Tens of thousands of Iranians were allowed to gather in Tehran for a rally this month to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution which brought clerical rule to Iran.
Authorities were not so accommodating about plans to hold another rally a few days later to mark a different anniversary: the one year anniversary of the pro-democracy demonstrations in which Iranians by the thousands across the country took to the streets in support of the Arab Spring, and were brutally set upon by Iranian security forces. In 2011, at least two university students protesting died, and hundreds of people were arrested. Green movement opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi were put under house arrest from which they have never been released.
The day after the anniversary, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland noted the Iranian regime’s response to calls for Iranians to mark last year’s bloody events with silent demonstrations:
“There was a very sizable and forcible crackdown on peaceful protest inside Tehran yesterday; large scale cutoff of the Internet over the last couple of days; and they continue to keep major opposition figures under house arrest.”
In the days before the anniversary, Amnesty International had urged Iranian authorities to respect freedom of assembly and allow peaceful demonstrations in Tehran and elsewhere. It also called for the immediate release of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mr. Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who is being held along with her husband.
With its heavy and brutal police presence in the streets, its cut-off of the internet in the days preceding the anniversary, and its silence concerning the detained opposition leaders, the Iranian regime ignored such calls, as it has all demands to allow Iranians the free exercise of their rights.
The United States remains, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last February during the height of the crackdown, “deeply concerned by the persecution of Iranian citizens at the hands of their government.” That concern has only intensified as the Iranian regime continues to violate “the universal rights to which,” as Secretary Clinton says, “all men and women – in Iran and around the world – are entitled.”