With its usual unparalleled barbarity, the ayatollahs' regime marked the 20th anniversary of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran with "the largest mass execution in years," according to eyewitness accounts and reports by human rights groups. On Sunday, July 27, 2008, at dawn, 29 people were hanged in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, the site of thousands of executions as part of 30,000 political executions in Iran in a spate of a few months in summer of 1988.
Many of those executed on Sunday were dissidents arrested during last June's fuel uprisings in Iran. Tehran often describes as "thugs" the restive youths arrested by the State Security Force (SSF) for staging antigovernment protests and demonstrations. Young people are often beaten, tortured and humiliated in public in order to intimidate the population and deter others from joining their ranks. (Click here to watch a video of the State Security Force agents beating a young man in Tehran). Others are jailed or executed in public (Click here for images).
The European Union's French presidency strongly condemned the 29 hangings, adding, "The Iranian regime's action of staging these executions and making them the focus of media attention is an affront to human dignity."
In recent weeks, news reports from Iran indicated that eight women and one man are waiting to be stoned to death. Their sentence defies the so-called moratorium on stoning announced in 2002 by the mullahs' Chief Justice, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. According to BBC World Service, at least "three people are reported to have been executed by stoning since then." In July 2007, the regime stoned to death Jafar Kiani in the northern Iranian city of Takestan.
The latest hangings are the most recent in a dramatic rise in executions in recent months. Dissident groups and international human rights organizations insist that Tehran regularly executes political activists as armed robbers and drug addicts. This new trend goes even further, apparently as part of a wider effort to quell an increasing disenchanted and enraged citizenry. Although Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tenure has seen a marked crackdown on every sector of society, the ayatollahs have failed to terrorize the opposition into submission.
Student activists, women, laborers, journalists, bloggers, ethnic and religious minorities and bus drivers (or the non-conformists as the regime calls them) , risk arrest, torture and execution. But such risks have not deterred them, further rankling a regime already beset by infighting and facing growing isolation abroad.
The French monthly Afrique Asie reported from Tehran that "scenes of resistance against suppression are increasing...Iran is lonely and abandoned internationally," while at home the regime is "faced with increased daily protests by students and workers. The fear of this volcano erupting is depriving the mullahs of a good night's sleep."
For all their populist claims, the mullahs lack the capacity and will to fulfill the Iranian people's legitimate social, economic and political demands. Well aware of this inherent weakness, they have built their regime on suppression at home and crisis-making abroad.
The driving force of the ayatollahs' nuclear weapons campaign and terrorism export — the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) — is first and foremost tasked with protecting the regime from Iran's democratic opposition. This overriding duty (as stipulated many times by its leadership) is inherent in the true translation of IRGC — "Guardians of the Islamic Revolution." In September, IRGC's top Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari stressed that the Corps' "main responsibility" was to fight against "internal threats."
Just last week, in a courageous rebuke to Ahmadinejad's claim that his nuclear policies have popular backing, the residents of the central city of Arak protested against Tehran's nuclear program. Arak is the site of a heavy-water reactor first exposed by Iran's main opposition, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
A film clip of the Arak protest, provided by the resistance network in Iran, was broadcast over the weekend via the opposition's satellite television, Simaye Azadi (click to watch the video ). Outraged by an explosion at a petro-chemical factory, the demonstrators shouted "nuclear energy kills people," and "nuclear energy means money in the pocket of the Leader," referring to the mullahs' Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Given the magnitude and severity of the suppression, such rallies speak volumes about the strength and perseverance of the anti-regime democratic movement.
As Afrique Asie Monthly put it, "The Iranian rulers are very concerned and alarmed, not about an unfeasible foreign military attack, but because of the people's support for the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Today, MEK is highly capable of attracting the young people born and raised after the revolution."
The ayatollahs' fear of their enemies within — the Iranian people and their resistance movement — and the surge in popular protests present policy-makers on the both sides of the Atlantic with a clear choice while the ayatollahs are running out the clock on nuclear weapons as more centrifuges are being installed constantly.
Europe is beginning to show the desire to make a new choice by siding with the Iranian people as opposed to the ruling clerics. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which acts as the parliament-in-exile, was invited by Italian Parliamentarians to Rome last week. A majority (320 members), voiced support for her movement for democratic change in Iran. She was received at the Vatican and met with the mayor of Rome in the city's historic building where Ahmadinejad was rebuffed.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is the author of The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (Palgrave: February 2008).
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.