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.

Rial Freefalls, Iran’s Revolution Continues

While authorities in Iran claim that they have quashed the uprising, they privately admit the revolutionary movement is continuing. From the severe security sphere across the country to the unstable economy and freefall of national currency rial value against foreign exchanges, there are no signs of the revolution stopping any time soon. Contrary to the claims made by the Iranian regime’s officials, they have yet to overcome the people’s desire for fundamental changes. Indeed, the government has been stuck in an awkward position, which is making changes from inside the current ruling system impossible In February 2018, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rejected that systematic corruption was taking place in Iran. At the same time, he described corruption as a ‘seven-head dragon’ that crawls and remains alive ‘every time you cut one of its heads’. Observers, of course, believe that Khamenei himself, with his more than $200-billion empire, is the heart of the dragon.

Why Does Iran’s, Economy Crumble?

The rial depreciation is due to several parameters including the government’s mismanagement and failures. These failures include the officials’ inability to handle rampant inflation, skyrocketing liquidity and ceaseless printing of banknotes, capital flight, and destruction of production, etc. The regime’s current president Ebrahim Raisi, notorious for his role in the mass killing of political prisoners in 1988, along with his cabinet, are laying all blame on others. He has often bragged about a decline in the inflation rate, an economic boom, the relaunch of factories and other projects, the removal of recession, and the afford of people’s necessities. At a speech in Birjand, South Khorasan province, on December 15, 2022, Raisi stated, “The enemy is angry over this progression; the enemies do not want our country to progress in production, industry, agriculture, and all scientific-technological fields. The train of progression is moving, but the enemy wants to stop it.” On October 25, the Kayhan daily, Khamenei’s mouthpiece, claimed that “the enemy sees the strong and pioneer Iran in science and technology, resorting to riots!” Despite what the regime’s officials are saying, no one can deny the daily, or even hourly changes, in foreign exchange and gold prices, the freefall of the national currency’s value, and the consistent shrinking of people’s food baskets. Raisi made odd promises when he took office in August 2021, including the hope of achieving 8 percent economic growth, constructing four million homes in four years, and even eradicating poverty within a week. In the year and a half that he has been in a presidential role, the rial has lost 60 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar.

Could Raisi Fix the Economy?

In the eighteen months of Raisi’s tenure, he has proven repeatedly that he has failed to keep his promises. Indeed, Khamenei appointed Raisi as the president in a sham election, responding to people’s grievances with violence rather than financial solutions. Aside from his ironic promises, Raisi tried to strike fear in society to quash public protests over economic dilemmas. Instead, Raisi’s mismanagement and oppressive policies have fueled citizens’ ire, prompting them to vent their anger over the entire theocracy publicly. In other words, Khamenei has sown wind but now reaps the whirlwind. Today, not only do people reject the entire ‘Islamic Republic’ and struggle to overthrow it on the streets of Iran, but current and former officials are also warning about the state’s fate. During the Majlis’s December 25th session, Khamenei-affiliated MPs indicated their concerns over the growing rate of the U.S. dollar value against the rial. Many MPs rebuffed the claims of Raisi’s minister of commerce and the Central Bank governor about the country’s emergency due to the ongoing protests. Ruhollah Izadkhah, an MP from Tehran, said, “Do not attribute the U.S. dollar exchange rate to the riots and the last month. At the beginning of the [Raisi] cabinet, the dollar was traded for 260,000 rials, but it is 390,000 today, meaning a 50-percent increase… The value of war-torn Syria’s currency is eight times stronger than our rial.” Majlis Economic Commission member Ghani Nazari stated, “The U.S. dollar is traded for 400,000 rials, and people’s money is smoking and vanishing daily. The cabinet’s economic team, which is incorporated and lacks command, should be responsible before the Majlis.” Sara Kazem Delkhosh-Abatari, an MP from Someh, underscored the Raisi government’s incompetence, explaining, “Ninety percent of the country’s foreign exchanges are from petrochemical products exports, oil sale, and other resources belonging to the government. Today’s dilemma is the result of officials’ mismanagement. Has the government ever been able to make policies that do not make people concerned over the future?” Finally, Majlis executive committee member Ali-Reza Salimi slammed Raisi for his non-transparent decisions and chaos in the foreign exchange market. Mentioning a report about distributing $100,000 between people per day, Salimi said, “Today, there are seven different prices for foreign exchanges; where have these come from? Where have we seen such variety in the U.S. dollar exchange? According to the report, $3 billion have been offered to ‘others;’ Why do you refuse to say, ‘who are these others transparently?’”

