In response to the recent wave of protests in which #Iranians expressed their displeasure with the regime’s handling of the economy and other issues, the regime cracked down with thousands of arrests. These arrests have led to concerns by international organizations and the Iranian opposition that those arrested are facing intense interrogation and torture.
On January 8, a member of the #regime’s parliament, Mahmoud Sadeqi, made a reference to the possibility of another “Kahrizak”, the prison used in the 2009 uprising, where #Iranian authorities used medieval tortures, and where protestors were raped and executed.
When the Iranian regime wants to keep individuals from standing up to their tight control on all aspects of Iranian society. For many Iranians, however, the fear of prison sentences and arbitrary arrests are not enough to stop them from speaking out. For many of the working poor, there is a sense that they have nothing left to lose.
The economy seemed to be the match to the powder keg of discontent brewing among the #Iranian people. For many of them, the lifting of sanctions has just given more money to the elite members of the regime, but left the average Iranian struggling with #unemployment and continually higher prices.
For decades, the regime has used charges of spying and sedition, as well as arbitrary charges of blasphemy against God, to arrest and hold individuals for an indefinite period of time. The new wave of protest that started in 2017 and moved into 2018 received the same harsh response. It also needs to be noted that the response from the regime has been consistent across time. Suppression and placing the blame on powers outside of Iran have been the means used by the mullahs to retain their power.
Essentially, the regime uses the idea of attacks against it as the reason behind their human rights abuses, torture, and executions.
Anti-regime protests began at the end of December 2017, and spread to 130 cities and towns throughout the country. There are reliable reports that 3,000 were arrested, although that figure could be higher. The #Iranian state-run media have only reported around 1,800 have been arrested. The regime acknowledged that 21 people were killed during the protests so far, but there are other reports that put the number closer to 50 people.
What is most concerning is how the youth have been impacted by the regime’s tactics. Many of the protestors were under 25. These are the potential leaders of Iran moving forward, yet the regime’s mullahs are doing their best to keep these young Iranians under their thumb.
According to a report from students at Tehran University, obtained by the #National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), most of the students who were arrested at Tehran University had previously participated in the December 7 gatherings outside the Tehran judiciary to protest the arrest of Reza Shahabi. These students were arrested, primarily because the regime assumed that they were the source of the recent protests.
A number of those students are currently in hiding and the regime, along with its #Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), are seeking to arrest all students who participated in this latest round of mass protests. MOIS agents have even been phoning families of the students, threatening them with the knowledge that their children will eventually be arrested.
Some detainees have been taken to Evin prison, but there are others whose current location is unknown. The arbitrary nature of the arrests doesn’t take into account the fact that many of these students are not radicals or actively engaged in political activities.
The death in detention of Sina Ghanbari has added a new twist to this issue. “In a contact with an official in one of the intelligence agencies, unfortunately, the death in Evin Prison of one of the detainees of recent unrest was confirmed,” said Sadeghi. He also pointed out that it remains unclear which state institution took the students into detention.
As arrests continue, there are definite fears of torture being used to force confessions from those who have been arrested.
International leaders and organizations have stood up in support of those Iranians who participated in the protests, particularly as the chants went from economic concerns to chants for regime change. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, also sent several messages of support to the protestors, encouraging them to continue to speak out for change.
The reality is that the regime is not going to change without a concerted effort by the Iranian people to call them to account for their actions.