Date:  February 22, 2011


Iran Targets Relatives of Opposition Leaders


Arash Aramesh


 In an attempt to place maximum pressure on leaders of the opposition, Iran’s security and intelligence agencies are arresting and harassing their children and close relatives.

De-facto leaders of the opposition, Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, are under house arrest and their families are under constant harassment by the government.

According to Sahamnews, the official website of Karroubi, security forces relieved Karroubi’s bodyguards last week and took over his residence. On February 21, security forces at Karroubi’s house locked the elderly cleric and his wife in separate rooms, and searched every inch of their house. Their eldest son, Ali Karroubi, was arrested by the security forces and his relatives do not know his whereabouts.

Targeting those close to opposition leaders and activists in not a new phenomenon in the Islamic Republic, but the intensity of such harassment is unprecedented. During clashes in 2009, a close relative of and an organizer for Moussavi was shot by security forces. Moussavi’s family members have insisted that he was targeted deliberately by security forces to exert pressure on the Green Movement leader.

The latest wave of such harassment against notable Iranian figures was directed at the family of Abdolkarim Soroush, an Iranian intellectual and philosopher. Soroush left Iran to teach at Western universities and has not been able to return to his country following the crisis of the 2009 presidential election. But he continued his activities and his scholarly pursuits abroad—most of which have been to the disliking of the Iranian regime.

In order to increase pressure on Soroush, the Iranian government harassed his son, Soroush Dabbagh, an academic at an Iranian university, and his son-in-law, Hamed. The latter was allegedly arrested and tortured by security forces. He was asked to appear before state-run television cameras and “confess” that his wife was a “woman of ill-repute” and his father- in- law a foreign operative.

According to Hamed’s conversations with Soroush, the son-in- law was stripped of his clothes, handcuffed, and kept in a freezing morgue all night in an attempt by security forces to get a confession.

In an open letter, Soroush harshly criticized the government’s behavior and wrote, “The (animals in the) zoo of the Velayat needed a prey,” referring to his son-in-law who fell prey to the agents of the Islamic Republic. In the end, Soroush damned the “infidel-producing Islamic Republic” and emphasized that his son-in-law was not politically active, yet he was harassed solely because of his family ties to the Iranian philosopher.




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