Iran’s Unsolvable Air Pollution Problem

Air pollution will remain at dangerous levels and will increase for the next few days in most big cities, including Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, and Mashhad, according to Iran Meteorological Organization. For this reason, schools have been closed for about two weeks and education is held online. Large parts of Iran are struggling with air pollution, gas shortages, and freezing weather. But at the same time, the regime exports gas and gas condensates and uses mazut to supply the fuel needed by power plants, industries, and refineries to keep its source of income. Recently, Ebrahim Raisi’s government decided to raise the air pollution standards and index to avoid closing schools. In an interview with the ISNA news agency on January 23, Minister of Education Yousef Nouri said, “If you look at the global indices of air quality, in other countries they don’t close schools if the index is less than 300. But for us, they set the index to close schools at 150. The closure was like the Covid-19 period, while our pollution indices are below 200. We are going to propose to suspend these indicators in the next government board meeting.” Last year, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said that important programs regarding air pollution would be implemented by the end of the year. “Today, important plans regarding the reduction of air pollution were approved, and we are trying to design and implement parts of these plans by the end of 2022,” Vahidi said in November 2021, according to Fars News Agency. “Vehicles account for 60 percent of pollution in big cities. In this regard, it is necessary to put the production of electric vehicles on the agenda with the cooperation of the president’s office for Science and Technology.” But today, the air situation in Iran’s big cities is much worse than last year. “With the help of the environmental organization, we determined a new proposal for the government to slightly change the standards so that it is not necessary to close our schools,” Vahidi claimed. But the Ministry of Health does not agree. In an interview with the Armanmeli website on January 25, Abbas Shahsavani, head of the air health and climate change department of the Ministry of Health said, ” Some days in Tehran, the concentration of suspended PM2.5 particles is more than 10 times the World Health Organization guidelines, which means that the concentration of particulate matter is so high that it is dangerous for the health of people and especially sensitive groups. It is not right to eliminate the problem by simply changing the air pollution index.” “Directives and orders cannot change air pollution indicators. Respiratory infection is the most common cause of death in children. The annual standard of particles in the country is six times more than the guidelines of the World Health Organization and this means that people’s exposure to air pollution is high. So, instead of changing indicators, we should focus on reducing pollutants and controlling emission sources,” Shahsavani added. A recent study by the Air Pollution Research Center of Tehran University of Medical Sciences indicates that about 40,000 people in the country die every year due to exposure to a concentration of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in the air. This is equivalent to 10 percent of all deaths. “But the risk of this disease is higher in children than in other age groups. Some other diseases, including leukemia (blood cancer), are one of the most common cancers in children. Studies show a significant correlation between exposure to traffic pollutants and the risk of leukemia in children. Also, air pollution affects the residents of many Iranian cities in the form of cardiovascular, respiratory, and stroke diseases,” Shahsavani continued. Is there any plan to deal with air pollution? Obviously, no. Behzad Ashjaee, the former deputy of the Environmental Organization, told ISNA news agency on January 25, 2022, “There is no special attention to the issue of air pollution in the 2022 budget bill.” Iran ranks sixth in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Schools and offices in the capital and some other cities were closed many times during the past weeks due to severe air pollution, and there is no prospect of improving the situation.

