Opposition Detainee Abuse and Iran's Power Struggle

For this week's Global Pulse episode, Iran’s Power Players, host Erin Coker asks the question: Are Khamenei and Ahmadinejad playing "good cop, bad cop"? Share your thoughts below!

In the nearly three months since Iran's disputed election and the massive street protests that followed, global media have turned their attention to the internal factional bickering within Iran's ruling party. Allegations of detainee abuse have created further fissures within Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conservative government, with the country's leadership offering conflicting responses to the allegations.

Reacting to claims made by opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi of detainee torture and sexual abuse, Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani vehemently dismissed the allegations as "sheer lies," according to a CNN report. Larijani's remarks contradicted police and judiciary officials who acknowledged detainee abuse at the now-shuttered Kahrizak prison and promised to investigate the claims. According to The Guardian, an unnamed Iranian MP said he had proof of the abuse, further contradicting Larijani.

As this week's episode points out, Ahmadinejad and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have also appeared at odds over abuse allegations. According to a report that ran on the state-controlled Press TV website on August 28th, Ahmadinejad blamed the abuse on an enemy plot, saying that he had evidence which "exonerated revolutionary, military, security and intelligence forces." But three days later, following a report that the detained son of a conservative political advisor had died as a result of abuse, the BBC reported that Ayatollah Khamenei promised the young man's father that those responsible would be brought to justice.

The confusing signals reflect factional struggles at the highest levels of government, which can only be aggravated by the Iranian blogosphere's relentless pursuit of allegations of torture, sexual abuse and killings of detained protesters, often through chilling personal accounts. On September 2, the independent Radio Zamanah’s website reported that a rape victim and key witness in the case had disappeared. Mentions of the story surfaced several times throughout the day on the microblogging site Twitter, alongside posts like "Regime, No matter how many you execute, torture, or rape. We will never stop. We will never give up on our right to freedom," and, "Saeedeh's body was burned & almost unrecognizable (note that she was arrested from her house, so burning was deliberate)."

Even after the dust has settled on the present internal political struggle, it may take more than damage control to bridge the divisions between the Iranian government and its people.



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