Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Attempts to destabilise put progress in peril

File this one under "no shit." From IPS via Common Dreams:
...Washington has allocated 75 million dollars to inspire "regime change".

The money is to be spent on empowering civil society, providing supplemental requests, broadcasting into Iran, promoting democracy, offering scholarships and fellowships, and enhancing communication.

But Iranian civil society activists who asked to remain unidentified told IPS they believe this policy will just intensify the Islamic republic's repressive approach toward non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and will be used as an excuse to crack down on their activities.

Just last week, agents from Iran's intelligence agency arrested Ramin Jahanbegloo, a prominent scholar, at Tehran's airport. "He had relations with foreigners," said Intelligence Minister Moseni Ejeyee.

Fars news agency, which is closely connected to the country's security forces, asserted later that Jahanbegloo was recruited by the U.S. government in 2001, while he was a researcher for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Under the new U.S. State Department funding, the NED would be in charge of working with Iranian NGOs. Jahanbegloo's arrest serves as a worrisome harbinger of a new wave of intimidation against Iranian civil society, professionals, and intellectuals who simply have connections outside Iran.

Iran's new government perceives civil society groups as a tool for Washington to bring about a non-violent "colour revolution", similar to those which occurred in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004. Consequently, the government has used many different strategies to control NGOs, by increasing the risks of accepting any foreign funding, and inspiring fear among civil society activists to derail any serious changes inside the country.

...

Given the conservatives' paranoia about a Western cultural invasion, Washington's statement of support for NGOs and civil society activities has made it very hard for local NGOs to maintain their relationships with foreign entities. Some of them have canceled their projects in order to avoid being negatively affected by officials' conspiracy-oriented mindset.

It is not entirely without reason that the "conspiracy-oriented mindset" is there.
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