London, 15 Jan – There can be no doubt that the current protests across Iran are far different from those that took place previously. For most people, the closest comparison they have is the 2009 Green Protests but those were confined to the capital and about just one issue: election fraud.
The current demonstrations began over the cost of food in Mashhad but quickly grew into a protest about everything that’s wrong with the Regime (and there’s a lot) and has now spread to 141 cities across all 31 provinces.
The only thing that every protester can agree on is an end to the Regime, calling for Death to Hassan Rouhani and Ali Khamenei. These people aren’t swallowing the notion that there are reformers or moderates in Iran; they know that the only chance they have for change is to get rid of the Regime entirely.
Another reason why these protests are different to the ones in 2009, is that this time the Iranian people are actually receiving international support.
The United States’ Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, pushed for an emergency UN Security Council meeting relating to the protests, while many other US politicians have voiced their support for the protesters and warned the Regime against unfair treatment of its people.
Not that these warnings have sufficiently deterred the Regime, of course. The People Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) obtained a classified report which stated that 35% of those arrested were students, while Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadier and security deputy Minister of Interior, Hossein Zolfaghari, confirmed that 90% of detainees are under 25.
Reza Shafiee, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), warned on Al Arabiya: “The IRGC has always followed a method in dealing with demonstrations in Iran. Its so-called plainclothes agents usually take photos and videos of dissidents during the protests and after the demonstrations reach their homes to harass them. These tactics have a dual propose of crushing the morale of the demonstrators, especially students, as well as arresting those people they consider to be the “leaders” of the protests.”
The overall arrest figure is over 8,000, which is more than double what the Regime admits to, and many of those are being imprisoned without even being allowed to tell their loved ones where they are.
The Regime has also been arresting people who are not even involved in the protests as a ‘preventative measure’ (read: scare tactic) and have been abusing prisoners to the point where there has already been five suspicious death in custody, according to Amnesty International.
In a statement, Amnesty said: “The Iranian authorities must immediately investigate reports that at least five people have died in custody following a crackdown on anti-establishment protests, and take all necessary steps to protect detainees from torture and prevent any further deaths.”
Of course, the Regime cannot be trusted to investigate themselves any more than you would let a murderer collect the evidence against them.
There are many cases of severe human rights abuses by the Regime from 1979 to today, including the 1988 massacre in which 30,000 prisoners were murdered. The international community should not wait for another one to happen; they need to act now.
Shafiee wrote: “The theocratic regime in power in Iran has proven time and again that it will not change its behaviour on its own. They have never cared about international condemnation of their actions… This time the world cannot afford to let the Iranian regime get away. The stakes are too high since the regime does not just crack down heavily on its own citizenry but is the source of trouble in the region.”
Some steps that the international community can and should make include targeted sanctions against the leading regime members and their security forces, blacklisting the IRGC, conditioning relations with Iran on transparent and visible improvements to human rights, and pressing for independent human rights inspectors, like the UN’s Asma Jahangir, to meet with political prisoners.