By Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 27, 2005
Elio Bonazzi and Alireza Saghafi were
co-writers of this special feature.
(This picture, smuggled out
of Iran, was taken in 1992 in the town of Arak)
Given Iran’s incessant foreign policy
saber-rattling—including its continued development of nuclear weapons, support
for Islamist terrorist groups, and facilitation of the terrorism in
Iraq—it’s easy to lose sight of the horrifying domestic situation within
the Islamic Republic. The mullahs have not only destroyed the lives of
countless foreigners through their worldwide export of Islamic terror and
extremism; they’ve also plunged the Iranian people into a violent, hellish
abyss of torture, repression, hopelessness, drug addiction and
Conservative estimates by Iranian
opposition movements and various human rights organizations, such as Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch, put the number of women stoned to death
since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in the neighborhood of fifty.
One can only imagine the cases that have gone undetected -- as
many Islamic "punishments" are carried out in small and
sentenced to death by stoning are buried in the ground up to their necks.
Iranian law regulates the size of the stones used by the executioner crowd; stones
cannot be big enough to kill the sentenced woman too quickly, as the purpose of
this barbaric ritual is to inflict as much pain as possible before death. On
the other hand, stones cannot be too small, as each blow must be dramatically
rules and regulations are quite ephemeral in the Islamic Republic. In a
particularly gruesome execution carried out in 1993 in the city of Arak,
a woman was to be stoned to death in front of her husband and two young
children. After the stoning began, the woman was able to free herself from the
hole in the ground, escaping death. According to Shariah
laws, in such cases the woman must be let go, as her death sentence was revoked
by divine intervention. Ten minutes after the failed stoning, however, the poor
woman was chased down, apprehended and summarily executed anyway, by a firing
stoning captures the imagination of Westerners as the most barbaric act
committed under Shariah laws, other forms of
sentencing perpetrated by the Islamic Republic are just as horrific. For
employs several types of body mutilation, from the amputation of hands, arms
and legs to the macabre procedure of plucking out the eyeballs of the sentenced
without the use of anesthetics. Several photos exist to document such
occurrences, in dossiers kept by human rights organizations.
international community, in particular European countries, has been quite
indifferent to such atrocities. It prefers to engage the Islamic Republic
in lucrative business deals, relegating the human rights issue to a mere
footnote, a ritualistic and rhetorical passage usually present in high-level
discussions with Iranian officials, but never taken seriously or
recent years, as general disaffection towards Iran’s ruling theocratic regime has
increased, the number of public executions has also increased significantly.
The number of such executions—usually carried out in busy public squares during
peak hours, with people sentenced to death hung from cranes—has increased from
75 in the year 2000, to 139 in 2001, to 300 in 2002. Official statistics are
not available for 2003 and 2004, but it is estimated that the number of such
executions is now several hundred per year. Even minors and those who are
physically and mentally disabled are regularly executed.
a single mullah serves as judge, jury and executioner. Hadji
Rezai is the mullah judge of the small city of Neka.
When Atefeh Rajabi, a young
and psychologically unstable girl, refused to be his "temporary"
wife, Rezai framed her with the blessings of the high
court in Tehran.
Allegations of sexual misconduct were fabricated against her, so that she could
be brought to “justice” according to the scorned Rezai,
who personally hung the noose around Atefeh’s neck. Rezai’s last words to the dying young girl: “This will
teach you to disobey!”
cases such as this have been documented, where dodgy legal procedures and
politically motivated mock trials have been used, with pre-written death
sentences for dissidents who have been falsely accused of common crimes such as
rape. The steady rise of stoning, public executions and flogging is certainly
an indication of the seriousness of the situation in Iran. And that is just the tip of
the iceberg. A profound malaise affects the Iranian society as a whole, a
symptom of which is the rising number of drug addicts, which is growing out of
control, especially among the younger population.
Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Iran in 1979, he sent a clear
message to his fellow compatriots: In order to develop and expand the
revolution, more children were needed, first of all to defend the motherland
from foreign intervention, and secondly to propagate the Shi’ite
creed in a predominantly Sunni region. Khomeini envisaged a hegemonic role for Iran in the Middle East,
and a significant population increase was the first step in that direction.
