Iran's Regime Is Trying To Execute Its Way Out Of Trouble
Iran's regime is trying to execute its way out of trouble.Outside a courthouse in Tehran, women's cries rise to a deafening roar. The rally has all the hallmarks of a vigil, but it is actually the last remnant of a statewide rebellion that has fizzled out after the Iranian judiciary's rapid delivery of death sentences recently.
Human Rights Activists NewsAgency (HRANA) released a video on January 14 showing children protesting outside the courthouse, yelling "No to execution." One girl may be seen wiping her eyes despite the fact that their faces are blurred out.
She looks like she's in her tens at most. Meanwhile, the statewide movement that broke out in the middle of September shook Iran, posing the greatest domestic danger to the ruling clerical establishment in more than a decade. It spread among the conservative base that supports the regime and sparked countless acts of disobedience, including some that turned violent, against the powerful Basij.
Basij is a volunteer paramilitary group that forms the backbone of the Islamic Republic's security apparatus. The demonstrators seemed to have burst through a previous barrier of fear, and many of them were young and enraged.
Four months later, the protests have died down despite escalating repression of demonstrators. The regime has executed four demonstrators, and many more face the same fate. The executions are the conclusion of a more brutal crackdown that has included the shooting of protestors, mass arrests, physical assault, and sexual violence.
The dictatorship has also increased the repression of dissidents, ethnic minorities, and women. The protests, according to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are the result of a foreign conspiracy and an "act of treason."
Another element working against the protesters: most persons above the age of 25, according to analysts and campaigners, have avoided the demonstrations. As a result, the protest movement lacked the momentum needed to destabilize a heavily sanctioned regime over which the international community has little to no remaining power. Nonetheless, analysts in Iran agree that the regime has kicked the can down the road, and protests are likely to re-emerge.
Iran's clerical leadership is either reluctant or unable to confront the country's burgeoning economic challenges, which are compounded by US sanctions and extensive corruption. According to campaigners, about 20,000 individuals have been arrested.
In the report of HRANA, around 500 people have been slain, including dozens of children. The coercive techniques have put Iranian demonstrators in a bind. Dissatisfaction with the administration looks to be growing, but the state's use of force has kept protestors from growing large enough to force the regime to step down.
According to Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group's Director of the Iran Project, the lack of a critical mass presented a "mathematical issue" for the protest movement.
The majority will only join in when the regime has lost its will to suppress. And the regime’s will to suppress is unlikely to crack unless there is a critical mass on the streets. [The Islamic Republic] is where the Soviet Union was in early 1980s … It is ideologically bankrupt, is economically in deep trouble and is simply unable to reform itself. Unlike the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, (Iran) still has the will to fight. One can conclude that the protests will re-emerge sooner rather than later in a more ferocious manner.
Vaez draws parallels between Iran today and the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, a time of public dissatisfaction and catastrophic economic conditions that eventually led to the series of changes known as Perestroika and the eventual collapse of the USSR.
Iranians protesting regime refuse to back down despite threats of arrest and execution
The rebellion has left lasting effects on the country. Every day, in Tehran, behind closed doors and through open windows, chants of "death to the dictator" can be heard, despite the presence of security forces. Minority-dominated border regions that were hit most by the regime's repression are still seeing anti-regime protests.
After Friday afternoon prayers, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Zahedan, a city in the Baloch region of Iran, calling for the overthrow of the current government. Many funerals for demonstrators who were killed during the violence have taken place in the western part of the country, where the Kurdish population is predominantly located.
An indicator of what's to come, organizers believe, is the persistence of protests by ethnic minorities. They claim the killings will backfire on the government in the long run. According to HRNA, 18 demonstrators have been found guilty and sentenced to death, with only 5 having been granted the chance to appeal.
A large number of demonstrators, over 100, have been charged with capital offenses. Already, four people have been put to death, including a former karate champion and a children's coach.
The world community has voiced strong disapproval of the executions. According to CNN's reporting, most demonstrators are not receiving due process, including fair trials, and are instead subjected to expedited proceedings with state-appointed attorneys.