Saturday, August 1, 2009

Parliament News Interview with Alireza Behesht: Criminals are used as guards of political prisoners

(forgive spelling and typos. I have been typing since 6 hours ago; nonstop! (and need to eat breakfast still!)

This interview is addressing a lot of questions that those unfamiliar with Iranian politics may be asking.

Parliament News; Azam Veisameh:
Close to two months after the presidential election, people's protest against the election results continues and the country's on the brink of worrisome events.

One day they close Kahrizak detention center due to reports of violence and inadequate prison conditions, the next day an open court of famous political figures is held without their lawyers present. The following interview was conducted on Thursday, the 40th day of the killing of the election martyrs, with Alireza Beheshti. He, the son of the martyred Ayatollah Beheshti, is one of the close consultants of Mr Mousavi and has been by his side since his days as prime minister. Beheshti's concerns are apparent not only on his face but also when he speaks of his clients!

AV: do you have any news about treatment of the detainees, their prison conditions, torture, etc?
AB: about some of the detainees we are conducting bureucratic and legal investigations. Unfortunately, the files of some of these detainees have not entered legal channels and this is part of our concerns. Those who have entered the legal procedures have been able to get lawyers or we have helped. The counselors are doing their best.

AV: Has the "Committee of Following Up on the Detainees" received any valid information about them?
AB: There are major unknowns: The number of the detainees; the location of prisons and what stage they are in. But some good things have happened. The media and the pressure of public opinion from inside and outside has made them self-conscious to do something about Kahrizak after 40 days. Although according to some unconfirmed reports, the Kahrizak detainees are now transferred to Isfahan.

AV: you mean Kahrizak Prisoners are transfered to Isfahan?
AB: Yes, this creates continuous ambiguity. One of our objectives in the committee is to obtain crystal clear information.

AV: are you in touch with the families of the detainees?
AB: everyday, we receive more than 30-40 calls. Things are getting better. We have friends in our office and some other organizations are also cooperating and participating in our meetings [he is vague here, what is he talking about? Ahmadinejad renegades?] We don't want to do everything alone.

One of the main obstacles is that some families think that if their detentions are kept secret and do not enter media, then their family's cases will be treated less controversially. But we recommend that they bring their cases to the media. Media attention is what prevents complications. If you put the famous individuals aside, many detainees are ordinary citizens. I am worried for them. We need to register their information to clarify their case. Facts such as when they were arrested; who arrested them. We have forms to gather these information.

AV: do you have specific statistics?
AB: we have gathered around 1700 names. But this is not all. Also, we don't know how many of these are still alive.

AV: these statistics are based on families who have contacted you?
AB: no, we have gathered these data from various sources. We are in contact with only 10% of these families who have provided good information.

AV: do you have statistics on those who are killed?
AB: no exact statistics. It's not very clear. Essentially we are gathering information gradually.

AV: and you publish them gradually?
AB: We will publish them, but before publication our goal is followups. these individuals are either the children or the bread-winners of families. Some of them belong to the weakest layers of the society. Assume that they have arrested a lot of daily workers who have been standing in squares when they were imprisoned. When their families come from villages to look for them and follow up, they don't even have a place to stay.

AV: what is the last data on the death toll?
AB: we don't have exact statistics.

AV: what do you mean exact?
AB: Look, some people are missing. We cannot speak of numbers with certainty now. What we have is what is announced in the media.

AV: some say that about 360 are killed in the protests, is this true?
AB: I have also heard 365 are killed. But media work is different from ours. We have restrictions in our work. Please pay attention to our restrictions. If we announce a number larger than reality, we will be accused of psychological warefare. If it is less, we have eliminated some victims. That's why I cannot offer stats.

AV: so you will not publish this information?
AB: Yes we will make our announcements gradually, that up to this date, our data indicates this.

AV: do you have more details on what happened in Kahrizak?
AB: what we hear is not official but stories of people who are released and their families. The reports indicate that people are gradually moved to this center after detention. Those involved in arrest, interrogation and torture are not of the same ilk! we have information that some of the people involved in interrogation and torture of the detainees have a history of being previously arrested during the execution of "public security task force" as thugs.

AV: you mean thugs who have a record in violation of the "public security"? [there was a task force "Tarhe Amniyate Ejtemaii" to confront robbers, thieves, and gangsters harassing women. Those who have a criminal record under that plan are used to torture detainees... ]
AB: They used them in protests, in arrests and in detention centers ...

