There appears to be a correlation between Iran’s increasing military adventurism in the region and the regime’s deployment of brute force inside the country that is aimed at suppressing its population and any political opposition.
The more the theocratic establishment becomes belligerent in the Middle East, the more it becomes oppressive domestically. According to a report published by Amnesty International last week, the Iranian regime’s human rights violations have drastically increased in recent months. Various state institutions, including the judiciary, law enforcement and the Ministry of Intelligence, are likely involved in such abuses and crimes. As the Amnesty report pointed out: “Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors, a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment against those detained.” The victims reportedly include children as young as 10.
Many of those detained are people who oppose the regime and who participated in the nationwide protests of November last year, which occurred following a spike in gas prices. These demonstrations gave rise to some slogans that advocated regime change.
The Iranian leaders have attempted to conceal the fact that the regime’s forces have resorted to violent methods of suppressing protests, but the regime continues to systematically target those who take part in demonstrations. For instance, only last week, the Supreme Court handed two death sentences to wrestling champion Navid Afkari, along with six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes, for participating in the protests, according to Persian-language news broadcaster Iran International. His two brothers were also arrested: Vahid Afkari was sentenced to 54 years in jail, while Habib Afkari received 27 years and 74 lashes.
The regime is attempting to impose fear in the society and send a message to the Iranian population that the consequences of any opposition to the government are extremely dire.
It is at the discretion of the judiciary or the Islamic Revolutionary Court that many people are arrested on ambiguous charges, such as “spreading moharebeh (corruption on Earth),” “waging war against God,” or endangering the country’s national security. Lack of due process, forced confessions and physical or psychological torture are prominent in the process through which the judiciary sentences defendants to death. Due to the increasing disaffectedness of the public with the regime, the Iranian government has also been resorting to other suppressive tactics, such as censorship of the media, restrictions on journalists, arbitrary arrests, inhumane punishments, the jamming of foreign satellite television channels, and the detention of human rights defenders and minority rights groups.
In addition, in order to impose fear, the regime uses egregious methods of torture as punishment. According to the new Amnesty International report, victims are frequently “hooded or blindfolded; punched, kicked and flogged; beaten with sticks, rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables; suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods; deprived of sufficient food and potable water; placed in prolonged solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months; and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture.”
Whenever the regime faces economic and geopolitical pressure regionally and globally, it tends to become more violent at home as a result. For instance, in 1988, after almost eight years of devastating war with Iraq, and as the regime was facing organized opposition, the hold on power of the ruling mullahs was in danger. That’s when — in what became known as the 1988 massacre — the Iranian regime began cleansing its prisons of thousands of dissidents and opposition activists. Ultimately, an estimated 30,000 people lost their lives in the brutal massacre. Many of the perpetrators continue to serve in senior positions, including former presidential candidate and current Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, who was the prosecutor general of Tehran in 1988.
But it is important to point out that brutal repression is something that Iranian human rights and political activists can be expected to push back against with extraordinary resilience. This became clear during previous nationwide demonstrations and uprisings, when many peaceful protesters were killed, either by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunfire or by torturous interrogations following their arrest. Opposition to the regime has not died down. It seems that unrest has effectively become the status quo in Iranian society, albeit to varying degrees. But the Iranian authorities are desperate to conceal this fact, so they silence anyone who dares to stand against the ruling clerics in order to project an image of strength .
Unfortunately, the Iranian leaders have never been held accountable for their crimes and human rights violations. It is incumbent on the UN to take this issue seriously and act accordingly.