Iran: A Collapsed Regime and Its Scramble To Motivate Its Demoralized Forces

There is no doubt that the Iranian regime is in a state of collapse, the result of forty years of a degenerative process. This regime is no longer able to satisfy the demands of the social groups in Iran. The people have spoken and are eager to bid farewell to the unfit theocracy. The regime took power in Iran in 1979, promising to support the oppressed and poor population. Four decades later, the regime has transformed into an oligarchy, becoming the first enemy of the poorer members of society. Under the control of the mullahs, the few outweigh the many, with officials having the power, wealth, and privilege above the average citizen. This has created a tyrant regime ruled by someone called the ‘supreme leader’, who has control over the country, and those who are obeying him and his policies in the form of a paramilitary group called the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). This system is now witnessing its degeneration which started from the first years of its grabbing power following the 1980 protests. In 2009 where the regime faced a major challenge from the people. In 2019, the regime was faced with protests directly targeted at its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. In the latest protests, the people are targeting the entire regime. Fear of the regime is slowly fading away among Iranian citizens, and the regime is no longer able to recreate its past stability. Many of the regime’s elites and supporters are also turning their backs as they realize there is no feature for the regime. The regime is completely inept at resolving issues, so much so that they were unable to manage the public transportation of the country. On October 3, 2020, Mohsen Hashemi even warned, “The fact is that Tehran’s public transportation system is on the verge of collapse.” While this is just a straightforward example to represent the regime’s collapse, there are more serious facts that are reflecting this situation. University professor Farshad Momeni explained the fall of social trust, stating, “In the three years leading to 2020, for the first time, the low-income population in Iran doubled, and more than 75 percent of the Iranian population cannot survive without subsidies.” All the while, the regime’s officials and media have been trying to hide and deny this collapse. On December 26, 2022, the state-run daily Shargh wrote, “While Iran’s share in the world economy has fallen from 1.1% during the war to 0.25%, a military commander has seen Iran’s economy in the 18th place in the world.” They added, “The minister of oil repeats every day that ‘we will sell twice as much oil as Rouhani and return all its dollars’, but the dollar is still rising daily, and the government budget deficit has reached 25% (at least 400 thousand billion rials).” The same day, the state-run daily Etemad warned about the total disaster in the future, writing, “Investment in the country is even less than the amount needed to compensate for depreciation. This means that a full-scale disaster is coming for Iran’s economy and people.” After the free fall of the rial, and after numerous denials by the regime’s central bank spokesman and other relevant officials, Mostafa Qamari Wafa, the bank’s spokesman, announced on December 29, 2022, that the government delegation of President Ebrahim Raisi had agreed to the resignation of Ali Salehabadi, the head of the National Banks. Even many of the regime’s IRGC officers are falling short and backing down. Recently in a meeting, IRGC commander Hamid Abazari admit to the growing defection and disloyalty within the IRGC and questioned, “Today we are witnessing that some elites and personalities are stepping back. Do you not see what they are doing to this system? How are they insulting (the supreme leader)? Stand up and take a stance. Why are you keeping silent? Why are not speaking? Do you see those who are retreating and giving up?” He added, “I’m a brigadier of the IRGC. I cannot imagine what will happen tomorrow. Because I have seen many elites who have stepped back. My own commanders, who were in the war moment by moment, took wounds, caved in, and stood up to the values. Stood up against the supreme leader and against the system.” This is a clear sign of his fear of the growing disloyalty within the regime. As expected, the regime touted the slain commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani on the third anniversary of his death, in a bid to motivate its demoralized forces. This is the reality of the regime after about three months of nationwide protests. No real plan to save itself from destruction, just blindly clinging onto past and former reputations.

