On December 22, in a debate hosted by the state-run Mafel-e Dal internet channel, two professors of Tehran Imam Sadegh University discussed Iran’s social developments. In his comments, law professor Ali Saber Toulaei blamed the regime for applying an atmosphere of suffocation and killing many innocent people during the gas protests in November 2019.

“You know your decision-makers make a lot of mistakes, and you say I give the right to the people to protest my decision-makers’ decisions. However, they must get permission from the decisionmaker. Who are the members of this center, which issues permissions?” Toulaei asked Mohammad Hadi Raji, another professor who has attended the debate.

“They are heads of the three branches of power,” Raji answered.

In Iran, the heads of the three branches of power are President Hassan Rouhani, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi, and Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. All these individuals directly or indirectly are appointed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and after a bureaucratic process, Khamenei himself must approve them.

In other words, the Supreme Leader personally pulls all the strings of power in the country through his appointees, and he is practically the final say person and key decisionmaker in the Islamic Republic regime. “If all the people say something and the Supreme Leader opposes it, the nation must obey the Supreme Leader’s order,” said the first Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, institutionalizing absolute power for his successor.

In his remarks, Toulaei mentioned the gasoline price hikes in November 2019 which prompted hundreds of thousands of people to come onto the streets in around 200 cities. To preserve the power at all costs, Khamenei bluntly ordered the State Security Forces (SSF), the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) to do whatever it takes to end the demonstrations.

Following the Supreme Leader’s order, oppressive forces viciously attacked peaceful protesters with live ammunition, armored vehicles, helicopters, and snipers, leading to the death of at least 1,500 demonstrators and bystanders. The regime also detained over 12,000 protesters arbitrarily, transferring them to notorious jails. Until several months later, citizens were finding corpses left in canals, and beside streets and rivers with signs of torture.

Notably, after more than a year, many families still have no information about their loved ones’ whereabouts and fate. On September 2, in a shocking report, Amnesty International revealed the regime’s inhuman methods of torture to extract forced confessions from the gas protests detainees.

“The gas plan was approved by heads of the three branches. So, people if you are protesting—certainly, it’s not linked to Islamic principles – you have the right to protest, but get permission from the three branches of power, then protest. What does this mean?” Toulaei added.

Then, he recalled the oppressive forces’ use of lethal force, contributing to the death of many innocent people. “During the gas protests in November 2019, were many innocent people killed or not? Even the Interior Minister [Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli] admitted to this,” Toulaei said.

He also highlighted that the regime deprived families of victims of the right to protest, which gave impunity to murderers. “We say [to the people] we don’t have any problem with protests. But, you must get permission from those involved in [these killings]. Who are they? Judiciary, Attorney General, Security Council. Finally, they see the three branches’ heads were involved in these behaviors,” Toulaei questioned.

The law professor also blamed the system’s institutionalized flaws that prohibited citizens from their inherent rights. “If you want to protest your loved one’s murder, you must get permission from the same murderer who committed these killings. You must get permission to protest your children’s killing. This is ironic, and I must mention this as my last point.

An Inevitable Confession to the Killing of Children in Iran’s November 2019 Uprising

“We cannot bring down angels from the sky, saying, ‘this is the law, and the people must be good. Interior Minister, be a man! Supreme National Security Council, be a man, or Attorney General, be a man!’

“In this scenario, we must say prayers, telling God, ‘Our Lord, you do something to our director to be a man and not abuse ambiguities in the constitution, which are contrary to the law.’ You cannot rule with prayers and pleas, so this security colonel doesn’t commit wrong,” Toulaei added.

At the end of his remarks and while the interviewer hard tried to cut off Toulaei’s revelations, the law professor said, “If you would like to rule [by prayers], so you should say goodbye. In this case, the people won’t await our permission for [protesting].”

He also pointed out society’s volatile conditions and readiness for a new round of protests. “You have put your knee on people’s necks, plundered their pockets, and shrunk their food basket with all of your three branches [of power]. You have put your knee on their neck and they are going to be strangled. These people don’t wait for your permission,” Toulaei said.

Iran, the Killings in the 2019 November Protests and the Consequences for the Regime

And he finally warned about the dark fate of the regime which has ruled in Iran with 41 years of systematic suppression and public hatred, saying, “If you resist, a storm would begin that would remove you. So, if we could not—aside from praying—that’ll be [the end of us]. Therefore, if this [regime] found a right way, allowing the people to protest, only then it could hope to remain in power.”