Mullahs' reign of terror
By: Roya Johnson
As a former political prisoner, I have been asked
on many occasions what has kept the mullahsí regime in power in Iran
for twenty five years. After all, the overwhelming majority of Iranians
loathe them; their oil-driven economy is in shambles, with a majority of
the population below the poverty line or very close to it.
Internationally they are condemned as the most active sponsor of
terrorism and major proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
So, what is their secret?
There are several reasons for their longevity. Iranís geography, its
oil and natural gas resources, and the European Unionís policy of
engagement are among them. In this article, however, my focus is on the
main factor: the unbridled, systematic, and highly organized suppression
of Iranian citizens and dissidents. Iranís democracy movement must
bring this structure of terror down before genuine change can be
As a young student activist, I spent three years in the womenís ward
of one of Iranís prisons simply for engaging in political activity to
promote democratic rights and encouraging others to get involved. It was
in prison where I saw first-hand how the mullahs shield their tyrannical
rule behind walls of suppression.
In Iran, a unique mixture of religious authority and demagoguery,
combined with a bottomless coffer, and topped with unbounded capacity
for savagery, has created the horrific machinery of terror and fear,
which has served to preserve the ruling theocracy so far.
Similar to Europeís age of inquisition, Iranís apparatus of
suppression legitimizes its barbarity under the cloak of religion. It
has turned a sacred and compassionate religion into a tool to sanction
killings, torture and destruction. Mosques and Friday prayer
congregations have become instruments for spreading hate and vengeance.
Incapable of leading a nation of 35 million toward democracy, prosperity
and progress, Khomeini-led clerics quickly realized after the 1979
revolution that they could hold-on to power only through a police state.
They Set-up such organizations as the Ministry of Intelligence and
Security (MOIS), the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Islamic
Revolutionary Courts, the paramilitary Bassij force, and other agencies.
My time in prison was marked by unimaginable savagery of the prison
officials and visiting mullahs towards prisoners who challenged the
mullahsí political and ideological legitimacy, and their claim to be
Godís vice-regent on earth, by calling for popular sovereignty. They
therefore were condemned for ďwaging war on God.Ē This legitimized
their torture and execution.
Female prisoners like me were brutalized even more. The mullahsí
misogynous worldview goes through seismic jolts when they see women
standing up to them. Many of my childhood friends ended up in the
prison. Despite undergoing ceaseless physical and psychological torture,
including rape, they remained defiant to the end. Many of them were
snatched from our prison cells in the middle of the night and sent to
the gallows. Some were buried in unmarked graves and at least two were
pregnant when they were executed.
Relatives of political prisoners are denied access to universities,
employment, traveling abroad and anything which requires government
approval. Many relatives have been imprisoned just for sympathizing with
their loved oneís political views or with the democratic opposition.
Some relatives are even executed. In my cell, two teenage sisters were
detained simply because they had refused to appear on television and
denounce their activist brother, who had already been executed. Both
were executed a few years later.
Torture is also used for made-for-TV confessions about how the
opposition organizations and activists are basically corrupt and worse
than the regime. The mullahs seek to sow fear, confusion and doubt in
the minds of people in order to undermine the quest for a regime change.
This also explains why the mullahs continue to flog, amputate limbs,
gouge out eyes, hang, and stone people to death in public.
Despite such pervasive, systematic all-around suppression and tens of
thousands of political executions, Iranís ruling mullahs have failed
to silence Iranians. Iranians continue to challenge the regime through
demonstrations, strikes, uprisings and other means. But as long as the
mullahsí machinery of suppression is in place, the regime will
continue to crackdown, kill, arrest, and do whatever is needed to put
On their own, the mullahs will never abandon the suppression of
Iranians, close down their torture chambers, send away the firing
squads, and dismantle the gallows. Therefore, Iranís democracy
movement, which rightly seeks the toppling of this regime as the
necessary first step to establish a secular democracy in Iran, must be
empowered to tear down this wall of suppression. When that happens, the
world would see how fast the mullahsí regime would crumble.
It is not enough just to applaud Iraniansí courage and their
aspirations for a democratic government. Defending and safeguarding the
human rights of Iranians and all Iranian dissidents must be the main
component of any policy in support of Iranís democracy movement.
Thousands of political prisoners who have died in the hands of mullahs
and hundreds of others who are in their dungeons right now deserve this
Roya Johnson is vice president of the US Alliance for
Incidentally I published also an
article earlier today stating that the secret of Islam's success and
longevity is also repression.
It is regrettable that Roya Johnson still thinks
Islam is a sacred and compassionate religion. It was this fallacy and
mindless devotion to a religion of terror that led the Mullahs to power
in the first place. Is Roya planning to eliminate the Mullahs and bring
the rule of her "sacred and compassionate religion" in Iran?
Can she tell us where such an Islamic paradise exist? I am afraid as
long as we have people who think like Roya we can't beat Islamic
repression and the Mullahs will keep torturing, raping, maiming and
killing people. Intellectuals like Roya give legitimacy to Islam,
Islam gives legitimacy to Mullahs and Mullahs practice what Islam
preaches, which is torture and murder of dissidents. We will have
freedom in Iran when Iranians stop kidding themselves and stop calling a
terrorist cult such as Islam "sacred and compassionate
Just as always only "truth will set us