TEHRAN: A woman walks past a banner depicting launching missiles bearing the emblem of the Islamic Republic of Iran on April 15, 2024. - AFP
TEHRAN: A woman walks past a banner depicting launching missiles bearing the emblem of the Islamic Republic of Iran on April 15, 2024. - AFP

Iran ramps up nationwide crackdown

Morality police wage ‘war against women’ as regional tensions rage

PARIS: Executions of convicts, arrests of dissidents and a resurgence in patrols enforcing the obligatory wearing of hijabs: Iran is stepping up repression at home as tensions flare with its archfoe the Zionist entity, activists say. Iranians in the Islamic republic have endured increased repression since nationwide protests were sparked from September 2022 by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly flouting the mandatory dress rules for women.

But the crackdown has entered a new phase as fears of a regional conflict surge, with the Zionist entity launching an apparent strike on Iran on Friday. Activists have reported that the dreaded white vans of the “morality police” have returned to city squares across Iran, picking up women deemed to have violated the rule of obligatory hijab in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tehran police chief Abbas Ali Mohammadian openly announced the latest crackdown on April 13, with local media saying it was codenamed “Nour” (“light” in Persian). Multiple videos posted on social media — under the hashtag “jang aliyeh zanan” (“war against women”) –- have shown women being bundled into vans by male police in body armor accompanied by female police agents dressed in the Islamic chador.

Streets turned into ‘battlefield’

“The Islamic Republic has turned the streets into a battlefield against women and youth,” 2023 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and jailed rights activist Narges Mohammadi wrote in a message from Tehran’s Evin prison and published by her supporters on social media. In one video filmed close to the Tajrish metro station in northern Tehran, a woman collapses on the ground after being apprehended by the police, telling bystanders who then seek to revive her that her phone was confiscated.

Another includes what appears to be the sound of police using electric shock against women who had been rounded up and put into a van. “Amid increasing dissent at home and international attention focused on regional tensions, the Islamic republic is grabbing the opportunity to intensify its campaign of repression against dissent,” said the director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi.

“Without a firm international response, the Islamic Republic will be emboldened to intensify its violence against women and its egregious violations of human rights,” said Ghaemi. Hundreds were killed, according to rights groups, and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations, in the crackdown on the 2022 protests that represented one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic republic.

‘Opportunity to tighten grip’

Among those arrested in recent days was Aida Shahkarami, the sister of Nika Shahkarami, 16, who died during the 2022 crackdown, her mother Nasrin wrote on social media. Aida was detained “for not wearing the mandatory hijab,” Nasrin Shahkarami wrote on social media. Nika Shahkarami was found dead during the protests, with some family members accusing the security forces of killing her.

Dina Ghalibaf, a journalist and student at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University, was arrested after accusing security forces on social media of putting her in handcuffs and sexually assaulting her during a previous arrest at a metro station, according to the Norway-based Hengaw rights group. Executions, which activists say are used by Tehran as a means to instill fear into society, have also continued apace, with at least 110 people executed this year alone according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group.

Among those executed in recent days were a married couple, Esmail Hassaniani, 29, and his wife Marjan Hajizadeh, 19, who were sentenced to death for drug-related charges in a joint case and hanged in Zanjan central prison on 11 April, according to IHR. “The regime will without any doubt use this opportunity to tighten the grip inside the country,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “They still haven’t managed to take the control that they had before September 2022. They may have the opportunity to do so now, if all the international attention goes to the escalating tension with (the Zionist entity).” – AFP

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