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The Human Cost of Iran's Islamist Rule

By Stefania Lapenna

It was in February 1979 when, on board an Air France flight freighted with some powerful Iranian Bazaaris, Dastmalchi and Barkhordar, with the formal approval of the then French President Giscard Estaing, a bearded Shia Islamist cleric from an Indian Sikh family landed in Tehran. After years spent preaching an ideology of death and violence in the name of "social justice" (populist-style), via clandestine radio broadcasts courtesy of Paris, Ruhollah Khomeini had proclaimed himself as the "liberator of the people of Iran, slave of the infidel Shah."

When he landed, Khomeini was cheered by hundreds of thousands of followers, among them imported Islamists, communists, fedayeen and the Marxist-Islamist terror group of the People's Mujahideen (now renamed "MKO/MEK" or "National Council of the Iranian Resistance" ) -- all brainwashed into believing that the Islamic revolution was going to bring heaven on earth by establishing social justice and eradicating poverty. These groups had been fighting the Shah for many years and the terror attack at the Cinema Rex in the southwestern Iranian city ofAbadan on Aug. 19,1978, which killed 300 people, was but a prelude to the Islamic takeover.

On the other side, however, tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians had taken to the streets in the first weeks after the triumph of the revolution to reject the new theocracy. The street uprising involved all walks of the modern, liberal Iranian society. Most of it was led by hundreds of unveiled women, who had pledged to never give up their rights granted by the Shah's regime. They were shouting "Na Toosari, Na Roosari!'"("No Veil, No Submission"). Nevertheless, the terror of Sharia law was imposed on the nation by force.

Many Westerners forget that the Iranian culture precedes the Ayatollahs' regime by thousands of years. Backward practices such as polygamy, wife-beating and repudiation have always been foreign to it. Rather, such practices are a product of the Islamist invasion and nowadays are promoted by the current theocratic regime, but in truth practiced only by a tiny minority of people, mainly the illiterate.

As the Ayatollahs celebrated their anniversary this year, here is the human and social cost of 28 years of Islamist power on the Iranian nation and people:

• Public Executions, flogging, stoning, amputation of limbs in public, mutilation of hands and feet and gauging of the eye of the condemned;

• Mass killings of political prisoners;

• Assassination of dissidents outside of Iran (a sad example is the hunting and killing of Iranian dissidents in Europe in the late 1980s by the Islamic republic's agents, who were later pardoned by complacent European governments);

• Construction of more prisons to hold thousands of political prisoners;

• Promotion of international and domestic terrorism;

• Violation of human, religious and women's rights;

• Lack of civil and social liberties;

• Killing and imprisonment of dissident journalists;

• Censorship and closure of independent news publications;

• Stealing of the nation's wealth and transfer of public funds to abroad-based terror groups;

• Destruction of the once-flourishing economy through widespread, state-sanctioned corruption and mismanagement, resulting in a very high inflation rate (official sources estimate it to be close to 20% , but real numbers are believed to be much higher) and an unemployment rate of 15% (although the unofficial numbers are more than the triple);

• Devaluation of the Tooman, Iran's national currency;

• Malnutrition, retarded growth and increased rate of depression among the youth;

• The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, resulting in millions dead, wounded, handicapped and homeless;

• Building of nuclear weapons for aggressive aims;

• Trade of women as sex slaves in Persian Gulf countries;

• Mandatory veiling of all women, regardless of their religion or social status. Failing to wear it is enough to risk jail, flogging or heavy fines.

The above gives you just an idea of what life under the Mullahs has meant and still means for millions of Iranians, not just the international community faced by the threat of a nuclear Holocaust. Not that the latter seems not to care that much; the Europeans have no intention of abdicating their lucrative and yet amoral economic deals with such a rogue regime. On the other side, however, President Bush has opted to focus on the nuclear issue, omitting even to mention the Iranian people in his State of the Union Address this year.

While in his first term Bush adopted a tough strategy aimed at promoting democratic and peaceful regime change in Iran, today it appears he has given up on such an idea and has joined the European and U.N. multilateral bureaucrats in trying to reach an impossible compromise with the Mullahs over their atomic plans.

The Iranian people are wondering what is left of Bush's repeated promises to stand with them as they stand for their rights. For years, students, teachers, workers and ordinary citizens braved the brutal Islamo-fascist Bassiji militias by organizing and holding peaceful rallies demanding civil rights and the release of political prisoners, in the hope that the United States and its president stood with them. Today, many of those protestors have been jailed, beaten to death, executed or flogged in public. Others have disappeared and nothing is known about their fate so far.

One of the reasons for the current deadlock in the fight for freedom in Iran has been the deep division among the exile-based opposition groups and their unrealistic plans to topple the regime in the short term, while claiming to have popular support for their empty agenda. Much damage has been done by some in the U.S. government, as well. For instance, Iranians learned with dismay about Bush's meeting at the White House with Rahim Shahbazi, a representative of a separatist group claiming to speak on behalf of the Azari ethnicity. He is well-known in Iran for his racist remarks against "the Persians". He went even further by declaring himself ready to exterminate them. Those not familiar with Iran's history may not know that the very leaders of the Islamic Republic's regime are, indeed, from different ethnicities: Azari (the self-proclaimed supreme leader, Ali Khamenei), Ahvazi, Kurd, Lor, Baluch and Arab. What Shahbazi chooses to ignore is that the repressive measures of the Mullahs are directed to all who oppose their rule, regardless of their ethnicity.

Nevertheless, a few groups claiming to represent the various ethnicities carry out sabotage attacks in the country with the ultimate goal to split it along sectarian lines. The problems is the Iranian people, regardless of ethnicity, are deeply attached to Iran and vow to be ready to protect its territorial integrity by any means if it were to be threatened. Playing with the ingrained nationalistic feelings of the population, the bearded clerics are warning their slave citizens about a "likely Yugoslavia scenario" in case the Islamic Republic collapses. The ill-advised decision by the White House to meet notorious separatists is helping to strengthen the Mullahs' propaganda machine and harming the prospects of a democratic revolution to bring down the entire terrorist and theocratic system.

In the past, President Bush had correctly renewed the United States' respect for the Iranian territorial integrity. Now, judging by the administration's recent actions, it seems that now he is listening to ill-informed advisers who are taking him on a wrong path. To add insult to injury, the American government is sponsoring discredited and controversial individuals acting as "former political prisoners," even though they are known by most Iranians as being former collaborators and Mohammad Khatami's supporters. All this has contributed to undermine the credibility the president enjoyed among the freedom-seeking Iranians not long ago.

From now to the end of his presidency, Bush can still do the right thing. He should let the Iranian people know that the United States has no intention to invade Iran, but - at the same time - he should make sure that he intends to lend a political, moral and financial hand to the activities of the legitimate and genuine dissident movements that are working to bring down the Islamic regime in its entirety. Without such vital internal support, we can not expect any significant action to have the desired effect.

Hope can be revived. It depends on whether America wants it to be. The rest is mere talk.

Stefania Lapenna is an Italian freelance writer and blogger presently living in Sardinia, Italy. She has been published in the Jerusalem Post, l’Opinione, Il Foglio and Ragion Politica (Italy). She currently blogs at Free Thoughts.

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