July 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Intensifies Crackdown on Dissent

July 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Intensifies Crackdown on Dissent

Latest Developments

Iran has intensified its crackdown on dissent, Reuters reported on July 18. “Journalists, lawyers, activists, human rights advocates and students have been arrested, summoned or faced other measures in a campaign that one activist described as ‘instilling fear and intimidation,’” Reuters stated. The phenomenon includes the resumption of public patrols by Iran’s morality police to enforce the country’s dress code, including the mandatory hijab, or headscarf. The latest round of nationwide protests began in September 2022 after the morality police killed 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly. According to Reuters, the new crackdown aims to deter further mass protests as Iran nears the first anniversary of Amini’s death.

Expert Analysis

“Iran’s Islamist police state never went away. The Islamic Republic’s apparatus of repression continues to pose an outsized threat to Iranians who have been protesting over basic rights related to freedom of dress, speech, and political association.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Since 2017, there has been a structural shift in Iran’s political discourse from reform to revolution, and the country has witnessed three major widespread uprisings, with smaller waves in between. Data from the past 10 months show that while the intensity of protests has receded since November 2022, the protests in the country are still ongoing. The opposition has called for protests around the anniversary of Masha Amini’s murder in September, and in response, the regime is increasing its pressure to prevent another wave of uprising.” — Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

The Morality Police Return

Several months after the protests began, Tehran withdrew the morality police in an apparent concession to demonstrators and international critics. However, Tehran’s campaign against hijab law violators never formally ended, with the regime installing surveillance cameras across Iran to monitor women’s dress. Still, the police’s return indicates that Tehran not only feels newly emboldened to intensify its repression but also fears that inaction would spur further unrest among the Iranian people.

Protests Persist

According to FDD tracking data, a total of at least 3,843 protests have occurred in Iran since September 2022, including some 133 in July 2023 thus far. During these demonstrations, Iranian security forces have killed at least 634 protesters and arrested 21,535. The uprising’s persistence despite a bloody crackdown by the regime suggests that Tehran faces a long-term threat to its survival that it cannot deflect solely with force.

Mapping Protests in Iran,” by Mark Dubowitz

Why Iran’s regime fears women’s hair,” by Tzvi Kahn

Protests Across Iran Persist, Now Nine Months On,” FDD Flash Brief


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