Iranian Uprising’s 60-Day Milestone Marked by First Death Sentence, New Sanctions

Written by
Mehdi Oghbai

Iran’s nationwide anti-government uprising has now been continuously ongoing for more than 60 days. During that time, there has been little substantive change in the behavior of either the clerical regime or the protesters seeking its overthrow. But the two-month milestone has been marked by the announcement of the first death sentence issued for a protester, as well as by a new round of strikes on Kurdish areas of neighboring Iraq.

The uprising began in mid-September following the death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, at the hands of Tehran’s “morality police.” The early involvement of communities in and around her native Saqqez has led authorities to conflate the movement for accountability.

The same authorities publicly insist that protests in other areas are the product of a conspiracy. Meanwhile, Iran’s leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization, has credited its network of “Resistance Units” with organizing and unifying much of the unrest across more than 200 localities.

The PMOI and its parent coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, have actually been critical of Western powers over the seeming absence of meaningful support for the domestic protest movement. In various statements, the coalition and its political allies have urged the United States and the European Union to sever existing ties with the Iranian regime and to publicly affirm the rights of the Iranian people to defend themselves against repression and to pursue an autonomous change of government.

The appeals for formal rights of self-defense have arguably become more urgent in the face of the recently-announced death sentence, which promises to be the first of many. The PMOI estimates that approximately 30,000 protesters have been arrested since the uprising began, in addition to the 550 or so who have been killed outright by security forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Earlier this month, 227 of the 290 members of Iran’s parliament voted in favor of imposing capital sentences on those whom authorities accuse of leading “riots”.

Iran protests round-up—Day 59 | November 13, 2022
Also earlier this month, it was reported that at least four people in Tehran had been charged with “enmity against God,” a vaguely-defined offense that carries the death penalty. At least 1,000 people in total were indicted in the capital city as part of the first publicly-announced round of legal actions against protesters. On Saturday, state media further reported that ten men and one woman had been indicted in connection with the death of a Basij militant, some of them for the similarly vague capital charge of “spreading corruption on earth.”

The European Union’s head of foreign policy, Josep Borrell, issued a statement on Monday demanding that the Iranian judiciary provide due process to its detainees, though all such appeals are virtually certain to fall on deaf ears in Tehran. The statement also declared that “the EU strongly condemns the unacceptable violent crackdown of protesters,” thereby reinforcing the message behind sanctions newly imposed on Iranian authorities by the EU as well as Britain.

Those sanctions target 29 individuals and three organizations, including Iran’s Interior and Communications Ministers, senior officers of the police force and military, and the English-language propaganda outlet Press TV, which stands accused of strongly contributing to the suppression of accurate information about the uprising and crackdown, as well as the justification of that crackdown’s continued escalation.

The German Foreign Ministry boasted that a portion of the new EU sanctions target the “inner circle” of the Revolutionary Guards, the hardline paramilitary organization for which Germany has also recently urged designation as a terrorist organization. The US State Department imposed such a designation in 2019, and many critics of the Iranian regime responded by stating that the move was long overdue.

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan embraced the new European measures on Monday and declared that “the United States, standing with our partners and allies around the world, will continue to pursue accountability for those responsible” for the ongoing abuse and denial of due process to protesters and detainees. Meanwhile, a possible new outlet for those efforts emerged when it was reported that the United Nations Human Rights Council would be holding an emergency session to address the situation in Iran later this month.

Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, responded to that announcement on Twitter by noting that the organization will be “demanding the creation of an international Commission of Inquiry” concerning the crackdown, as well as reiterating its call for the Islamic Republic to be expelled from the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Details of the emergency session have yet to be announced, but Newsweek called the UN’s seriousness on this topic into question when it was reported that the international body’s decision closely coincided with the arrival of Iranian MP Zoreh Elahian at the headquarters in New York for a meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. Elahian is one of the 227 lawmakers who voted in favor of death sentences for protesters, and she was accompanied to the UN by Deputy Judiciary Chief Kazem Gharibabadi, who will almost certainly play a role in implementing those sentences in the near future.

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