For instance, the Human Rights Activists News Agency reports that the Dutch parliament marked the fifth anniversary of mass arrests of Iranian human rights activists by calling for the release of those who remain in prison in various areas of Iran on frivolous and trumped-up charges. On March 2, 2009 various known human rights activists were arrested in retaliation for the events of the nationwide protests against the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Additionally, this past weekend marked a gathering in Berlin was headed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran in honor of international woman’s day, and was titled, “For Tolerance and Equality against Fundamentalism and Misogyny.”
The situation for women and for activists has remained difficult in Iran in recent years, and has arguably worsened since Hassan Rouhani succeeded Ahmadinejad as president in 2013. Government monitoring of social networks and websites is growing more sophisticated, and security forces continue to obstruct planned demonstrations and arrest organizers. Meanwhile, several official measures have been instituted to enforce gender segregation, limit the roles of women, and encourage civilian enforcement of fundamentalist Islamic dress codes.
These moves are indicative of a resurgence of hardline conservative ideology throughout the government, a trend that was highlighted once again on Tuesday with the surprising news that Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi had been appointed to the head of the Assembly of Experts, the government body tasked with selecting a new Supreme Leader in the event of the death of the current occupant of that position of absolute authority.
First Post reports that many had expected that the somewhat less conservative Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi would be chosen for the position, and that Yazdi’s upset “suggested that hardliners within the Assembly had closed ranks at a sensitive time when a new Supreme Leader could soon be chosen – a decision in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most powerful military force in the country, could also play a role.”
An article published Tuesday by IranWire gave some suggestion as to what this further “closing of ranks” could have in store for the Islamic Republic. The article compares the hardline elements of the nation to the extremists who make up the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and have made headlines in recent weeks by destroying ancient relics and archeological sites as part of an effort to cleanse their territory in the name of Islam.
IranWire points out that for Iranians this recalls attention to Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, a judge in the Iranian Revolution who, in addition to ordering the hanging of at least 8,000 people, also led a campaign to destroy all manner of historical antiquities throughout Iran. The conservative cleric carried on with this campaign even when popular opposition saved the ruins of the Persepolis, the capital of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, and he was unrepentant about his destruction of both history and human life until his dying day in 2003.
When asked about the deaths that he had ordered during and after the revolution Khalkhali replied, “I believe I did not kill enough. There were many who escaped my grasp.” Fittingly, executions have remained a defining feature of the Islamic Republic since then, and the apparent hardline resurgence has led to an increase in the number of executions since the election of President Rouhani.
HRANA notes that 10 more inmates have just been hanged in Abel Abad Prison, seven of them on drug-related charges and three for “retribution.” Little else is known about their cases, as more than 60 percent of all executions in Iran take place without formal notification by the judiciary. Despite this obfuscation, rights groups find that at least 721 people were executed in Iran in 2014, and the current pace of hangings has put it on track to potentially exceed 1,000 in 2015.