The Iranian regime's war against its own people threatens to claim another casualty: Canadian landed immigrant Saeed Malekpour, sentenced to death for the crime of designing a website.
The Iranian regime is moving to carry out the sentence imminently, adding one more killing to the hundreds judicially murdered since the stolen presidential elections of 2009.
Even by the regime's own brutal standards, the Malekpour case is a travesty. Malekpour designed websites that allow the uploading of photographs. Allegedly, some people used those sites to upload sexual images. The regime accused Malekpour of distributing pornography and thereby "insulting the sanctity of Islam."
Malekpour was held for a year in solitary confinement, tortured, and ultimately sentenced to death.
From the point of view of the civilized nations, Malekpour did nothing criminally wrong, even if every item in the indictment against him were true. But of course if the charges against Malekpour were true, he would not be in trouble even in Iran.
Sex as such does not offend the Iranian authorities. Iran's religious authorities have developed a doctrine of "temporary marriage" -- lasting two hours or so -- that effectively legalizes prostitution. Brothels are found in Iran's major cities, sometimes operated by the clerics themselves.
The website Planet Iran has posted this translation of a document issued at a religious shrine:
July 18, 2010
In order to elevate the spiritual atmosphere, create proper psychological conditions and tranquility of mind, the Province of the Quds'eh-Razavi of Khorassan has created centers for temporary marriage (just next door to the shrine) for those brothers who are on pilgrimage to the shrine of our eighth Imam, Imam Reza, and who are far away from their spouses.
To that end, we call on all our sisters who are virgins, who are between the ages of 12 and 35 to cooperate with us. Each of our sisters who signs up will be bound by a two year contract with the province of the Quds'eh-Razavi of Khorassan ....
Attention: For sisters who are below 14 years of age, a written consent from their fathers or male guardian is required.
While outright prostitution is condoned, what does offend the Iranian authorities is the use of photography to expose the miserable living conditions of those women held to prostitution.
The website Payvand.com hosts a collection of photographs by the great Iranian photographer, Kaveh Golestan. (Golestan took the only known photograph of the Ayatollah Khomeini smiling; he was killed by a landmine in Iraq in 2003.) These photographs from inside Tehran's brothel district show women living in wretched poverty on filthy alleyways. The brothels are legal. Only the photographs are banned -- and not only banned, but blocked by the regime's Internet-blocking technology.
If Malekpour developed web technology that expedited the sharing of such images inside Iran, you can well imagine why the regime regarded him as a threat.
Under the pressure of external economic sanctions and the regime's own corruption and mismanagement, the Iranian economy is disintegrating. The currency is collapsing toward worthlessness, inflation is accelerating, and unemployment is rising.
Against this background of discontent, the regime has scheduled parliamentary elections for March. The elections are not free in any sense. Payvand reports:
While the 2009 presidential race was between the incumbent hardline president and reform candidates, the forthcoming Majlis elections are expected to be between the supporters of Ahmadinejad and those of ayatollah Khameneni, as key reformers have announced that they are not participating in the elections because reform leaders such as Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi are under house arrest while others are serving long-term prison terms on charges of sedition or plotting against the regime. Reform groups have also been outlawed by the regime.
Hardliners vs ultra-hardliners -- and with everybody else banned. Yet even such a limited opportunity for the expression of public opinion clearly frightens the fragile Iranian regime.
In its fear, the regime reaches out to kill, ordering terror attacks against the Saudi ambassador to the United States and -- most recently -- against Israeli diplomats in India, Thailand, and Georgia.
Yet these plots have mostly gone awry, suggesting a serious weakening of Iran's international terror capacities.
At home, though, the frightened and unpopular regime has turned deadlier than ever. It murders in hopes of intimidating, and it intimidates because it has lost all legitimacy.
The Iranian regime holds power only by terror and for terror. It kills because it is afraid -- and because it has so much to be afraid of.