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Iran Special: What the Executions Say About the Regime's "Control" and Murder

Cartoon by Maya NayestaniDave Siavashi of Iran News Now writes a guest analysis for EA:

The Iranian government executed two more people on Monday. This was the official explanation: "Two elements of the Monafeghin (hypocrites) cell named Jafar Kazemi...and Mohammad Ali Hajaghaei...were executed early today." The "Monafeghin" are the exiled Iranian opposition group, People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI).

The PMOI, also known as Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MKO), is a leftist dissident organisation that was active before, during and after the 1979 revolution in Iran. During the revolution, they joined forces with the Islamists and various other groups with differing ideologies, all of whom were united in opposition to the Shah. Soon after the revolution, a complex and Machiavellian power struggle ensued that caused them to fall out of favor with the ruling Islamist clique, leading to many of the members and supporters of the group going into exile.

The group fell out of favor with the majority of Iranians when, during the protracted Iran-Iraq war, they continued their opposition to the regime in a misguided move by fighting against, and killing, Iranians (with the support of Saddam Hussein). While not a lot of love is lost between the Iranian people and their government, most Iranians feel a certain revulsion towards a group that sided with an invading, foreign force to kill those Iranians at the front-lines that were fighting to defend their country.

In the late 1980s, after the war with Iraq ended in stalemate, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the mass execution of thousands of the group's members and supporters, further deepening the enmity between the regime and the group. The regime refers to them as "Monafeghin" or hypocrites and to this very day, still uses them as a scapegoat for its own horrendous atrocities against the Iranian people.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran recently reported that since the start of 2011, the regime has been on an execution binge, killing upwards of 97 people.

That was before Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei and Jafar Kazemi were added to the list. And I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the total is significantly higher than the official figure, as the regime has been known to kill people en masse and in secret.

So what is the wider context beyond the hangings?

Less than two years ago, the regime saw the Iranian people react in a way that caught it completely off guard after rigging the June 2009 presidential election in favor of the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A huge groundswell of grassroots support for the main challengers to Ahmadinejad formed, using the color green (initially used by the campaign of opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi) to represent the ideals of what would come to be known as the Iranian Green Movement.

At first the people protested peacefully in the streets of Tehran and other cities, in the hundreds of thousands (and in the case of Tehran, millions), asking "Where is my vote?" When the regime responded with brutality, the movement spread, and its demands metastasized into several different calls, including the downfall of the regime and its leaders --- something unheard of to the degree that it was displayed for the world to see through the social media channels and eventually on televisions screens the world over.

Over the course of many months of protests and crackdowns, at least hundreds of thousands of people protested, many were killed, and many were arrested and held in Iran's notorious prisons and torture chambers.

The regime panicked --- big time.

But they were able to hold onto power. By not backing down even one inch to the demands of the people, and by using revenues from petrodollars to finance the crackdowns, they were able to subdue the protests. At least for now, they appear to be in control.

But underneath it all, they have not been able to quell the seething anger and discontent that the people of Iran feel towards them.

They absolutely know this. Otherwise why would they announce the start of a cyber-police unit to crack down on the activities of people using the Internet to disseminate information about what's happening in Iran and to organize against the regime? Why fight if you've already won?

The regime seems confident enough to participate in international political escapades, such as blatantly supporting Hezbollah's not-so-secret campaign to take control of the Lebenese government and leading the international community by the nose in endless nonsensical nuclear negotiations that serve as nothing more than distractions to human rights violations. But the Iranian leaders also realise that they have unfinished business at home --- the business of trying to figure out what to do with the hundreds (thousands?) of political prisoners and dissidents that are languishing in their prisons, and also the business of how to send a clear signal to the restless masses that further dissent will not be tolerated.

To call the regime shrewd in this effort is a big understatement.

For instance, for years the regime has provided subsidies to Iranians for various consumables, such as gasoline. The regime has had to import gasoline to meet the demand within the country, despite the fact that it is an oil exporter. This has cost the regime billions of dollars, and has been a huge drain on government coffers. The regime has recently started a program of cutting the subsidies, putting pressure on Iranians at a time when the political tension in the country is high. How could they get away with this?

Well they certainly didn't leave things to chance. They deployed their security forces throughout the cities just in case people protested. Not much happened.

To make the political case for the economic measures, the regime has the US to thank for sanctions that make life difficult for the majority of Iran's middle- and low-income classes while having little impact on the regime. They have gone ahead with the subsidy cuts betting that they can point the finger for Iran's economic woes on the "enemy" of the sanction-imposing western powers, all while building up their coffers through the savings on subsidies.


That same shrewdness is on display in a sad, sickening way with the executions of Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Hajaghaei.

These are political executions and are calculated provocations by the regime against all who oppose them. By accusing the men of being PMOI, the regime believes that most Iranians will turn a blind eye to the executions. They also send a strong signal to the opposition

If you even think about protesting against the government, or doing anything that could be considered as being remotely against the government, you may be associated with the Monafeghin, in which case you will be accused as warring with God, and be subject to execution.

In a recent interview, Jafar Kazemi's wife Roudabeh Akbari took apart the claim that her husband was a member of PMOI. While he served almost a decade in prison for being active as a member of the group in the 1980s, he had not involved with the group for many years.

His son is apparently staying at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the PMOI's base, and Jafar Kazemi had visited his son there and communicated with him by phone. However, the regime's accusations that he was instructing students to take part in protests and riots during the 2009 uprising are questionable and do not constitute grounds for execution.

And this is where I think Iranians need to do some serious soul-searching.

The regime gives itself a free pass when it comes to killing people for various associations and affiliations. If the regime can link a person to monarchists, they will execute them. If the regime can link a person to the PMOI they will execute them. If the regime can link a political prisoner to drugs or any variety of sex that is considered taboo or adultery, they will execute them. Let's not mince words here.

This is murder. Plain and simple.


We must abhor murder in all its forms, no matter who commits it or who it is committed against. It is simply wrong.

The alternative is to allow the regime to have a tool that it can use whenever it wants to eliminate someone it deems undesirable, for whatever reason. The formula is simple: associate a person with an unsavory group or activity, then kill them.

We already know that the Iranian judiciary is beholden to the office of the so-called Supreme Leader and the revolutionary guards. It cannot be trusted to be fair or impartial. So it simply cannot be given the right to kill people.

It's that simple.

And unless we Iranians are unwilling to make any exceptions to murder, even when we don't care for a particular group that a person may belong to politically, then we will always be subject to potentially losing a loved one, family member, or friend, to this regime.

It is sad that Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Hajaghaei have been murdered by the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is wrong. And it must be opposed.

The regime has reason to be afraid about its control. The people rose up against them. They rallied together under the banner of, and hope for, a better future --- one in which state-sponsored murder is an abhorrent thing of the past.

For that day to come, we must demand that all executions in Iran be stopped. Immediately. We must pull no stops in getting attention on this matter, internally in Iran and externally. We must talk about this within our families and our communities until all of us come to the realization that we have been living under the shadow of murderers for far too long.

We must not give them an excuse. We must not let them think that they can label someone and then kill them.

Unless we not only accept that, not only declare that, but also act against that, then we will forever have to face responsibility for the murders that are committed in our name.

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