728 x 90

Tehran’s new excuse to suppress protests: Controlling street gangs

Students from different Iranian universities gathered for anti-regime protest rallies – Tehran January 2020
Students from different Iranian universities gathered for anti-regime protest rallies – Tehran January 2020

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, October 8, 2020—The Iranian regime seeks to spread fear in society to prevent a new wave of nationwide protests. On October 2, Brigadier General Majid Mirahmadi, Security Deputy of Armed Forces Chief of Staff, told Tasnim News Agency, an outlet linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, “According to investigations, we have found leads to anti-revolutionary and dissident groups based abroad, and therefore we are going to establish bases to fight thugs in provinces and cities.”

Also, Mohammad Motahari, commander of the so-called Veterans Unit of Holly Defense (Iran-Iraq war), claimed that in Kerman province 40 security battalions are created to counter rioters and establish “security” in cities.

The regime’s tactics to distort the image of protesters

In addition to regime propaganda and fake saber-rattling measures, the regime tries to distort the image of protesters by calling them rioters and thugs. The regime intentionally links social problems caused by street gangs in cities with protest movements and uses this line of reasoning to crack down on protesters, especially the Iranian Resistance Units, the internal network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The regime’s security institutions often hire and employ street gangs and thugs to carry out their deeds. These groups of thugs are given free rein to unofficially work within the boundaries set by the regime, and the regime uses them to create an atmosphere of fear in the society.

Using thugs to suppress opposition forces is not new in Iran. In early days after the anti-monarchic revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic Party was known as the “thugs party.” It organized gangs to systematically attack MEK rallies, gatherings, and offices in Tehran and across the country.

The regime continues to use this method today to where it serves to pursue its political purposes indirectly. Senior IRGC general Hossein Hamedani, who was killed in the regime’s interventionist operations in Syria in 2015, acknowledged that during the 2009 post-election uprising, the regime used street gangs to suppress protests.

“We did an intelligence operation in Tehran. We controlled 5,000 of those present in the riots but were not members of any groups; they were thugs. When protesters issued calls for rallies, we controlled them in their homes and didn’t permit them to leave. Later, we recruited them. We concluded that if we want to create fighters, we need those who are familiar with knives and blades,” Hamadani revealed.

Clearly, the emergence of street gangs and other such social dilemmas is the direct result of poverty, unemployment, and the regime’s own corruption and mismanagement of the country’s economy. But the regime also tries to use these gangs to its own benefit, just as it does through the systematic distribution of drugs, which is also controlled by security institutions.

On the one hand, the regime uses these thugs to repress protesters through unofficial means and to create an environment of fear and terror in the society. On the other hand, when the people object to the functions of these groups, the regime’s security forces crack down on the gangs to create an impression of preserving security.

This is the regime’s modus operandi everywhere, including in prisons, where it employs criminals to beat and murder political prisoners.

The nature of regime suppressive preparative measures

The main goal of the regime is to contain the powder-keg situation of Iran. On the one hand, it is creating the breeding ground and nurtures street gangs, while on the other it uses them as an excuse

However, the regime is unable to directly suppress the people because it fears that such measures could trigger more protests, especially given the public outrage with regime officials. Because of the existence of a driving force such as MEK’s Resistance Units inside the country, who played a key role during the 2019 nationwide protests, the regime has to calculate its every step.