One year on from the disputed presidential election of June 2009, Iranians who want to criticize the Government or protest against mounting human rights violations face an evertightening gag as the authorities and the shadowy intelligence services – shaken to the core by the events which followed – consolidate their grip on the country and intensify the repression already in place for years.
Iranians have moved from protest to prison, as the authorities resort to locking up hundreds of people in a vain attempt to silence voices peacefully expressing a dissenting view to the narrative which the authorities wish to provide of the election and its aftermath.
Thousands of people – over 5,000 according to official statements, although the true figure is almost certainly higher – have been arrested during mass demonstrations which first erupted on 13 June 2009, the day after the election. Demonstrations took place steadily throughout June until mid-July 2009 in spite of the authorities' determination to quell protests, then continued more sporadically on days of national importance, whenever public demonstrations were permitted.
At the time of writing, demonstrations which took place during the religious festival of Ashoura, which fell on 27 December 2009, were the last mass demonstrations to occur since the election, when over 1,000 people were arrested, according to official figures.
Attempts to hold further demonstrations on 11 February 2010, the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic were prevented by the heavy presence of security forces. Most of those arrested have been released, although some have returned to prison to begin serving prison sentences, but may also spend short periods free on "temporary leave". These "revolving prison doors" make it difficult to give precise numbers of those held at any one time.