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Where Are Iranian Opposition Leaders Musavi, Karrubi?

Mir Hossein Musavi (left) and Mehdi Karubi are both said to be under house arrest, cut off from all outside contact.

Mir Hossein Musavi (left) and Mehdi Karubi are both said to be under house arrest, cut off from all outside contact.

The Iranian authorities have arrested the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi in an attempt at increasing pressure on him.

Karrubi's website, Sahamnews, reported that security forces arrested one his sons, Ali Karrubi, and Ali's wife, Nafiseh Panahi, on February 21 during the night. Panahi has since been released, but Ali Karrubi remains in detention.

Ali Karrubi was also arrested in the crackdown following the June 2009 presidential election and reportedly tortured and threatened with rape.

The authorities reportedly also raided the house of another of Karrubi's sons, Hossein Karrubi, but he was not home.

Isolating The Leaders

Sahamnews reported that on February 21 Mehdi Karrubi's house was raided by security forces who locked him and his wife, Fatemeh Karrubi, in separate rooms and took away documents and books. The reports say the security forces also changed the locks on the house.

Karrubi was put under house arrest after he and fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi called for a rally in solidarity with the uprisings in the Arab world on February 14.

Musavi and his wife were said to have been put under house arrest on February 14, as the protest they called reportedly attracted tens of thousands of protesters to challenge the Iranian regime.

The Kaleme website, which is close to Musavi, has posted a picture and video of a metal gate that security forces have reportedly set up to block access to the dead-end street where Musavi's residence is located.

Karrubi lives in an apartment building, which is likely to make it more difficult for the authorities to isolate him should they decide to prolong his house arrest.

Both Karrubi and Musavi have remained defiant despite numerous calls for them to be put on trial and, most recently, their execution. Their wives, Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karrubi, who are reportedly also under house arrest, have also been outspoken and both have criticized Iran's leadership and human rights abuses.

As professor Nader Hashemi, who teaches Middle Eastern politics at the University of Denver, told RFE/RL last week, the renewed pressure on the two opposition leaders is a sign of panic.

"[The two] clearly can't be ignored anymore. But I think the dilemma really is...on the one hand wanting to crack down on them, wanting to bring them to trial, wanting to publicly humiliate them, but at the same time realizing that it has a cost for the regime," Hashemi said.

"In other words, it elevates [their] prestige and importance and gives them a national and international profile."

For now it appears that the authorities have decided to completely isolate the two and block all contact with their supporters and the outside world. And they appear to have been successful, as there has been almost no news about Musavi and Karrubi since last week.

Last week the head of Iran's Guardians Council, hard-line cleric Ahmad Jannati, said the prosecution of the two was not expedient.

Instead, he said the two should be cut off from the world. He said their telephones lines and Internet connections should be cut. "They must be imprisoned in their own houses," Jannati said during a Friday Prayers sermon.

On February 17, an aide to Karrubi who is based in the United States, Mojtaba Vahedi, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that he managed to speak briefly with Karrubi.

He didn't give any details about the way he communicated with the reformist cleric, but he said it was "very difficult" to contact him and it might have been his last contact with Karrubi. Vahedi said Karrubi has said that he's ready to go on trial and called for the trial to be made public.

Meanwhile, on February 22 chief Iranian prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei warned that anybody who followed and supported the opposition leaders would be treated as an "antirevolutionary."

"If someone listens to the call of the seditionists today, that person is antirevolutionary and should be treated as an antirevolutionary," Ejei was quoted as saying by state media.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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