House Arrest for Former President Khatami Highlights Worsening Crackdown

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Iranian security forces had barred former President Mohammad Khatami from leaving his home the previous day. Lately, a substantial number of reports have pointed to the escalating restrictions on the apparent figurehead for the reformist wing of Iranian politics, but these restrictions had only gone as far as a temporary ban on public appearances and the acceptance of political guests, as well as the removal of Khatami’s image from all Iranian media.

However, some of those reports raised warnings of further escalation of the regime’s crackdown on Khatami and other affiliates of the reformist wing. By placing guards outside his home, the regime has subjected Khatami to what at least one official news outlet referred to as “temporary house arrest.” Supporters fear that the campaign against him could rise to the level of more permanent house arrest, like that of the Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

The two figures who were in the center of the nationwide protests against the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 were placed under house arrest two years later and have remained there ever since. Neither of them faced official charges or a defined sentence, despite their requests for a public trial.

In August, Karroubi staged a hunger strike demanding the removal of Intelligence Ministry agents from his home, ahead of a public trial. After being hospitalized almost immediately, he ended his hunger strike when regime officials promised to remove the agents from his home; but they would not consider the latter demand.

Mousavi’s daughters had written an open letter accusing Iranian authorities of “hoping and planning” for the “gradual death” of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard, who is being held under house arrest alongside her husband.

“Their communication with the outside world has been completely cut off and they have been put under all kinds of restrictions that violate their human rights and dignity. Their most natural rights, such as access to medical care, are delayed for as long as possible so that the abuse impacts their health,” the letter explained.

The CHRI report added that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ordered the release of the three political prisoners, but that it cannot be considered until they apologize for their role in the 2009 protests, which the regime refers to as “the sedition.”

The Intelligence Ministry and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps contributed to the violent repression of those demonstrations, leading to dozens of deaths and the long-term imprisonment of hundreds of Iranian activists.

The regime’s response to the Green Movement also apparently sparked a broader crackdown on dissent that is still ongoing to this day.

The restrictions on Khatami can easily be viewed as a symptom of that crackdown, which has also been prosecuted by the Intelligence Ministry and especially the IRGC. The hardline paramilitary organization reportedly wields increasingly much influence over the supposedly independent Iranian judiciary, which the Washington Post described as summoning growing numbers of people for questioning, without evidence of crime.

These summons and the IRGC influence have led to various arrests and convictions for peaceful activities. On Thursday, an article detailed some recent examples of this phenomenon, specifically as they relate to the crackdown on independent journalism.

The IranWire report also highlights the ways in which regime authorities use the push-back against this sort of repression in order to justify still further crackdowns. As an example, it cites Amad News, a popular channel on the Telegram messaging app, which has become a prominent tool for activists in Iran.

Amad News describes itself as part of the Green Movement, and it has been accordingly criminalized. But authorities have evidently taken to asserting affiliation between that channel and reformist journalists of every stripe, in order to more easily build cases against them.

This, of course, speaks to the fact that independent journalists as a whole are subject to persecution by the Iranian regime. And just as this persecution has escalated in recent years, so has the persecution of other targeted groups, including religious minorities and dual nationals.

Another recent report noted that more than 20 members of the Baha’i religious minority have been arrested this month alone, on the basis of nothing other than their faith. The article highlights one case in which a Baha’i mother and father were taken from their home in a raid by the IRGC, which left the couple’s seven year old child alone in the house until relatives arrived from hundreds of miles away.