For the Iranian people, expressing themselves and their #culture through the arts, including acting, painting, writing, song, and dance, has been severely limited by the regime. The mullahs have cracked down on anything that might be deemed immoral or going against their strict fundamentalist principles, which they believe is part of the Islamic religion.
Part of this repression includes canceling concerts and other events, denying Iranians the right to gather and celebrate the beautiful individual expressions of art. As a result, the artistic community has been forced underground, but the regime is active in tracking down these underground artistic events. One of the key ways they are doing so is through the constant monitoring of social media and cyberspace activities of the Iranian people.
On January 11, 21 underground singers, including nine women, were arrested in the town of Bandar Abbas. The police also closed six unauthorized studios.
“Agents monitored cyberspace and social networks and identified a number of people with pseudonyms who carried out underground singing activities,” said Ali Asghar Ebadi-Nik, head of the Hormozgan Public Security Police. “During two separate operations, 21 unauthorized underground singers, including nine women, were arrested.”
On January 7, modeling came under fire from the regime, with six people being arrested for their modeling activities, including posing for pictures and then posting them on the internet. The regime referred to these individuals as a gang. Agents of the Iranian government identified six of the main heads of the gang and arrested them in a surprise attack.
These are just a few of the attacks on freedom of expression being carried out by the regime. As the international community speaks out in support of the Iranian people’s rights, Iran reacts with even stricter rules and potential punishments for those who attempt to defy them in any way.
A recent UN General Assembly resolution expressed “serious concern at the alarmingly high frequency of the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty…including the imposition of the death penalty against minors and persons who at the time of their offense were under the age of 18, and executions undertaken for crimes that do not qualify as the most serious crimes, on the basis of forced confessions.” The UN resolution called for the regime to abolish these executions “in law and in practice.”
The response from the regime was more executions and the hanging of at least ten prisoners from December 19th to the 20th. Executions are often held as mass ones, with multiple individuals being executed in a public forum. A number of prisoners have repeatedly reported being tortured and held in solitary confinement in order to get them to confess to crimes and charges brought against them from the Iranian judiciary.
Amnesty International released a report last year, entitled “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” which detailed the regime’s human rights violations, specifically focusing on the high number of executions. This form of control has been growing and expanding outside of Iran’s borders.
“What the Iranians have done across the broader Middle East is fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of these chaotic environments, take advantage of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said in a security forum last year.
The spread of fundamentalism from Iran involves cracking down gatherings of any kind, including ones where individuals gather for parties. Iranian police arrest 36 people for attending a party where both genders mingled together. The Birjand prosecutor stressed that those that encourage young people to carry out immoral conduct and corruption or lay the groundwork for it will be sentenced to one to 10 years of prison and flogging. Even this gathering for a birthday party broke the rules of the Iranian regime.
For the regime, this control is key to maintaining their power in Iran, but also throughout the region. Recent protests have made it clear that the regime’s iron fist approach is breeding discontent that the regime cannot hold back forever. The international community continues to voice support for the Iranian people as they continue their efforts to demand their rights and the ability to practice and share their culture and heritage.