Since demonstrations broke out over high gas prices on November 15 across Iran, at least 140 protesters have been killed. Amnesty International reports that Iranian security forces “shot unarmed people on streets, from rooftops and a helicopter”. Thousands have reportedly been arrested.
Amnesty further reported on November 25 that,
“[T]he Iranian authorities have been moving injured protesters from hospitals to detention facilities, putting their lives at risk by denying them potentially life-saving medical care.
“[I]n many cases, the Iranian authorities have refused to return victims’ bodies to their families and, in some cases, the security forces have removed dead bodies from morgues and transferred them to unknown locations.
“There are also shocking reports that, when the authorities have returned victims’ bodies to their families, they have demanded payment citing several reasons, including the cost of the bullet that killed their loved one, or compensation for property destroyed during the protests. These allegations have been denied by at least one official in Khuzestan province.
“Meanwhile, in a pattern consistent with previous protester killings in Iran, the authorities have threatened victims’ families with arrest if they hold funerals for their loved ones or speak to members of the media.”
As thousands of Iranians have been risking their lives to call for the ouster of the regime for about two weeks, it has become increasingly difficult to find out about the real scope of the rights violations by the Iranian authorities. In fact, the regime of Iran, which is infamous for jailing and oppressing journalists, has reportedly been dictating to the media within the country on how to cover the protests.
“The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned that two main government ministries have silenced the domestic media by issuing directives dictating coverage of the unrest, in a blatant violation of freedom of the press. Intelligence ministry officials have also threatened journalists that they will be charged with 'crimes' if their reporting of events does not hew to the official narrative of events.
“Moreover, contrary to the widespread view that the government was caught off guard by the protests, CHRI has learned from an informed source who requested anonymity for security reasons that officials anticipated there would be unrest after the planned announcement of the gasoline price hikes. According to the source, state officials met with media publishers to instruct them on coverage of the expected unrest before the price hikes were announced to the public.”
And it appears that the governmental pressures bore fruit. “Domestic Iranian news media, including the major state-run newspapers, news agencies, and broadcasters minimized the protests and the gas price hike, according to CPJ’s [Committee to Protect Journalists] review of their output since the protests began.”
After the Iranian regime shut down the internet on November 16, Iranian people were unable to access the internet, including messaging services or social media, for a week. On November 22, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter:
"The U.S. is sanctioning the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mohammad Jahromi, for helping shut down the Iranian internet. We will hold members of the Iranian regime accountable for their violent repression of the Iranian people. #Internet4Iran."
Following both Pompeo’s and US President Donald Trump’s strong stance against the Iranian regime, Internet was “restored with multiple fixed-line providers across much of Iran, allowing some users to get online via wifi. Current connectivity levels have risen to 64% after earlier flatlining at 5% for several days. Mobile internet remains largely unavailable,” reported NetBlocks, which monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the internet.
However, those who have tried to reach out to the world despite the internet blackout have been targeted by the regime. On November 22, for instance, security forces from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence arrested Mohammad Mosaed, a freelance economic reporter, at his home in Tehran for posting two tweets on November 19. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that “During the internet blackout, Mosaed tweeted ‘Hello Free World!’ and said he was using ‘42 different proxies’ to access the internet, according to a screenshot of that post taken before his account was suspended on November 23. He also tweeted a congratulations to other Iranians who had been able to bypass the internet shutdown, according to Radio Farda.”
“While the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the EU and a number of states have condemned what they have described as apparent use of excessive force, these responses have failed to explicitly acknowledge the use of lethal force to kill protesters, despite mounting evidence.
“‘The international community’s cautious and muted response to the unlawful killing of protesters is woefully inadequate. They must condemn these killings in the strongest possible terms and describe these events for what they are – the deadly and wholly unwarranted use of force to crush dissent,’” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
And on November 21, the human rights organization, Iran Wire, expressed its frustration over the overall Western coverage of the protests, and asked: “Why is the world so silent about us?”
“Iranians are angry that Western media is ignoring the Iran protests and the government's murder of protesters. Stories about a US congressman farting on TV and Prince Andrew have received more coverage. Iranians want to know: How many must be killed to be newsworthy?”
Apparently, just “raising concerns” and “urging Iranian restraint” in the face of the high protester death toll have no influence over the decision making processes of the murderous regime in Iran.
The key to real change in Iran that will eventually provide Iranian people with freedom, prosperity, and human rights lies in the Trump administration's powerful stance against Iran’s abusive government. As the White House announced in 2017: The US “will work to deny the Iranian regime – and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – funding for its malign activities, and oppose IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people.
“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.”
As the Iranian regime is increasingly murdering and torturing its own citizens before the eyes of the world, it is time for the EU and other free nations to follow the US lead.