Dire Situation for Iran’s Political Prisoners and the Urgent Need for Worldwide Protest

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December 30, 2020 | revcom.us

As Iran’s Islamic regime was preparing to ramp up a new wave of vicious repression, Amnesty International (AI) issued a detailed report, “Trampling Humanity: Mass Arrests, Disappearances and Torture Since Iran’s 2019 November Protests.” A press release about the report opened with these bullet points about the situation:

  • Widespread torture including beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances, and deprivation of medical care 
  • Hundreds subjected to grossly unfair trials on baseless national security charge
  • Death sentences issued based on torture-tainted “confessions”

What follows is a snapshot, the tip of the iceberg, to give an indication of the scale and scope of the horrific wave of repression by the theocratic regime in Iran in just the past two months.

Since the AI report mentioned above, the situation has become ever more dire with an alarming increase in death penalties quickly given and carried out in the cases of political prisoners in recent months. A recent mass international outcry followed the December 12 hanging of 47-year-old dissident blogger/journalist Rouhollah Zam. He was targeted by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) regime for favorably reporting on the protests inside Iran in 2017 and 2019. Rouhollah Zam had been living in exile in Paris since 2011 but was lured to Iraq where he was kidnapped and taken to Iran in October 2019, jailed, and given a sham trial that included a tortured confession in sealing his death sentence, even as his father is a member of the IRI regime.

The category of political prisoners is very broad. The Iranian regime’s crackdown this October included environmentalists, students, members of minority nationalities (e.g., Kurds, Arabs etc.) women’s right activists, teachers, labor union movement activists/organizers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, and just about anyone who can be deemed as opposing the regime in some way, and often on fabricated evidence or tortured confessions.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported last week that the IRI has greatly intensified executions of political prisoners. For example, three young Baloch (or Baluch)* men accused of belonging to militant Sunni Muslim groups were executed on December 23. There may be several more waiting this same fate. Executions are carried out even as lawyers are in the process of appealing their defendants’ sentence.

According to the CHRI website, also in late December, the IRI stepped up going after members of the Iranian Writers Association (IWA), such as detaining poet Amin Moradi. His lawyers suspect he will soon be charged with the typical “national security” charges. His arrest follows the October 2020 jailing of three senior IWA members, also on bogus charges after unjust trials.

In late November, both AI and the CHRI highlighted the case of 66-year-old political prisoner, German-Iranian dual national and women’s right activist Nahid Taghavi. She was arrested at her parent’s home in Tehran on October 16 and held in solitary confinement, denied family or attorney visits, needed medication and medical care. AI’s report sounded an alarm that she was being tortured. In mid-December, BBC highlighted the dangerously uncertain fate of a number of dual nationals now in the IRI prisons, including that of Taghavi as well as many others 

The detailed September AI report cited above has gruesome illustrations of some of the torture techniques used by the IRI—reminiscent of photos of America’s own torture techniques such as at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. base at Guantánamo, Cuba, and numerous secret CIA “black sites” stretching across the globe. To paraphrase filmmaker Jeff Kaufman (Nasrin), commenting during the PEN/Ms panel discussion of his film, the answer to repression by the IRI is NOT for the U.S. to attack Iran. That is, the horror being perpetuated by the IRI on the Iranian people must be opposed—and any U.S. war threats/moves or vicious sanctions on Iran must be opposed, especially by people in this country.

As Bob Avakian said in the seminal work Bringing Forward Another Way:

What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade [increasingly globalized western imperialism] on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these “outmodeds,” you end up strengthening both. 

While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these “historically outmodeds” has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity. It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.

This scientific understanding mandates acting on the internationalist responsibility of people living in the U.S. to actively join the struggle for a rising chorus of condemnation of the IRI’s waves of repression to demand freedom and justice for all of Iran’s political prisoners NOW along with active opposition to any war threats/moves by the U.S. against Iran.

* These are inhabitants of the region of Balochistan in southern Iran. They speak the Rakhshani and Sarawani dialects of Balochi, an Iranian language. Its 2 million population mainly inhabit mountainous terrains that has allowed them to maintain a distinct cultural identity as a minority nationality inside Iran.  [back]

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