It took the Iranian regime just three weeks to murder more than 1,000 protesters, including children, and arrest 7,000 more, according to Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran. In the south-western city of Mahshahr alone, Mr Hook said he had video footage proving that at least 100 Iranians were killed at the hands of the very security forces that are supposed to protect them.
These figures are all the more worrying as they are impossible to verify. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200 Iranians have been killed since the start of demonstrations last month, while The New York Times believes that as many as 450 people have perished in the clampdown. Not only has the state turned its arms against its own people, it has done all that is in its power to muffle civilian voices, and keep them from resounding across the world. The government has resorted to draconian measures such as cutting off internet service in a country of 80 million people an attempt to stop the spread of information about protesters, their demands and the brutality with which they have been met. As a result, the demonstrators have gone largely under the radar and little is known of the scale of the damage inflicted on the people.
Authorities have blamed the violence on thugs and rioters sponsored by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. These conspiracy theories have failed to convince anyone, when all evidence shows that, on the contrary, it is the Iranian people who are rising up against their leaders.
People started taking to the streets on November 15 to protest against a hike in fuel prices, which spiralled into a movement demanding political change. Demonstrators chanted “Death to the dictator” while other slogans urged authorities to stop investing in militant groups abroad and focus on improving the living standards of their own people.
The Iranian economy is reeling under sanctions since Donald Trump, the US president, last year unilaterally opted out of the flawed nuclear deal that had been signed in 2015. The weight of the sanctions have taken a toll on the country’s middle-class and poor as the regime refuses to return to the negotiating table to discuss a solution. The Iranian people are the first to pay for this failure in diplomacy and are understandably angered that a nation with immense oil and gas wealth is unable to provide for their most basic needs.
The regime has already helped oppress protests in neighbouring Iraq before cracking down on its home-grown protest movement. One day after protests erupted in Iraq, Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps met with top Iraqi security officials in Baghdad.
The day after his visit, more than 100 people were killed at the hands of security forces and Iran-backed militias operating in the country. Violence has yet to subside as nearly 500 Iraqis have been killed since the onset of the protests in October. It is no surprise that the Iranian regime would replicate the crackdown it initiated in Iraq, unleashing untold violence on its people.
But in the age of the internet and social media, the regime can no longer hide its crimes from the world. Its leaders speak of spearheading noble causes, such as resisting oppression in Lebanon, freeing Iraq of ISIS and liberating Palestine, but now the truth has come out. This rhetoric has only ever been a web of lies to justify its dominance over fragile neighbouring states and hold on to power at home. The regime will spare no afterthought for the lives lost in Iraq and Iran. It is our collective duty to make sure that their stifled voices do not go unheard and that the regime is held accountable for the repression.