01/11/2023, 19.46
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While UN slams weaponised trials against dissent, Iran continues its repression

The High Commissioner for Human Rights slams the brutal use of force by the Islamic Republic. Iran’s deputy prosecutor general contradicts Khamenei and calls for harsh measures against women who do not wear the headscarf correctly. From Evin prison, an activist describes torture and brutality. A 38-year-old Christian arrested before Christmas has been released.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – The Iranian government has “weaponised” the courts and the death penalty to "punish" pro-democracy protesters, suppress dissent, and “strike fear" in a population fighting for freedom and rights, this according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.

In a statement yesterday, the UN official strongly condemns brutal state repression by the Islamic Republic against street protests.

Widespread unrest began four months ago, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, after she was taken into custody by the morality police for not properly covering her hair.

For Türk, the execution of four young protesters last month, after “expedited trials that did not meet the minimum guarantees of fair trial and due process” violated international human rights law.

“The Government of Iran would better serve its interests and those of its people by listening to their grievances, and by undertaking the legal and policy reforms necessary,” he added.

This can be done by ensuring “respect for diversity of opinion, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and the full respect and protection of the rights of women in all areas of life.”

Despite repeated appeals and condemnations by much of the international community, human rights groups and advocacy organisations, Iran’s iron fist continues to strike at protests that, after the latest executions and death sentences, is now silenced.

A few days ago, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used conciliatory words about head covering, perhaps in an attempt to stem the wave of protest. He stressed that even women who do not wear it correctly are "our daughters" and should not be marginalised.

Iran’s chief prosecutor apparently disagrees. He recently ordered police to deal "decisively" with women who fail to properly wear the headscarf in public in accordance with Shar‘ia and the Islamic Republic’s "hijab and chastity" law, which require women and girls over the age of nine to cover their hair in public.

“The crime of removing the hijab is one of the obvious crimes, and law enforcement officers are obliged to arrest the perpetrators of obvious crimes and introduce them to the judicial authorities for punishment," semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Deputy Prosecutor General Abulsamad Khorramabadi as saying.

Now, trials, death sentences, public hanging and displaying lifeless bodies from cranes have instiled enough fear in people to keep them off the streets after months of protests, led by women fighting for their rights and freedom.

For some observers, the crackdown’s success on the worst political turmoil in years is likely to reinforce a view among Iran's hardliners that suppression of dissent is the way to hold on to power.

This, however, may prove short-lived, as state violence may merely drive dissent underground, while deepening the anger felt by ordinary Iranians, especially the young, in a country in the grips of a serious economic crisis, high unemployment and few prospects.

Violence is also the leitmotif of one of the rare prison stories that made it through Iran’s censorship.

A jailed student studying law was able to smuggle out a letter. She is in Evin prison’s “cultural wing”. This is also where she takes her exams, but also where "torture and interrogation" take place.

"The exam room is filled with young boys and girls and the shouts of torturers can be heard," she writes, adding that she witnessed young detainees being interrogated, threatened, pressed with questions, and subjected to physical and psychological violence.

So far, at least 519 protesters, including 69 children, have been killed and 19,300 arrested, this according to the Human Rights Activists' News Agency (HRANA).

A 38-year-old Christian woman, Bianka Zaia, was recently released on bail; she was arrested in late November for involvement in street demonstrations and "propaganda against the State”. She too ended up in Evin prison.

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