The World Must Acknowledge the Iranian People’s Right to Self-defense

Victor Hugo once said: “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.” Throughout history, this has been the story of all great revolutions: the American Revolutionary Wars and the French Revolution in the late 18th century, the Arab Spring in 2011, and the current revolution in the making in Iran. When the American patriots and the French tasted the bitter and harsh fact of dictatorships with bone and flesh, they exercised their right to revolution and toppled the corrupt regime at any cost. Thousands laid down their lives and overcame obstacles to achieve freedom and independence. The oppressed nations in the  world chose to use their right to self-determination and, most importantly, their right to self-defense. The right to self-defense is a general principle of law recognized by nations under international law. It could be found in the natural law conceptions of the world’s major religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions. It is consequently a universally shared feature of the world’s foremost legal systems. According to Oxford Academic, “The right to personal self-defense can already be discerned in a number of areas of international law, including international humanitarian law, international criminal law, the law of the sea, the law of diplomatic relations.” A modern-day example of a nation using its right to self-defense is the Ukrainian people’s resistance against Russia’s war of aggression. The pictures of young Ukrainians bidding farewell to their loved ones to join the battlefield for their country moved the entire world and revived the value of “resistance” in Europe. One might argue that what happened in Ukraine was a legal response to a foreign invasion. But shouldn’t we also consider tyrannies that usurped people’s sovereignty as real invaders of a country? History of humanity is filled with examples of oppressed nations not just using their right to self-defense but also using what many describe as the “right to rebel against tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson, one of the American founding fathers, said that it was not only the people’s right but their duty to overthrow a repressive government. These laws and theories are not limited to a specific nation or people of a particular race. They are universal. So why wouldn’t Iranian people, who have been suffering immensely at the hand of the totalitarian regime use these rights? Since usurping power in 1979, the clerics ruling Iran have been using violence to quell a society that rejected their backward ruling from day one. In June 1981, the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to open fire on a peaceful protest rally in Tehran, killing and arresting thousands. That night, many Iranian teenagers were sent to the gallows, and the torturers didn’t bother themselves to identify the victims. The pictures of young girls hanged on June 20, 1981, were published in the newspapers on the day after; the Judiciary called on their parents to identify them. In the summer of 1988, over 30,000 political prisoners were hanged in a matter of a few months. They were sentenced to death in minutes-long kangaroo trials because they wanted freedom and democracy. During the November 2019 uprising in Iran, the IRGC forces killed over 1500 protesters in a few of days. Since the new protests erupted in Iran in September, Iranian authorities have resorted to violence, beating protesters to death on streets, torturing and raping others in prisons or safe houses. The regime’s brutality has shocked the world. After decades of witnessing crimes against humanity and being deprived of their basic rights, what is the Iranian people’s choice but to overthrow a vicious dictatorship? Are they not entitled to practice their right to self-defense in the face of the regime? The Iranian people have not asked for violence. They deem their God-given rights of freedom and dignity. They have asked for change, but authorities have responded with bullets. John F. Kennedy once said: “Those who make a peaceful change (reform) impossible make a violent change (revolution) inevitable.” The Iranian people are using the right to rebel against tyranny by paying a heavy price. The world applauded Ukrainians and Arab nations when they took up arms and fought for their legitimate rights. History is proud of the revolutions in France and the United States. As the Europeans are moving forward with designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization, Western powers should also recognize the Iranian people’s right to self-defense against the terrorist regime. The international community should recognize and allow Iranians to determine their future after a century of dictatorial rule under the Pahlavi and Khomeini regimes. Acknowledging the Iranian people’s right to self-defense against a warmongering regime that is a threat to world peace and security and putting maximum pressure on it strengthens order and stability.

Iran: 60% Of Population Is Poor

The livelihood baskets of the Iranian people are shrinking dramatically. This, in turn, has introduced new concerns to protect the health of people in society’s low-income and middle classes. For more than four decades, inflation in Iran has raised levels of poverty and led to an increase in the prices of food, clothing, and other consumer and capital goods. Today, these issues have become the norm the daily life of the Iranian people. And near-zero economic growth has only intensified this situation. After housing, the second biggest household expense is the cost of food. According to a report from the Iranian regime’s statistics centre, the price of food and beverages in December 2022 increased by 63.6 percent, compared to December 2021. In 2022, around 26.7 percent of the total expenses of urban households were related to food expenses. Around seven food products, that are very important in the household food basket (such as oil and rice), increased in price by more than 100 percent. A further 19 other food products, which mainly included dairy and meat products, faced a 50 to 100 percent price increase last year. Recently, the World Bank published a list of the top 10 countries that currently have a food security crisis caused by inflation, with Iran placing seventh place on the list. The population living below the poverty line is a topic that is being discussed among the regime’s experts. They are warning regime officials that the continuation of this situation will only stoke the ongoing protests because of the expansion of a starving nation. According to published official statistics, back in 1979, when the Iranian regime first came to power, about 20 percent of Iran’s population was below the poverty line, but this statistic began to rise in the following years. According to the latest report of the regime’s Statistics Center in 2021, the population of the poor reached about 52 percent, and in 2022 this has risen to 60 percent. In the recent report from the regime’s Ministry of Labor, the poverty line for Tehran and similar large cities was set at about 145 million rials ($370) per household. For cities and villages, this figure was half of this amount, averaging 77 million rials ($185). Many of the regime’s experts are criticizing the government’s calculations, stating that the real poverty line is much higher at around 180 million rials or even more. The whopping gap between the minimum income of people above the poverty line in Tehran and other cities and marginal places, of course, considering the fixed prices of food, clothing, transportation, and health, is strange to a great extent. The discrimination in determining the minimum wage in the coming year (Persian Calendar) will intensify labour migration and the evacuation of small cities and villages. The current crisis of marginalization and people living in the slums of big cities will only lead to a super crisis, increasing economic and social damages. All the while, many workers are now receiving even lower wages, an issue that itself has affected the general poverty line. The absolute poverty line is for those who are forced to work more than the allowed limit to escape poverty but are still in the poverty trap. Some work 16 hours a day in two or three shifts, but they still cannot free themselves from the savage poverty. The absolute poverty line is also causing other great issues among Iran’s population, such as malnutrition and other acute economic problems and anomalies. Employees and workers who have a relatively fixed income constitute the largest population of people below the poverty line in the country. 57 percent of the country’s wage earners are minimum wage earners, who currently receive between 50 to 70 million rials. Out of two hundred countries in the world, Iran ranks 183 in terms of the ratio of wages and expenses.

