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Prisoners’ Rebellion in Iran Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: An Existential Threat to Regime

Riot in Iran's prisons
Riot in Iran’s prisons

There are daily reports from Iran about prisoners’ rebellions and breakouts from prison amid the coronavirus outbreak in Iran. This is an unprecedented yet very important development in IranIt shows how weak the oppressive mullahs’ regime is and its incapability of helping the most vulnerable to COVID-19: the prisoners.  

On Saturday night, March 28, prisoners in the Mahabad Central Prison rebelled and fled in protest to the regime’s mismanagement and incapability to control the coronavirus. Simultaneously, On Saturday, prisoners of Alvand Prison in Hamedan protested the regime’s refusal to release them in the wake of the spread of the Coronavirus, and some managed to escape. Earlier on Friday, March 27, prisoners in the Saqqez Prison in Kurdistan rebelled in protest to the mullahs’ refusal to release them amid the Coronavirus outbreak. The regime’s suppressive forces in all prisons, particularly the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forces, opened fire on prisoners killing and wounding dozens of them. Yet the prisoners chose to fight for their lives rather than staying idly by. 

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK) announced on Sunday, that over 13,600 people had lost their lives due to the coronavirus. The regime has continued its inaction and criminal cover-up regarding the coronavirus pandemic, turning Iran into an epicenter of this virus and leaving the Iranian people defenseless in facing this deadly crisis.  In this regard, Iranian prisoners are the most vulnerable to the deadly COVID-19. Iranian prisons, due to the regime’s oppression and arbitrary arrests, particularly after the protests in November, in which over 12,000 people were arrested, are highly populated. Along with the scarcity of medical equipment and a lack of masks and disinfectants, the regime, due to its suppressive nature, has done nothing to help the inmates.  

The regime’s Judiciary Chief, Ebrahim Raisi, had earlier claimed the authorities had released 85,000 prisonersBut which independent source or an international organization has confirmed that? The regime didn’t invite any humanitarian organization to witness this procedure closely. According to the World Prison BriefIranian prisons’ population as of 2018 was 240,000, and it has increased ever since. So, the regime claims it has released nearly one third of the prisoners. If the regime had taken such an important step, why are Iranian prisons still highly populated, and why are prisoners collectively breaking out  

On the other hand, not a single political prisoner has been released, nor have prisoners that are classified as a “security threat” for the regime, or in other words the political prisoners, including the 12,000 protesters detained during the Iran protests in November and January.  

Domestic oppression, along with exporting terrorism abroad, are the regime’s two pillars of existence. Since the coronavirus outbreak in Iran the regime has increased its oppressive force by imposing an undeclared martial law with constant military patrols and arresting those who tell the truth about the extent of the COVID-19. Simultaneously, while rejecting the international community’s offers of help, particularly from the U.S., and expelling Doctors Without Borders (MSF), it keeps blaming the U.S. sanctions as the main reason for the deadly coronavirus outbreak. If the regime truly wants to help the Iranian people, why has it not released all prisoners? The answer to this question is simple: the regime is neither capable, nor willing to help the Iranian people.  This rebukes all the efforts by the regime’s apologists to blame sanctions as the reason behind the coronavirus outbreak.  

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)had repeatedly warned of a major catastrophe and crimes against humanity in Iranian prisons. She has called for urgent action by the Secretary-General, the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the European Union to take measures to secure the release of all prisoners, especially political prisoners to save their lives. “The clerical regime must free all prisoners and stop arrests, torture and executions in Iran. It must particularly refrain from preventing national solidarity efforts and the aid provided by rebellious youth to our compatriots,” Mrs. Rajavi added. 

In this situation, the prisoners rebellion, which is in connection and in line with the Iranian people’s unanimous demand of regime change during the Iran protests, confirms that the regime has lost its control and its oppression won’t prevent and intimidate people. The prisoners rebellion, in the regime’s prison where torturers rule and brutalize inmates and have had the upper hand, shows how weak the regime is. It shows that the regime has reached its final phase, and it should be considered as a part of a broader existential threat to the regimeThe coronavirus outbreak, as the regime’s officials said repeatedly, is indeed a security threat and will lead to their downfall.  

The regime is indeed in a deadlock. According to the Iranian Resistance, releasing prisoners and ending torture and execution even for one day will lead to the regime’s downfall. On the other hand, further detention and oppression only prepares the ground for another popular uprising, which this time, given the regime’s unstable situation, would end in its downfall.