June 8, 2023

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi yesterday protested oppression, injustice and human rights abuses by the West, even as his own shock troops brutalized citizens at home.

Mr. Raisi was in New York for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He addressed the assembly in a speech in which he condemned abuses by Canada against indigenous peoples, the United States against migrants and Israel against Palestinians, but ignored his own regime’s violations.

“Human rights belong to everyone, but unfortunately they are trampled by other governments,” he said. “We believe that any oppressive action is a threat to world peace and stability. America cannot stand for some countries to be able to stand on their own two feet.”

In his speech, Mr. Raisi recounted a long list of grievances against the West, dating from international pressure on Iran during the early 20th century to the 2020 US assassination of Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani, whose portrait he held up and waved in front of General Assembly Chamber.

He has criticized the US for tearing up the 2015 nuclear deal that his hardline faction loudly opposed when it was negotiated by his predecessor, while accusing Western powers of bullying Iran.

“What we are asking for are the rights of the Iranian nation, the Iranian people,” he said. “A relationship based on oppression will not be tolerated. None of the achievements of the Iranian nation were acceptable to the world powers.”

Although Mr. Raisi has sought to boast about Iran’s achievements and international ties, much of the attention this week has been on a brutal crackdown at home on the widespread outbreak of popular protests sparked by the death of a young woman last week.

And even as Mr Raisi spoke, Iranians began warning that internet lines were down and social media sites such as Instagram were blocked as protests erupted in dozens of towns and cities across the country for the sixth straight day since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

In the past few days, videos posted online show members of the Iranian regime in civilian clothes and uniforms beating women with batons, firing tear gas and possibly shooting directly into the crowd.

At least six people have so far been killed in chaotic street clashes sparked by security forces trying to quell public anger over the death of Ms Amini, who fell into a coma while being held by moral police in Tehran. Among those killed was the adjutant of the regime in civilian clothes in Shiraz.

But the latest protests, which coincide with the international focus on Iran in New York, appear to have complicated the authorities’ calculations. The regime has often refrained from using lethal force to quell protests by urban elites, while imposing the full weight of the security apparatus on ethnic minorities and marginalized communities on the periphery.

This week’s demonstrations attracted multiple segments of society and caused dissent even within the regime’s elite. In addition to a wide swath across Iran’s Kurdish heartland, protests erupted in the capital Tehran, as well as in Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Urmia, Rasht, Kerman, Bandar Abbas, Qom, Ardabil, Kermanshah, Zanjan, Sara, Rafsanjan, Mazandaran, Gorgan , Qazvin, Semnan and other cities.

Iran watchers say the killing of Ms. Amini, seen as an ordinary young woman minding her own business, has struck a chord with Iranians, and even conservative women who want to keep the hijab compulsory are upset.

The level of raw emotion has been compared to how Iranians felt after the Revolutionary Guard shot down a Ukrainian airline flight in 2020, apparently mistaking it for a US missile. On Iranian social networks, influencers who have never touched political subjects posted about Ms. Amina, an ethnic Kurd.

Demonstrations in Tehran on Wednesday


Meanwhile, Iranian regime spokesmen disparaged the protesters as deviants, rebels, rioters and vandals. State television has repeatedly noted that Mr. Raisi has reached out to Ms. Amini’s family and promised a full investigation into her death.

Officials downplayed the protests and blamed the unrest on international channels, including BBC Persian. One pro-government newspaper accused “anti-revolutionary media and terrorist groups” of using Ms. Amini’s death to further their goals.

However, senior officials and former officials have called on Iran to reduce the role of the morality police, known as the “guidance patrol”. During a rare televised appearance, former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi called for a change in rules requiring women to adhere to Islamic dress codes, which he vehemently opposes.

Lawmaker Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi said parliament is considering a draft law aimed at limiting police powers.

“We have dozens of reports on a daily basis indicating that diversion patrols detain individuals with disrespect and mistreatment, leaving them behind to struggle with serious traumatic experiences,” he said, according to local newspapers.

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