The implications of EU’s terrorist designation of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC)

The European Parliament called on January 18 for the European Union to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization for the repression of protesters. The Iranian regime continues the violent crackdown on protests, including the execution of detained protesters. The resolution calls for the listing of IRGC, Basij, and Quds Force, in addition to sanctioning supreme leader Ali Khamenei, regime president Ebrahim Raisi, attorney general Montazeri, and IRGC-affiliated foundations. This resolution also condemned executions in Iran and asked the European Union to ban all political and economic relations with the IRGC.

The impact of IRGC’s terrorist designation

If realized, this designation will have profound political, legal, and economic implications for the main force that maintains the mullahs in power. In addition to the main political and economic bodies, the IRGC controls all the natural capital and mineral resources of the country. If the European Union adopts the appropriate measure, one of the main pillars of the regime will be sanctioned. Designating IRGC as a terrorist organization means that most of the nuclear, regional, economic, and political activities inside and outside Iran, trade, and commerce, export, and import, etc. will be subject to sanctions. In other words, the west holds the mullahs’ regime accountable and isolates it. The next prospect of designating the IRGC is to make harder sanctions and possibly referral of the Iranian regime’s nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council. Undoubtedly, the recent nationwide uprising has made it clear to the whole world that the people want to overthrow this regime. The implementation of the resolution by the EU will have important and comprehensive effects on the uprising.

How the regime has reacted

The Iranian regime officials had a panic reaction to the consequences of proscribing IRGC and showed how this listing would effectively downgrade the regime’s power in its totality: In a call with Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, “The European Union will shoot itself in the foot by putting the IRGC on the terrorist list.” Amir-Abdollahian called the recent resolution of the European Parliament “emotional,” “sharp”, “unprofessional” and “in conflict with political rationality and civility.” “The listing of IRGC is against international laws and shows the intellectual, moral, and political weakness of the West,” said Interior Minister Ahmadi Vahidi, a former senior IRGC commander. The members of Majlis (parliament), many of whom are IRGC members, warned that listing the IRGC by the European Union could cost a lot for this union. “Europeans should know that sanctioning IRGC costs a lot for them, and they will suffer a lot of losses in this regard,” said MP Esmaeil Kowsari, a former commander of the IRGC Mohammad Rasulullah Corps. “We will respond to their actions; First through our embassies and then we will take actions against their interests.” Ahmad Amir Farahani, a member of the Majlis Presidium, announced, “Certainly, the calamity that has befallen CENTCOM forces in the region and they move around in fear in the region will definitely involve the Europeans as well… In any case, if they do something, we will take countermeasures.” Mahmoud Nabavian, another member of the Majlis, said, “If they sanction the IRGC, we will put Germany, England, France, and the European Union on the terror list, and the defenders of the resistance in the region will know how to face the terrorists. Take this threat seriously.” Rasul Sanayee Rad, the political deputy of Khamenei’s ideological office, also said, “Placing the IRGC in the list of terrorist groups has consequences such as the inclusion of the British Navy in the list of terrorist groups and the opening of the armed forces’ hands, especially the IRGC, to deal with them as terrorists like ISIS.”

Iran’s Regime Is Hiding Human Rights Violations In Its Prisons

With more than four months into Iran’s latest round of nationwide uprisings, the brutality of the Iranian regime’s security and judiciary apparatus has caused outrage and condemnation around the world. Politicians, lawmakers, and human rights activists and organizations are calling on Tehran to respect the human rights of civilians and to stop the torture and execution of detained protesters. However, the regime is refraining from coming clean on what is happening inside its prisons and is instead giving falsified reports to conceal the reality of the human catastrophe happening in Iran’s prisons. The Iranian regime’s judiciary spokesperson claimed to have released a total of 5,200 people arrested during nationwide protests and about 98 percent of those arrested in Tehran province. But he once again refused to provide the total number of arrests in the last four months. In a press conference on Wednesday, January 18, Massoud Setayeshi, who previously announced the release of 1,200 arrested protesters across the country, said, “Recently, about 4,000 people were granted legal concessions and were released from prisons throughout the country.” Setayeshi did not give any explanation about the status of the cases of more than 5,000 “released” detainees and did not announce how many were released on bail and are awaiting trial and verdict. The spokesperson of the regime’s judiciary also said that the number of detainees released in Tehran province is “98.5 percent and it seems to be the same across the country”.