Iran’s Prisoners, an Epic of Resistance

Antonio Gramsci, a famous Italian philosopher, journalist, and linguist, once said that if you want to know a regime you should examine the condition of its prisons. Indicated by the state of the Iranian regime’s prisons, it is clear to say that this is one of the most brutal and inhuman regimes in human history.  Abuse, rape, discrimination, mock executions, sleep deprivation, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement are the norm and the daily life of the prisoners in the regime’s dungeons. For the past four decades, no one has heard the cries of the prisoners. Iran’s prisons are synonymous with political repression and torture.  Until now, countless political prisoners have lost their lives behind these bars. Anyone who is considered a threat to the regime, including juveniles, is forced to face this nightmare. The worst pressure has been on the women detainees. Over the past decades, the horrors have not changed.  Since the start of the protests that began after the killing of Mahsa Amini by the regime’s morality police, thousands of young men and women, who took to the streets to pave the path for a free republic through a new revolution, have found themselves detained in the regime’s prisons.  However, contrary to the regime’s expectations, they have resisted the harsh and inhuman conditions of the prisons and continued their resistance and fight against the regime. On October 15, around 10 pm local time, some political prisoners in Evin prison started to protest the regime, harmonizing their voices with the people on the street. At that time, the regime killed dozens of protesters, and the fate of many of them is still unclear.  According to the witnesses of the Evin prison fire in October, there was evidence that it had been a planned attack on the prisoners. Taking out the fire extinguishers, blocking the corridors, continuously shooting at the prisoners, throwing tear gas into the wards, and attacks by the special guards, are all facts that the regime had planned an event to eliminate the political prisoners and those who had been arrested during the street protests.  The fire at Lakan prison in Rasht, where a group of protesters was kept captive leading to the injury and death of many of the prisoners, was also considered to be part of the regime’s plan to eliminate protesters.  Before these attacks took place, in fear of the people’s reaction regime’s prison officials, increased security measures and restrictions on the prisoners were put in place. Officials increased the number of guards on duty, kept the prison’s anti-riot forces on alert, cut off or reduced airing, cut off contact with families, relocated and hid prisoners in special detention centers, and incited and made excuses for repression, to name but some of the measures that the regime had in place to deal with the prison populations.  All that has been reported is just the condition of the prisoners that are behind bars in registered locations. Many prisoners are routinely detained in secret prisons of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), along with other unknown institutions.  The conditions in these prisons are so dire that non-political prisoners are also resisting the regime. On December 17, the prisoners of Karaj Central prison protested the regime. As prison officials took several death row prisoners out of their cells and led them to the gallows to carry out their sentences, the prisoners shouted, ‘Death to Khamenei’ and ‘Death to the dictator’, as they expressed their anger and hatred for the inhumane actions of the regime, despite knowing the consequences of their actions.  This was not the only example. During the uprising, there were at least five other protests by non-political prisoners, which were heavily repressed by the regime’s forces.  Rasht’s Lakan Prison, the 7th and 8th Wards of Evin Prison, along with Fashafouyeh Prison and Ghezel Hesar Prison, were just some of the institutions where prisoners confronted the regime.  Recently, the prisoners of Qaem Shahr protested the transfer of death row prisoners. They are fully aware that the regime’s decision to execute the prisoners is merely a ploy to intimidate the people and stop the protests, and unfortunately, during the demonstration, one of the prisoners lost their lives, while several others were injured.  The regime has only one goal, and that is to maintain its power at any cost. On the contrary, the Iranian people have only one goal, freedom at any cost. This notion has found its representatives in the regime’s prisons and the people are paying a heavy price to hold the bastion of freedom. 

