Iranian authorities have arrested several suspects in the recent killings of five prominent writers and intellectuals. While the arrests were significant, the fact that the murders took place at all invoked worldwide condemnation of Iran. The killings, which occurred during the past few weeks, spread panic among Iranian dissidents and concern among human rights activists because they were interpreted as a declaration of war by the old revolutionary guard
"Until the murders took place," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell, "intellectuals had been considered off limits." Whatever contemporary Iran may be, it is still a nation that reveres literature and poetry, and the people who write it. "The perception of going after intellectuals fueled public indignation -- moderates appear to have led the counterattack with the arrests of suspects," says Dowell. The real question, though, is whether these bloody tit-for-tats between Iranian factions will eventually tear the country apart.