Despite widespread international criticism of the Iranian regime’s treatment of its citizens who participated in the recent protests, human rights violations have skyrocketed in Iran.
The fate of about 8,000 protest detainees is still uncertain as they that are still languishing in the country’s prisons. Confusing and conflicting statements are being made by the theocratic regime’s propaganda machine on ways of containing future protests.
For weeks the Iranian regime promised a visit to detention centers and prisons requested by its own MPs. In the end, there was a limited supervised visit to the notorious Evin prison of Tehran. Alireza Rahimi, one of the visiting MPs complained later about the show and said: “The accompanying crowd was surprising... Approximately 50 people accompanied the visiting MPs. All conversations with prisoners took place in the presence of officials and entourages”.
Following the visit, Head of Prisons’ Organization Asghar Jahangir confirmed that at least 5,000 protesters were arrested but he failed to take into account the detainees held by a range of other security forces including, but not limited to those being held in safe houses run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s Intelligence Unit or that of Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
IRGC and its affiliates are the ones that outrun Jahangir’s security clearance and obviously their detainees are not accounted for in his estimates.
Ahmad Khatami, Tehran’s Friday prayer’s preacher and a member of the Assembly of Experts, the influential body tasked with choosing the next Supreme Leader had this to say about the protesters: “I said once in the sedition of 2009 and I am saying it again now that in our jurisprudence, the one who comes to the streets against the just ruler of Islam, sets fire and kills people, he is an insurgent against Islam and in our jurisprudence his sentence is death. We must confront the rioters, be it the students, or clerics or else …You must be angry with the leaders of the rioters and deal with them categorically.”
Execution of juveniles continues
The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his coterie have dealt with public protests with an iron fist from day one and that is not going to change. Iran’s repressive machine is in full swing again.
Taking the lives of minors some of whom have already spent years on death row is a clear sign of its dismal human rights record. Last week, the theocratic regime hanged a 22-year-old man Ali Kazemi in southern port of Bushehr. According to Amnesty International he was only 15 at the time of alleged crime. The right group was outraged when he was sent to gallows.
President Hassan Rouhani signs the document of Iran’s “Charter of Citizenship Rights” in Tehran on Dec. 19, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Magdalena Mughrabi, AI’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director said: “By carrying out this unlawful execution, Iran is effectively declaring that it wishes to maintain the country’s shameful status as one of the world’s leading executers of those who were children at the time of their crime.”
In January, there was another juvenile hanged in Iran. Mahboubeh Mofidi, a young woman in the northern city of Noshahr was only 17 at the time of alleged crime. Amir Hossein Jafarpour, who was 16 at the time of alleged crime, was executed in Gohardasht Prison, west of the capital three weeks earlier. There are at least 80 juveniles on death row in Iran.
There have been reports of drugging the detainees involuntarily in security forces’ detention centers either to extract information from them or push them to the edge of committing suicide. Mahmoud Sadeghi, an Iranian MP said: “According to the relatives of one of the detainees who died in jail, he had told his family during a phone conversation [prior to his death] that the authorities had forced him and other prisoners to take pills that made them sick.”
To tarnish Iranian people’s unwillingness to submit to this regime, the government does not hesitate to use whatever means possible to crush the uprisings. When “veil protests” flared up and some women removed their mandatory “hijabs” in public, the regime was quick to arrest 29 of them.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert’s support for the women added fuel to fire and the Iranian authorities went hysterical. She issued a press release saying: “The United States supports the Iranian people who are protesting against women being forced to wear the hijab. We condemn the reported arrests of at least 29 individuals for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms by standing up against the compulsory hijab.”
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'I, Iran’s judiciary spokesman made the outrageous accusation that the women hijab protesters used amphetamine and said: “If proven that their actions were organized, not only they but even their families will pay the price.”
He threatened the families of these women and added: “If proven that they had been part of an organized move, they will be punished and punishment would be severe. It is a warning not only to those who committed the crime but to their families. It will have serious consequences for their families.”
One thing is certain that the protests are here to stay and the theocratic regime in Iran can only make things them by imposing more restrictions, torture and executions. The outside world can play an important role in supporting the protesters and their demands by keeping the regime on a short leash.
Hardly anyone does not know how desperate the regime is for money and there are no stone left unturned by its officials in trying to gain some. In addition to moral support for protesters, especially the EU bloc countries that are in good terms with Tehran, should link all economic relations to verifiable improvement in the human rights situation inside Iran.
Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.