New cabinet foreshadows more repression in Iran

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New cabinet foreshadows more repression in Iran

By Rupen Savoulian

The election of Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran in May was welcomed in many quarters as the victory of "moderation". However, the composition of the proposed cabinet quashes any hopes that Tehran will moderate its repressive religious dictatorship.

Khatami himself was head of the Ministry of Guidance, which is devoted to ensuring that the population conforms to the Islamic regime's harsh religious laws and censoring any opposing views. Khatami supported the death sentence against Salman Rushdie, advocated the suppression of women's rights and the continued sexual segregation at all levels of society.

According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), all the nominated cabinet ministers held senior posts during the Khomeini years and are responsible for the active repression of dissidents in Iran. For example, the nominee for education minister, Hossein Mozaffar, is responsible for sending ten of thousands of school students to the front during the eight year Iran-Iraq war.

Mohammad Shariatmadari, the proposed minister of commerce, is one of the founders of the Intelligence Ministry and was deputy minister for intelligence. He is also one of the organisers of the Intelligence Directorate of the prime minister's office and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

The latter is a centralised militia that enforces the strict Islamic code in the cities and schools of Iran. It was set up by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in the early 1980s to protect the lives and offices of the fledgling Islamic regime, monitor leftist groups, break up demonstrations and strikes, and ensure the population's compliance with the regime's religious code.

Iranians who openly disobey the Islamic regime's harsh social code are tried before a "religious tribunal" and usually sentenced to a public flogging, and are even hanged in public.

The NCRI, a coalition of exiled Iranian political organisations, reports that the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI)clashed with the security forces of the Tehran government over the past month.

Battles occurred in the oil-rich south-western province of Khuzistan (along the Iran-Iraq border), as well as in the provinces of Ilam (west) and Kerman (south). The PMOI is the largest member of the NCRI.