AV: do you have concrete evidence on people who are exercizing violence on detainees?
AB: other than the profiled thugs who are now hired, some of these are official in the government. Some belong to Basij. Some are the Plain Clothes who cannot be considered part of Basij. Some belong to The Guards intelligence; and different groups. This is important for people and media to recognize this is not the entire government who is involved in this; rather it is a segment of the government that acts in this way both internally and externally. Not all of the Basij is involved. They may even be critical of this. Same holds for the Revolutionary Gaurd. It's a specific segment of the guard that is involved while the majority are unhappy and criticize the current situation.The minister of Intelligence is not very involved. The whole ministry has been kept out. The attorney general enters the game in a later stage. The security forces were involved at the beginning but their roles have been cut back.

Truth is, when we know our victims are arrested by the intelligence service or by the security forces we are happier because we know their case is handled in a more or less legal channel. But those who are in the hands of these others are worrisome. We cannot follow up or know where they are.

AV: some information on illegal detention centers such as 66 prison of Sebah, minus4 prison of interior ministry have been published. Do you have any evidence on that?
AB: there are many detention centers across the city, which have operated outside the rules that govern the Evin Prison, and this is more concerning. Evin has an organization. The names of detainees are registered. they may be announced or not; but they are registered. Renegade elements are less likely to break the law in Evin. We have also heard the names of these other detention centers.

AV: is it true that Kahrizak was shut down ten days before the news was announced?
AB: We don't know the exact closure date. But we have information that transfers from Kahrizak to Isfahan began a few days before Leader's order.

AV: and there was news that political figures had been transfered from Evin prior to visit by parliament members?
AB: within Evin there are several sub-sections. Those which are operated under the ministry of intelligence are more clear. But those run by the Guards are more obscure. I cannot tell everything explicitly as it will harm some individuals. But there is a strange process taking place that is making legal access to information impossible.

This increases concern about other detainees. I am personally worried. This concern is shared by the mebers of the committee. Information is obscured. Many of those released do not know where they have been.

AV: the Tahlif (oath ceremony) day on Wednesday is approaching. Is it true that Mr Mousavi is leaving Tehran in protest to Quom?
AB: this is not true.

AV: the Tanfiz? (receiving the order of presidency)
AB: I don't know.

AV: so Mr Mousavi doesn't have a specific plan?
AB: we cannot expect that during the Tahlif, Mrs Karoubi, Mousavi or the other candidate to raise an issue because that will make things personal; while this is not a personal issue or a personal complaint; rather the demand of a people. Mr Mousavi strongly objects that he has been after power and he doesn't care about his own rights; but he stated that he will not let people's right be denied. People have expectations; but appearing in some gatherings needs to keep the objective of the whole movement in mind, not personal objectives.

AV: there are rumors that Mrs Hashemi Rafsanjani, Seyed hassan khomeini and some of the elite will not participate in tahlif; is it true?
AB: this is what people expect. But you have to keep in mind that each of these individuals have a position; and although people have to convey their wish to them, the decision should be left to these individuals. This is not a matter of fear, but a matter of personal concerns versus public ones. People's expectations must be conveyed, but the decisions should be left to them.

AV: there is a rumor that some of the religious elite and grand ayatollahs are migrating to Najaf to protest teh post-election events; do you know?
AB: I have heard too.

AV: since Mr Mousavi addressed the religious leaders since the beginning, would he react to this migration?
AB: my information is as much as the rumors. I don't have exact information. I don't know how valid the rumor of exodus is. But, in the past 100 years, the religious heads have operated as a popular and traditional reference for people['s political affiliations]. Their role cannot be ignored. Our government is a religious one; therefore their role is important. Whether they want to stay or leave is different. Some may find leaving more appropriate, some may feel that staying in these events is more useful. What is important is that people have come to realize that the clergy is not operating homogeneously and in accordance to the staus quoue. It is natural that they have various perspectives. This is a positive sign that these leaders are independent. That these are not to follow one line. In some ways this is returning the religious leaders to their original stature.

AV: Have the religious elite satisfied Mr Mousavi's expectations?
AB: I cannot speak for Mr Mousavi. Mr Mousavi has kept his links to these leaders strong and has also consulted them. These leaders have limitations that Mr Mousavi acknowledges. But people have various degrees of expectations as well. After the election, some factions expected all leaders rally behind the results of the election. But this didn't happen except in a few case. This means a lot in the seminary culture but people may not recognize its significance. On the other hand, the religious elite is operating behind the scenes and is sending letters and advice to the ruling factions. The events of previous days and released of some of the prisoners is owed to their attempts. They have had discussions, have sent delegates to the supreme leader and they have exchanged ideas. But people's expectations are different.