When the Shah was forced to leave his throne, Iran had approximately 37 million
citizens. Between 3 and 4 million Iranians left the country after the
revolution, and another million young Iranians died in the war against Iraq during the
1980s. The population of Iran
today is approximately 70 million, which means that, at least on the surface,
Iranians followed Khomeini’s directive to the letter, almost doubling their
number in spite of Diaspora and war casualties.
analysis, however, shows that, far from being an Islamist victory, the Iranian
demographic explosion is rapidly contributing to the demise of the Islamic
Revolution. Rather than being vehicles that carry the Shi’ite
faith and Khomeini’s revolutionary message, Iranian youngsters dream of a
Western lifestyle and look at the U.S. as a model for democracy,
freedom and ability to achieve according to one’s potential. In a society where
nepotism, family connections and degrading compromise with mullahs at any level
are the norm, those values embodied in the American dream have a profound
meaning, and are never confused with pure and simple consumerism, as some
European detractors have suggested. Put in simple terms, the Islamist
establishment carries no consensus among the Iranian youth, which now
numerically represents the absolute majority of the population.
Islamist regime has responded by cracking down on students on several occasions
in order to defuse the most imminent threats of rebellion. It has also devised
a more sinister and long-term plan for the containment of Iranian youth: a
systematic and massive induction to drug addiction, which has now reached
colossal proportions. Several United Nations and DEA reports have documented
this crisis, indicating that drug addiction is the thorniest problem in Iran.
give an idea of the magnitude of this matter, Afghanistan
produced around 6,000 tons of opium in 2003—approximately half of which has
been acquired by Iran.
After the Afghani government announced it would crack down on opium production,
the Iranian government decided, after an open debate reported by several
official press agencies such as IRNA, to start producing opium on Iranian soil
to satisfy the internal (and induced) demand.
did the situation get this out of hand? The use of drugs has traditionally been
tolerated within Iranian society, particularly the consumption of hashish and
opium by middle-aged and older men, the same way Western societies have been
more permissive of alcohol. Today, however, drug use is no longer an “old
people's bad habit.” The average addiction age is falling rapidly; a few years
ago, the addiction age fell to the age group of 25-29. Today the age group of
10-19 is the most afflicted by drug addiction in Iran.
a strict correlation has been established between lack of jobs and drug
consumption in all societies. As far as Iran is concerned, the situation is
exacerbated by not only rampant unemployment, but also by a general apathy and
lack of confidence in the future. Iranian youth doesn’t see the light at the
end of the emotional tunnel in which the country has subsisted since the
theocracy was established almost 26 years ago. The official unemployment rate
is 14 percent, but Western analysts estimate the real number to be at
approximately 30 percent. Although youth unemployment easily exceeds 50
percent, this statistic disregards the reality of the other 50 percent, who are
usually under-employed. The quality of Iranian education is high, comparable to
Western countries. Thus, the despair of highly skilled young graduates forced
to accept menial jobs in small shops is reflected more in the drug addiction
rates rather than the employment statistics.
heroin and opium is easier than buying bread or milk, for which Iranians have
to endure long lines. Official government rhetoric blames the nefarious
influence of Western culture and the Internet for the increase in drug
consumption. In reality, the government does nothing to fight the problem. On
the contrary, in the best case it turns a blind eye to the illicit drug traffic
that brings even more money to the pockets of the powerful mullahs in charge.
And in the worst case it favors the increase of drug addiction, even revoking
the subsidies given to people for detoxification. Thirty pills of Naltroxone, a substance commonly used in Iran during the
first days of the rehabilitation program, cost a little more than 20,000 tomans (25 U.S. dollars). Previously, that cost was covered
by governmental subsidies; but ever since Parliament canceled the program,
detoxification has become too expensive for Iran’s unemployed young people.
opium as a way to control potentially hostile masses has been done successfully
in the past. A classic example is the British policy—adopted during the 19th
century—of buying the ashes of opium from Chinese and Indian subjects in order
to drive them into addiction and curb their rebellious instincts. Great Britain even went to war against China twice
(the so called Opium Wars of 1839 and 1856) to force the Qing
Emperor to legalize the import of opium.
a dangerous side effect of massive drug consumption is now developing in Iran: the rise
in HIV/AIDS transmitted through the sharing of needles for intravenous drug
use. Such practice is in widespread use among inmates, who have extremely
limited access to clean and unused needles. So the vicious spiral begins with
early drug addiction, which is likely to drive the young addict to commit small
crimes to finance the habit; sooner or later that person is caught and sent to
jail, where the likelihood of contracting HIV is extremely high.
