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Iran’s regime launches a new wave of arbitrary arrests

Iran's security forces are ratcheting up repressive measures in fear of nationwide protests
Iran's security forces are ratcheting up repressive measures in fear of nationwide protests

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, October 20, 2020—As Iran’s population becomes more restive, the regime is running out of options and tools to delay an inevitable social explosion. Its latest tool: the arrest of “security disruptors.” The regime has resorted to widespread arrests and is publicizing these efforts in the state-run media.

On October 19, in a broadcast by the regime’s state-run television, Mohammad Reza Yazdi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Mohammad Rasul brigade in Tehran said, “The Razaviun patrol units started its work in 2018 to maintain security. In 2019, its structure was completed, and their services expanded in 2020… In coordination with our brave brothers in the State Security Forces and Tehran’s prosecutor’s office, we have deployed Razaviun units in all cities to maintain the security… These efforts will continue until we can stop any attempt at disrupting security in the capillaries of cities.”

It is worth noting that November 2019, as nationwide protests expanded to most provinces of the country, Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander of the IRGC declared a surge in the deployment of the Razaviun security patrol units, which are run by the basij forces and aim to quell anti-regime protests in every town and city.

On October 18, Tasnim News Agency, affiliated with the IRGC, quoted Rahim Jahanbakhsh, the commander of State Security Forces in Zanjan province, as saying that 1,500 “security disruptors” were apprehended in the past eight months. Jahanbakhsh described these people as individuals who “spread rumors and cause tensions in the society” and said, “Cyberspace is a reality of the society, and this space has become a reality, which requires the expansion of security efforts in this domain.”

Interestingly, the “eight months” that this official refers to coincides with the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in Iran. During this period, the regime has tried to keep the lid on the outbreak by publishing fake statistics. But the reality has constantly emerged through videos, images, and reports being published on social media.

Also on October 18, Ali Akbar Javidan, the commander of State Security Forces in Kermanshah province reported that the regime had arrested 5,550 people as “thugs and thieves” in the first six months of the Persian calendar year (March-September), according to IRNA. “[Security forces] will not allow any group to cause tensions and fear in the society and the people,” Javidan said.

On October 17, Nabiollah Ghassemi, the commander of State Security Forces in Kuhdasht, Lorestan province, reported 98 arrests in police operations, as reported by the semi-official ISNA news agency. Ghassemi added, “The continuation of police security plans aims to preempt bad behavior and maintain public peace and security. These goals have been prioritized by the police.”

On October 14, Abdollah Hassani, the commander of State Security Forces in Semnan province reported the arrests of 3,000 thieves in six months, according to the state-run Hamshahri Online. Hassani added that 80 percent of the arrested individuals were under the age of 35, and also reported an uptick in “cybercrime” and increased activity by the regime’s cyberpolice.

While the regime’s intensified security measures are a years-long effort, the orchestrated remarks made by security officials and widely reported by the regime’s state-run media are noteworthy. Parallel to these efforts, the regime has been running other campaigns to intimidate the public, including the execution of political prisoners, the humiliation and torture of supposed “street criminals” in public, and inhuman sentences of severing the hands and feet of offenders.

These actions are taking place as the regime is widely fearing growing dissent in the society and possibility of the resurgence of nationwide protests as the anniversary of the November 2019 uprising approaches. The declining economic conditions, amplified by the Covid-19 outbreak and the regime’s abysmal policies to counter the spread of the virus, have only added fuel to the fire of the people’s rage, which has been simmering to a boil since last year’s nationwide uprising.

The regime thus wants to prevent another round of nationwide protests through a show of brute violence and threats. Its efforts, however, are proving to be increasingly ineffective. The Iranian people are frustrated and fed up with their rulers and use every opportunity to make it clear that they do not want this regime. Case in point: After the death of legendary Iranian artist Mohammad Reza Shajarian, mourning ceremonies quickly turned into anti regime protests with chants of “down with the dictator,” a reference to regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei. At the same time, the growing activities of MEK Resistance Units, the targeting of regime centers by rebellious youth, and continued protests in various Iranian cities are making it harder for the regime to create the impression that it is still in control of the society.