Iranian Regime: “Even China Has Betrayed Us”

Due to its contracting nature, the Iranian regime has never had the opportunity for even the slightest economic development and growth in Iran. Since the start of its reign, besides its foreign policy of the “export of revolution” (warmongering and terrorism), the regime has auctioned the country’s wealth and national resources to survive the international isolation and economic competition. This was the only solution they had to create a political and power balance with the world powers. In the interim, the regime has been wholly set on eliminating and demonizing its main enemy and rival, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and the National Council Resistance of Iran (NRCI), which added to the reasons for the regime to auction the country’s wealth. It has not only been the West who have been benefiting from the regime’s destructive economic policies. The world of diplomacy was not restricted to them. To neutralize the sanctions and international isolation, which are a result of its behavior over the past four decades, and to gain votes in international meetings, the regime looked eastwards towards the powerful countries in Asia. From the second tenure of the regime’s previous president Hassan Rouhani and the withdrawal of former US President Donald Trump’s administration from the JCPOA, the regime’s despaired supreme leader Ali Khamenei chose to increase their economic and political relations with East under the name ‘Looking East’, turning to ‘traditional partners such as China, India, and Russia’. At least three major treaties, like the disastrous and infamous Turkmenchay, were implemented after Khamenei’s decision to start broader cooperation with the East. All of them were recorded by the state media. The first was the endowment of the Caspian Sea to Russia in the summer of 2018, when the regime’s media announced that Iran’s share of the Caspian Sea had fallen from 50% to 11%. At that time, regime MP Mahmoud Sadeghi called it ‘another Turkmenchay’. The second one was the transfer of Chabahar port to an Indian company in the winter of 2018. Some of the regime’s officials, such as MP Nader Ghazipur, considered it a shameful contract akin to the Golestan and Turkmanchay treaties. The third one was the 25-year contract with China in 2020 with the agreement to hand over Kish Island to this government, with some officials once again referencing the Turkmenchay treaty. These decisions were so disastrous that the regime was forced to find a religious excuse to justify its behavior. Lotfollah Dezhkam, the Friday prayer leader of Shiraz, spoke on July 17, 2020, saying, “The infidels are of two groups, some of them are at war with the Muslims and some of them did not fight the Muslims and did not kill the Muslims and did not drive them out of their homes. God has emphasized that you should not be friends with the infidels who have come to fight you Muslims, but you can have a just relationship with those who have not fought with you.” These days, the recent protests across Iran have changed the situation against the regime significantly. This has been realized because of the Iranian people’s bravery, sacrifice, and the blood they have shed for freedom. In addition to its internal effects, the protests have forced many countries to take a stance against the regime and reconsider their political and economic relations. Even China, which the regime considered one of its main international partners, has suddenly changed its path and has turned its back on the regime. On December 19, the state-run Mardom Salari daily discussed China’s decision, explaining that the country is, “pulling towards risk-free actors and avoiding tense actors,” by deciding to leave the regime behind and prioritize stable Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia. On the same day, the state-run Arman Meli daily claimed, “China has betrayed Iran.” On December 9, China and Saudi Arabia issued a joint statement, and China, by clearly distancing itself from the regime and other Arab countries, called for non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and respect for the principles of good neighborliness. Following this meeting, many economic agreements were also signed by the parties, which was a further heavy blow to the regime. The state-run Sharq daily expressed its fear and frustration on December 18, writing, “The agreement between China and the Arabs is a historical turning point that transforms the geopolitical situation of the region. In fact, a new coalition has been formed against Iran, which this time, of course, can be more violent and reckless.” The daily then warned regime officials to have caution in their relations with Russia, adding, “Where is the insurance that the scenario of China and the Arabs will be repeated by Russia?” The whole world has now come to understand that the regime has finally reached a dead end and now is the time to reconsider their relations with it. The Chinese authorities have realised that Iran is no longer a suitable place for investment under the rule of the mullahs and their regime. With every day that passes, the isolation of the regime increases, and going forward there will be fewer countries willing to cooperate and sign economic and investment contracts with it.