Suspicious deaths and suicide

If this percentage is true, the total number of detainees would be around 6,000 people, which is very different from the statistics announced by human rights organizations. Some human rights sources have reported between 19,000 and 20,000 people arrested during the suppression of nationwide protests in the last four months. Moreover, all those who have announced their freedom have emphasized that they have been released temporarily on bail, and are waiting for a trial or a judicial verdict. According to sources of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the regime has arrested more than 30,000 protesters since the uprising began in September. The Iranian opposition also reports that security forces have killed at least 750 protesters, including dozens of children. Even the regime’s internal reports contradict the public figures declared by judiciary officials. According to a leaked confidential bulletin issued by Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), 29,400 people had been arrested during the recent protests in Iran. In the past months, several detained protesters decided to end their lives shortly after their release or died under suspicious conditions. The increase in death and suicide among released prisoners has caused widespread reactions in Iran. Some reports indicate that to eliminate opponents, the regime uses chemical substances and psychoactive pills as medicine in prisons and detention centers, which increases the desire to commit suicide in detainees. Also, the regime uses rape as torture against opponents, which has a very destructive psychological effect on them. During these protests, the regime tried to avoid the responsibility of killing the protesters in different ways. In most of the certificates issued by the coroner’s office, the cause of death has been reduced to cases such as “falling from a height, accident, brain and heart strokes, chronic disease, intoxication, and even in one case, being bitten by a dog.”

Flawed judicial process

Several lawyers and law professors recently published an open letter to the head of Iran’s Judiciary, protesting the prohibition of selected lawyers from entering political and security cases. They considered this as a clear example of “extrajudicial and arbitrary behavior”. The letter, signed by 45 lawyers and university law professors, refers to the regime’s domestic laws, which emphasize the right to choose a lawyer freely. But an addendum that was added in the 2010s states that in cases related to “internal or external security”, this right is ignored in the preliminary investigation stage, and the defendants are forced to choose their legal defense from lawyers approved by the head of the judiciary. The letter describes this issue as a “legal problem and challenge” that “reduces the validity of verdicts”. The case of Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini, who were recently executed by the regime, are among the cases that provoked many protests. The two were denied the selection of a lawyer until their death sentence was issued. Both were also tortured to make incriminating confessions and were tried in a court where the judge, witnesses, and even their lawyers were chosen to fit the noose around their necks. “Unfortunately, we have seen that during recent arrests, which are mainly political, these arbitrary behaviors have occurred more than in the past,” the letter reads in part.

How Internet Censorship Is Damaging Iran’s Economy

While in the last four months, internet access in Iran has been cut off or severely limited, the regime’s Minister of Information and Communications says that this year the production factors of the communications and information technology sector have grown by 13.3 percent and the share of digital economy in the per capita income of the country has also reached 7.2 percent. Issa Zarepour claims that production in the communication and information technology sector has doubled twice while at least in the last four months, due to the internet shutdown and the expansion of censorship, many online businesses have been eliminated from Iran’s economy. According to Zarepour, the share of the digital economy in the per capita income has increased from 6.4 percent to 7.2 percent. Zarepour said, “This amount should reach 10 percent by 2025, which I think can be increased to 30 percent in a 10-year horizon.” Last month, the results of a Jobvision survey from 8,000 people, which was published in Digiato, showed that the digital marketing and SEO job group suffered the most from the recent uptick in internet censorship and restrictions. Also, 23 percent of the participants in the survey reported having lost their jobs.

Internet censorship in Iran has caused a “flood of startup migration”

In an interview with the Entekhab website on January 7, Mohammadreza Ghalenoie, an IT expert, said, “Many have migrated to neighboring countries and stationed their teams there, and activities are being carried out outside the country’s borders.” Ghalenoie also emphasized the importance of public access to the Internet and the development of its related infrastructure. According to Ghalenoie, the advantage that neighboring countries have over Iran in online businesses is the “the level of Internet access” and “required tools” to carry out their daily work. Ghalenoie said that despite the higher costs of living in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, internet restrictions in Iran have made it more affordable for startup teams to migrate to these countries. Ghalenoie said that there is no exact figure on bankrupt startups that haven’t been able to migrate. But ” the number is certainly not small,” he said. On October 18, in its latest report on the state of internet freedom in the world, Freedom House declared Iran as one of the countries that imposes the most restrictions on internet access.

