That report indicated that five individuals had been arrested in the incident, but Christian Daily upgraded that story on Monday by reporting that there had actually been 15 arrests. The other essential details of both reports were in agreement, including the allegation that one of the arrestees had been severely beaten for asking the Intelligence Ministry agents about a warrant, which they apparently did not possess.
Both reports also noted that the families and friends of the arrestees have expressed concern that this incident may have been a precursor to the reopening of old cases against the individuals involved, and also part of an effort to elicit statements implicating other members of the Christian community. In light of the new information revealed by Christian Daily, it now appears that an even greater danger is posed to that community, as the Intelligence Ministry and Iranian judiciary now have three times as many opportunities to elicit such statements than was previously reported.
In this sense, the higher-than-initially reported figures also illustrate the severity of what is apparently an ongoing crackdown on perceived opponents of the Iranian regime’s political and cultural ideologies. And that crackdown has affected not only minorities, activist populations, and outright opponents of the regime, but also current and former government officials and their relatives.
Various recent developments have indicated that the regime is trending in the opposite direction to a great extent. For instance, Iranian state media claimed last week to have deployed its newly acquired and Russian-made S-300 missile defense system around the Fordo nuclear enrichment site in order to defend against US and Israeli strikes, even though Fordo had supposedly ceased uranium enrichment. That came just days after the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps made the more explicitly provocative gesture of antagonizing several US warships in the Persian Gulf, even eliciting warning fire on at least one occasion.
The claimed deployment of the S-300 also came amidst various boastful statements about the state of Iran’s domestic weapons production, which Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan claimed had brought the Islamic Republic’s military technology to a level “on par” with the rest of the world. Dehqan also asserted that there is now “no range limit” for Iranian missiles. Some of the most recently premiered Iranian missiles have been characterized as “area attack” tools by Iranian officials, thereby undermining Tehran’s usual claim that all of Iran’s military development is defensive in nature.
That claim had previously been undermined by other commentary from figures including Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. At least one such incident came in the context of another controversy involving Rafsanjani, who said in March that the future of the Iranian nation would be built upon international discourse instead of missile stockpiles. As IranWire noted in its report on the current situation, Khamenei’s response at the time included the declaration that if Rafsanjani had made the statement deliberately and not “out of ignorance,” he was guilty of “treason.”
“Today is the time for both negotiation and missiles,” Khamenei said.
Then as now, Rafsanjani took pains to clarify that he was in no way questioning the Iranian military. In response to backlash against the more recent comments, he insisted that he was merely advocating for Tehran to bolster “scientific military production” instead of emphasizing the build-up of existing technologies. This arguably indicates that the differences between the factions associated with Khamenei and Rafsanjani are only slight, but this has not stopped the regime from coming down hard on perceived deviations from the policies and ideologies of the supreme leader.
In the present case, hardliners characterized Rafsanjani’s comments as an effort to weaken Iran’s military and as an invitation for the enemies of the Islamic Republic to attack it. Going hand-in-hand with the propaganda surrounding the Iranian military, a variety of regime officials have also made a clear priority of portraying the country as being under a constant threat from foreign powers. But this supposed threat is not limited to military confrontation; it also includes the sorts of cultural influence and diplomatic scrutiny that figures such as the supreme leader describe as attempts at the “soft overthrow” of the Iranian regime.
Officials presumably have this concept in mind as the continue to try to suppress awareness of current and past human rights abuses, which might otherwise become the focus of international efforts to hold the perpetrators of those abuses accountable, and ultimately to necessitate different behaviors by the Iranian government in the future. In recent weeks, the exiled resistance group the National Council of Resistance of Iran has recognized the anniversary of a massacre of political prisoners that took place in the summer of 1988, and the organization has used it to urge international action including the prosecution of current Iranian officials on charges of crimes against humanity.
Last weekend, the NCRI hosted a seminar for Iranian communities throughout Europe. It focused largely upon the 1988 massacre, about which a great deal of new information has come to light since early August, when the son of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the former heir to the supreme leadership, released an audio recording of the elder Montazeri condemning the massacre shortly after it had been carried out. Drawing upon information that had subsequently come to light as a result of the public discourse initiated by that recording, the NCRI on Wednesday revealed the names of 59 individuals who had actively participated in the massacre and remain in influential positions to this day.
This new revelation seems to indicate that the regime has been ineffective in suppressing awareness of the massacre, despite a number of indicators that it has been trying to do so. Authorities ordered the audio file to be removed from the website for the late ayatollah within a day of its having been posted by Ahmad Montazeri. Afterwards, Ahmad was summoned to court repeatedly and interrogated, before being charged with acting against national security. On Monday, the NCRI quoted Ahmad’s announcement of the charges he’d received, and it noted that the regime had insisted upon keeping the content of interrogations secret, perhaps as another tactic for keeping silent any perceived deviation from official government narratives.