AV: yes the public opinion is that the religious elite have left Mousai alone.
AB: No this is not true. I don't feel that way. This is a general anxiety, which may be stronger in case of the elite. This anxiety stems from their experience with their overall approach to meta-events that have taken place in the society. The goal is not to topple the regime, but it is not also keeping the regime with all of its element. The goal is to repair the regime. Repair is a difficult task. And this repair has to happen such that the framework of the regime is not damaged. The worry is to enter the country into an era of chaos ad anarchy. It has to be clear where we are heading to. The religious, the intellectual, different societal sectors all share this anxiety.

AV: don't you think the price paid for these reforms is more than expected?
AB: it could have been less expensive; but this wasn't in people's hand; it was in the hands of the deciding security forces who could have cost us less.

AV: do you think they miscalculated people's resistance?
AB: It seems they didn't think people will stand

AV: How about Mr Mousavi?
AB: perhaps they didn't estimate him accurately either. They thought with some form of heavy handed approach, his demand will be obscured; but people showed otherwise.

AV: what is the main difference of this election with previous ones?
AB: In the past, protests remained within the circle of the elite. this time, people of different societal and geographical sectors participated. This si not about individuals. Although Mr Mousavi's become the central figure, this is public demands. People are not fans of Mousavi; but it is their demands that have put Mousavi in the center. In this election and explosion of awareness took place. This awareness is unprecedented. This explosion is not out of control, rather it is accombanied by civic, thoughtful and calculating behavior. There is courage and sacrifice, but it is not blindly emotional. It was like this since start of the campaign and is continuing. In the rally of 12 of June, people clearly showed that they didn't tie the presidential election to the rest of the regime. their demand was specific. They didn't like the executive branch, and wanted a change in its leadership. The were very active but the people themselves prevented any radicalism. We didn't have an organization and we still don't. There is a burgeoning civil awareness that is extraordinary. The most beautiful memories for me remain of the campaign days of chains of green people, their discussions and slogans which did not impinge on the right of their opponents. This was valuable. We have made a great leap in political development of our country.

AV: but they didn't appreciate it.
AB: unfortunately, I thing the overarching governing bodies sacrificed the grand a cheivements of this movement for petty and immediate benefits.

AV: there was a rumor that Mr Mousavi has visited The supreme leader last week is it true?
AB: no such meeting has taken place.

AV: At what stage is the political front that Mr Mousavi pledged to form?
AB: the platform is ready but Mr Mousavi insists that all who have promised participation to see the agenda before it is published.

AV: When will it be published?
AB: I suspect this week.

AV: does this political front include ordinary citizens?
AB: that's the plan. And the discussions about the name concerned this very issue. A political front usually consists of political parties and organizations. But we are more interested in a network, where people of modern or traditional entities can feel entitlement to participate. A religious group might want to participate, or an NGO or a company may want to take part. There fore, this will include every individual, party, political group and etc ...

AV: even the internal opposition groups?
AB: what do you mean?

AV: Like National-Religious groups
AB: in a network and a social wave, each person and each group states their common objectives and work toward those comon goals. The smaller the common denominator, the broader the participation. Different groups of different perspectives have called and announced readiness to participate. In a network, the minimum objectives are set to allow highest level of participation.



Pedestrian said...

Thanks Naj ... I was just starting this!
I woke up to this stuff ... I'm nauseous and just baffled.

David G said...

Hey Naj, I've been following events in Iran and share your concern for the direction the country is going in. Wherever religion is a strong force there's always trouble!

I also have concerns about what America and Israel are planning for Iran. It won't be good and it won't serve the issue of peace.

Take care of yourself!

Naj said...


in this case, it is not RELIGION versus people; it is fascism versus religion AND people.

Naj said...

David: here's a picture that these thugs are not religious really

David G said...

Scary image, Naj! It suggest my 'Beasts' post has some credibility!

Anonymous said...

thank you

Bacid said...


I´m a swedish-iranian journalist based in Sweden, I found your blog and it would be great if I could email you some questions about the post regarding Ali-Reza Beheshti...please contact me ASAP, email:

warm regards,

Naj said...

Hi Bacid,

please ask your questions here and if you don't like them answered in public; then say so, so I won't publish you comment.