For the people of Iran 2021 ended while the situation of human rights deteriorated drastically. The report below Sheds some light on how the ruling theocracy stepped up crackdown on every aspect of life to preserve its grip on power.
Iran Human Rights Monitor’s annual report on the human rights situation in Iran is the primary source for this summary.
Iran’s Restive Society and Regime’s New Power Arrangement
In 2021, people from all walks of life held daily protests across Iran. Besides, there were at least three significant protests in three provinces, Isfahan (center), Khuzestan (southwest), and Sistan and Baluchistan (southeast). These protests pointed to the explosive state of Iranian society.
To maintain control, the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, decided to close ranks. In June 2021, Khamenei selected Ebrahim Raisi, a notorious human rights abuser, as the regime’s president. He also appointed Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei as the Judiciary Chief. Ejei is a ruthless criminal who served as Raisi’s deputy when the latter was the Judiciary Chief from 2019 to 2021.
In 2020, Khamenei also appointed the ex-State Security Force Commandere Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as the Speaker of a handpicked parliament. The trio of Raisi, Ejei, and Ghalibaf, have but one goal: intensifying the atmosphere of terror and repression to stifle all form of dissent. This new power arrangement also reflects the regime’s paranoia in the face of the people’s looming uprisings and the existential threat they pose to the regime’s survival.
The violent crackdowns on protests in recent months, and the surge in the number of executions since June 2021, are testaments to Iran’s worsening human rights situation on the one hand and reflect the desperation of the ruling mullahs on the other.
Iran Protests and Regime’s crackdown
Protests erupted across Iran in 2021 due to the economic and social crises plaguing the nation. Three major protests lasted for up to several weeks.
On February 22, 2021, protests erupted in Sistan and Baluchistan province, southeast Iran, after the regime’s security forces gunned down dozens of deprived fuel carriers. On February 23, despite the heavy presence of the regime’s security forces, locals in the city of Saravan rose up and clashed with the regime’s oppressive forces. They also stormed the governorate.
In response, the Iranian regime’s forces opened fire on unarmed locals, killing at least 40 protesters, and wounding 100 others.
On July 15, protests began in Khuzestan province, southwest Iran, due to severe water shortages and the regime’s destructive policies that have created the water crisis. The protest, initially in protest against the water shortage, quickly took on political overtones, as the throngs of people began chanting anti-regime slogans, defiantly calling for the regime’s overthrow. The suppressive forces opened fire on the unarmed protesters. The people in several other cities across Iran held protests in solidarity with the people of Khuzestan.
On November 26, following days of sit-ins and large-scale protests, the regime’s security forces attacked the farmers and locals in Isfahan, who were demanding their right to irrigation water. The security forces used pellet guns, shooting people mainly in the eyes. As a result, many protesters, mainly the youth, lost their eyesight.
Depriving People Of their Right to Life
Iran’s Covid-19 death toll is rapidly reaching half a million. Hundreds of Iranians die every day, nurses commit suicide due to the work pressure, and hospital beds are filled with patients, while hundreds of other people with severe conditions languish in hospital yards and corridors. The current Covid-19 tragedy was preventable.
Fearing another uprising that could end in his regime being toppled, Khamenei, and his officials launched criminal Covid-19 policy. The regime used the strategy of mass human casualties to create a barrier against the tide of uprsings.
Khamenei called this virus a “test” and “blessing,” his regime officials denied the existence of Covid-19 in Iran for months, and when they had to announce its arrival, they tried to downplay it.
This policy reached its peak in January 2021, when Khamenei banned certified American and British vaccines, citing some conspiracy theories.
Mansoureh Mills, a researcher for Amnesty International, described Khamenei’s ban on vaccines as being “in step with the authorities’ decades-long contempt for human rights, including the right to life and health.”
Khamenei also profited from banning vaccines because one of his financial institutions, the “Headquarters to Execute Imam Khomeini’s Order”, was tasked with producing the so-called “domestic” vaccines, which not only failed to help, but also, had severe side effects.
