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International community must support pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam [Spokesperson, Iran Human Rights]: "More than two weeks have passed since Iranians came on the street protesting against what they believed was an election fraud. The protests were cracked down by the pro-regime security forces and Basidj militia. They opened fire on the peaceful demonstrators. We still don't know the exact death toll following the crack down. What is sure is that the actual number is much higher than the 27 announced by the official media. It is believed that as many as 250 people have lost their lives either under the demonstrations or the following days in the hospitals. We have received disturbing reports about people dying at the hospitals as a result of serious infections in the shot wounds at the non vital parts of the body such as the legs.

Unknown number of people have been arrested and taken to undisclosed detention centers. Human rights groups are still trying to identify those arrested and so far more than 500 of them have been identified. However we believe the real number is much higher. Several human rights defenders and lawyers are among those arrested.

We have also received reports about inhumane treatment of those under detention. Many of them are under pressure to appear on the TV screens with false confessions. The confessions will be used as pretext for further crackdown and possible executions. Iranian authorities have started a campaign of spreading fear among the people in order to prevent future uprisings.

There is no doubt that the uprisings in Iran were more than just protests against fraud in a presidential election or for a president that according to the Iranian constitution doesn't have real power. The protestors have challenged the authority of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and in this way are a direct threat against Kahmene's regime as a whole.

Iranian authorities are apparently about to get the situation under control. But what is sure is that Iran will not be the same as what it was before the protests. The main outcome of these protests is that it is now obvious for everybody that Ayatollah Khamenei has the real power in Iran and real reforms are not possible within the framework of the present constitution which gives the Supreme leader and his Guardian Council unlimited power.

Which way Iran will take depends to a great extent on what will happen in the coming weeks and months. Reactions from the international community will play an important role on the final outcome of these events. Most Iranians, regardless their political view, believe that not recognizing the election results, and thus Ahmadinejad as president, is how the world community could contribute to the democracy movement in Iran. By not recognizing the election results, the world sends the right signals both to the Iranian people and the Iranian regime. It tells the people that their peaceful protests and civil movement give positive results, and is not ignored by the world. By the same token, the Iranian authorities learn that not respecting their people's rights will have consequences for them outside their own borders.

Another thing the world can do is to impose further sanctions on the Iranian revolutionary guard's economy sector and the many foundations (Bonyads) that dominate Iran's non-petroleum economy, and which are answerable directly to the supreme leader Ali Khamenei. The revolutionary guard and Bonyad's incomes are being merely used to strengthen the regime.

If the crack down of pro-democracy demonstrations doesn't lead to significant international consequences, the young Iranians will lose their faith in civil and non-violent protests and we will be facing a radicalization of the pro-democracy movement in Iran.

Many people believe that what we have been seeing on the streets of Tehran and other big Iranian cities, are the beginnings of a democratic change in Iran. A democratic Iran is not only good for its people, but also big step towards peace and stability in the world."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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