A group of 227 members of the Iranian parliament (Majles) has called on the Judiciary to issue death sentences for people arrested during the ongoing anti-government protests. A few token Iranian “reformists” and members of the ultra-conservative branch of the Iranian Principlist political alliance make up the majority of the parliament, which was chosen in a non-competitive, sham vote in February of 2020. The demonstrators were referred to as “mohareb” in a declaration that was read aloud in the parliament on November 6. This Arabic word literally translates to “warrior,” but in Islamic law, or sharia, it signifies “enemy of God,” which is punishable by death. Additionally, they compared the demonstrators to ISIS fighters who “destroy people’s lives and property.” For taking part in the demonstrations, thousands of individuals have already been accused by the Iranian government of “moharebeh,” “corruption on earth,” “assembly and cooperation against national security,” and “confrontation with the Islamic Republic.”
The Iranian parliament baselessly alleged that “the US and other foes” are instigating violence, organizing demonstrations, and supplying financial assistance and firearms to hijack the protests while referring to the current wave of popular protests as “riots.” In addition, they claimed that “thugs and mobs” had killed dozens of people and compromised national security. Reiterating the official narrative of the Islamic Republic, the parliamentarians said that because “victories of the Islamic Republic” had been achieved in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen, the “riots” were a response to “enemies of the Islamic Republic” having been vanquished in those countries. The ultra-conservative legislators also requested that the court pursue legal action against “the politicians who incited the riots” without naming any specific people or organizations.
Speaker of the House Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf claimed earlier in the session that the key players in the country’s discontent are the CIA, Mossad, and their allies. Hardliner parliamentary member Mohammad Esmail Kowsari, who is also a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer, impliedly threatened late in October that the government will handle the current demonstrations differently going forward.
While protests continue across Iran, the Islamic Republic’s Judiciary has also announced that it has indicted over 1,000 people who were arrested during the demonstrations. Authorities have been claiming that “separatists” and “instigators” are behind the efforts to overthrow the government and break Iran into areas controlled by ethnic groups, a claim routinely denied by Iranians on streets and social media. The claim that protests are instigated by foreign enemies was first made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and loyal officials now repeat his conspiracy theory.
President Ebrahim Raisi on October 25 accused “enemies of the Islamic Republic” of fomenting the protests, echoing what Khamenei said a day earlier. Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf in turn vowed that parliament would take action to change the ways of the morality police in a bid to calm the protesters. “Death sentences against people for exercising their right to freedom of expression, after the killings of peaceful protesters, abductions and gunning down children, and other atrocities, indicate a government that is out of control and willing to quash protests at any cost,” said a statement by Center for Human Rights in Iran. The Norway-based human rights organization also expressed concern regarding the fate of the detained protesters saying, “dozens of them have been charged with the security-related charges of “moharebeh” and “corruption on earth” which carry the death penalty.” The Islamic Republic’s history and current evidence indicate that they intend to use the death penalty as a tool of political repression to intimidate their opposition.
Since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish descent who had been detained on September 13 for violating the Islamic dress code and died three days later from severe head trauma, Iran has been rocked by protests. Mahsa was accused of violating the Islamic dress code. Public indignation after a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of additional young men, women, and children expanded protests. Seven weeks later, the demonstrations are still going strong.