Show trials in Iran show only regime’s desperation

I just finished reading an excellent article in The New Yorker by Laura Secor, The Iran Show. Here’s the first paragraph:

In the grotesque pageant of Iran’s show trials, former high officials—hollow-eyed, dressed in prison pajamas, and flanked by guards in uniform—sit in rows, listening to one another’s self-denunciations. Since the disputed Presidential elections of June 12th, about a hundred reformist politicians, journalists, student activists, and other dissidents have been accused of colluding with Western powers to overthrow the Islamic Republic. This month, a number of the accused have made videotaped confessions. But the spectacle has found a subversive afterlife on the Internet. One image that has gone viral is a split frame showing two photographs of former Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi. Before his arrest, on June 16th, he is a rotund, smiling cleric; in court on August 1st, he is drawn and sweat-soaked, his face a mask of apprehension. The juxtaposition belies the courtroom video, making the point that the only genuine thing about Abtahi’s confession is that it was coerced through torture.

I encourage you to read the whole thing, which gives a brief history of show trials in the Soviet Union and Iran’s history.  Most interesting is how in Iran among a large portion of the population, these televised false confessions are having the opposite effect.

The indictments prepared by the public prosecutor are almost surreally obtuse. Before the election, one indictment claims, Western governments, foundations, and individuals joined forces with corrupt Iranians in an attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic and institute a regime compliant with American designs. The nefarious plotters engaged in “exposing cases of violations of human rights,” training reporters in “gathering information,” and “presenting full information on the 2009 electoral candidates.” Apparently, the Iranian citizen is meant to consider it self-evident that the country’s national interest depends on concealing human-rights abuses, censoring the news, and obfuscating the electoral process.

People are seeing right through these.  They’ve even, in some cases, preëmpted them, such as when Mohsen Armin declared last month that should he be taken into prison, he is not the agent of foreign powers, no matter what he’s beaten into saying.  So when Iranians see this:

[translation from the YouTube video description:] HARD PROBLEM WE HAVE IN OUR COUNTRY RIGHT NOW IS BECAUSE WITH 40 MILLION VOTES WE COULD BE THE ONE OF BIGGEST COUNTRY WITH DEMOCRACY BUT BECAUSE MUSSAVI BEHAVIOR AND KHATAMI AND SOME OTHER PEOPLE FOR DIFFERENT REASON AND COUNTRY GOT IN

AND THERE WASNT ANY CHEATING IN ELECTION AND WE SHOULD KEEP THE REGIME THAT IS THE SAME AS PRAYING FOR GOD AND SUPREME LEADER DIDN’T BACK UP AND THAT WAS GOOD BECAUSE IF HE WENT ONE STEP BACK OFF WE WILL HAVE A UNSAFE TRIANGLE OF IRAN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, AND THAT WILL HURT PEOPLE IRAN OUR REVOLUTION AND MIDDLE EAST AND MUSSAVI SHOULD SAY CONGRATULATION BECAUSE A 13 MILLION DIFFERENT VOTES ANDTHE CHEATING WAS A DELUSION

They’re really seeing this:

…in which the enemy of the state “confesses to meeting with a C.I.A. agent, importing green velvet, and having affairs with Carla Bruni and Angelina Jolie.  He apologizes to the Supreme Leader and to the paramilitaries who ‘kindly’ beat him.”  For evidence of the beating, note the band-aids he amasses through the recording.

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