Sad situation

Sad situation

Despite talk of change, Iran remains a brutally intolerant country whose worst victims are its own people.

What could be more harmless than a group of young people making a video that shows them dancing to the pop hit "Happy."

Well, that depends on where the people are while making the video.

In Iran, youngsters dancing to "Happy" made the ruling clerics who oversee its barbaric cultural code very unhappy.

Consequently, they decided to make the six young men and woman who made the video equally unhappy by arresting them.

Iranian television later showed the young people, backs to the camera, apologizing for their conduct. On top of that, Tehran Police Chief Hossei Sajedi warned Iran's young people not to engage in similar misconduct.

In the late 1970s, the people of Iran overthrew the despotic Shah of Iran. Unfortunately, the Islamic clerics who took the shah's place have proved to be more despotic and more brutal than their predecessor.

Iran has a relatively young population, to the point that a substantial percentage has no memory of life under the shah. But Iranians are quite familiar with the religious regime that requires, on pain of arrest, people to live under a strict religious code.

Many have suggested over the years that moderate forces in the Iranian government are fighting for greater personal freedom and economic opportunity for the people as well as a more expansive world view that will gain Iran a seat among the community of nations.

But if there is a power struggle underway — and it's not really clear that there is — the religious extremists hold the whip hand. Talk of moderation appears to be just that. Protest of any kind draws brutal suppression.

That's certainly Iran's problem. But it's also America's and the world's problem. The danger Iran's clerics represent to their own people is considerable, but this kind of strident and mindless authoritarianism poses problems for the Middle East and beyond. The government of Iran makes no effort to hide what it is, and no one should pretend otherwise.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion