Anyone interested in making an argument that torture is effective for the US can now just go online and YouTube “Iran show trials” (no link here–you do the work on this one). There you’ll see many former “heroes of the revolution” who spoke out against Ahmadinejad’s recent reelection and supported protesters in the streets recanting in mock trials reminiscent of Stalin’s purges of the 1930s. They have been tortured, and now they are doing what their torturers want them to… so evidently torture works when you want someone to say something particular, especially when it’s not true.
Torture has been an open secret in Iran since the days of the Shah, and has been used regularly over the years since to get people to admit to all sorts of violations of Islamic law and crimes against the “revolutionary” Iranian regime. Two recent events have made things a bit more overt: (1) the son of a prominent government official was arrested for protesting the election, and then bound and beaten; and (2) a journalist accused the government of torture and rape in an editorial and his paper was shut down. Torture is out in the open and a topic of conversation among the people of Iran, just as it is in the US.
Laura Secor has a fine piece on this in the Talk of the Town in this week’s New Yorker. She describes how now torture and recanting has become fodder for satirizing the Iranian government. It seems that the people of Iran are using humor to speak out against the abusrudity of the government’s brutality. Interestingly, she quotes a “senior ayatollah” who quotes none other than the Prophet Muhammad in making the point that regimes that use brutality are ultimately unsustainable: “A realm will survive without believing in God, but will not survive with oppression.”