Increasing Number of Executions
2021 ended with a much higher number of executions. According to Iran HRM, 357 were executed in Iran in 2021, meaning 107 more executions than 2020. The actual number is much higher as the Iranian regime secretly carries out many executions. In December, at least seven women and three juvenile offenders were hanged.
While the number of executions has surged since Raisi became the regime’s president, the so-called “moderate” government of Hassan Rouhani ended its eight-year term with nearly 5,000 executions, including 144 executions in 2021.
Several political prisoners were also executed in Iran in 2021. Javid Dehghan, was hanged in Zahedan Central Prison on January 30, 2021. The Iranian regime executed Ali Motiri, on January 28, 2021. Hassan Dehvari and Elias Qalandarzehi, were hanged on January 3, 2021. On February 28, 2021, the regime executed four Arab political prisoners.
In December, the regime hanged Heydar Ghorbani, a Kurdish political prisoner, despite international outcries to stay his execution.
Suspicious deaths of prisoners
In addition to executions, the Iranian regime secretly murdered political prisoners in prison. This phenomenon is known as “suspicious deaths.”
In February 2021, Gonabadi Dervish, Behnam Mahjoubi, died. He had been transferred to the hospital following food poisoning in Evin Prison. Eight days later, on February 21, he was announced dead in Tehran’s Loghman Hospital. The regime authorities deliberately denied Behnam medical care.
Sasan Niknafs was another prisoner of conscience who died in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary on June 7, 2021, due to critical physical conditions. Regime authorities refused to provide him medical treatment.
In September, Shahin Naseri, a young prisoner who had witnessed the torture of the Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari, executed for participating in the 2018 uprising, died suspiciously in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.
According to Iran-HRM, as least 77 Iranians were killed in 2021 due to arbitrary killings. Most of these victims were deprived porters in the Kurdistan region of Iran and fuel porters in Sistan and Baluchistan. Besides, At least 107 people were injured because of border guards’ indiscriminate shootings. The Iranian regime arbitrarily kills deprived porters under the pretext of combatting corruption and smuggling, while the IRGC and Khamenei control Iran’s largest smuggling network.
Ethnic and Religious Minorities
The regime continued and double downed on its systematic violation of ethnic and religious minorities’ rights throughout 2021. It arrested dozens of Kurdish citizens because of their cultural activities. From November 11 to 14Intelligence Ministry agents embarked on a wave of arrests of Kurdish citizens in various cities, including Baneh, Marivan, Saqqez, and Sanandaj. These arbitrary arrests were not limited to Kurdish minority. From May 14 to 17, at least 26 citizens of Arab descent were arrested in Ahvaz and Mahshahr.
The Iranian regime also arrested and handed down heavy sentences to Iran’s Baha’i community members. According to Iran-HRM, “following the announcement of the results of the 2021 national entrance exams, at least 17 Baha’is were disqualified and prevented from continuing their education because of their faith.”
In addition to Baha’is, dozens of Iranian Christian converts received heavy sentences.
On December 17, the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 68th UN Resolution condemning the gross and systematic violation of human rights in Iran.
This resolution once again highlighted that the Iranian regime has never ceased its human rights violations. The appointment of human rights abusers such as Raisi and Mohseni Eje’i to top positions in Iran is a testament to what could be described as the “crisis of impunity in Iran.”
Raisi was one of the leading regime officials during the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
In reaction to Raisi’s presidency, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said: “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”
This impunity is primarily due to the international community’s silence and inaction to hold Tehran accountable for human rights violations.
In a letter published in December 2020, seven UN experts called the 1988 massacre “crimes against humanity.” The letter underlined: “The failure of these [international] bodies to act had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran and emboldened Iran to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continue to date.”
As the Iranian Resistance has long stressed, the dossier on four decades of crimes against humanity and genocide committed by this regime, especially the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners and the massacre of 1,500 demonstrators in 2019, must be referred to the UN Security Council, and the leaders of this regime, and above all, Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Judiciary Chief, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje’i, must be prosecuted in an International Court.
In the words of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s president-elect, “The international community must shun this regime and end impunity for its criminal leaders.”