statistics, which tend to underestimate the problem for political convenience,
state that 65 percent of all recorded HIV/AIDS cases in Iran are due to
the sharing of needles. Unconfirmed reports put the percentage of HIV positive
long-term inmates between 30 and 40 percent of the overall inmate population.
the extremely dangerous situation, as far as drug addiction is concerned, is
well known by UN officials, their recipe to regain control of the problem is
doomed to failure, simply because there is no such thing as a “government” in Iran. The best
parallel one can use to describe the Iranian power structure is the Mafia. The
“Genovese,” “Gambino,” “Bonano,”
“Colombo” and “Lucchese” type families have their
equivalent in the ayatollahs Rafsanjani, Jannati, and
Khamenei, Messbaheh-Yazdi, Vaa’ezeh-Tabasi and man, many more, each one with a private
militia at their disposal. Just like the Mafia families divvied territory and
areas of influence, the Ayatollahs divvy interests and “monopolize” particular
businesses. For example, Rafsanjani started his personal fortune by supervising
all oil deals, while Tabassi “looks after” the major
charity organization, the Shrine of Imam Reza, which is a huge source of liquid
cash. Rafsanjani later diversified his business, and was the mullah who most
profited when ex-President Clinton allowed the import of pistachios and carpets
network of connections and shady business deals has grown so intricate that
drawing a power map based on links between ayatollahs, businesses and militias
today is an impossible task. What is certain, however, is that a constant
struggle exists among the top ayatollahs to extend their influence. An
indication of such struggle is the chronic delay that affects the construction
second airport. It took almost three decades to complete just the first phase,
and the end of the project is still uncertain. The ayatollah who succeeds in
controlling the airport will be the most powerful man in Iran, as the
airport is likely to become the major hub for all illicit and clandestine
operations, from drugs to prostitution, from weapon smuggling to young women
and children’s sex slave dealings.
like Mafia wars, the mullahs’ power struggles often assume violent tones, such
as when members of the various militias kill each other or when cars are blown
up, often in daylight and in busy streets of Tehran, as a warning to opposing gangs. The
difference between the Mafia and the Iranian power structure is that the Mafia
was always a parallel and clandestine subsystem, so it never stood a chance of
replacing the U.S.
government. In Iran,
on the other hand, the Mafia is the government. Structures like the Parliament
and the judiciary are empty shells deprived of all power. Instead, power firmly
resides in the hands of a few ayatollahs, and is exercised without any
democratic control through private militias and squads of thugs, often
recruited among ex-Taliban refugees, Al-Qaida members
escaped from Afghanistan,
Palestinians and other Arab Islamists who found a safe haven for terrorists in Iran.
extent of Iranian corruption is difficult to comprehend in the Western world.
It is something so endemic and so entrenched in all societal strata that it can
be described as an uninterruptible chain which starts with the President,
continues through the functionaries and public servants at all levels and ends
with the police officers who patrol the streets. On December 26, 2004, One year
after the terrible earthquake that killed 70,000 people in the Iranian city of Bam, survivors are still
sleeping in poor quality tents, exposed to the inclement weather. Top quality
tents sent by Germany, which could alleviate the poor living conditions of the
survivors, have been sold by the mullahs on the black market, together with
other items such as water pumps, water filters and generators, sent by the
international community in great quantity in the weeks that followed the
Iran as a nation is today sending the world a message of
self-destruction and annihilation. Death is constantly brought about by
stoning, public executions, floggings, and massive drug addiction and diseases
such as HIV. Death is also promoted through the political and financial support
offered by the Islamist regime to the suicide bombers of Hamas
and Hizbollah. The construction of the ultimate
weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, is actively pursued by the Islamic
Republic, which wouldn’t hesitate to use it to annihilate Israel. The
West has hesitated far too long to face the situation in Iran; inertia and
appeasement have contributed not only to the constant deterioration of the
living conditions of Iranians, but also to the weakening of security of not
only neighboring countries, but also the West, which is the ultimate target of
the mullahs’ Islamist fury.
is the time to inject a culture of life into Iran, and to counteract the
nihilism of the Islamists with a message of optimism and hope for a better
future. The only way to achieve that is by creating the conditions for a regime
change promoted by Iranians inside and outside Iran who put party politicking and
festering ideological grudges aside. This will clear the way for an
internationally monitored referendum to choose a secular and democratic
supplant for the mullahs’ primitive, vicious and sadistic regime.