Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, October 15, 2020—In the past month, the Iranian regime has tried to increase repressive measure to contain the explosive state of the society and prevent the possibility of the re-emergence of nationwide protests. But the past few days have seen the regime backtracking on some of those measures out of fear that they might turn into a self-defeating cause.
The first concerns a supposed display of power, in which security forces humiliated several people by parading them in the streets and beating them in front of the public while they were asking for forgiveness. While the regime performs these acts as “dealing with thugs and street gangs,” these acts of barbarity mainly aim to send a message to the increasingly angry public and dissuade the people from taking part in protest rallies.
Disturbing -#Iran— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) October 7, 2020
Another public display of violence, humiliation, and degradation by masked security forces, parading "troublemakers" across town while beating them on the head and forcing them to "repent" in public.
This disgusting show is a clear violation of human rights. pic.twitter.com/y4pkeeNl34
The videos of the act and their distribution on social media drew international condemnation vis-à-vis the regime’s inhuman treatment of the people. In response, Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the judiciary branch, tried to lay the blame on executive agents to shrug off any responsibility for the act. Raisi, who has been appointed to his position by regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei, claimed that he has ordered the state’s prosecutors to investigate and punish the perpetrators, including the officers and interrogators involved.
Contradicting his own words, he stressed on support for decisive action against the so-called “thugs”, while at the same time he appealed that judgment of "defamation" (social disgrace) is only allowable within the jurisdiction of the court and within the framework of the law which forbids attacking individuals, even criminals.
Despite Raisi’s inconsistent statements, Hossein Rahimi, the chief of the police in Greater Tehran, responded to the worldwide outrage and said: “The police acted with judicial authority and not on their own.” While trying to justify the public beating, he added: “The officer's actions were not appropriate and one should keep temper in such situations.” Aside of the charlatanism, these statements show serious retreats by the regime, which made no apologies for its public acts of terror and brutality.
Retreat of the Minister of Education
The second such case is that of the Iranian Minister of Education and his deputy, who last week filed a complaint against a teacher for mocking and posting a cartoon of the Minister on social media. The teacher was accordingly sentenced to 45 lashes by Iranian authorities.
This cruel sentence sparked a wave of anger and hatred among the public, especially teachers and educators, and many of them asserted that they would volunteer to be whipped instead of their sentenced colleague.
The backlash even prompted state-run newspapers and media to condemn the bullying behavior of the Minister. Consequently, the Minister of Education was forced to withdraw his complaint. More notably, the event coincided with the suicide of an 11-year-old student in the city of Deir, Bushehr province, who took his own life because he did not have a smartphone, which has become a necessity as classes had move to online due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The case highlighted negligence of the government’s education system in rolling out policies but failing to support the people in implementing them.
In this regard, Mardom Salari, another state-run newspaper, discussed the two incidents in an op-ed and wrote: "Are you expecting anything else from the authorities in the Ministry of Education?"
Stuck between a rock and a hard place
This is not the first case of senior regime officials retracing their steps on previous decisions. But these kinds of events are becoming more and more frequent after the uprising of November 2019, which reshaped the balance of power between the people and the government. Barely having survived the nationwide protests by having security forces gun down more than 1,500 civilians, the regime has since found itself teetering on the edge of disaster, knowing that the population’s anger might erupt any moment. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, fear changed sides; from the population to the government.
The regime is currently facing a paradox. On the one hand, it resorts to execution, torture, and repression to intimidate the people and stave off the threat of a nationwide revolt. But at the same time, such measures are feeding into the public outrage, forcing the regime to retreat when it feels that the society is on the brink of another explosion of anger. A clear example of this withdrawal was the suspension of execution sentences for three youth who had been arrested during the November 2019 protest. Faced with global anger and disgust and a worldwide “#do_not_execute” campaign on social media, the regime had no choice but to back off.
the ruthless regime later attempted to maintain its balance by proceeding with the execution of Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari, two other protesters who had been arrested by security forces in the past two years. But those executions caused an even stronger backlash against the regime, triggering global condemnations and prompting Iran’s rebellious youth to target regime centers.
As the regime continues to dither between ruling with a stronger arm and backtracking on its decisions, it becomes more vulnerable and only makes the people stronger and more resolute to overthrow their rulers and take their destiny into their own hands.