Internet restrictions have caused $773 million

In a recent study, Top10VPN reported that Iran’s regime has caused thousands of hours of internet blackouts and social media shutdown in 2022. “The deliberate internet outages were in response to anti-government protests over the economic crisis gripping the nation,” Top10VPN reported. Top10VPN reported that during the protests that erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police, Iranian authorities blocked Instagram and WhatsApp indefinitely. “Mobile internet access was also frequently cut in rolling curfew-style blackouts during unrest that, despite a lethal crackdown by the authorities, has spread across Iran and remains volatile,” the report adds. Demand for VPN services in Iran spiked by over 3,000% in September as Iranians sought to circumvent the restrictions. “Iranian authorities responded by cracking down even harder on VPN traffic and domains, as part of wider blocks on all international internet traffic, while maintaining a domestic internet,” Top10VPN reported. Top10VPN estimated the loss imposed by the Iranian regime on 72 million Iranian users in 2022 to be around $773 million.

Iran Regime’s Upcoming Budget Bill Will Lead To More Protests

On January 12, the Iranian regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi handed over the country’s budget bill to the parliament.  According to the constitution, he must first introduce the 7th development program for the coming year, and then based on this plan he should then introduce the upcoming budget bill. By being unable to determine the 7th development plan, it is evident that the regime is facing critical financial and economic problems. The decision to bypass this and go straight to introducing the budget bill has raised many objections among the regime’s officials. Parliament had previously announced that until the 7th Development Plan is presented, reviewed, and approved, it will not take over the budget bill for 2023. Alireza Salimi, a member of the parliament’s presiding committee, has announced that Raisi has only submitted a part of the budget bill to the parliament and that the budget tables and statistics are not included. According to Article 184 of the Law of the Internal Regulations of the Parliament, the government is obligated to present at least one-twelfth or two-twelfths of the budget to the parliament, but Raisi’s government has refused to comply. Despite such problems in presenting the budget bill to the parliament, Raisi has requested them to approve this same budget, which according to him is ‘the best budget presented’.

The problems with the budget

The government has decided that the salaries of retired employees will only increase by a mere 10% and the salaries of working employees by 20% during the next financial year. Meanwhile, the inflation rate in Iran is more than 50%, according to official statistical sources of the regime. Of course, these statistics are only reliable it we trust the information and the data of the statistical sources of the regime, such as the Central Bank or the Statistical Center of Iran, when usually they are heavily manipulated. This decision will only add to the livelihood problems of salary earners and pensioners. According to the official inflation rate and the proposed increase in salaries, the purchasing power of working employees will decrease by 24%, while the purchasing power of retirees and pensioners will decrease by 34%. In a ridiculous statement, Raisi claimed that the coming budget bill is ‘justice-based’. Among other examples of Raisi’s justice, we can point out the fact that the minimum salary of employees for the next financial year is 70 million rials, while the regime’s Ministry of Labor has officially set the country’s current poverty line at 147,000 million rials. Hundreds of thousands of Iranian workers have been effectively condemned into poverty by the latest bill proposal. Based on annual inflation of about 45% in 2022, Vahid Mahmoudi, one of the regime’s economists, has estimated the absolute poverty line for a family of 2 living in Tehran to currently be much higher than the regime’s statistics, at around 182,900 million rials. Hamid Esmaili, another economic expert, believes that retirees with a salary lower than 90 million rials will not just be below the poverty line, but in the circle of absolute poverty. In another surprise, the regime has announced in the budget bill that those who receive a salary of fewer than 70 million rials will be exempted from paying taxes, at a time when the regime has also announced that it will increase the taxes by 66%. Raisi has claimed that the budget deficit in the proposed bill will be zero and he will try not to borrow from the central bank. This is despite official sources, including Mohammad Reza Pour Ebrahimi, the head of the economic commission of the parliament, claiming a deficit of 400 thousand billion rials. On January 1, the Bahar News website reported an even higher budget deficit of up to 600 thousand billion rials. Raisi’s other surprise in the bill presented to parliament is his claim that the inflation rate will decrease by 19%. While the claim is hopeful, the obvious and bitter reality in the daily life of people is that they are witnessing between a 200 and 300% increase in the prices of basic goods. A meager decrease in the inflation rate isn’t going to solve their issues fast. It seems that the regime has only regulated the next budget bill for more social turbulence and protests.

