Iran, February 20, 2021—On Wednesday, Iranian authorities executed seven prisoners in Gohardasht prison, Karaj. Among the executed prisoners was a 42-year-old mother of two. On Monday, February 15, the regime carried out two other executions in Birjand. Two days earlier, a prisoner was hanged in Meshginshahr. Therefore, in only five days, the Iranian regime has executed at least ten prisoners across Iran. It is worth noting that the regime carries out many executions in secret, and the real number of executions might be much higher. According to reports obtained from inside Iran, many prisoners have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation of their execution.
One might ask, why would the regime further exacerbate an already-tenuous situation for millions of Iranians who are faced with poverty, unemployment, unpaid wages, skyrocketing prices, and rampant inflation. The people already have much to deal with. Why add to their suffering with a sudden spike in executions?
The reason is that, in fact, the regime already knows that Iran’s society is in a state of turmoil and on the verge of explosion. Instead of responding to the just demands of the people, it aims to further intimidate the public and prevent the eruption of nationwide protests by ratcheting up its repressive measures. Signs of this strategy have been seen as the regime has increased executions, arrests and persecution of political activists, and public display of force and violence by its security forces.
At the same time, the regime is faced with growing international pressure to address human rights conditions in Iran. But it knows that if it stops torture and executions for a single day, it will be swept away by the millions of angry Iranians whose rage it has only kept in check through sheer brutality. That is why by ramping up executions, the regime is sending a signal to the international community that this is a red line it is not willing to cross.
The regime’s dependence of violence can be seen in remarks made by its officials and analysts.
During a convention of the Provincial Judiciary Council on December 28, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi called on judges to be “political” in their decision-making and to “have an evaluation of the situation,” to “understand the necessities of the society,” and to give verdicts that “are proportionate to the situation.” And the example he gave the judges was the regime’s slain terror master Qassem Soleimani, whom he described as “being very able in knowing the situation and understanding the needs.”
Therefore, in stark contrast to all the known and respected principles that call for the separation of judicial processes from political considerations, Raisi clearly instructed judges to give their verdicts based on the political needs of the regime.
Even more outrageous than Raisi’s remarks were those of Qassem Rezai, the deputy chief of the State Security Forces, who openly told his subordinate commanders, “If you arrest someone in a clash and I see him standing here healthy and sound, you’ll have a lot to answer for.” Rezai’s comments were aired on national television on January 1.
The necessities and conditions that Raisi referred to in his remarks are being amply discussed by analysts on state-run media these days.
On February 14, the state-run Mardom Salari daily reported that the “food poverty line per individual” has reached 6.7 million rials and warned, “If the economic situation doesn’t change and continues to worsen, we will problems in the society… and these problems will gradually turn into chaos and will engulf all classes of the society.” By chaos, Mardom Salari was referring to widespread protests such as the November 2019 nationwide uprising, which brought the regime to its knees and on the verge of collapse.
On February 15, the government-run Iran newspaper reported that inflation is destroying the lives of the low-income and middle classes of the society and warned, “This trend is polarizing the society, and the results, such as insecurity and riots, will encompass everyone in the society.”
These are just two examples of the many warnings by the regime’s own officials that Iran is on the verge of another revolution and the people are fed up with the regime. Therefore, the sudden increase in executions is the regime’s temporary response to the explosive state of the society. Plagues by corruption, the ruling mullahs don’t have an answer to the problems of the people. At the same time, they know that the deterioration of the economic conditions will only increase the likelihood of another round of nationwide protests happening soon. Therefore, their only answer is to further intimidate the public by ratcheting up executions and violence. But they also know that by doing so, they will further increase public hatred of their rule. Therefore, they are caught in an impasse that will, sooner or later, result in their ultimate downfall.