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Iran dissidents pay a high price

As two Iranians are hanged for taking part in protests, dissidents stuck in the country ponder their own fate.

“I didn’t stop my work with the movement,” he said in a shaky voice. “I wasn’t doing anything against the law. Freedom Movement of Iran is an official and lawful movement which seeks reform within the framework of law and existing government.”

But this explanation didn’t stop the ministry from firing him. He said losing his job was a blow not only for him personally, but also for all members of the opposition in the country.

“Firing political and social activists is a very effective way to silence them,” he said. “By doing so, those people have to first figure out a way to earn a living, and not worry about politics any more.”

Activists fired from their jobs also risk being blacklisted, which means that in an already difficult job market they become virtually unemployable at the professional level because of the actions taken against them. Razaghi tells the story of an activist friend who, like him, lost his job last summer and “is now selling newspapers for a living.” He names several others who have suffered similar fates.

Another example of a recently laid-off activist is Narges Mohammadi, a journalist and human rights activist who works closely with Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. Mohammadi won the Italian Alexander Langer Award in 2009 (the foundation is a non-profit organization that supports human rights) for her activism. Besides her human rights activities, Mohammadi worked for an engineering company for eight years. But after the recent elections, she became a target for security officials and lost her job.

In an interview with Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani published in an online magazine in December 2009, she described her life after losing her job and reflected on the wider social problem.

“My dismissal from work is not a personal matter,” she observed. “This is something that is haunting our society. Having a voice is our right, why should we give it up?”

She went on to say that “depriving activists of their income is a very inhumane and violent way of silencing them.”

Mohammadi said that before being laid off, she was taken by security officials for questioning. Her husband had served a prison term due to his political activism and was unemployed. Her interrogators,  Mohammadi said, let slip that they knew she was the only breadwinner in her family and that she had two small children. “What does this tell us?” she said, “that they purposefully want to starve my children.”