran Iranian dissident who died at  her father’s funeral  is one of many cases of the regime’s treatment of political activists that the world’s media should concerned with, said Iranian journalist Saeed Kamali Dehghan.

Long-term prison sentences, violence and rape have been used against government opponents in the two years since protestors took to the streets of Tehran to oppose the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saeed Kamali Dehghan, who writes for The Guardian.  Speaking at June’s First Wednesday, which was chaired by BBC Broadcasting House presenter Paddy O’Connell, he said that the status of political activists was "the most important story in Iran":

The difficulty for the foreign media is that they are individuals and it’s hard to cover. But what’s going on is very tragic. There are extraordinary letters coming out of prison that BBC Persian has covered about systematic mass rape of young activists in jail. 

More than 700 journalists have also been imprisoned in Iran, said 
Sanam Dolatshahi, producer for BBC Persian TV interactive programme. As part of a crackdown that had affected everyone from ordinary citizens to government officials the goverment had also crushed the women’s movement, she added:

They were very organised and could have been an asset to the pro-democracy movement, but that movement was crushed and many women activists and young leaders have been arrested or have had to flee the country.

So there are very few people are in the country and those who are there cannot do anything, they are too afraid.

Nazenin Ansari, an Iranian journalist working as the diplomatic editor of Kayhan London, a weekly Persian-language newspaper said it was important to remember Siamak Pourzand, an 80-year-old journalist who had been in prison for ten years. He was under house arrest when he killed himself on 29 April and was living alone as his wife, Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist had to flee Iran:

Just a month ago he threw himself down and committed suicide because he just couldn’t take it any more. In prison they had burnt him so much that he couldn’t take care of himself. 

Saeed Kamali Dehghan said stories about human rights abuses in Iran had been sidelined in the western media as a result of the Arab Spring. But the banning of foreign journalists has also contributed to the lack of coverage said Channel 4 News presenter Lindsey Hilsum.

 I used to go to Iran three times a year but I can’t at the moment because they won’t let me in and they won’t let pretty much anybody in. That’s why it doesn’t get much coverage and also because they’ve got a lot to hide.

In the months since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and across the Arab world, activists in the Green movement who had protested in favour of Mir Hossein Mousavi have become more radical claimed Sanam Dolatshahi.

But while they look on at the Arab Spring with envy, they are also realistic about the said Potkin Azarmehr, an Iranian-born blogger and activist:

I think they are realistic enough to know that the dictatorship in Iran is much more brutal than those that were in Egypt and Tunisia. That’s why Syria is very important to people in Iran and people who are carefully monitoring what’s happening in Iran. If the Syrian dictatorship collapses, I think that would really raise the spirits of the Iranians that they too can win.

Lindsey Hilsum said that since 2009 the Green movement had been crushed:

I think it’s an example of how extreme force works and I think that we are seeing the same with Syria now and I think that the Syrians have learnt from the Iranians. There have been reports that the Iranians have sent advisers over to Syria who said that the way that you deal with this is by blocking the foreign media and  the media and by killing people. And that’s what they have done.

There is another blog post about the event, which had the hashtag #fciran, here and you can download the podcast here.
Further analysis:

The winds of change: Which way will they blow for Iran?

The ‘Arab Spring’ and Iran: What’s become of the Green movement?