Iran Is Facing a Severe Shortage of Natural Gas

With the start of winter and cold season, the National Iranian Gas Company declared, “we have entered a gas crisis” and asked the people to turn off the heaters for six hours a day. On January 13, the state-run ILNA news agency quoted Mohammad Reza Jolayee, Dispatching Manager of National Iranian Gas Company, as saying, “The situation of gas shortage in the country has now become critical… Currently, 850 million cubic meters of gas per day are produced in the country, and in the last 24 hours, the consumption of domestic and commercial sectors has reached 700 million cubic meters per day.” Several factors are involved in the current situation, Jolayee added. “One is the continuation of the same situation, that is, if one day the consumption figure is 700 million cubic meters, we do not have any problem. But if the next day, consumption is in the same range, we will face difficulties. Continuity and point pressure are also important. In general, if the consumption exceeds 650 million cubic meters, we have entered a gas crisis.” Jolayee emphasized that to get out of this situation, the figure of gas consumption must be reduced to below 570 million cubic meters per day, 100 million cubic meters less than the current consumption. In this regard, Ham-Mihan daily reported that the gas deficit has reached more than 200 million cubic meters per day.

Blaming the people for gas shortages

The country with the second-largest gas reserves in the world does not have the capacity to produce its domestic needs, and to cover residential consumption. It first cut off gas to large industries, including cement, steel, petrochemical, and power plants. Now the government is planning to close offices in northern provinces. Reports also pertain to the closure of industrial districts and power outages in some areas due to gas shortage. On Saturday, the governorates of Tehran and East Azerbaijan provinces announced the closure of offices, banks, universities, and schools to manage gas consumption. During the past days, the situation was similar in other provinces, including Gilan, Kurdistan, Semnan, Alborz, West Azarbaijan, Ardabil, and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad. The Iranian regime is laying the blame for the energy crisis on the people. In this regard, regime officials are advising people to wear warm clothes, switch off heaters for six hours a day, and only heat one of the rooms in their homes. On January 15, interior minister Ahmad Vahidi said, “People should cooperate in gas consumption. The main solution out of this energy crisis is to save and change consumption habits.”

Winter is coming

Earlier this year, Iranian officials promised an energy crisis in Europe and the beginning of a “harsh winter” in this continent after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, Iran is now facing one of the worst energy crises in recent years. Keyhan daily, close to the regime’s supreme leader, wrote in October this year: “Europeans eat less so that they can pay electricity and gas bills.” Despite this, to cover up the depth of gas crisis in Iran, government newspapers and news agencies continuously publish statistics about the energy crisis in Europe. Keyhan daily claimed on January 14 that the citizens of Western countries have turned to burning cat waste to generate heat due to the lack of gas.

Corrupt management of natural resources

The regime compensated for gas shortage with mazut in power plants, which is causing severe air pollution. “People’s suffocation” is the description of the Majlis (parliament) member about this situation. Ahmad Zeraatkar, the head of the Energy Bureau of the Organization of Planning and Budget of Iran, said that the country will face a gas shortage crisis for at least another 20 years. The corrupt management and structure of the government prevented necessary investment in the oil and gas sector. Although Iran has not been successful in exploiting its energy fields and its current output does not fully meet domestic needs. One of the reasons the regime stubbornly insisted on its demands during nuclear talks with world powers was illusions and misconceptions about the “harsh winter” in Europe. The reduction of Europe’s gas imports from Russia reinforced the idea that Europe is going to appease mullahs and look for new sources to fill its energy deficit. But now more than 20 provinces are engulfed in bone-chilling cold and Iran has to beg for energy resources from its neighbors.

Resignations and Removals Signal Tehran’s Desperation of Street Protests

On Wednesday, December 22, the Iranian regime’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi reported that Mohammad-Tayyeb Sahraei had been appointed as the provincial governor of Kermanshah, western Iran. Since 2007, Sahraei has served the regime as the State Security Forces chief in the provinces of Gilan and Razavi Khorasan and the SSF deputy operation chief, identifying him as a top security agent. Sahraei was later replaced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brig. Gen. Bahman Amiri-Moghaddam, whose deputies had already been removed. Notably, Vahidi himself was previously the first commander of the IRGC Quds Force, responsible for the AMIA bomb attack in Buenos Aires in 1994. The bomb plot resulted in 85 people losing their lives and more than 300 civilians being injured. Vahidi told reporters, “A new governor was appointed for Kermanshah province. One of two other provincial governors may be changed.” State media has speculated that the mentioned governors are from Sistan & Baluchestan and Khuzestan provinces. On November 17, the regime president Ebrahim Raisi’s administration appointed a new governor for Kurdistan province, in the west of the country. The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported, “During Wednesday morning’s cabinet session headed by the president, the provincial governor of Kurdistan received a vote of confidence.” On November 14, the UK government sanctioned the regime’s new governor Zarei Kousha, among several security and intelligence officials like the ministers of interior affairs and ICT, for their involvement in the violent crackdown on the demonstrations that were ignited by the heinous murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, while she was in police custody.

