The recent protests in Iran started due to the economic conditions that the Iranian people are living with and the corruption that is systemic throughout the regime. Thousands of Iranians are angry about the rising food prices, government scams, and increasing inflation, along with a high unemployment rate. The resulting protests led to calls for regime change, which brought the ire of the mullahs down on the protestors.
Slogans chanted by the protestors combined all the economic and corruption issues, as well as political discontent. The response from the Iranian regime as the protests spread to over 142 cities was to cut as many social media access points as possible. Telegram and Instagram were blocked on New Year’s Eve, and internet access was also sporadically cut off to several cities, especially those where protests took place.
Violence was used to disperse the protestors, including firearms and water cannons. Over 50 people were killed during the protest and thousands of innocent protestors have been detained. Those detained protestors were subjected to ill treatment, with some being tortured in order for them to give televised confessions. Five protestors lost their lives in custody, but the regime has claimed that all these individuals committed suicide. One of the first to die was Sina Ghanbari, a 22-year-old who died of “unknown causes.”
Their families, however, have reported injuries that don’t match up with the story of suicide. There were signs of torture on the bodies, demonstrating that the authorities have approved violence against prisoners. Some families have been told not to mourn the loss of their loved ones, and the regime has essentially criminalized anyone who was involved in the protests.
Nasrin Sotudeh, a lawyer and social activist, said that during a phone call with a political prisoner in Evin Prison, she was informed that three people had been killed in that prison.
Amnesty International has issued two statements regarding their rising concern over the fate of the detainees and demanding the release of these protestors. Families of protestors have staged sit-ins at the prisons to demand the release of protestors.
Four Special Rapporteurs expressed extreme concern over these reported deaths, and the hundreds that were arrested. “The Government’s instruction to the Revolutionary Guards to hit hard against the protestors, and the judiciary’s threats of harsh punishment, are unacceptable,” said the Rapporteurs.
Iranian officials are also breaking the silence and admitting to media outlets that protestors are being murdered. Dorud Governor, said that on the first day of the turmoil, two people were killed and six were wounded in a statement to the state-run ISNA news agency on January 1. Other officials have indicated that those who died were just a few people, instead of the large number determined by outside forces.
Official statistics have underreported the number of deaths, but also the number of individuals arrested. Other agencies have noted that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been actively hunting down protestors from house to house, looking for those who were not arrested initially at the protests.
Videos that are reaching the international community from inside of Iran show protestors being shot dead, and other people are carrying their bodies. Local media reports have also indicated that children were killed during the protests.
The treatment of the protestors demonstrates a gross violation of human rights, as well as a violation of free press as they attempted to keep news of the demonstrations in cyberspace. The regime also made threats against protestors, calling them a threat to national security.
A member of the Assembly of Lorestan Representative said that there was no way to deal with the protests except to shoot those who broke the norms.
“Two people were killed last night in Lorestan Province. There is a time when protests are in the framework of the law…But when they (protestors) break the norms and vandalize public property, it is natural that it has to be dealt with,” said Hamidreza Kazemi, a member of the Lorestan delegation. It also needs to be noted that the vandalism charge was levied against protestors in an attempt to justify the actions of the regime.
The Ministry of Intelligence also issued a statement, which read in part, “Thanks to intelligence measures, a number of elements and dissident rioters and the instigators of the unrest were identified, and a number were arrested…Other elements are wanted (under pursuit) and will soon be seriously dealt with. The Ministry of Intelligence asks the various strata of the community to introduce the dissidents, rioters, and those who destroy public property by calling 113.”
The regime not only is hunting protestors, but attempting to enlist the Iranian people to turn in these protestors. It is clear the regime is using the protests as a means to crackdown even further on the Iranian people and violate their human rights even further.