Iranian officials have closed down a factory that was producing figurines of citizens who died in election protests last year. The factory’s managing director, known only by his initials H.M., had campaigned for an opposition candidate in the elections and made the statuettes to commemorate those who had been killed in their aftermath.
The Iranian website Aty News Web also reported that the 40 female employees who worked in the factory were not wearing the head coverings demanded by Iranian law and were intermingling with their male counterparts. The factory had been open for only one month.
The street protests following last June’s elections resulted when opposition parties felt votes had not been fairly tabulated. At least 70 citizens were reported killed by government security forces attempting to suppress the riots.
One of the protestors represented as a statuette is 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death was recorded on video and circulated globally online. Officials have denied that Iranian forces were responsible for shooting Agha-Soltan, even alleging that she faked her own death. Some Iranians have been organizing rallies to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the elections on June 12, but officials are also gathering security forces to quell any opposition.
The President of the Ugandan Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Dr. Kizza Besigye, was hit and beaten with a cane by Uganda police officers. Besigye was attempting to hold a rally against the Electoral Commission, but was told he could not continue because he had not sought police permission. After an extended argument, the youth secretary for JEEMA, an opposition party, jumped a barbed wire fence and ran toward Besigye as armed police chased after him. The youth secretary allegedly hung onto Besigye and used him as a shield as police beat both. It took five minutes for the young man to be separated from Besigye.
Besigye said he was hit in the arm, shoulders and chest and that the Inspector General of Police had ordered that Besigye be attacked. “Beating me means nothing because I am ready to die if that is the only way of saving this country,” Besigye said. “We shall die rather than live under a terrorist regime.” Besigye made his way toward Parliament for a press conference, but police again stopped him and forced the crowd to disperse, though Besigye insisted on making his speech.
Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said the incident was being investigated. “It’s hard for me to say anything now because we are hearing many stories about what happened,” Nabakooba said. “We shall investigate officers who were deployed in the area to find out if they beat him or not.”
Besigye is calling for the Electoral Commission to be replaced by a more independent election monitor.
A sharply divided Dutch electorate went to the polls, and the vote totals may result in a four-party coalition government. Geert Wilders’s far-right Freedom Party won 24 seats, up from 9, in the 150-member Parliament, while the Christian Democrats lost 20 of their 41 slots. Mark Rutte’s center-right Liberal Party obtained a plurality of 31 seats, only one more than the center-left Labor Party. Rutte hopes to cement a coalition government by July 1, but weeks of negotiations may follow.
The most likely coalition will consist of the Liberals combined with three center-left groups: Labor, the Democratic Liberal Party, and the Green Party. In total, 10 parties gained seats in Parliament.
As the election results came in Wednesday night, acting Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, a member of the Christian Democratic Party, announced his resignation. The Christian Democrats’ losses likely reflect the electorate’s dissatisfaction with the party’s handling of the European economic crisis. In contrast, Rutte’s promises to decrease spending and lower the deficit without raising taxes were popular among voters.
In addition to the economy, immigration was a hot-button issue during the campaign, with the Freedom Party proposing a ban on Muslim immigration to the Netherlands. Wilders, who faces prosecution for “inciting hatred” when he compared Islamic fundamentalism to Nazism, also supports prohibitions on new mosques and the Koran.
The election results reflect the increasing political divisions in Dutch society. In 2002, anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated, and 2004 saw the murder of Theo van Gogh, whose documentary Submission criticized Islam’s attitude toward females. Earlier this year, the governing coalition collapsed when Labor broke with the other parties over keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan. New elections were called in February.
The Sudanese media and American state department have criticized the Sudanese government, saying Omar Al-Bashir’s regime has reverted to censoring the nation’s newspapers. Al-Bashir, who was recently reelected to another five-year term, had lifted press controls last September. However, newspapers have now been told that some topics are off-limits and Sudanese authorities shut down one media outlet, Rai al-Shaab—an Islamic opposition newspaper. Court proceedings have begun for four Rai al-Shaab reporters on criminal charges of spying and terrorism, AFP reported.
“This censorship brings fear among the media so the media end up [in] self-censorship,” said Annur Ahmed Annur, editor-in-chief of al-Sahafa.
After being contacted by censors last week, Ajras al-Hurriya, another Sudanese paper, decided not to print this week. Yasser Arman, Al-Bashir’s opponent in this past election, said since the election “there has been a great setback on liberties and freedoms.”
United States State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley expressed dissatisfaction with the situation in Sudan, adding that the United States was worried about a troubling “pattern of increasing political repression and the deteriorating environment for civil and political rights in Khartoum.”