For more than three weeks, the world has seen a new face of Iran. This is face of the political subjectivity of the oppressed, not the usual elite plays of a dictatorial regime. Sparked by the killing of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini by the Iranian morality police, the widespread uprising that followed has been set against the misogyny, oppression and injustice of the regime, seen in the widely shared slogan: “Woman, Life, Freedom”. This uprising, for freedom and against oppression, has gained international attention, sparking hope across the world, particularly due to the courageous action of Iran’s women. Although this autonomous struggle for freedom seeks a revolutionary perspective, it is an unequal struggle between protesters and a brutal dictatorship that has been expanding its repressive apparatus with oil money for decades. Nevertheless, despite the far-reaching police brutality they face and the danger it poses to their lives, the demonstrators continue to take to the streets.
As in previous uprisings, the Islamic regime is trying to intimidate and terrorize the people, intensifying its repression. Its goal is to increase the personal costs of participating in the protests to such a level that few will be able to continue. In the city of Zahedan alone, more than 90 demonstrators were shot dead by the police in less than an hour. Independent human rights organizations estimate that more than 200 people have been killed so far, and thousands more imprisoned. The protests and the bloody repression continue, while internet access has been, in all but name, shut down.
Simultaneously, the regime’s propaganda apparatus and its judicial and repressive organs are accelerating the process of repression and terrorization from multiple angles, accusing those arrested of being against national security and claiming that participants are under the influence of enemies from abroad. These accusations have also been targeted at activists from other movements: workers, women, teachers, students, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, as well as environmental and human-rights activists. Some of these activists were arrested weeks or even months before to the uprising; others “pre-emptively” during the protests themselves, despite in many cases no involvement at all. The regime is also exploiting the current turbulent situation to put pressure on political prisoners, as well as providing false accusations and handing out tougher sentences to those accused. The aim of this repression is to deprive further iterations of the uprising, in order to prevent them from escalating, as well as to cut out any potential organizational expansion – especially since the government’s Achilles’ heel would be a combination of street protests and widespread strikes.
Across the world, many understand that Iran’s political system lacks even the bare minimum of judicial legitimacy, and that executions and suspicious deaths of political opponents in prisons are not uncommon. What happens in prisons is not recorded and has no audience. Usually, the prisoners are forced under torture to make bogus confessions in front of Secret Service cameras, later to be shown on state TV channels . As a group of exiled political activists and former prisoners of Iran, some of whom survived the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, we are deeply concerned about the catastrophe currently unfolding in Iran’s prisons. According to both the testimony of survivors and other evidence, the Regime continues to extend the brutal oppression from the street protests and into the prison system.
We expect all humanist-minded people worldwide to not only speak out against the bloody repression of the protesters, but also to be the voice of Iran’s political prisoners. We think true solidarity with the struggles of the oppressed must also include the protection of and advocacy for the liberation of those who are imprisoned because of their participation in these struggles. We urge activists and political organizations worldwide to do everything they can to increase pressure on the Iranian regime to release all political prisoners. This includes not only the dissemination of this appeal, but also permanent public outreach and actions such as rallies in front of Iranian consulates and embassies with reference to the situation of the prisoners. We also call on all political organizations and activists, as well as human rights organizations, to put pressure on local and national politicians to force them to respond concretely to the Iranian regime’s brutal repression, detention, torture, and execution of political prisoners.
Let’s keep the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” alive, and enact it in our individual and collective actions. This fight and slogan belong to everyone who want a free and equal world.
Long live international solidarity!