Iran has hanged two dissidents and sentenced nine others to death, and 16 more face sentences as the regime tries to crush the protest movement that sprang to life after last June’s re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Protesters have charged the vote was rigged.
American hopes that the current Islamic regime will be topped by a revolution faces a severe challenge on February 11, when a planned massive demonstration on the anniversary of the Islamic Republic has been met by government threats of arrests for being traitors.
An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander already has warned, “If there is any voice or color other than those of the Islamic Revolution, it will be pushed aside, and if a minority makes this attempt, it will be firmly confronted.” A senior Muslim cleric lashed out at protestors in a sermon on Friday, urging the death penalty for the December 27 demonstrators facing trial and sentencing.
Two protestors were hanged last week, and judicial proceedings have begun for 16 others charged with “hating Allah” and for "illegal protests, threatening national security, and spreading propaganda against the establishment." They were arrested in the anti-government protests last month and are accused of working in the interests of the United States and other countries. The "Zionist state” was not named.
Nine demonstrators on death row were found guilty and will be executed if an appeals court upholds their sentence. They also are accused of being members of a terrorist organization that has carried out attacks against Iranian officials over the last 30 years.
Thirty-seven others are waiting for charges to be filed in court.
The Iranian regime also is using massive layoffs of professionals, including academics, to try to crush the protest movement. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called for universities to be "purified" of vocal opponents to the government. Last week, at least a dozen professors and three women’s rights activists were fired from their jobs.
“Firing political and social activists is a very effective way to silence them,” former health ministry employee Amir Razaghi told the Global Post. “By doing so, those people have to first figure out a way to earn a living, and not worry about politics any more.” Those who are unemployed because of protest activities often are blacklisted and kept from re-entering the work force. Razahgi now sells newspaper for a living.
Journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi told an online magazine last month, “Depriving activists of their income is a very inhumane and violent way of silencing them. They purposely want to starve my children.”
The United States has criticized Iran for last week’s hangings. "We see it as a low point in the Islamic Republic's unjust and ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent," White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said. "Murdering political prisoners who are exercising their universal rights will not bring the respect and legitimacy the Islamic Republic seeks. It will only serve to further isolate Iran's government in the world and from its people."
While the United States and several Western allies are blaming on dissidents to topple the current regime, reports continue to filter out of Iran that point to its success in reaching the capability to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Der Spiegel reported last week that a primitive version of a nuclear bomb might be produced by the end of this year although it would be too large to be used as a nuclear warhead, a step that might take at least years.
The United States passed a bill on Friday for harsh sanctions against Americans exporting refined oil to Iran, but the Obama administration indicated it is not rushing to propose tough sanctions through the United Nations Security Council, where China objects to the move.