Public executions in Iran are possible bid to disorient protesters

"What the Iranian people want is the absolute removal of the regime, there is no compromise, there's no middle ground, this is it," an Iranian activist said.

 Iranians protest, holding signs with slogans such as "women, life, freedom" and" "I swear by the good blood of Iran it will be free." December 2022 (photo credit: 1500tasvir)
Iranians protest, holding signs with slogans such as "women, life, freedom" and" "I swear by the good blood of Iran it will be free." December 2022
(photo credit: 1500tasvir)

Iran has begun to publicly execute anti-government protesters. The second public execution of a protester took place on Monday morning in the northeast of the country. However, many Iranians believe that this development is a government strategy to cause the Iranian people to stop demanding a complete change in the government and to focus instead on asking for a halt to the executions.

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A.S. (a pseudonym), an Iranian activist living in Teheran, told The Media Line that there is a very strong theory widely accepted among Iranians that the government started publicly executing protesters in order to change their focus from dismantling the current government to calling on the government to make the executions stop.

He explains that, in the eyes of the government – which feels that its power is in jeopardy, "if they stop the executions maybe people will give up on changing the government."  

However, he stresses that "what the Iranian people want is the absolute removal of the regime, there is no compromise, there's no middle ground, this is it.”

The Iranian news agency Mizan, which is associated with the country’s judiciary, reported the second execution and identified the victim as Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, who was publicly hanged from a construction crane in the city of Mashhad. This followed the first public execution of an anti-government demonstrator on Thursday when Mohsen Shekari was hanged in Teheran.

Fire and smoke are seen at Fuladshahr, Isfahan province, Iran in this still image obtained from a social media video released on November 17, 2022 obtained by REUTERS. (credit: VIA REUTERS)Fire and smoke are seen at Fuladshahr, Isfahan province, Iran in this still image obtained from a social media video released on November 17, 2022 obtained by REUTERS. (credit: VIA REUTERS)

Protests continue in Iran 3 months after Mahsa Amini's death

“Some people will feel more scared and will be more hesitant to go and protest, but some people would eventually actually become angrier and be more insistent on protesting and striking.”

A.S., Iranian activist

Iranians have been protesting for close to three months, since 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini died in mid-September while in the custody of the morality police, who arrested her in Tehran for not wearing her hijab properly. The government is responding forcefully to the nationwide demonstrations bringing the death toll to at least 458 people, according to a report from an Iranian human rights organization on Wednesday.

Another reason for the executions, says A.S., is to cause fear among the protesters to stop them from attending the demonstrations. However, he said: "It's not having the effect that the government is hoping for."

"Some people will feel more scared and will be more hesitant to go and protest, but some people would eventually actually become angrier and be more insistent on protesting and striking," he said, adding that this was the case after the first public execution on Thursday.

Speaking to The Media Line using a pseudonym, Dara Tehrani, an attorney from Tehran who decided not to use his real name due to fear for his life, says that there is a lot of anger being directed toward the government.

"If you think there is an ocean of hatred for the government from the people, yes – this wave is stronger and more inclusive than the previous ones," he said. "But, if you ask me, waves are not going to have the necessary impact; we need a tsunami." 

He says that the current revolution has a lot of power, but it needs leadership to survive. "Without a leader, it will be buried soon," he warned.

Fraz Naqvi, who leads the Iran Program at the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan told The Media Line that he believes the protests cannot last much longer under these conditions. "It will decrease in time since there is no coordination and it is leaderless," he said.

A.S. describes the current state of the protests as flames that appear and disappear in different cities around the country and notes that the protests have experienced a change over the last three months, becoming more concentrated and numerous over time. "Instead of being divided and held in neighborhoods, they are being held in big squares," he said. 

He says that he's not sure how much longer the protests will continue, but he feels that the fact that people have become fearless makes them stronger.

"People are angrier, there is a certain fear factor that no longer exists," he said, noting that people used to be frightened of their neighbors reporting their activities, which he says it is no longer the case. "People are coming out and going on balconies and rooftops and shouting slogans late at night," he said.

Regardless of how much longer the protests will continue, A.S. believes that their main result "is that people will no longer accept being bullied. He added that: “As we saw, people were being bullied into leaving the streets, or not speaking up, or not shouting slogans, or staying quiet after a family member dies protesting because of threats uttered toward their family members."  

Tehrani says that news that the morality police are being dismantled, reported by the international media last week and presented as a triumph of the revolution, “is just a piece of news." He says that the person in the judiciary who first said that the morality police is being canceled, is not in charge of it nor has the authority to dismantle it. 

A.S. said that it gave a sound bite to the media, allowing international news outlets "to print something to say that, perhaps, the protests actually were working, and the pressure is working."

However, he says, the fact that officials said that they will stop patrolling the streets is just a change in technique. They will instead rely on cameras for surveillance and use facial recognition software, he explains. 

"What has been happening is that people are basically identified as being in the protest and then attacked in their homes one by one, get dragged away and disappear," he said.

He also asserts that the removal of the morality police is not at all one of the main pillars of the Iranian peoples’ demands.

Naqvi explains that even if the morality police, which began as an official government institution in 2005, is dismantled, the hijab laws - which were incorporated in 1980 - will remain in force. And it is not known whether the morality police has actually been abolished or not.