‘Provincial Governors’ Position in Iran

In its 80th session on October 20, 1998, the Supreme Administrative Council issued a directive about provincial governors’ tasks, the procedures of their appointment and removal from office, and their relations with executive apparatuses. Directive article 1 declares that provincial governors are the government’s high representatives in their areas, responsible for fulfilling the country’s public policies in various fields via the public budget. They control the Islamic Revolutionary Institutions, Security Forces, Islamic City Councils, Municipalities, and other public organizations. In that respect, all military forces are under the provincial governors’ command, and they are responsible to the president and cabinet, mainly the interior minister. Article 2 also mentions that provincial governors are responsible for preserving “order and security.” All security apparatuses are tasked to implement the provincial governors’ security orders and report security-political events to them. In a nutshell, the provincial governor is the top military-security commander in their province, commanding all governmental apparatuses to preserve “order and security.” These people are almost all IRGC commanders or security officials, whose résumés are inked with atrocities against citizens.

Changes Sign Routine or Turmoil

Iran has been sinking into a sociopolitical turmoil since mid-September. This is the longest uprising that Iran has witnessed in the past four decades, with many people describing the current protests as a revolution. On the streets of Iran, demonstrators can be heard chanting, “No longer call it protests; it has become a revolution.” Healthy wisdom says that no ruling power welcomes more challenges when it is faced with the “to be or not to be” question. Under the rule of the mullahs, provincial governors—particularly IRGC Brig. Generals—are the absolute regional power and implement the central government’s authority in various fields. Aside from being removed or resigning, such changes in the government’s regional hierarchy are signs that the street protests have rendered chaos among the authorities. Observers, of course, believe these changes are signaling an unprecedented defection among the loyalists to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Showing a direct link between their involvement in the oppressive operation and preserving their positions, Mazandaran’s provincial governor Mahmoud Hosseinipour stated, in a private meeting two months ago, “Some of the state directors speculated that the regime is a ‘goner’, and they’ve packed their stuff.” In a speech in mid-November, Raisi said, “Some employees or directors say, ‘we cannot; it is impossible.’ We say, ‘put these guys aside!’ One director doesn’t want… under any excuse, we say, ‘put him in a marginal position’.” The Iranian government is witnessing a growing wave of objections on behalf of former officials, fueling political rivalries. On December 17, former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri said, “This horrible status quo and extremely violent behavior and unprecedented insults against demonstrators” stunned “many people who played crucial roles” in the 1979 revolution, Iran-Iraq war, and other developments, “leading them to regret.” The former State TV & Radio chief Mohammad Sarafraz spoke out on November 1, stating, “In this status, high-ranking officials should choose; they either should continue this oppression and injustice and become [the regime’s] accomplices in such conditions or resign and step back; this is the least act they can do.” He added, “I did [resign] from Supreme Council for Cyberspace following the cut-off of WhatsApp and Instagram. I concluded that the cons of my membership in such a council are more than its pros.” Activists have said this is only the tip of the iceberg, and they are predicting more defection among Iranian officials and high-ranking IRGC commanders in the upcoming weeks as the anti-regime activities escalate and become radicalized.

