Executions in Iran quell protest in the streets, but dissent could be flourishing underground

Iran’s hanging of protesters – and the display of their lifeless bodies hanging from cranes – appears to have caused enough fear to keep people from taking to the streets after months of anti-government unrest.

The crackdown’s success on the worst political turmoil in years is likely to bolster Iran’s hardline rulers’ view that dissidents are suppressed. is the way to stay in power.

However, this achievement may be short-lived, according to analysts and experts who spoke to Reuters. They argue that resorting to deadly state violence merely pushes dissidents underground, while deepening Iranian people’s anger against the already established clerical establishment. ruled for four decades.

“It has been relatively successful because the number of people taking to the streets has decreased,” said Saeid Golkar of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“However, it has created great outrage among Iranians.”

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign in Iran, said the establishment’s main focus was to intimidate people into submission in any way.

“The protests have taken on a different form, but are not over yet,” he said. People are either in prison or have been operating undercover because they are determined to find a way to keep fighting.”

Despite public outrage and international criticism, Iran has issued dozens of death sentences to threaten Iranians who are outraged by the death of 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. .

VIEW | Protesters gathered outside a prison on Monday:

Protesters gather where Iran is scheduled to execute 2 prisoners

Protesters gathered late Sunday outside a prison in the northern Iranian city of Karaj amid reports that two prisoners had been moved to solitary confinement before their execution.

Her death while in the custody of the ethics police in September 2022 unleashed years of pent-up anger in society, over issues ranging from economic misery and discrimination to members of the public. minorities to tightening social and political control.

The judiciary said at least four people have been hanged since the protests began, including two protesters Saturday for the alleged murder of a member of the Basij volunteer militia.

Amnesty International said last month that Iranian authorities were seeking the death penalty for at least 26 others in what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate protesters.”

The moves reflect what experts say is the religious leadership’s consistent approach to government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought them to power – ready to use any force necessary to suppress dissent.

“The regime’s main strategy has always been to win through terror. Repression is the regime’s only solution because it is incompetent and incapable of change or good governance,” Golka said.

Economic misery

The protests, which have slowed considerably since the hanging began, were most intense in the heavily populated Sunni areas of Iran and are now mostly confined to those areas.

And yet, analysts say, a revolutionary spirit that has managed to take root across the country during the months of protests may persist in the wake of the security crackdown – not least because of protesters’ grievances. the situation is still unresolved.

With economic misery deepening, largely due to US sanctions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, many Iranians are feeling the pain of hyperinflation and the unemployment increased.

Inflation has spiked to more than 50%, its highest level in decades. Youth unemployment remains high, with more than 50% of Iranians being pushed below the poverty line, according to a report by the Iranian Statistical Center.

“There is no turning point [back to the status quo]and the regime cannot go back to the era before Mahsa died,” Ghaemi said.

A protester appears in a courtroom in Iran, where people are being sentenced to death.
Majid Kazemi appeared in the courtroom on Monday as he and two others allegedly killed members of the security forces during nationwide protests in Iran. (Mizan News Agency/WANA/via Reuters)

Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said Tehran is relying on repression and violence to get out of this crisis.

“This might work in the short term but… it won’t work in the long term,” Vatanka said, citing reasons such as Iran’s deteriorating economy and its fearless young population. want “major political change and they will fight for it. “

There is no indication that President Ebrahim Raisi or other leaders are trying to come up with new policies to try to win over the public. Instead, their attention seems to be fixed on security.

The clerical leadership appears to be worried that restraining protesters could make them look vulnerable to their political and paramilitary supporters, analysts say.

Reuters could not be reached by officials at Raisi’s office for comment.

Golkar said an additional motive for the executions was the leadership’s need to please core supporters in organizations such as the Basij, the volunteer militia that plays a key role in the killings. against spontaneous and leaderless unrest.

Khamenei advocates repression

“The regime wants to send a message to its supporters that they will support them in any way,” Golkar said.

To cause shockwaves, authorities have imposed travel bans and prison sentences on a number of public figures from athletes to artists and rappers. A karate champion was among those executed.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday signaled that the state has no intention of mitigating its crackdown, saying in a televised address that those “burning public places must be must have committed treason.”

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting in Tehran on Monday.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of residents and clerics from the city of Qom in Tehran on Monday. (Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran/WANA/Documents broadcast via Reuters)

The uncompromising hold of state power was a central theme of Raisi’s career. He is under US sanctions for a past that includes what the US and activists say was his role in overseeing the killing of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s.

When asked about those 1980s murders, Raisi told reporters shortly after the 2021 election that he should be commended for protecting people’s security.

Ghaemi said the key officials driving the executions today are deeply connected to the killings of prisoners in the 1980s.

“But this wasn’t the 1980s when they were doing all those crimes in the dark,” he said. “Everything they do is on social media and attracts huge international attention.”


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