(CNSNews.com) – In the latest of occasional diatribes aimed at the United States, Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday invoked recent controversies over police shootings to accuse U.S. police of persecuting African Americans.
Addressing police commanders in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei contrasted police forces in Iran, which he said provided “psychological security,” to those in the U.S., which he said employed cruel, “Hollywood-style” power.
“In the U.S., whose president is now a black man, black people are being persecuted, ignored and humiliated by police,” Iranian state media quoted him as saying.
In Iran, he said, his favorite style of might entails “power along with justice and mercy,” with law enforcement symbolizing sovereignty and security, not persecution.
“Power and tyranny are different. In some countries like [the] U.S., police are seemingly powerful but they kill innocents.”
He accused police in the U.S. of shooting people on the streets “on false pretexts.”
“They celebrate a day for abolition of slavery, but such crimes are committed against the blacks,” Khamenei said.
Excerpts of the speech posted on Khamenei’s official Twitter account were accompanied by hashtags naming black men killed during recent encounters with the police in the U.S. – Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York City; Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.; as well as Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in Baltimore, Md. after sustaining an unexplained spinal injury this month.
One message also carried a hashtag drawing attention to Trayvon Martin, whose Feb. 2012 death came at the hands not of a police officer but a neighborhood watch volunteer. Another recalled Rekia Boyd, a woman shot dead in 2012 by an off-duty Chicago police officer who was cleared of all charges this month.
Khamenei’s vision of policing in his own country is at odds with abuses tracked over many years by human rights groups and foreign governments.
Policing in Iran is carried out by several agencies, including law enforcement divisions under the Interior Ministry, units falling under the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the Basij volunteer paramilitary units, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Members of those agencies have been used at times to violently suppress protests, such as after the disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, when rubber bullets, teargas and live ammunition were used against demonstrators.
In several incidents, one in June 2009 and one in late December that year, police opened fire on unarmed protestors, killing at least 10 on each occasion.
Police have also beaten women’s rights protestors with batons and carried out arrests in large numbers. Reports of torture in police custody have included allegations of sexual abuse and rape of female political detainees.
Iranian police units are also used to crack down on cybercafés, music concerts, and other activities that are viewed as subversive or “un-Islamic.”
The latest State Department report on human rights in Iran lists numerous abuses, many of which are perpetrated by law enforcement agencies.
They include: unlawful and arbitrary detentions, torture and killing; disappearances; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; politically motivated violence and repression, such as beatings and rape; harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities; deaths in custody; arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home; and severe restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, association, and religion.
“The government took few steps to prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials who committed abuses,” the reports said. “Members of the security forces detained in connection with abuses were frequently released soon after their arrest, and judicial officials did not prosecute offenders. Impunity remained pervasive throughout all levels of the government and security forces.”