Reuters notes that unless Iran is swayed by a delegation asking for extension of temporary visas, it will soon deport 760,000 Afghani refugees who arrived in the country without documents after being driven from their homes by war. The existing visas are set to expire in less than a month, potentially creating a new refugee crisis for people who have no homes to return to.
Interestingly, Iran has derived some personal benefit from the refugee population in the past. In exchange for residency in Iran or cash payments, many of those refugees have been pressured into serving as part of Shiite militias fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and defending the Assad regime in Syria.
This is a testament to the way in which the Iranian regime tends to treat its minority populations. It is a trend that has recently led to a surge of protests from the Ahwazi Arab population in southern Iran, according to The Tower. Despite living in an oil-rich region, government-supported discrimination has contributed to high rates of unemployment, denial of basic services, and similar endemic problems.
It cannot be said that the Iranian government absolutely never responds to such civilian protests. But even when it does, those responses are very frequently decried as insufficient. This is the case with the recent disbarring of Saeed Mortazavi, an Iranian prosecutor who had been nicknamed the “Butcher of the Press” because of his systematic repression of journalists, leading to the death of three in the aftermath of protests against the 2009 presidential elections.
IranWire notes that even though Mortazeri has been disbarred and banned from holding any government position for five years, he has escaped any punishment that could be considered fitting of his numerous crimes. Mortazeri was reportedly able to get away with those crimes for years partly because he took orders directly from Ayatollah Khamenei’s inner circle, circumventing even his own superiors.
IranWire claims that his removal from his post has little to do with those crimes per se, and much more to do with the fact that the father of one of his victims happened to be even more politically connected than he. This points to the fact that in the Islamic Republic, even internal punishments are motivated by the desire to maintain a tightly connected political power structure, above all else.
Famously, the Iranian Parliament has recently been working to give more power to civilian militias to help the clerical regime to enforce Islamic laws and maintain its hold on power. Mohammad Beheshtifar, a member of the basij militia and the son of a colonel in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was arrested after stabbing five women in the buttocks and one in the abdomen.
While the crimes are probably indicative of the perpetrator’s mental instability, it is telling that regime officials have responded by insisting that there is no connection between Beheshtifar’s rampage and the government’s advocacy for the policy of “promoting virtue and preventing vice,” a policy that has been blamed for a series of acid attacks on women deemed to be improperly veiled.
Although that policy is probably not the sole motivator for Beheshtifar’s crimes, the government is clearly pushing to give greater power to basijis and persons affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, of which Beheshtifar is both. The policy of “promoting virtue and preventing vice” thus gave virtually unchecked power, in at least this instance, to someone who proved to be violent and possibly insane.