Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Executions and arrests are on the rise in Iran as anti-inflation protests take people onto the streets

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“I’m afraid for my family. Even for ordinary Iranians who are not political. The cycle of arrest, torture and execution has never ended.

Iran continues to be plagued by a “torture cycle” as dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime grows, leading to an escalation of arbitrary arrests and even executions.

Protests have rocked Iran in recent months over price hikes, working conditions and skyrocketing inflation, urging the Middle Eastern country to increasingly turn to ally Russia for help.

In a new wave of arrests, authorities jailed reform activist Mostafa Tajzadeh and three filmmakers – Mohammad Rasoulof, Mostafa Al-Ahmad and Jafar Panahi – in just one week.

Human Rights Watch described the arrests as “cynical moves to deter popular outrage at widespread government failures.”

Humanitarian organizations have also highlighted the alarming rise in executions, with Amnesty International commenting that the death penalty is being used as “an instrument of state repression against minorities and protesters”.

According to the Norway-based non-profit organization Iran Human Rights, at least 251 people were executed in Iranian prisons in the first six months of this year, double the number for the same period in 2021, when 117 prisoners were executed.

Amin* lost 14 family members under the brutal regime, including two brothers. Most of them were executed in prison in the 1980s for supporting the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), but the authorities still torment his family, more than 40 years later.

“They put a lot of pressure on my family over many years – sometimes they locked them up for two or three days, sometimes even three months,” Amin said I.

Amin said the authorities did not tell his family when they killed his relatives in prison.

When his 25-year-old brother was killed in 1988, Amin said authorities “called our house, handed over a bag and said, ‘Your child was executed.'”

Amin’s parents learned of his 21-year-old brother’s death in 1981 after his body was recognized by a family friend who worked at a cemetery in Tehran.

“The emotional blow of losing one’s relatives leaves a scar; it cannot be taken away,” said Amin.

Amin was arrested at the age of 30 and spent seven years in the notorious Evin Prison. He was released shortly before the 1988 massacre that killed thousands of political prisoners when Iran’s then supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a criminal complaint fatwa – a religious decree – ordering the execution of all unrepentant mujahideen prisoners.

Amin, now 72 and based in London, said: “I can’t say I was lucky to survive.

“How can you lead a normal life again? It’s just not possible for people like me.”

One of the members of the so-called death committee, which interrogated prisoners and sent thousands to their deaths, was Ebrahim Raisi, who became the country’s president last year.

Amin believes Raisi was brought to power to repress and terrify the nation and quell protests, but he added: “It wasn’t effective at all.”

The government has faced widespread protests over the past year, with the latest unrest sparked by the collapse of a 10-story building in Abadan, southwest Iran, on May 23, killing more than 40 people.

Protests criticizing the authorities for negligence and corruption quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations, with many calling for Raisi’s resignation over mismanagement in the sanctions-hit country.

According to the State Statistics Center of Iran (SCI), the annual inflation rate rose to 52.5 percent in June from 39.3 percent in the previous month, the highest level since July 1995.

After the government lifted import subsidies for essential goods in May, food prices rose more than 82 percent, SCI reported.

Amin said: “It is no longer about being politically against the regime. Now people are starving in Iran and this is becoming an uprising of a starving nation.

“Nevertheless, I am afraid for my family. Even for ordinary Iranians who are not political.

“The cycle of arrest, torture and execution never stopped.”

Protests have also spread outside the country, in Brussels and London, among other European cities, over the controversial deal between Belgium and Iran, which could allow an Iranian convicted of terrorism in Belgium to be sent back to Tehran.

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