The aggressive foreign policy of the Islamic Republic cannot be explained without looking at it from within. Poverty and repression cause problems for people.

Protest by Iranian activists in front of the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin: they demand an end to executions in Iran and show photographs of possible victims

Protests are brutally repressed in Iran. Iranian activists demand to “stop executions” in Berlin on January 27, 2024 Photo: Echo Iran/imago

“For years I worked every day, some days twelve or thirteen hours,” Maryam Ahadi says by phone. And yet now, at 32 years old, she is unemployed and barely has any money left for food, clothing or gas. Because savings are illusory in Iran. Maryam Ahadi earned her doctorate and worked at Tehran University until she was fired for her support of the protest movement. As she fears further repression, her name has been changed here.

Economically, most people in Iran are like Ahadi: extremely bad. High prices and unemployment make a normal life almost impossible for a large part of the population. Added to this is the political situation. When thousands of people protested in the streets and women removed their veils in September 2022 following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, Ahadi was one of them. “Woman, life, freedom” – that was her cry. And it was the beginning of a wave of state repression that continues to this day.

According to the human rights organization Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (ABC), 806 people were executed in 2023. Even before 2023, the Islamic Republic of Iran was, along with China, the country with the highest number of executions in the world, relative to its population. But more than 800 executions are a cruelly high number even for the Iranian regime. Mass executions have a system in the Islamic Republic: from the beginning they were a means of power.

“This is not the first time that the number of executions has increased,” explains Roya Boroumand, co-founder and executive director of ABC. In the 80s, thousands of people were executed to consolidate the State. There was also a “sharp increase in executions” as a result of the large protests that followed the fraudulent 2009 presidential election, Boroumand says. “Arbitrary and massive executions were and continue to be a means to silence opposition figures and sow fear in society,” explains the human rights activist.

Handkerchief? alone in the car

Also for Nava Shirazi (Name changed, editor's note) it is clear why the regime executes so many people: “They want to scare us.” The 37-year-old teacher, like many other women in Iran, no longer wears a veil when she leaves the protests. No matter how great the fear is, she will no longer let this freedom be taken away from her. She was arrested and interrogated several times. Her car has also been impounded.

Shirazi and Ahadi say that most women put their headscarves on in the car. Because it is almost impossible to avoid costly fines. Then they often take the women's cars away. The “crime” can be quickly punished using the license plate. As soon as she exits the vehicle, Nava Shirazi says, she immediately removes her scarf. This is her way of protesting. But the street protests, she says with visible sadness in her voice, are over.

More than 500 people died in the repression of the protests; many of them children and young people. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the regime's power has never wavered as much as during the national protests of 2022. Despite numerous killings, protesters did not give up for months.

So the regime devised other methods to silence the people. The military was ordered to shoot people directly in the eyes. As a result, hundreds of people lost their sight. The women were shot specifically in the genitals. The first executions of protesters followed; The daily protests finally ended.

War propaganda to maintain power.

Anger against the regime fueled peaceful demonstrations for three months. Three months in which the country's top leaders felt for the first time that their power could be finite. The entire world is now feeling the effects of this existential fear from those in power. The regime's aggressive foreign policy cannot be understood or explained without internal political events.

“Since October 7, nothing that has happened in the country has attracted attention,” says Nava Shirazi. She gives Armita Garavand as an example. In early October 2023, the 16-year-old was so brutally beaten by so-called moral guardians in the Tehran subway that she fell into a coma; The young woman was not wearing a headscarf. At first it was reported internationally: the case recalled the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, which had sparked the protests. When Armita Garavand died at the end of October, the world barely noticed.

Now everyone is talking about the “Axis of Resistance”, the supposed last bastion against Israel and the United States in the Middle East, led by the Islamic Republic. Since October 7, the Iranian leaders have presented themselves as the “saviors” of the Palestinian people in an even more offensive way than before, even if they do not care about their fate: the Palestinians are nothing more than propaganda instruments for the Iranian regime stay in power. Inside the country, those in power launched aggressive war propaganda: their own ranks, which showed individual gaps during the protests, should be closed.

Iranian leadership sells out to its followers he Leader of the “Muslim cause” worldwide. The Iranian regime's shooting across the region is a major distraction from the growing repression and immense anger of the country's people. The massive increase in executions comes as a result of the regime's foreign policy activities.

Those in power are breaking their own rules

The internal political situation is devastating: the collapse of the currency, unemployment and poverty, strikes and protests by workers due to the lack or delay in the payment of salaries, the increase in prices and the anger of the population because The regime is investing millions of dollars in arming Hezbollah. , Hamas and other groups are stagnant, while their own population can no longer afford even bread.

There are calculations behind this too, says 32-year-old Maryam Ahadi. “The economic pressure on people is enormous. “We are hardly in a position to worry about anything else.” It seems to be some kind of exhausting tactic on the part of the regime: stealing the people's strength and at the same time using state violence to eradicate any resistance.

Added to this is the fact that those in power break their own rules, which they always pretend to believe, explains Mina Khani, spokesperson for the human rights organization. Hengaw. The four Kurdish political prisoners were executed at the end of January. “They were missing for 19 months,” Mina Khani said. “Suddenly news of his execution arrived without even his death sentence having been announced.”

The four men “collaborated” with Mossad, the state said. An obvious lie that can be understood as war propaganda and whose arbitrariness aims to wear people down.

The crimes must not be forgotten.

“The international community must hold the Iranian regime accountable,” human rights activist Roya Boroumand is convinced. The executions had no consequences that could deter the regime. “The international community must rethink its strategy to show the Iranian leadership that their killings will not be tolerated.” It must also be made clear to Iranian leaders that their crimes will not be forgotten, says Boroumand.

Many of their friends left Iran last year, says teacher Nava Shirazi, 37. She and her friends continue fighting in her own way. During the protest movement, the entire world was watching. “This support warmed my heart. Who would have thought that people all over the world Zan, Zendegi, Azadi “Call?” he says, laughing.

But now she feels abandoned. “I don't want to stay in Iran either,” says Nava Shirazi after a brief pause. She cries. “But there is no other home for me. My home will always be Iran.”