Iranian Regime Increasingly Repressive and Corrupt
Iran’s poor governance has worsened further in the past two years under President Ahmadinejad’s administration, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.
Countries at the Crossroads, an annual survey of government performance in 30 strategically important countries worldwide, showed a decline in the democratic character of its governance in Iran since 2005. The report found that political interference in the judicial system has intensified, cronyism has become more pervasive, and violations of civil liberties have increased.
“While the world has been outraged by the recent brutal treatment of Iranian Americans visiting family in Iran, the Iranian government’s actions have also shown an increased disregard for ordinary citizens living in the country,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “The regime increasingly tramples individual rights and puts the state at the service of an elite, that is dominated by senior clerics and Revolutionary Guard.”
Corruption is rife in Iran, and the State Audit Court has revealed numerous cases of embezzlement from state agencies. Last year, for example, $6 billion in oil revenues was never deposited in the national treasury.
Despite Ahmadinejad’s promise to eliminate cronyism, he was openly accused of giving numerous government positions to friends and relatives. Members of the Revolutionary Guard are gaining preferential access to state assets, apparently through their connections to Ahmadinejad’s administration. This includes multi-billion dollar contracts won without competitive bidding.
Meanwhile, the government has tightened restrictions on free expression and assembly, as evident in recent crackdowns on student and labor union leaders and on activists campaigning for women’s rights. It also continues to shut down reformist newspapers and to threaten or imprison journalists who criticize the regime.
“Increased repression is taking place against the backdrop of Ahmadinejad’s failure to deliver on his promises to curb corruption and to improve the living standards of ordinary Iranians,” said Daniel Calingaert, deputy director of programs at Freedom House. “As we can see on the internet, where there still is some room for free expression, Iranians are extremely frustrated with the regime.”
The Freedom House survey, Countries at the Crossroads, provides a comparative evaluation of government performance in four touchstone areas of democratic governance: Accountability and Public Voice, Civil Liberties, Rule of Law, and Anticorruption and Transparency. This survey examines these areas of performance in a set of 30 countries that are at a critical crossroads in determining their political future.
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Iran since 1972.
Stephen Fairbanks, author of the Iran chapter of Countries at the Crossroads, is a specialist on Iranian affairs who previously served as the political analyst on Iran for the U.S. Department of State and as director of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Persian Services. He earned a Ph.D. in Iranian studies at the University of Michigan.