Heightened Reign of Terror in Iran Under New Intelligence Chief
At Least 16 Detained After “Supreme Leader” Threatens Repeat of 1980s Violent Repression
*Editor’s Note: This article was last edited on July 20, 2022, to note updates in the cases against the detainees.
July 11, 2022 – Less than a month after the intelligence chief of the Iranian military’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was replaced, a crackdown on dissent is being ramped up in the country.
“The new intelligence chief is clenching the state’s iron fist to crush the increasing attempts we’ve been observing at opposing repressive state policies and holding Iranian officials accountable,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Now is the time for the UN and international community including the U.S. to register strong and forceful condemnation of the Iranian government’s blatant attempts to preserve its suffocating power and eliminate dissent,” said Ghaemi.
“At a time when people in Iran are refusing to back down in the face of harsh adversity, international silence sends a green light to the regime’s worst rights violators,” he added.
At least 16 members of Iranian civil society were arrested or began prison sentences in the first two weeks of July 2022, including family members of murdered street protesters and acclaimed film directors.
In late June, on the heels of the assassinations of several IRGC members, cleric Hossein Taeb was suddenly removed from his post as the head of the IRGC’s intelligence organization and replaced by General Mohammad Kazemi, who formerly headed the IRGC’s counterintelligence unit.
The unexpected shakeup at the most powerful level of the country’s sprawling security apparatus was followed a few days later by Iran’s unelected “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging state security agencies and the judiciary to increase repression to the levels seen soon after the 1979 revolution, when thousands who had been accused of opposing the new regime were executed.
“In the year 1981, the Iranian nation was able to frustrate the enemy by sticking to one of the divine traditions, namely jihad and resistance,” Khamenei said during a speech on June 28. “Today, the same rule and law are in force, and God in the year 2022 is the same God he was in 1981.”
There are also serious concerns over more potential violence and detentions tomorrow, July 12, as women’s rights activists who oppose the state’s mandatory hijab rule have called for a campaign of civil disobedience by appearing in public tomorrow without the hijab. The call for these protests came as a response to a government announcement declaring tomorrow as the “National Day of Hijab and Chastity.”
“The National Day of Hijab and Chastity is only an excuse meant to target women and launch a new wave of repression against the people and in particular Iranian women,” said dozens of prominent women’s rights defenders in a joint statement released today.
Grieving Mothers, Prominent Film Directors Among Detained
CHRI has confirmed that at least 16 members of civil society and the country’s burgeoning “justice-seeking” movement were arrested or sent to prison this month, mostly on July 11. Those involved have been taken to undisclosed locations and denied access to counsel and family members after being arrested during unannounced raids of their homes without warrants. The list includes:
- Nahid Shirpisheh, the mother of Pouya Bakhtiari, a street protester killed during Iran’s widespread protests of November 2019, was arrested along with her brother-in-law, Mehrdad Bakhtiari, on July 11. Her daughter, Mona Bakhtiari, posted a video after the arrests stating that “They had broken the door and forced their way inside…” Shirpisheh’s husband, Manouchehr Bakhtiari, is also in prison for seeking justice for their son’s death.
- Film directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad were arrested on July 8 after being accused of “inflaming passions and disturbing people’s psychological security” by launching the “lay down your gun” social media campaign calling on state security forces to stop opening fire on street protesters. The campaign was backed by some 100 members of Iran’s film industry who had signed a joint statement on May 8.
- Film director Jafar Panahi was arrested on July 10 as he was making inquiries about the arrest of fellow director Mohammad Rasoulof. Panahi, who had endorsed the “lay down your gun” campaign, was also among rights activists and lawyers who sought to file a lawsuit against Khamenei and other senior officials for their gross negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Editor’s Note: Panahi was ordered on July 19, 2022, to serve a six-year prison sentence issued against him in 2011 for his films)
- Mostafa Tajzadeh, an advisor to reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, was arrested on July 8 after being charged with “a conspiracy to act against the country’s security” and “publishing falsehoods to disturb the public mind.”
- Saeid Damvar, the brother of slain November 2019 protester Vahid Damvar, was arrested on July 11.
- Iran Allahyari, the mother of slain November 2019 protester Mehrdad Moinfar, was arrested on July 11.
- Mahboubeh Ramezani, the mother of slain November 2019 protester Pejman Gholipour, was arrested on July 11.
(Editor’s Note: Ramezani was sentenced to 100 lashes on July 18, 2022.)
- Rahimeh Yousefzadeh, the mother of slain November 2019 protester Navid Behboudi, was arrested on July 11.
- Somayeh Jafarpanah, the sister of slain November 2019 protester Mohsen Jafarpanah, was arrested on July 11.
- Sakineh Ahmadi, the mother of slain November 2019 protester Ebrahim Ketabdar, was arrested on July 11.
- Asal Mohammadi, labor affairs reporter, surrendered herself to Evin Prison on July 11 to begin a one-year sentence for the charge of “propaganda against the state.”
- Abolfazl Nejadfath, a student arrested during the November 2019 protests, surrendered himself to Evin Prison to start his 3.8-year prison sentence for “assembly and collusion against national security” on July 11.
- Somayeh Jafarpanah, the sister of Mohsen Jafarpanah, who was killed during the November 2019 protests, was arrested on July 11.
- Attorney and former political prisoner Mohammadali Dadkhah was arrested by security forces in Tehran on July 20. Dadkhah was a co-founder with Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi of the shuttered Defenders of Human Rights Center.
“People in Iran, long held hostage by a brutal and reactionary regime, are risking their lives to register opposition to the state’s behavior, while the government has also been ramping up arrests of foreigners to use as bargaining chips in its international relations,” said Ghaemi.
“International silence has been followed by increasing numbers of Iranians and foreigners finding themselves behind bars in Iran on spurious charges,” he added. “We can only expect this to continue and worsen if the outside world continues to look the other way.”