Enforced Disappearance, Iran Regime’s Tool To Spread Terror

Iran is a country ruled by the authoritarian mullahs’ regime. It is suffering from decades of enforced war, human rights violations, poor governance, widespread poverty, and a theocracy that intervenes in the lives of the Iranian people. On September 16, civil unrest and a nationwide protest erupted across the country after a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini was killed by the Iranian regime’s forces in police custody. She had been arrested by the so-called ‘morality police’ for allegedly violating the regime’s fabricated mandatory hijab law. Reports of the initial protests were shared on social media, but with the protests spreading to other cities and the regime fearing a revolution, everything went dark. The regime decided to cut off access to the internet and phone services to prevent the further spread of information. This was only a taste of what was to come and what the people would later face from a brutal and inhuman crime. The escalation of the widespread protests led the regime to order a crackdown on the demonstrations with excessive violence and lethal forces, including live ammunition, which led to the arrests of over 30,000 people and the deaths of over 750. The regime also responded with unthinkable abuse against the people, including torture and sexual abuse, especially against women. Under various excuses, the regime has been arresting people across the country at every opportunity in the ongoing protests. Most notably, the crime of enforced disappearance has become commonplace, among the regime’s security forces, to deal with the number of detainees. There is no precise estimation of the people who have forcibly disappeared. Enforced disappearances are not a new phenomenon in Iran’s troubled history since the mullahs seized the country. Every day, thousands of people are looking for their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends, and loved ones, searching for where they have been detained, whether they are still detained or, even worse, if they are not alive. Families are currently going through psychological stress and sorrow, left to deal with the unstoppable concern about the fate of their relatives, even though many of them are aware that they will never see their beloved ones again. This crime often leaves no trace. In Iran, the perpetrators are going unpunished and enjoy complete impunity. The regime has no qualms about disappearing people against their will, often very suddenly. Information on the victims is never released, and their fate is often never known. Those arrested know that their families do not know and will not know their whereabouts and are left to deal with the fact that someone is unlikely to come to their aid. According to the United Nations, an act of enforced disappearance is the arrest, detention, kidnapping, or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents or by persons acting with the authorization or support of the state. It is a crime under international law. This crime violates the right to liberty and security, the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the right to be recognized as a person before the law, the right to the truth, and the right to privacy and family life. By searching on social media, especially Twitter, using the expression “ربوده شد” (abducted) we see a long list of people, many of whom are women, who were arrested by the regime and have been enforced to disappear. Names such as:
  • Ramin Pouramin,
  • Tahereh Bajravani,
  • Amin Bighal,
  • Hadiseh Najand,
  • Zana Karami,
  • Mehdi Moradi,
  • Atefeh Shamasi,
  • Arin Farzamnia,
  • Kian Zainali,
  • Ayda Rasti Ghalati,
  • Pourya Hamid Khani,
  • Hasti Ofogh,
  • Parsallah Verdtaemeh,
  • Vourya Ghaderian,
  • Iman Navabi,
  • Kamran Salehi,
  • Sina Berkpour,
  • Raha Ajudani,
  • Farnoush Farzan,
  • Pourya Mousavi,
  • Sogol Borji,
  • Mina Afshari,
  • Sanaz Shah Hosseini,
  • Nilufar Shakeri,
  • Parsa Shahmari,
  • Morteza Ghaderi,
  • Behnam Shahabi,
  • Mahkameh Dashtestani,
  • Elaheh Mirmehdi,
  • Arash Sayad Mansour,
  • Mahsa Ghorbani,
  • Yousef Moradi,
  • Houman Seydali,
  • Abbas Kurkuri,
  • Amin Jangjou,
  • Amir Hushmand,
  • Ruzbeh Bakhtiari,
  • Vahid Mousavi,
  • Mohammad Moin Nemati,
  • Danial Ghazaljai,
  • Mohammad Soltani,
  • Barbod Dadashzadeh,
  • Marzieh Ziari,
  • Masumeh Hosseinzadeh,
  • Hossein Firouzi,
  • Mina Afshari,
  • Kimya Vahabifar,
  • Zahra Ahmadirad,
  • Sahar Fathi,
  • Mohammad Hossein Dehgani,
  • Shahin Rezaee,
  • Saedeh Mohammadi,
  • Raha Lonj,
  • Suroush Purahmadi,
  • Parisa Nikkhou,
  • Hamed Zohrabi,
  • Hamid Sharifi,
  • Behnam Fayaz,
  • Najib Mohammadi,
  • Zahra Banizadeh,
  • Adel Gorgij,
  • Mahkameh Dashtestani,
  • Parvaneh Kadkhoda Ghamsari,
  • Atefeh Shamasi,
  • Behnam Khanbabai,
  • Yasser Rahmanirad, etc.
According to the statistics published by Kurdish websites, during the 100 days of protests in Iran, more than 500 Kurdish women in the provinces of Ilam, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, West Azarbaijan, and other cities were kidnapped or detained by the regime’s forces. The identities of 201 people were confirmed, including 27 students, 6 teachers, a lawyer, and 30 minors under 18 years old. For the first time, in an article published on December 18, horrible news has been circulating on social media that regime authorities had witnessed throwing about 15 people from a chopper into the waters of the Persian Gulf. Fishermen from Shif Island were the witnesses of this crime. In reports, they stated, “a few nights ago, we went to the sea with a barge to catch fish. Somewhere between Bushehr and Khark, we noticed a helicopter dropping big sacks in the middle of the night into the sea.” They explained, “The lights of the barge were off, and the helicopter passengers did not notice us. Out of curiosity, we tried to take the sacks out of the water. We only got hold of two of them. When we opened the sack, there was a living person in it; Naked and beaten. along with large amounts of stone to take him to the bottom of the sea.” The fishermen added, “Fifteen sacks were thrown; this could be recognized from the sound of the sacks hitting the water’s surface. We only caught two people alive and didn’t get the rest of the sacks. The two spoke in Kurdish and were arrested in recent events. We gave them clothes, food, and some money and sent them secretly.” This crime is just a glimpse of what the Iranian regime is doing to the people who have been arrested in the recent protests, in their bid to quell the unrest and fight for their survival.