As the Libyan uprising was gathering force last week, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, criticized Libya’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, for using violence against his own people and advised him and other Middle Eastern heads of state to listen to their publics. The irony was not lost on anyone. Only two weeks earlier, on February 14, Ahmadinejad had sent hundreds of riot police, paramilitary basijis, and baton-wielding goons in plainclothes to disrupt demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities called by Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, leaders of the opposition, in solidarity with the people of Tunisia and Egypt. By the end of the day, 1,500 protesters had been arrested; two had been killed.
The next day, 222 of the 290 deputies of the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, approved a resolution to put Mousavi and Karroubi on trial for sedition. Several dozen of the deputies, raising clenched fists, then began to shout out calls to execute the two men. The supposedly “moderate” Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, quietly joined in. Karroubi and Mousavi, already under house arrest to prevent them from attending the rallies they had hoped to lead, were held incommunicado, denied visits even from their children and families, and then taken away to an unknown detention center.
Subscribe to The Iranian newsletter
Sign up for our daily newsletter to get the top news stories delivered to your inbox.