In Iran, the security services have opened fire on unarmed people demonstrating against the country’s brutal and corrupt regime, writes Struan Stevenson.
We who uphold human rights and revere the rights of women; we who honour freedom and justice and cherish democracy, what can we make of the carnage unfolding in Iran?
Over the course of the past month, the fascist theocratic regime and its revolutionary guards (IRGC) have gunned down thousands of young protesters on the streets of Iran’s towns and cities, killing an estimated 1,500, according to Reuters, and wounding more than 4,000 and arresting over 12,000.
During the nationwide uprising that has largely been ignored in the Western press, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its so-called ‘moderate’ president Hassan Rouhani have ordered a shoot-to-kill policy that has seen masked snipers on the roofs of government buildings, indiscriminately shooting unarmed, young protesters in the head and chest.
IRGC thugs and security agents have scoured the country’s hospitals, dragging the wounded from their beds. While the fate of those imprisoned remains largely unknown, there are many reports of protesters being tortured to death.
Hamid Sheikhani, 35, was arrested on 17 November in Mahshahr County, Khuzestan. His family heard no news until 23 November, when they were asked to collect his body from prison. On the same day, 30-year-old Kaveh Veisani was arrested in Sanandaj. His dead body, which showed signs of torture, was found in the city’s suburbs on 15 December. He had a toddler and left a pregnant wife.
Seventeen-year-old Arvin Ranin was arrested by the IRGC in Marivan and was reportedly tortured to death. His family had to pay to have his body returned. Halimeh Samiri was arrested during the protests in Abadan. She was tortured to death by the IRGC, who later threw her lifeless body outside her father’s house.
A report published by Amnesty International on 16 December confirmed that “video footage verified by Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps, backed up by witness testimony, shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The majority of the deaths that the organization has recorded occurred as a result of gunshots to the head, heart, neck and other vital organs indicating that the security forces were shooting to kill.”
Venally corrupt regime
These atrocities have even claimed the lives of innocent children. The Amnesty International report details how credible sources have informed them that “in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, Alborz province, hundreds of detainees, including children, were brought in trucks to the prison. They say that handcuffed and blindfolded detainees have been punched, kicked, flogged and beaten with batons by security forces on a daily basis”.
The uprising was triggered by the regime’s decision to triple the price of gas. This was the last straw for a nation whose citizens have been impoverished by the venally corrupt regime that for 40 years has stolen Iran´s wealth for the benefit of its rulers and to wage proxy wars across the Middle East, in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
That is why many protests involved arson attacks on banks and other institutions related to the IRGC and the security forces. That is why the protesters have chanted on the streets: “Forget Syria, what about us?” Indeed, the current uprising raging across the country has taken on a new and uniquely political dimension, with young protesters demanding regime change and calling for the ousting of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and president Hassan Rouhani, chanting “The enemy is here; they are lying when they say it is America.”
Crimes against humanity
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the Iranian regime a “thuggish police state”, saying that “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are the cudgels of a despotic theocracy, with the IRGC accountable only to a Supreme Leader. They’re the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East.” We can only hope that the UN Security Council will heed his words. The international community cannot continue to treat the theocratic regime in Iran as a normal nation state. The belligerent, repressive and vicious behaviour of the regime proves that attempts at negotiation or appeasement are pointless. The ayatollahs have committed appalling crimes against humanity that require an immediate response from the international community, involving, at the very least, a UN fact-finding mission to establish the truth about the numbers killed and injured and to ascertain the treatment of those imprisoned. The UN must hold those responsible for these crimes accountable in the international courts of justice. There can be no impunity for those guilty of such chilling atrocities. The West must show support for the oppressed Iranian millions, who now look to the UN Security Council for urgent help.
Struan Stevenson is president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014) and president of the Parliament’s delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and an award-winning author.