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4/22/04 - SUFFERING IN IRAN - 2004-04-24

Behzad Nabavi is one of the deputy speakers in Iran’s outgoing parliament. Mr. Nabavi decided to resign early. “It was impossible for reformists to move ahead because the conservative unelected bodies have paralyzed parliament,” says Mr. Nabavi. “I am resigning,” he says, “because of not being able to defend people’s rights as a deputy.”

In February, controlled elections were held for parliament. The unelected radical Islamic clergy who make up the Guardians Council disqualified approximately one-third of the eight-thousand-two-hundred submissions for candidacy. Mohsen Mirdamadi, a member of Iran’s parliament, says that, “Through these massive disqualifications, [the hard-liners] want only their own thinking to control the next parliament.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “free and fair elections should be the norm” in Iran and elsewhere:

“We do continue to believe the Iranian people deserve a government that responds to their aspirations, and we believe that that desire on the part of the Iranian people will continue to be expressed in a variety of ways.”

The suppression of Iranian rights by religious extremists has been going on since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Among the shocking tactics is the murder of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist. She was arrested in June 2003. Three weeks later, she died in a Tehran hospital from head injuries suffered from a violent beating, while in police custody.

Reporters Without Borders is an international group that defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom around the world. The group says that by April 2003, Iran had “the Middle East’s biggest prison for journalists.” As many as eighty-five newspapers have been closed in Iran since 1995.

Despite such repression, the future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran. “Right now,” says President George W. Bush, “the Iranian people are struggling with the difficult questions about how to build a modern twenty-first century society that is at once Muslim, prosperous, and free.”