Middle EastAnalysis

Iran stands firm as protests continue

While hardliners remain determined to crush dissidence, they have been criticised by senior clerics

At ceremonies in Tehran on Tuesday honouring soldiers killed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi emphasised the government’s determination to crack down on protests. According to the Tehran Times, while Mr Raisi said people duped by Iran’s adversaries into taking part in protests would receive amnesty, pity would not be shown to rebels.

Popular demonstrations in Iran have decreased in number and diminished in size, but continue more than 100 days after protests erupted over the death of Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini, who was detained by morality police for improperly wearing her hijab.

Of the 14,000 protesters arrested, two have been executed and two have had death sentences quashed on appeal. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) has said at least 11 people, including five women, have been sentenced to death while another 100 face capital charges without adequate legal representation.

“By issuing death sentences and executing some of them, [the authorities] want to make people go home,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiri-Moghaddam. “It has some effect [but] what we’ve observed in general is more anger against the authorities. Their strategy of spreading fear through executions has failed.”


While IHR has reported the updated death toll among protesters at 476, the official Iranian figure issued early this month was 200 killed, including security officers. Tehran prosecutor general Ali Alqasi-Mehr said this week prison sentences had been imposed on 400 protesters. He said 83 per cent of those arrested in Tehran province during “riots” had been freed.

Sina Azodi of the Atlantic Council – a US think tank – told Al-Jazeera that while Iran was not facing regime change, the women-led protests had altered the relationship between the clerical rulers and those they oversee.

“I believe the protests will continue in one way or another because the Iranian government has failed to address the root cause of the protests,” he said, adding that the state had not shown “interest in addressing the grievances of the people”.

While hardliners remain united in their determination to crush dissidence instead of resolving popular grievances, they have been criticised by senior Shia clerics, a few legislators, and reformist politicians, notably former president Mohammad Khatami.

Protests have disrupted Iranian relations with the EU, US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, which have imposed sanctions on individuals, while Tehran has refused to co-operate with a UN fact-finding mission.

Meanwhile, US military analyst William M Arkin reported in Newsweek that US president Joe Biden was “inching toward war with Iran”. He said that while preparing “for any potential war against Iran, the Biden administration has formally elevated Israel in military planning”.