Las Vegas Sun

January 29, 2015

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Sun editorial:

Trampling dissent

Iranian government turning to Soviet-era ways in its crackdown on protests

From Las Vegas, Moniro Ravanipour has been issuing warnings to Iranians on her Web site and posting the latest news reported via e-mail.

As Timothy Pratt reported in Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, her Web site has twice been blocked in Iran as the government struggles to control dissent in the wake of its farce of an election. Ravanipour, an Iranian novelist and writer-in-residence at UNLV, is part of a vast collection of Internet users providing information that the Iranian government would like to suppress.

The country has been in turmoil since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner in a landslide, reportedly defeating his opponent by a 2-to-1 margin. The victory has been attributed to widespread fraud and, in response, citizens have staged massive protests and rallies in opposition.

Iran’s top elections officials overlooked a multitude of problems with the vote — not to mention the public outcry — and validated the results. That was not a surprise because presidential elections in Iran are engineered. Candidates are vetted by the ruling authorities before they are allowed to run for election, and Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner, is the clear favorite of the country’s rulers.

The government’s response to the protests has been atrocious. Protesters have been harassed, intimidated and arrested. Police, militia members and soldiers have beaten and killed people, all with the support of the highest authorities.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an influential cleric and a member of one of the country’s highest ruling bodies, called the protests a violation of Islamic law. He said protesters should be “ruthlessly and savagely” punished “to teach everyone a lesson.”

The lesson may backfire on Iranian leaders. Buoyed by international support, the protesters have shown tremendous courage and resolve. The brutality of the government’s Soviet-era tactics is being documented on the Internet. People like Ravanipour are providing a critical link to information outside the control of government censors.

What Iran is seeing through this exchange of information online is a taste of freedom. May there be more to come.

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