Sullen monotony of black

Today’s Economist reports on

She supports Mousavi, wears a short sleeve T-shirt instead of the dark robeThe handsome stone bulk of the Royal Atheneum, a once-elite state school [in Antwerp] with a 200-year history, [which] has produced legendary free-thinkers and radicals in its day. Now, however, it is enjoying unhappy fame: as the centre of an experiment in multiculturalism wrecked by intolerance.

After the September 11th 2001 attacks, there were arguments in the playground. The head, Ms Heremans, pursued a doggedly liberal policy of multiculturalism, but

Antwerp’s [other] schools began banning religious clothing, leaving just three that allow scarves—among them the Atheneum. Ms Heremans soon noticed Muslim girls moving to her college. Between 2006 and 2008 the proportion of Muslim pupils at the Atheneum rose from half to 80%.

What do you do in a polarising situation, when the middle ground is constantly being  redefined?

“At the beginning, I didn’t see a problem,” she explains. But then, a number of “very conservative” families moved their daughters to the school. By 2007 about 15 girls came to school wearing all-concealing robes and gloves, with only their faces showing. Ms Heremans confronted them. “I said: ‘You’re stigmatising yourselves. You’re breaking with society by wearing those clothes.’” The girls replied that she was stigmatising them. Pupils began donning longer scarves. Others started covering up at school, even though teachers saw the same girls walking in the streets unveiled. When questioned, such girls said they felt uncomfortable at school without head coverings. In 2007 it proved impossible to organise a two-day school trip to Paris—a longstanding annual treat for 15-year-old pupils. “Suddenly it was a problem for girls to stay overnight. Their older brothers had to come too,” Ms Heremans says. Most of all, an oppressive, “heavy” atmosphere hung over the schoolyard.

Teach them death early

That is the atmosphere of Islam itself. Ask the inhabitants of formerly multiethnic and vibrant cities such as Beirut, Alexandria and Istanbul.

As these girls are increasingly excluded (self-excluded?) from all forms of school education, Ms Heremans concludes,

But barring scarves “doesn’t help girls”.

Perhaps she means wearing scarves doesn’t help them.

The fourth case of rape

Praying on newspapers amid the litterIs this the fourth individual case of prison rape laboriously exposed on the internet in full detail including video? This sixteen- or seventeen-year old has been raped repeatedly. Every time they raped her, they would say, “Here is your vote. You wanted back your vote, didn’t you? Here it is.” (Farsi language.)

The evidence lives on

In spite of determined attempts to destroy or discredit evidence of human rights abuses, especially prison rapes (this seems to touch a sore ethical spot), the Iranian regime must now deal with the fact that masses of such evidence is on the internet and, indeed, in the hands of the London Times and the estimable Martin Fletcher. He writes:

The security forces clubbed Amir Javadifar, 24, so badly that he was treated in hospital before being taken to the notorious Evin prison. His father was later called and told to collect his corpse. The security forces ordered his family to say that he had died of a pre-existing condition but medical reports show that he had been beaten, sustaining several broken bones, and had his toenails pulled out. “My son was not involved in politics. He loved his motherland — that’s all,” said Javadifar’s recently widowed father. “I alone mourn him.”

A female inmate at the women's section of Tehran's infamous Evin prison - many say rape has been used by interrogators in Iran for decades

There is no suggestion that this is not the young man’s real name.

The documents suggest that at least 200 demonstrators were killed in Tehran, with 56 others still unaccounted for, and that 173 were killed in other cities. These are several times higher than the official figures. Just over half of the 200 were killed on the streets. They were beaten around the head or shot in the head or chest as part of an apparent shoot-to-kill policy — there are no reports of demonstrators being shot in the legs … They cite instances of security forces storming hospitals and ordering doctors not to treat injured demonstrators, not to record deaths by gunshot and to suppress medical reports indicating rape or torture.

It is gratifying, at least to think that responsible independent investigators are patiently compiling an accurate record. All this wrong will have to be put right.

In Tehran alone, 37 young men and women claim to have been raped by their jailers. Doctors’ reports say that two males, aged 17 and 22, died as a result of severe internal bleeding after being raped … Female rape victims were mostly held for days, not weeks, like the men. Some said that their jailers claimed to have “religious sanction” to violate them as they were “morally dirty”.

The halo dance

Youth is no protection:

Ali Reza Tavasoli, 12, became separated from his father at a demonstration in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran commemorating the murder of Neda Soltan, the young woman whose videotaped death made her an opposition icon. His family stated that he had been killed in a car accident, but two doctors and a police officer have since testified that he died from blows to the head and that Basijis removed his body from the hospital.

September 18th protests

More moving images of yesterday’s protests here. The consensus seems to be a victory on points for the opposition. The Basiji and assorted goons were extensively deployed along what the regime thought were strategic routes. But they had left unguarded Tehran’s biggest avenue. Flexibly all the protesters poured into this and quickly filled it to overflowing. There was a great creativity in new slogans.

Protestor 18-Sep-09 amid swirls of teargas

Protestor 18-Sep-09 amid swirls of teargas

In times to come, it will be seen as an historical irony, and a sign of foresight and bravery, that, as Sky News puts it,

As Mr Ahmadinejad gave a speech at Tehran university declaring the Holocaust a “myth”, protesters chanted “Death to the dictator” in nearby streets.

The contrast – in tempo and mood – between footage filmed in Tehran and in a supporting demo in Vienna is striking. Vienna is comparatively sedate. In Tehran the atmosphere is intense, electric. These people are utterly, uncontainably furious.

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