As people around the world welcomed the new year over the weekend, for the people of Iran, the end of 2021 signified another year approaching that would be just as challenging as the previous one. The situation of human rights in Iran deteriorated drastically last year, and in the midst of it all, the Iranian people continued to fight for their rights against the ruthless Iranian regime.
In a bid to maintain control of his regime, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei chose to close ranks and recruit people to fill top regime positions who he knew would be able to quell the unrest by any means necessary. Ebrahim Raisi, a notorious abuser of human rights, was selected in June 2021 as the regime’s latest president, while the position of Judiciary Chief went to Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei. The year before, former State Security Commander Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf was appointed as the Speaker of the parliament.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said, “The trio of Raisi, Ejei, and Ghalibaf, have but one goal: intensifying the atmosphere of terror and repression to stifle all form of dissent. This new power arrangement also reflects the regime’s paranoia in the face of the people’s looming uprisings and the existential threat they pose to the regime’s survival.”
Due to the severe economic and social crises in Iran during 2021, daily protests were common across Iran. In the provinces of Isfahan, Khuzestan, and Sistan and Baluchistan, three major protests highlighted just how explosive the unrest has become in Iranian society.
In February, protests began in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan after dozens of deprived fuel carriers were shot and killed by the regime’s security forces. In the city of Saravan, citizens clashed with the security forces and stormed the governate. The security forces then turned on the unarmed locals, wounding 100 people in a rain of gunfire and killing 40.
Due to severe water shortages in Khuzestan province in July, protests erupted. The demonstrations were aimed at the regime and their destructive policies which led to the water crisis, but before long, calls for the regime’s overthrow were heard, alongside anti-regime slogans. Once again, the regime’s security forces opened fire on the unarmed protesters. Protests in other cities across Iran were held, as people wished to show their solidarity with the citizens of Khuzestan.
Farmers in Isfahan arranged sit-ins and large-scale protests in November, demanding their rights to access water to irrigate their land. Following days of these demonstrations, and with other locals joining forces with the farmers, security forces moved in with pellet guns to attack the protesters. As the pellets were aimed directly at the eyes of the protesters, many people ended up losing their eyesight from the damage caused.
The NCRI said, “Iran’s Covid-19 death toll is rapidly reaching half a million. Hundreds of Iranians die every day, nurses commit suicide due to the work pressure, and hospital beds are filled with patients, while hundreds of other people with severe conditions languish in hospital yards and corridors. The current Covid-19 tragedy was preventable.”
In a bid to control the crisis, under fears of another uprising that could topple the regime, Khamenei and his officials used the pandemic, and the mass human casualties, as a barrier. Khamenei openly referred to the virus as a ‘test’ and a ‘blessing’, while regime officials denied the existence of Covid-19 in Iran for months.
In January 2021, Khamenei made the decision to ban certified American and British vaccines on the back of conspiracy theories, and announced that Iran would be using domestically-produced vaccines instead. Not only did this domestic vaccine have severe side effects, and was widely untested, it later came to light that the financial institution tasked with producing it, the ‘Headquarters to Execute Imam Khomeini’s Order’, is one of the institutions that Khamenei controls, thus allowing him to profit from the production.
Just last month, the 68th UN Resolution to condemn the systematic violations of human rights in Iran was adopted during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The NCRI said, “This resolution once again highlighted that the Iranian regime has never ceased its human rights violations. The appointment of human rights abusers such as Raisi and Mohseni Ejei to top positions in Iran is a testament to what could be described as the ‘crisis of impunity’ in Iran.”